World’s focus must switch back to bleeding Somalia

An internally displaced woman attends to her malnourished children outside their makeshift shelter at a temporary camp in Hodan district of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu August 26, 2011.

For the past two weeks the world’s media have, justifiably, provided blanket coverage of the dramatic ousting of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Millions of television viewers watched, transfixed, as a rag-tag rebel army streamed into Tripoli, fought its way into Gaddafi’s fortified compound and took journalists on guided tours of the palatial gilded villas he and his family built for themselves during the 41-years of misrule of the oil-rich north African country by the self-styled King of Kings.

The major unfolding story in Africa – that of the devastating famine and drought in the Horn of Africa – might make less compelling viewing than the Libyan revolution, but it is arguably far more significant.

The lives of as many as 12million people, most of them in Somalia, are at stake and, though the world was initially slow to respond, there are encouraging signs that the major powers – and some member states of the African Union – are beginning to channel real money towards famine-relief efforts.

Another promising development is a three-day national reconciliation summit of Somali leaders that kicked-off in war-ravaged Mogadishu yesterday.

A key objective of the conference, which is under the auspices of the UN, is to wind down the ineffective transitional administration, draft a new constitution and hold elections.

Though delegates of the breakaway Puntland region and of other semi-autonomous territories are participating, the militant Islamist al-Shabab group, which has been fighting a fierce insurgency against the transitional government and which controls vast swathes of the country, is noticeable by its absence.

Concerted efforts need to be made to get the militants to the negotiating table if there is to be any hope of bringing lasting peace to Somalia.

The conflict has hampered the flow of food aid and other relief to millions of desperate people and must be resolved now.



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