July 18, 2007

HARRISONBURG—Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, was featured today on a Voice of America (VOA) news segment on the stalled peace talks in Somalia where the Ethiopian-backed and internationally-recognized “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) has been struggling with little success to convene a national reconciliation conference.

Nairobi, Kenya-based VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu reports:

The director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University in the United States, J. Peter Pham, says he believes if the government showed a willingness to be politically inclusive, the insurgency could weaken significantly.

 But he says some transitional federal government leaders, particularly President [Abdullahi] Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, have done little to convince the Somali people that they want peace.

 “The groundwork was never laid for this conference, which leads me to question whether the political will was ever there for the conference to succeed,” said Pham.

 “They have shown very little political will to be inclusive. The international community needs to wake up and recognize that the TFG was seriously flawed from the start because it did not have the requisites to build legitimacy across clan, religious, and ideological lines,” he continued.

 Pham notes that, in Mogadishu, clan tensions have skyrocketed in recent months amid allegations that President Yusuf is encouraging his Darod clan’s attempts to claim dominancy in the capital over Prime Minister Gedi's Hawiye clan…

 Analyst J. Peter Pham says he believes western donor nations must set clear political benchmarks for Somalia's interim government to meet.

 “Instead of constantly advancing money for these conferences, I think benchmarks for progress need to be laid, and if there is failure to adhere to those benchmarks, then gradual derecognition of the TFG. Without international recognition, the TFG would simply dissolve,” said Pham.

 Few experts believe the international community would allow the Transitional Federal Government to collapse for fear it would create a vacuum for Islamic radical groups like al-Qaida to fill. But they warn that not holding interim leaders accountable for failing to bring peace and stability could also lead desperate Somalis into the arms of radical Islamists.

 To read a transcript of or to listen to an audio stream from the entire VOA segment, click here.