June 29, 2009

HARRISONBURG—Dr. J. Peter Pham, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, testified last Thursday at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States House of Representatives. The congressional oversight hearing was called to examine “ Somalia: Prospects for Lasting Peace and a Unified Response to Extremism and Terrorism.”

Also speaking at the hearing were His Excellency Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), president of Puntland State of Somalia; His Excellency Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, defense minister of the Republic of Uganda; Idd Beddel Mohamed, deputy permanent representative of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia at the United Nations; Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, special representative for Somalia of the United Nations Secretary-General; Frédéric Ngoga Gateretse, senior adviser to the special representative for Somalia of the African Union Commission Chairperson; and Ted Dagne, a specialist in African affairs at the Congressional Research Service.

The eleven-member subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Donald M. Payne (D-New Jersey), was told by Dr. Pham that “even as the situation has gone from bad to worse to worst, presenting the entire Horn of Africa with a security crisis of the first order, spreading instability across a fragile subregion and raising the specter that transnational terrorist networks like al-Qaeda will find and exploit the opportunities thus offered, the approach of the international community and apparently the policy of the United States has become ensnared in what is essentially a circular ‘logic.’”

Instead Dr. Pham argued that “a broad consensus is emerging among experts who have tracked Somalia for any amount of time that any workable solution must embrace a ‘bottom-up’ or ‘building-block’ approach rather than the hitherto ‘top-down’ strategy” since “given the ripple effects of continuing disorder in the Somali lands, in addition to relations with functional parts of the TFG, it makes no sense for the international community to not work with effective authorities in the Republic of Somaliland, Puntland State, the province of Gedo, and other areas as well seek to engage with traditional leaders and civil society actors elsewhere.”

According to Dr. Pham, “the most realistic hope of salvaging a modicum of regional stability and international security out of a situation that otherwise grows increasingly intractable with each passing day” is to adopt “the course most likely to buy Somalis themselves the space within which to make their own determinations about their future while at the same time allowing the rest of the world, especially the countries of the Horn of Africa, to achieve their legitimate security objectives.”

The full text of Dr. Pham prepared remarks is available here.