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Keep neighbouring countries out of Somalia, says analyst

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Uganda map Source: Central Intelligence Agency

Islamist Somalia-based group al-Shebab has taken responsibility for a double bomb attack at a sport's bar and an Ethiopian restaurant in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 74 people. 


Analyst Afyare Abdi Elmi tells RFI the bombs will likely trigger an interventionist international response, but foreign governments should keep other African countries out of Somalia.

Ugandan Deputy Foreign Minister Okello Oryem said Uganda will not pull its troops from Somalia and President Yoweri Museveni vowed to go after the perpetrators.

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Afyare Abdi Elmi, Qatar University 12/07/2010 - by Molly Guinness Listen

It is the first al-Shebab attack outside Somalia and Elmi says it will have international repercussions.

"It will invoke an interventionist mood in the region and within the international community," says Elmi, author of Understanding the Somalia Conflagration. "This might create an amosphere where Somalia is a free for all and a number of troops are invited and come and go."

A force of some 6,000 peacekeeping troops is deployed in Somalia, comprising soldiers from Uganda and Burundi. Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has asked the African Union to send more.

A regional bloc pledged to send 2,000 extra troops by September to boost an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, taking the number of soldiers deployed there to 8,100.

"The international community should not commit the same mistake it made in 2006 when it allowed Ethiopians to go in," says Elmi.

"Somalis have many, many grievances against the Ethiopian state. If Ethiopia comes in, it will give Al-Shebab what it is looking for, which is a popular cause."

He added it might also produce a backlash against Somalis living in neighbouring countries.

"The best way of defeating extremism in Somalia is not sending external troops to the country," he said. 

"It is building a professional and inclusive force of Somalis. This is the most important glaring fact that's been looking at us and we've been ignoring it."

He said sending in extra troops was a short-term and short-sighted solution, advocating instead "intervening in a way that establishes the Somali state, which can take over and secure its boundaries".

Somali government troops are badly paid and many troops defect to al-Shebab, which offers more money. Some estimates say most of the 40 million dollars of arms provided to Somalia by the US has ended up in Al-Shebab hands.

"Al-Shebab is very well organised and very well disciplined but it does not have popular support in Somalia," says Elmi, but he adds that the group can attract Somali fighters because it is richer and better organised than the government.

A good chunk of its money is domestically generated; they control several towns and the ports. There are also unconfirmed reports that they are getting funding from outside.

"They are controlling the majority of Somalis," says Elmi. "They've been managing their funds well."

In addition, Amisom has committed several atrocities against civilians in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

"This must end," he says. "The Amisom forces must do what it can to not give cause to their rivals."

Al-Shebab is not officially part of the al-Qaeda network, but Elmi points out that it is not a monolithic group and there might be individuals who are linked to al-Qaeda. He says al-Qaeda might adopt al-Shebab as its Horn of Africa wing.