15 JUNE 2009


Any observer will tell you that several regional wars are guided by greed for diamonds, oil or other mineral resources; the latest in the Congo (for Laurent Nkunda) was control of material useful for cell phones.

Imagine the inflammable impact of oil, the highest priced resource. Think of the catastrophic consequence of telling armed hungry green kids with machine guns that they may have oil in their country; that someone in government would be making lucrative deals; that the U.N. envoy is handling that deal on behalf of two outside governments. What do you think will happen?

Already, U.N. figures indicate that there are 3.2 million starving Somalis, 1.2 million displaced, and hundreds of thousands killed since U.N. envoy Ould Abdallah took over (we'll keep Secretary General Ban Ki-moon out of it for now).

There is open fighting in the streets of Mogadishu, while several regional cities were overtaken by one side or another. Ethiopian troops have left, only after incurring substantive casualties. Now the fighting is amongst former allies, both predominantly preaching dogmatic application of Islamic "Sharia." Sheikh Sherif used to preside over the general umbrella of Islamic Courts, but younger elements, the Al Shabab, felt he has sold out while in Kenya. Sheikh Ouess, who was supported by Eritrea, came back to lead the younger militant faction. The former government, or governments, supported by the U.N. over the last two years, have disappeared without being able to control one street in the capital. But one Cabinet Minister was found by Ould Abdullah to sign, seal and deliver an oil exploration deal.

What do you think the others, more powerful on the ground will do? Suspicious and greedy factions will certainly want a piece of the candy, if not the whole cake.

It was very unwise, premature, even irresponsible, for the U.N. Representative to throw in the inflammable oil dimension into an already burning Somali issue.

The role of the U.N. is to help settle a conflict, calm troubled waters, and seek a peaceful way out. It never was to ignite further fires. We are assuming, of course, that the U.N. Special Representative is serving and actually representing the U.N.