Members of the United Nations Security Council sent an unusually blunt message to Somalia's leaders on May 25, Wednesday, to stop fighting among themselves or risk losing millions of dollars a year from Western donors.
Somalia's leaders survive solely on international support, but instead of using that money to fight the Islamist militants who rule much of the country, or the innumerable pirates who cruise Somalia's seas, they have recently paralysed the government with bitter infighting, disappointing Western donors and most Somalis with their passivity and lack of progress.
Representatives of the Security Council met with Somali officials here in the Kenyan capital, after visiting Sudan earlier this week.
They held a news conference in Nairobi on Wednesday, during which they offered stark warnings, as they tried to push Somalia's leaders to work together.
“The bickering has to stop,” said Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's representative on the Security Council.
Susan E. Rice, the American Ambassador to the United Nations, was on the trip and was even more direct in a Twitter post. “Get your act together, resolve your differences or lose intl support,” she wrote.
The current political crisis pits the speaker of Somalia's Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, a wily, illiterate livestock trader, against the President, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a religious teacher who came into office two years ago amid great expectations. The two used to be close, but the Speaker is now trying to persuade fellow members of Parliament to oust the President and elect him as the new president.
Many Somali officials said the Speaker was more popular than the President and that he had tapped into his vast wealth to buy allegiance from the Parliament. The President seems to know this, which is why he has been opposing elections anytime soon.
Somalia's military forces are embarrassingly weak, analysts say, and if not for the 8,000 African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, the government would fall in hours. The European Union pays the salaries of Parliament members.
“And that money could be spent elsewhere,” Mr. Grant warned.
The United States has shipped in weapons. Still, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia controls only a small patch of the capital. Much of the rest of country, which is nearly the size of Texas, is ruled by militants.
In August, the mandate for the transitional government expires. The United Nations officials said they were calling on Somalia's politicians to agree on a plan and to focus more on stemming extremism and piracy.
Earlier this week, six foreigners, including one American, were arrested at the airport in Mogadishu with around $4 million in cash. Somali government officials said the money was ransom for a pirate gang — paying ransoms is the most common way of resolving pirate hijackings. The Somali government has yet to say what it is going to do with the foreigners or the money.