Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on the Famine in Somalia

In the Crisis, There is an Opportunity for East Africa

Courtesy Reuters

East Africa and the Horn of Africa are experiencing a devastating drought -- the worst in 60 years. This emergency presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The United Nations estimates that 750,000 people in Somalia alone could die without assistance. Providing that aid is an opportunity to usher in a new day in Somalia, thus alleviating one of East Africa's most enduring problems.

Africa could be opening a new chapter. The economies of many African countries are growing, and investor interest in the continent is rising all the time. Many countries have implemented economic and political reforms to enhance openness and transparency. Last month, for example, Kenya celebrated the first anniversary of the adoption of its new constitution, which decentralized power, reformed the administrative bureaucracy, and improved governance.

Just a few months ago, the continent successfully witnessed the creation of a new country, South Sudan. African countries, including Kenya, played impressive diplomatic roles in the process and provided on-the-ground logistical assistance.(As of this writing, there are still thousands of Kenyan civil servants helping to build a new government in Juba.)

The same intense effort is now needed in Somalia. The famine is more than a natural disaster. It is a result of the inability of Somalia's principal political actors to end inaction, division, and war. This is a moment of inflection for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as it has a unique opportunity to prove to the international community its determination to ensure that better days await Somalia.

Of course, Somalia cannot succeed without the help of its neighbors. Together, African countries should develop a long-term strategy for stabilizing Somalia and the region. In addition, any dialogue should include important new players such as Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's August visit to Mogadishu was the first by a non-African head of government in years. The visit was powerfully symbolic and brought much-needed attention to the situation.

Four important activities could help push Somalia in the right direction. First, the 1991

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