Recent developments in and out of Somalia have raised serious questions and doubt about the future direction of Somalia. Mixed signs and messages raise the ugly prospect of Somalia continuing to maintain its “Failed State” status. This time however, external forces may be at play to ensure that Somalia continues along the path of implosion.
The London Conference supposedly “co-chaired” by the Somali President is over. The speeches have been spoken, the protocols have been observed and pledges have been made. International window dressing and diplomatic jargon is in full flow. The international community is challenged to truly dissect and understand the significance of what was said and what was not said. The Communique made interesting reading but did not measure up to the pre-conference hype.
First, it was assumed that the London conference would provide ample opportunity for the international community to vocalize its support for the Central government of Somalia. While there may have been backroom strategies, there is an entire population that still needs to understand and accept the de facto and de jure existence of a Central Government. Somalis need to be convinced that this Government is not another TFG and will not meet a similar fate.
Second, the Communique makes general mention and support of the “progress” on the forming of regional administrations and the role of IGAD in the internal affairs of Somalia. Somalis might find this comment to be very interesting since it is now an open secret that Somalia’s neighbors do not wish to see a viable Central Government of Somalia. The situation in Jubbaland further questions the role of Kenya in this region of Somalia and the obvious interventionist role of IGAD in the internal affairs of Somalia.
Third, there are many mixed messages coming from different sectors of the international community. There is no international consensus about the future of the “semi-autonomous regions. Various elements pursue their myopic interests by flirting with the leaders of these regions to the exclusion of the Central Government.
The current internal cleavages and the potential for political mischief on the part of Somalia’s neighbors lead on to conclude that the balkanization of Somalia has begun. Prior pronouncements by the UN and AU that the semi-autonomous regions will not be granted the status of independent nations, are hardly credible. For a growing number of Somalis, it makesgreater sense to strengthen the center and develop internal consensus regarding the relationship between the Center and the regions rather than the reverse logic.
There is a growing acceptance that this trend needs to be reversed. This requires bold and firm consistent leadership on the part of the international community. The international community needs to speak with one voice and a clear non bifurcated message.
A possible approach
In formulating an approach, it is important to recognize that there are some inconvenient truths that apply to Somalia.
First, the potential for inter-clan conflict can be traced to the residual effects of the Somali civil war.
Second, there may be resistance from some regional Governments for the existence of a united Somali nation stemming from the past military adventures during the Siad Barre regime.
Third, Somalia does not have the capacity to heal itself; only the international community can bridge this divide by providing tangible incentives. Any sustainable agreement with the major stakeholders can only exist under the following guidelines:
- That the International Community, through the medium of a UN Resolution, will not recognize any province or region within the internationally recognized borders of Somalia will not support any direct regional aid or assistance unless requested by the Central Government and will not lend any financial or material support to any region or province.
- That the international community (UN) will perform as HONEST BROKER to determine the degree of decentralization and regional authority that is to be applied to all regions and agreed upon by the affected parties. Internal consensus is a pre-requisite.
- That the regional Governments desist from any actions that may contribute to the destabilization of the State.
- That all inhabitants of the regions within the State of Somalia be identified by uniform documentation that shall be devoid of any separate symbols or language.
International support for a non-balkanized state of Somalia is an absolute necessity.
Finally, any attempt by neighboring nations to interfere in the internal affairs of a “Sovereign State” must be resisted. National pride and a sense of national dignity require that Somalis must not accept any formula that is NOT negotiated by the Somali people. It is the interest of the region to support the Central Government of Somalia and not permit clan tensions to be exploited and spiral out of control thereby destabilizing the region. Clan Based Federalism is shortsighted and is not a sustainable option.
Further it is in the interest of Somalia and the international donor community to ensure that there is a well-resourced Central Government mechanism through which development aid can reach its intended recipients. Reformed warlords do not have a history of contributing to the development of Somalia.
Now is the time for an end to Rhetoric. All stakeholders who support the constitutionally agreed federal state for Somalia should stand up and be counted. Somalia needs to know who its real friends are.
By Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, CFE