The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, which was later expanded to include Eritrea, was formed in 1992. Its mandate, as updated in 2012, delineates the scope of its official activities: To monitor and report on individuals and entities who “are threat to peace, security or stability of Somalia.” Foremost among these violations are arms smuggling, assisting or creating terror groups, elicit trade on banned products, obstruction of humanitarian aid, spoiling or disrupting the political process, etc. Obviously, this is a clear mandate requiring monitoring and supervision—not muckraking. Or is it?
Since they were formed, the Group reported less on the core issues of the mandate than on tangential matters. Mudslinging against business and political leaders in Somalia usually take the centerfold of their reports. For some readers, this may make for a good diversion. Unfortunately though, it is a costly diversion. It takes precious resources–and eyeballs, one may add–from the mandated objectives. Due to this dereliction, illegal arms flows and other serious crimes in Somalia are either unreported or under reported by the Monitoring Group. Consequently, they continue unabated. Satisfying group vanity, it seems, has become more important to them than fulfilling the UN mandate.
The latest issue is outstanding in this regard. It contains as much information on criminality as it does muckraking on prominent leaders and organizations in Somalia. The insinuation against the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS)–the only think tank organization in Mogadishu—is a case in point. The Group ties presidential aspirant, foreign money and HIPS in one fell swoop. A cursory look at their documentation reveals their bias. Is this an attempt to squelch the budding organization? Whatever the Group’s aim is, such baseless allegations can only diminish their credibility—and by extension, legitimacy.
The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS) is a welcome addition to the national scene. Founded in 2012 by two visionary Somali intellectuals, Abdirahman Aynte and Abdirashid Khalif, HIPS has fast carved out a niche in the rough and tumble, foreign dominated information production industry in Somalia. Before its creation, the research agenda and knowledge production in the country were controlled by foreign-based organizations. The information thus generated was, for the most part, intended to satisfy the insatiable curiosity of internationals. It was in essence irrelevant to the ordinary life of the average Somali. In contrast, HIPS investigates pertinent issues that affect society directly, and accordingly advances knowledge that have practical application to existing problems in the country.
The work of the Monitoring Groups has not always been a misguided affair. In their first issue in summer of 2005, the focus of the Report was clear. Violators of the UN mandate dominated the Report. Since then, the work of the Group has degenerated into muckraking, sideshows, and insinuations–as their piece on HIPS shows. This trend has to be arrested if the UN Group has to remain relevant in Somali affairs.
Hassan Omar Mahadallah, PhD,
Department of Political Science,
Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs,
Southern University Baton Rouge