The Horn of Africa: Hope is something to be happy with


mohamed_osman1By Mohamed Osman Omar

The neighbour is not an object that one chooses, like a shirt. Good or bad neighbours are there to stay whether one likes it or not. In the Horn of Africa, especially Somalia on one side and Ethiopia and Kenya, on the other, their relations have been sour due to territorial dispute. But since the change of leaderships in the three countries hope for better understanding is high. Somalia has a new President, Hassan Shaikh Mohamud, Kenya has a new President, Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopia has a new Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Somalia’s Federal Government which came to power in September 2012 has put forward a 6 points’ agenda for the overall development of the country and its relationships with the international community and particularly with Somalia’s neighbours and friends.

So far, the political change which took place in the Horn of Africa is the fact that the people in the region known as the “Ogadeniya” has taken over the reign of their territory as an “autonomous” province. Tangible development is underway in the area. Also, in the territory known as Northern Frontier District (NFD) the people are enjoying the right to participate in all activities in the parliament, the government and private, without discrimination. Today, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya is a Somali lady, Ms. Amina Mohamed, a native of the Northern Frontier District.

As for the Djibouti, when the President of the Somali Democratic Republic, Maj. General Mohamed Siyad Barre, was the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1975, told an Special Envoy from the French President who delivered to him a message over the question of the territory’s independence, that the support of Somalia to the people of Djibouti is for the freedom of the territory from colonial domination and then is up to the people to make use of their right to self-determination.
To show that the Revolutionary Government meant what it said, the official ceremony for the independence of Djibouti, on 27 June 1977, was attended by the Vice President, Gen. Hussein Kulmiye Afrah. While the First Anniversary of the Djibouti independence was attended by the President, Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre.

When Djibouti achieved its independence and decided to become the Republic of Djibouti and before that the NFD’s situation settled through the 1967 Arusha, Tanzania, agreement and the Western Somalia, the “Ogaden” became an autonomous territory with a regional government, the role that the Somalis in the neighbouring countries could play is to be bridge that connects Somalia with its neighbours.

The most important work that is expected from the President, Hassan Shaikh Mohamud and the Somali Parliament is how to exploit the positive environment that prevaisl in the Horn of Africa, which many have seen it as a chance to achieve a permanent peace and stability in the region. With that situation in the Horn of Africa, the reconstruction of Somalia would require a united front of all the Somalis in the interest of the people and the country.


The elections of new Parliament, the Speaker and his two deputies followed by the election of the new President of the Federal Republic of Somalia on September 10, 2012, have abolished the “Transitional” system of government. A permanent government has emerged. Soon after, most of the countries which had diplomatic relations with Somalia prior to the civil war, have resumed their diplomatic relations with the country.

The interest that the world gives to Somalia is seen by the number of the international conferences in support of Somalia were held in different cities including Istanbul, Turkey, London, UK and Tokyo, Japan and attended by Heads of State, Prime Ministers as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations and other high ranking officials from different multi-national organisations. The President of Somalia, Hassan Shaikh Mohamud was welcomed.

All these conferences were important and positive. But the Somalis say “Where practical solution is needed, talk will not help”. Too much has been promised, but the Somali who is at home would not be satisfied with sweet words unless they are accompanied by job creating projects. What is known until now is that what has been promised have not reached the safe of the Federal Government.

For two decades, Somalia was under the control of the international community and Foreign NGOs as there was no a national central government in the country to deal with.
The website reported on Friday 14 June, 2013, that the Council of Ministers has called upon the International Donors “to route their support exclusively through the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

“For too many years, aid to Somalia has been delivered in a very fragmented fashion”, said H.E. the Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon.

From now on, we would like all international donors to channel their funding through the Ministry of Finance and Planning [of the Federal Republic of Somalia]. We believe that this will help achieve donors objectives and meet the needs of Somali people, while demonstrating appropriate respect for the Somali government and its policies.”
The statement of the Prime Minister is based on the fact that there is a permanent government. As such, all the financial assistance should come to the government’s account and UN Agencies and foreign NGOs should not do the work of the government.

The Somalis expressed their satisfaction on the IMF (International Monetary Fund) recognition of the Somali government, on [14 June, 2013]. The IMF statement said that “The International Monetary Fund today recognized the federal government of Somalia, headed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, paving the way for the resumption of relations after a 22-year interval.”

The recognition did not mean that the financial institution was going to resume its lending money to Somalia. In fact the Agency made clear that “it will not lend money to Somalia until the country repays a $352 million debt it owes to the monetary body.” Somalia also owes $250 million to the World Bank.

There was no contact between Somalia and the Bretton Woods System during the 22 years that Somalia had no central government. As there was no one who looked after the Somali interest, the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) appointed Ethiopia in 1993 up to 2000 when the new government of Somalia was established at the Reconciliation Conference sponsored by the President of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh at Arta, Djibouti took over the country’s administration.
Since the Federal Government itself is new it would be wise to review its relationship with the Bretton Woods Institutions, such IMF and World Bank or even to freeze its membership of the two institutions till further notice.

Today, Somalia does not need so-called “experts” from the IMF or WB, as there are hundreds of Somalis or of Somali origin who are in the Diaspora with full experience. As the country is starting from ground zero, it is better Somalia starts with national experts, of course, who have international experience.

After 22 years of no government in the country, Somalia had no income from which it can pay back the debts that owes to IMF and World as well as other financial institutions. But still that is Somalia’s problem. Now that this government of Somalia started clean, it should learn and teach the people that one has to live within his or her own means to avoid overdraft in the bank statement. At least until the Federal Government stands on its own feet.

The IMF and WB have nothing to do with humanitarian case or natural disaster. If you are like Somalia, unable to pay the past debts, then you will pay with your freedom and your policy. Once you are indebted to them, they will dictate what to do in your government, military and state expenses and your own currency value etc. All these conditions cause anti-government rebellion.

If the financial institutions refuse to give loan to Somalia it will only encourage the people, who are already highly experienced entrepreneurs, to increase their efforts to generate more private sectors in the economy. As I see it is a great chance for us to have a permanent council of Somali economists as advisers to the Government to avoid having a young trainee with no knowledge of the local environment to practice on Somalia.

As for the relief of the debts owed to IMF and World Bank and other financial institutions, Somalia, together with Eritrea and the Sudan are being considered [waiting list] for entry into the (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) HIPC program which, as of January 2012, has identified 39 countries (33 of which are in Sub-Sahara Africa) as being potentially eligible to receive debt relief.

I think it is wise that the Federal Government applies the cancellation of all debts in accordance with the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) which provides “for 100 % relief on eligible debt from three multilateral institutions to a group of low-income countries.”

The foreign policy of the Federal Government seems to be sound and the neighbouring countries’ attitude are so far positive, but we have to wait and see the real outcome of those big international conferences and to follow closely how much their speeches match with their actions.

And, so far, however, the all round situation in the Horn of Africa is relatively encouraging although there are still security issues that need to be tackled. The response from the international community is positive. The support of the people of Somalia to sustain what has been achieved is, no doubt, desirable.