In my recent contribution on Somalia, published in the Malta Independent on Monday 12 August 2013, I may have sounded to many readers too optimistic about the new prospects for Somalia. After tracing Somalia’s misfortunes over the past four or five decades, I argued that the huge investment and political engagement by the international community, especially the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union, to create a stable and secure Somalia are giving results, as can be gathered from the conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting of 22 July 2013, and from the on-going preparations for a “New Deal Compact” for Somalia. In order to substantiate this optimism I shall go into more detail about the engagement and achievements of the international community in Somalia since lack of space prevented me from doing so in my last contribution.
The main international actors in Somalia – the UN, the EU, the AU, and IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa – are pursuing a comprehensive policy based on political engagement, active diplomacy, security support, promoting good governance and the rule of law, development assistance and capacity building, and humanitarian aid.
The main objectives of the political engagement of the international community are to achieve national reconciliation and to support the establishment of a legitimate and effective government. To realize these objectives the international community maintains intensive diplomatic activity in the region.
In spite of adversity and attacks on its offices the UN sustained its engagement in Somalia. Following the failure of two peace-keeping operations, in 1995 the Secretary-General established the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). The mandate of UNPOS, as endorsed by the Security Council, was “to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation through contacts with Somali leaders, civil organizations and the states and organizations concerned.” In accordance with this mandate the UN Special Representative for Somalia and Head of UNPOS provided support and advice to Somali leaders throughout the reconciliation process. In January 2012, the office of the SRSG moved formally back to Mogadishu and, amid the much improved conditions, UNPOS handed over to UNSOM, the Integrated UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, established by Security Council resolution 2012 (2013) to support the Federal Government’s peace and reconciliation efforts.
The EU equally managed to maintain its political engagement and active diplomacy throughout the Somali conflict through the appointment of an EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa and a Somalia Unit based in Nairobi. Soon after the establishment of the Somalia Federal Government, in August 2012, the EU nominated its first resident Ambassador to Somalia in order to establish a constant presence and dialogue with the leadership and people of Somalia.
Crucial political support to the peace process in Somalia came from the African Union (AU). The AU, which took over from the Organisation of African Unity following the Sirte Declaration of September 1999, soon began to develop institutions emulating those of the European Union, among them the Peace and Security Council with the aim of promoting peace, stability and security on the African continent. Somalia was its first test. Determined to aquire international credit, the newly founded AU took upon itself much of the political and security responsibility to solve the armed conflict in Somalia.
The contribution of the Inter-governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) often goes unsung. This regional organisation, composed of eight East African states, including Somalia, is playing an important brokering role in the peace process thanks to the affinity political leaders in Somalia feel towards the organisation.
The political engagement of the international community to re-build Somalia had to be backed by robust measures to support security. The Security Council wisely allowed African ownership of security support for Somalia. The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, is mandated to conduct peace support operations, to facilitate humanitarian operations including the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, and to provide protection to key infrastructures to enable the Somali Federal Government to carry out its functions. It currently has around 17,700 uniformed personnel on the ground coming from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya. AMISOM is assisted by the UN, which provides logistical support, and by the EU which provides substantial financial support. AMISOM has succeeded in creating a relatively secure environment in Somalia allowing the peace process to take root, and is aiming to transform the Somali army into an effective force adhering to international standards and able to ensure security throughout Somalia.
AMISDOM operates in coordination with three EU-led security operations in Somalia: EUTM, which is training Somali security forces, EU NAVFOR Atalanta, which is fighting piracy off the Somali coast, and EUCAP NESTOR, which is developing the regional maritime capacity of the states in the Horn of Africa.
The activity of the international community in Somalia is also focusing on the promotion of good governance and the rule of law. Both the EU and the UN have provided advice and resources to support the Somalia Constitution Process. They are consolidating Somalia’s recent achievements on the way to good governance and the rule of law by conducting training programmes for police officers, legal professionals, and civil servants. They are also assisting non-state actors’ capacities to help Somali civil society play a meaningful role in the peace process and in good governance.
Moreover, the international community has on-going development and modernization programmes in Somalia intended to build a self sufficient economy and an educated workforce able to withstand future challenges. They are focusing on areas that are vital for Somalia, such as resilience to drought, food security, livestock health, seed production, irrigation and water management. They are aiming to improve enrolment in primary education, particularly for girls, and to increase secondary schooling and vocational training participation.
In addition to planning for Somalia’s future needs, the international community continues to sustain the Somali population by providing humanitarian aid and civil protection particularly to the 1.42 million internally displaces persons and to refugees.
I am optimistic about the future prospects for Somalia because the political and security support, as well as the financial and development assistance, provided by the international community are giving the desired results. However, I must add that my optimism is also based on the refreshing political maturity that is being shown by the Federal Government of Somalia. This government is following an inclusive dialogue with all Somali stakeholders and regions and has a clear overarching political vision. Assisted by the EU, UN Agencies and regional stakeholders it has developed an institutional roadmap and set benchmarks for achieving Somalia’s most urgent reconstruction priorities by 2016. This National Stabilisation Plan will form the backbone of the “New Deal Compact” which is to be endorsed by the international community in Brussels on 16 September 2013, at “The New Deal for Somalia” international conference.
The response of the international community at this conference will no doubt continue to encourage Somalia’s political leaders to abide by their national reconciliation and reconstruction commitments.
Tarcisio Zammit is a former Ambassador to Belgium and Malta’s representative to the EU’s Political and Security Committee