Known to everyone that the country had gone through a difficult two decades of conflict, social and infrastructural destruction. None of any town, community, family or even individual in the country was left untouched by the grievance of the country’s misfortunate decades. Close to twenty reconciliation conferences were held and enormous resources invested in seeking a solution for the chronic catastrophe. Many other countries that had gone through such a devastating civil war had to sett up an independent truth and reconciliation commission that spearheaded their respective nation wide bottom up reconciliation processes. Somalia’s case is yet to try that path but assume that the top down approach conferences suffice the national reconciliation process. Yet this was proved wrong over and over. Somalia needs a serious reconciliation! This is proven by the recent “Juba-land saga”, it is just a piece of the puzzle that shows how far we are from a serious reconciliation. This will not just show a dispute that is equal to the Oromo and Somali regions federal border dispute in Ethiopia but it can reactivate grievances that was committed in the past decades. Here is an example, just after the conflict in Kismayo, the few injured soldiers were respectively ferried out to Mogadishu and Galkayo. This and many other political statements manifested a syndrome that proves the need for a country wide serious reconciliation.
Right within a day after the deal was signed, the media was covering Mogadishu and Kismayo celebrating while Baidoa elders were busy organizing a mass demonstration condemning the deal and threatened a withdrawal of the federal government, all in the span of hours. This is just a start of the dispute over who is the right custodian of the southern regions local administration, it is about who is the genuine representative of the population in the southern regions, and so on. Nothing is wrong to support the deal or to come out against the deal; it is all about different perspectives with little evidence. However, my own – may be biased- view, the most important outcome that should be taken way from this deal is the prove that a serious national reconciliation is inevitable. One might argue that we had had a lot of reconciliations, yes we did, but Somalia never had serious grassroots based reconciliation process spearheaded by an independent national commission. The closest grass root approach taken was the Arta peace process, but unfortunately did not trickle down within the country.
The recent Juba (Land) agreement reactions of proponents and opponents of the deal are grounded on the ownership and the power sharing of the local administrations. Though the agreed articles demand that the setting of the local administrations be through a consultative process of the two parties, the argument of the opponents is that this does not guarantee equal inclusion and participation to the residents of the regions in subject. Further more, these are one of the regions with less homogeneity, with lots of various communities that differ in clan lineages. Among these includes the so-called point five or – for lack of a better term ‘”Others”, whose political participation at local levels could be squeezed out. Above all, the FGS is yet to come up with a clear framework that informs the foundation of the bottom up regional and federal administrations. In the absence of such a framework, the FGS will end up dealing with the problem using various subjective approaches, which can address temporary tensions with the expense of creating a more chronic problem.
Establishing regional local administration that is driven by the local communities can be very difficult due to the nature of the context. Firstly, the existing political power sharing of the country is based on clan lines- five major clans. Various clans share the residence of the regions.
No a single region is exclusive for one clan, and numerous different clans share each of the regions. Specific clan can arguably be the dominant clan in an area, but again there is no exclusivity. Therefore, it is only the bottom up approach will yield a fair share of the local power. Secondly, there has been demographic transition over the past twenty years. Slow population movement as result of security or economic pressure had changed the demographic landscape of each region in the country; this is more prominent in the southern regions of the country, and it is only the bottom up approach that can remedy the problem. Thirdly, as result of the warlord era, some clans powerfully controlled key strategic points of the regions in subject. Some regions changed hands over and over through civil war, yet there is no environment where one can know who is the dominant clan in many districts and some regions. Fourthly, There was no general census done in the country for more than 25 years, and if census is done, it is almost impossible to undertake population census by clan to explore who dominates who, therefore the need for a serious bottom up approach can resolve the local power sharing approaches. In light to these dynamics, the federal government is expected to lead remedying these chronic problems. The recent Juba (land) process provoked anger among some of the clans in the southern part of the country. The Juba (land) deal approach that seemed top down approach is almost similar to the type of the traditional reconciliation conferences convened in neighboring countries with a warlord being the sole signatory. Had this been a bottom up approach convened in the country with all stakeholders -including minorities- included, the reaction from Baidoa would have been different than it sounded now.
The deal demanded two reconciliation conferences, one in Mogadishu and one in Kismayo. One can ask how the conferences in Mogadishu and Kismayu are different than that of reconciliation conference held in Mogadishu by the late Col. Abdullahi Yusuf government, which did not yield to fruition. Further more, the Mogadishu meeting is opened within the week the deal was signed, meaning that the conference invitees and agenda were determined before the Juba (land) deal. Further more, as Baidoa elders condemn the process, Puntalnd Authority criticized the conference in Mogadishu, stating that it is not inclusive. To address the clan based distrust and power straggle, we should afford to acknowledge and invest more time and resources in a bottom up locally driven, independently commissioned national reconciliation. This is not the easiest path to take but it’s arguably a path that can significantly take us to the right direction that can guarantee a seriously impactful national reconciliation outcome. The international community needs to rethink the current national reconciliation framework and explore other alternatives that can yield to a more sustainable fruition.