Re. Secretary Sherman’s address to the United States Institute of Peace regarding Somalia


mohamed_abdiBy Mohamed Abdi Mohamed

A word of caution! Quite often, we are easily tempted to read into speeches by representatives of powerful nations, what we personally want to see, hear and believe. While this is natural, it may be very necessary to put these speeches within some contextual framework. Generally policy speeches are couched in diplomatic “niceties” and we often miss the underlying messages. We cannot afford to be lulled into a false sense of hope, looking for rays of sunshine on a cloudy day and attempt to proclaim a sunny forecast.

“One speech does not in itself, represent policy or policy change”. We need to carefully analyze the various statements from the international community and determine the commonality of advice, urgings, promises and threats. Then we need to take off our Somali eye glasses and put on those of the international community to figure out which images are consistent and which are warped. Then and only then will we be able to provide strategies that address both the Domestic and International Agendas. It is in the area and scope of the coincidence of these agendas that clarity and focus are revealed.

Let us all realize that Somalia is not the only crisis area in Africa. Other areas such as Nigeria (Boka Haram), South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali compete for international attention and resources.

Further the impending disintegration of Iraq and Syria along with the unimaginable social and economic impact on the region along with Ukraine and Eastern Europe raises the question as to where Somalia falls among the strategic interests of the United States and Western Europe.

As a student of developments within the region, I recall the message that Ambassador Kay said in reference to the liberated areas (from Al Shabaab) that “unless we can consolidate those gains, unless the people in those areas feel the benefit of being in a government-controlled area, they get better services, better governance and also their basic needs for food and medicines are met, unless we can do that, then there is a risk that this will not be a success”.

I have digested the address of Secretary Sherman to the US Institute of Peace and noted not only what she said but more importantly what she did not say. For me the message from the international community is quite clear:
“Somalia put your internal house in order, stop imploding and you will be in a better position to get the international assistance you require”.