For the first time in 22 years, the leader of western donor country, the British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on November 14, 2011, the hosting of an International Conference on ‘Somalia’ not fiefdoms in London. In his speech entitled Foreign Policy in the National Interest, the PM described Somalia as ‘a failed State that directly threatens British Interest.’
In essence, The PM’s definition reflects the truth that Somalia literally lacks a functioning state that can perform state functions necessary for being a national legitimate Government as well as a responsible member of the global system of governance. Therefore, the London Conference on Somalia (LCS), planned to take place on 23rd February 2012, should finally articulate the unified determination and commitment of the key international actors on the formation of sovereign and effective governance in Somalia so that all corollary problems can be taken care off. Otherwise, the conference would be one day fanfare for international bureaucrats. Any attempt of repackaging the current political and security narratives and strategies propounded by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African Mission for Somalia (AMISOM), the United Nations political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) will nurture a culture of political demagoguery, mafia style governance and insecurity to the disservice of the Somali people and the International community. Fighting terrorism and piracy must be primarily an integral part of the Somali government responsibilities.
The mere announcement of the LCS has raised both the expectations of the Somali people for the unexpected appearance of special savior for Somalia on one side and the suspicion of the neighboring and regional countries as well as the regional and international organizations controlling and administering Somalia on the other side. Ethiopia did not hide its irritation and told bluntly to US delegation that the ‘proliferation of initiatives’ outside IGAD should be stopped. The truth is the Somali plight shows that the strategies of military intervention, political opportunism and exploitation of social grievances pursued in the last 10 years have deepened the Somali political and humanitarian crisis and multiplied the threats to the international security. According to UN Monitoring report S/2011/433, the extremist group Al Shabab has expanded its influence beyond the Horn of Africa region to the point of affecting Nigeria in less than 3 years. The needed action is not step-change, but completely new policy direction and approach for putting Somalia under effective government. The international community should help and allow the Somali people to make their collective decisions freely, democratically and consciously.
Among the five purposes listed by the PM Cameron for hosting the conference, the one on addressing the causes of conflict and instability in Somalia has attracted the hearts and minds of Somalis. No one has ever raised this crucial issue for solving Somalia’s problem. The PM made clear his intention to stand up against the radicals and pirates who have substantially disrupted the international maritime businesses and consequently lowered the standard of living of large segment of the populations in many developed and developing countries. Yet, the root causes of Somali conflict deserve primary consideration as the main source of present predicament.
Twelve countries namely the United States of America, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Qatar, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and two International Organizations- the United Nations, and the African Union form the core group for the preparation of the LCS. For unknown reasons, six countries and two international organizations very much involved in the Somali politics have been left out. They are Eritrea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, China and Russia, the Arab League (AL), and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). So far, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya are active in the Conference preparation process, while Qatar is suspected of providing the funds for the conference. The UK Minister for International Development Andrew Mitchell has characterized the LCS as a basis for coordinated and sustained international leadership on Somalia.
It is prudent to look back and re-evaluate historically what said and done on a problem before undertaking new initiative on the same problem. On 15 June 2006, the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi E. Frazer convened an ad hoc meeting at the permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations in New York. Participants have formed the International Contact Group on Somalia (ICGS). The unrealized group’s mission was to mobilize the support of the international community for the consolidation of representative and effective governance in Somalia, capable of addressing the needs of the Somali people as well as common international objectives. The group has also emphatically underscored that the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC) and Institutions (TFIs) provide a legitimate and viable framework for the continued process of re-establishing governance in Somalia. Today, instead of representative and effective governance, there is factionalized parliament and inept Government without national policies. The TFC has been illegally and arbitrarily replaced by Djibouti Agreement, Kampala Accord, the Roadmap, and Garowe Principles. All these TFC violations were made for reconciling and satisfying incompetent unscrupulous individuals of TFG leadership who transformed the TFIs into private Institutions. The President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister became individual politicians who are chasing their personal interests. The LCS should not repeat the same fiasco. The invitation of TFG leaders or the roadmap ‘stakeholders’ to the LCS on behalf of the Somali people would be a grave mistake or deliberate humiliation.
Various sources hint that the US Administration, UNPOS and TFG share the view that the political process underway for ending one transition period with the inauguration of another one falls outside the LCS scope. The US Government wants to see the immediate completion of Federal Constitution and the installation of parliament ultimately selected by Roadmap ‘stakeholders’ possibly before March/April 2012. To make matters complex, the US dual track policy will be replaced by local stability policy with the same objectives. Moreover, UNPOS and TFG consider the LCS as an exercise for progress assessment and fund raising. These positions dash the hope for building a Somali State capable of serving its people and the world community.
Nevertheless, two important preliminary clarifications made in the preparatory papers deserve special attention. The first clarification is the recognition that Somalia was not only a failed state but it has been sliding backwards for the last 20 years and the second clarification is related to the UK’s commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Somalia by inviting Somaliland to the Conference as part of Somalia’s problem.
Recognizing that Somalia has been sliding backwards for the last 20 years reaffirms what the international human rights and Humanitarian organizations have been saying all along. This was supposed to be the truth that guides the international efforts rather than the misleading slogans of marginal progress with incalculable cost. In fact, the United Nations requested 1.5 Billion dollars for Humanitarian Assistance for Somalia for 2012, while it requested only 174.11 million dollars for 2006. This means that human suffering in Somalia increased by ten times in the last five years. For misguided international efforts, Somalia became hotspot for terrorism, radicalization, piracy, dumping of toxic waste and illegal fishing.
It has been stupefying to witness the indifference of the international leaders in the face of the tear-jerking reports of the United Nations humanitarian organizations, NGOs like Oxfam and Human Rights Watch, all presenting shocking facts and figures of unimaginable human sufferings and abuses committed against the Somali people. Specifically, the adoption of the Human Rights Watch reports- (Civilians under siege in Mogadishu) dated 12 August 2007 and the (War Crimes in Somalia) dated 15 August 2011, and Refugees International’s report (Not the Time to look Away) dated 12 December 2011- during the conference would have honored the victims of political indifference in Somalia.
The UK’s commitment to Somalia’s territorial integrity prevents the surge of fresh conflicts in the stable regions of Somalia and encourages a national dialogue among Somalis for long term political dispensation. This commitment must be followed with concrete political statements by other western countries for dispelling ambiguity on the issue. The western positions will not force the population of Somaliland or other areas to be or not to be part of Somalia, but it will facilitate a dispensation based on legal and political process without violence. Rebuilding the failed state of Somalia requires first and foremost a Somali popular Accord on reconciliation and governance woven with policies for fighting extremism, terrorism and piracy. The international commitment, resources and cooperation are necessary ingredients for the state building process in Somalia.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso