“Quo Vadis Somalia? Somalia after the London conference “


April 09 , 2012 – This article touches on a number of issues that are not new to most of us. The interesting point being that the International Community has taken a back seat in recognizing Somaliland as an independent State – which is a welcome step. The ball lies in the African Union and IGAD’s court. The chances of African Union and IGAD granting Somaliland recognition are almost zero, given the chaos and the fear of opening a Pandora box in the Horn of Africa. The author also illuminates the interferences of Ethiopia and other neighbouring countries on Somalia’s internal affairs and their vested interests.

What makes this article more interesting is the fact that it was written by someone who has in-depth knowledge and comprehensive understanding on the politics of Somalia as well as the international conflicts in general. I do also appreciate the author’s comments on the scramble for oil in Somalia in the last lines of this piece.

More than 50 countries and various delegations met on the 23rd of February in London for a conference on Somalia convened by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, attended by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives from many other countries.

Somaliland and Puntland

Before the conference convened, there was a difficult problem to be solved. The representatives from Somaliland claimed that they should be recognized as representatives of an independent country. Since the international community has not yet ruled on whether Somaliland and Puntland are to be recognized as independent countries, this could obviously not be met.
But these two regions (countries) participated in the conference anyway. Furthermore, the Danish Minister for Development Christian Friis Bach has recently visited Somalia and Somaliland, and has decided to open a Danish Danida-interest office in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland. It is clear that there have been many talks on whether Somaliland and Puntland may be recognized as independent countries or regions. But this will probably take a long time and will depend on wether IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, Horn of Africa) and the African Union supports it.

Conference results

The final communiqué includes 26 items, covering the political situation in and around Somalia, security and international peacekeeping (until now AU) peacekeeping force, AMISOM; piracy around the Somali coast, links with international terrorism (al Qaeda), the need for reconstruction and stability in Somalia; the major humanitarian problems – especially the widespread famine and the large number of refugees, mostly in camps in Kenya; necessity of rebuilding the country and the need for increased international cooperation and improved coordination.

The  main conclusion seems to be that soon there should be another meeting again. Prior to the conference on 23 February a separate meeting was held on the humanitarian situation in Somalia led by the UN / OCHA. Furthermore, a humanitarian meeting in Nairobi in March – probably coordinated by USAID and Denmark etc is planned to take place – And also a follow-up conference in Istanbul in June, and a conference in the United Arab Emirates on piracy, also in June – plus an International Contact Group on Piracy, Global Counterterrorism Forum and several other international forums that have a role in Somalia. It was agreed at the conference that the UN must play a greater coordinating role with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Somalia and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). The International Contact Group on Somalia (ICG Somalia) was agreed to expand the strengths of the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM’s, mandate, which is precisely the adoption of UN Security Council (Resolution 2036). In addition, IGAD and the African Union significant roles to play. So there are already many active and potential players in and around Somalia.

The internal dynamics

But the main problem is probably the situation in Somalia itself, and to some – probably quite high – level of neighboring countries considerable interests in Somalia. In addition, Al-Shabab continued control of parts of the country. The mandate of the current TFG (Transitional Federal Government), which was established in 2004 by the Transitional Federal Parliament at a meeting in Djibouti, expires in august this year.

This was highlighted during the conference that the mandate   should not be renewed and that the current Transitional Federal Charter and the Djibouti Agreement and the Kampala decisions must be replaced by the establishment of a representative government, and that soon a Somali constitution conference should be held with representation from all regions of Somalia. The Somali government has in recent months been trying to start this process at several meetings of representatives from the various factions in Punt’s capital Garowe (called Garowe I and II). During the London conference the need to ensure full representation of women (Garowe II decision) and of the many traditional (clan) groups in Somalia in the design of future governance in Somalia was highlighted.

The Conference emphasized the need for long-term strategy for the reconstruction of Somalia, both physical infrastructure and establishing a functioning administration. There was what is referred to the “New Deal” agreement from a recent conference in Busan, South Korea, with the aim of providing support to fragile states. Participants in London also promised – in principle – to provide substantial funding for the reconstruction of Somalia, including Mogadishu, which is almost in ruins after 20 years of fighting (the Mogadishu Recovery and Stabilization Plan). For this purpose, inter alia, established a new Somalia Stability Fund. Finally, the significant roles and the dynamic private sector play in the country and the role of large Somali Diaspora are already playing were highlighted  and they are expected to contribute large sums.

Continued challenge  

Regardless of the results from the London conference seems modest, there is no doubt that this new and upcoming conferences and initiatives can retain the interest of Somalia. Moreover, it is significant that several countries such as Turkey, now want to support a peaceful development in Somalia. The African Union should also be more active in addition to contributing to the peacekeeping forces.

But there is a long way to go. Second, Al-Shabab is still a major ‘disruptive factor’, and there are still countless groups in Somalia, which fight each other. As mentioned, the neighboring countries – especially Kenya and Ethiopia – have a major interest in Somalia and play their home games to promote their own interests. Moreover, the U.S. has a continuing and substantial interest in combating potential terrorism originating in Somalia.

After 20 chaotic years of continued fighting between different clans and interest groups the big question is whether the international community has enough patience and financial resources to get Somalia restored as a functioning state. And whether the Somali people have stamina and inner strength to make their country a viable and functioning nation? In addition, Denmark has the opportunity to make a modest/small  but, important contributions.

It is perhaps not unimportant to mention that the United Kingdom is engaged in a “secret” search for oil in Somalia, mostly in and around Puntland and that Canada and China have also shown great interest. And it probably also explains the sudden visit by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Mogadishu. Apparently there is a large potential for oil recovery especially the north-eastern Somalia and in the Indian Ocean off Somalia.

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