Tobin Jones

World News


Priorities for Somalia

Even though some may be slow to accept it, Somalia is a failed state and has been for some time. Moreover, despite past efforts at rebuilding Somalia, including billions in aid over the decades, there is a renewed effort to rebuild Somalia. However, Somalis are the only ones that can make a difference. The international conference in Istanbul is, among other things, an effort to put together the development project that Somalia will need in order to achieve progress in the short term. Since the Djibouti conference in late 2008, and the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG), led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, there have been glimmers of hope in Somalia, and especially in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, especially after the ousting of al-Shabaab by AMISOM forces.

This is not to heap praise on the TFG. Outside and within Somalia, the TFG is known for its widespread corruption and endless political crisis. The World Bank recently published a report that large sums of money received by Somalia’s interim UN-backed government have not been accounted for. The World Bank report, a financial investigation of 2009-2010, goes further and says that the TFG has no real accounting system nor does it publicly disclose its financial statements. However, the TFG is not alone. A significant portion of the corruption is taking place in Nairobi, which is the seat for international non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) that are funded largely to represent Somalis.

This assessment was made by the Somali Envoy to the U.S., Abukar Arman, in his article about the need to de-Nairobify Somali affairs. Mr. Arman described Nairobi based NGO’s as international institutions and organizations with sullied reputations of money squandering, laundering, and rewarding contracts under dubious circumstances.

However, despite corruption and weak governance, Somalis have shown a desire to live a semi-normal life, a life that can end two decades of civil war that has been prolonged by inter-clan warfare and warlords. Somalis long for peace and security. Therefore, security is their main concern and without it, state rebuilding is not achievable. In addition to security, political stability is another factor that can play a vital role in the rebuilding of Somalia. However, the larger question is what are the priorities that should be emphasized for the rebuilding of Somalia?

There is no question that AMISOM forces have sacrificed for the security of Somalia. They have fought bitter and bloody battles against the militant group, al-Shabaab, which had been subjugating Somalis in Mogadishu and throughout Somalia and in August of 2011 AMISOM forces liberated most of Mogadishu from al-Shabaab. However, moving forward, the larger question is what happens next? George B. N. Ayittey, who is the president of the Free Africa Foundation, argued that a long-term solution can only come from Africans themselves. The institutions that Ayittey criticizes were the U.S. and the U.N. during their intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s, culminating in the “Blackhawk Down” mission that ended in failure for the U.S.

Ayittey’s argument at the time was that the U.S. and U.N. interventions in the early 1990s were unlikely to resolve the country’s crisis because they did not offer solutions based on African initiatives. While Ayittey can be described as a “pan-Africanist,” African centered initiatives like AMISOM in Somalia, largely funded by the international community, cannot grantee a long-term solution for Somalia either. Although no one can deny that AMISOM should be supported, the fact is that as the U.S. and the U.N failed to provide for a long-term solution for Somalia in the early 1990s, AMISOM cannot be the Band-Aid that is relied upon to fix Somalia’s woes.

While AMISOM liberated Mogadishu, and are now pursuing al-Shabaab remnants, this victory needs to be maintained by an indigenous Somali security force. The reason is that the mission of AMISOM in Somalia is not forever, and they will, sooner or later, leave Somalia. Two priorities, which should be emphasized in the short term, are building a Somali security sector and a stable leadership that can move Somalia to the next level.

Responsibility for the internal security of any country should lie with its own security forces, and Somalia, like any other country, should depend on its own forces. With the help of the international community, the rebuilding of the Somali security sector needs to be prioritized. Somali military leadership, who are currently in the field, have the capacity to contribute their skills and provide the necessary training so that they can take the lead, not only from liberating the rest of Somalia and securing vast portions of the country but protecting Somalia’s borders. In addition to fielding a military force, Somali police forces need to take the lead in patrolling liberated areas of Somalia. One of the mistakes that was made has been to use AMISOM forces to police various cities. When the transitional period ends, Somalia’s sovereignty cannot be protected and maintained by foreign troops.

Political stability is another top priority if Somalia wants to move forward. Since its inception in Djibouti in 2009, the current TFG has undergone more political clashes. There have been three prime ministers just during the current TFG, and this was due to unnecessary political brawls among the leadership. The “Kampala Accord” that was signed in June of 2011 resulted in disputes within the top leadership of TFG. However, Somalia’s politics have largely been defined by political clashes. The post-transitional period will unlikely act to solve this inherent flaw in Somalia’s political landscape. There are two mechanisms that can pave the way for political stability.

The first is to have a clear and concise constitution that the majority of Somalis can agree to. The current draft constitution has been widely rejected by the majority of Somalis, and the TFG and the international community should take note. The alternative that most analysts suggest is the constitution that Somalis overwhelmingly approved in 1961. Second, empower an independent supreme court that can interpret laws without any political allegiance. There has been a widespread neglect to have a workable justice system that can represent a majority of Somalis. It is not clear how Somalia can have a permanent government if there is not a justice system in place that can enforce the laws of Somalia.

It is imperative to focus international efforts on areas that can accommodate the rebuilding of Somalia. But long-term solutions for peace and security in Somalia are dependent on the rebuilding of a Somali security sector. Political clashes have not been helpful in the past, and will not be helpful in the future to heal Somalia from its two decades of self-inflicted wounds. In fact, these political clashes will prolong the crisis, and to move forward, there will need to be a long-term vision for Somalia.