SOMALIA: Great (and small) expectations for the London Conference
NAIROBI, 21 February 2012 (IRIN) - Many Somalis expect
> the London Conference
on 23 February to lead to peace and stability, while others have questioned
what a five-hour meeting can achieve. IRIN spoke to a cross-section about
their expectations and whether or not it would help to stabilize the country
after more than two decades of civil war:
Abdullahi Shirwa, head of the National Disaster Management Agency in
"I have hopes and fears for the outcome of the London Conference; my hope is
that there will be a coordinated intervention plan from the international
community and we will not have the current haphazard intervention.
"Secondly, I hope whatever is decided [ensures] that the country's
sovereignty and territorial integrity will be safeguarded and respected. I
would also like to see clear commitment from the international community to
help Somalia, not only in humanitarian terms, but politically and
"I would also like to see that help inside Somalia. It does not matter what
city or region. You cannot help Somalia from Nairobi, Geneva or New York; it
has to be inside [the country] to have any tangible effect.
"My fear is of an outcome that legitimizes a parallel intervention whereby
the African Union is doing its own thing, the UN something else; IGAD
[Intergovernmental Authority on Development] operating on its own and the EU
is doing something and the US doing its own thing. That would be a disaster
not only for Somalis but for the international community.
"Somalis are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the London conference; I hope
it will be one that leads to lasting peace and stability in the country."
Maryan, a trader in Galkayo, south-central Somalia, who asked for his full
name not to be published:
"I know whatever decisions that will come out of London have been decided.
[For over 20 years] we have been unable to solve our problems. I don't see
anything wrong with the world being fed up with our problems, saying enough,
this is what you are going to do.
"We have a saying [that] if you cannot decide for yourself someone else will
do it for you; for Somalia, that time is now. In my opinion, the best option
right now to reunite Somalia and end this nightmare is for the world to ask
[Ahmed Mohamud] Silaanyo [president of the self-declared Republic of
Somaliland] to be the next president of Somalia.
"He is the only Somali who was elected through the ballot box. People stood
in line and voted for him. What so-called Somali leader can claim that? I
hope that those powers who are making decisions for us will add to their
calculations this fact."
A Somali political observer in Nairobi, who requested anonymity:
"They [the organizers] bring together groups [of Somalis] that are not
fighting but ignore the one group [Al-Shabab] that is engaging in war with
the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] and the so-called international
"They may be under military pressure at the moment but those who believe
that it is the end of this fanatical group are either deluding themselves or
are ignorant of the facts on the ground. I hate to say it, but Al-Shabab has
to be engaged if we want a real solution," adding that otherwise, Somalia's
humanitarian, political and security nightmare will continue."
Abdishakur Mire Aden, an assistant minister in the government of the
autonomous region of Puntland, based in the town of Garowe:
"The conference is different from past conferences on Somalia; it is the
first time that a major power has shown interest in Somalia.
"The UK is not only hosting but has invited over 40 countries. That in
itself is positive. It shows that western powers have finally turned their
attention to us. I expect the conference to come up with a Somali government
that is worthy of the Somali people and that will build on what has so far
"Any government should be broad-based and inclusive. Whatever is discussed,
the interests of the Somali people must be paramount."
Omar Islaw Mohamed, a member of Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament,
"I hope Somalis from all over will have the chance to talk and come to a
unified agreement; it is very important for Somalis to have space to have a
In addition, he hoped the conference would lead to a unified Somalia that
would put in place strong institutions that give priority to security and a
Mohamed Said Kashawiito, a civil society activist, based in Bossaso,
"I am not sure what a five-hour conference will accomplish unless decisions
have already been made and the outcome is predetermined. I am hopeful that a
strong Somalia will emerge from the conference but I am suspicious that
since we Somalis have failed to decide our future the world is deciding for
us and that we will be back to trusteeship. That is my worst fear. If those
attending agree to anything like that, history will not be kind to them."
Hajiyo Anuni, a civil society activist, based in Mogadishu:
"I have no great expectations from London. Nothing good will come out of it
because of the people who are representing Somalis. These are the same
people who put us where we are today. They cannot and will not find any
durable solution to our problem. They are the problem.
"The best outcome and the best present the world can give to the Somali
people is to push them [these representatives] all out."
Mohamedrashid Muhmud Farah, a Somaliland journalist:
"The only outcome I can see is Somalia ruled by foreigners.
"The best outcome would have been to give the Somalis some space and allow
them to [conduct a] dialogue but that does not look like it is going to
happen. Those Somalis who go to London will be told to sign an already
prepared document and will have no input."
Bashi Do'oley, a member of the Somali diaspora in Canada:
"My expectation for the London conference is that the outcome and the
speeches have already been planned and scripted. Therefore the attendance of
Somali participants does not change the outcome of the conference. It may
result as in the Libyan conference held in London in 2011 that Britain will
go to the UN with a claim that the representatives of the Somali people have
requested a no-fly zone by a coalition of the willing (Britain, France, US
and probably Qatar). This will result in more conflict for the suffering
Somali population who went through a drought and famine a few months ago.
The infamous quote from the Vietnam war comes to mind: 'It became necessary
to destroy the village in order to save it.'
"The real solution is in allowing the TFG to talk to Al-Shabab. If the US is
openly talking to the Taliban why not allow [President] Sheikh Sharif to
talk to his erstwhile allies? Such an outcome may take us forward."
SOMALIA: Could London Conference mark a turning point on road to peace?
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague at a consultation on Somalia, Chatham
LONDON/NAIROBI, 21 February 2012 (IRIN) - World attention is on the war-torn
Horn of Africa nation once more, with analysts saying the
> London Conference on 23
February could mark a turning point in the country's quest for peace and
Somalis from across the country and the diaspora - including for the first
time a delegation from the self-declared autonomous regions of
> Somaliland and Puntland
- are expected to attend the conference, hosted by UK Prime Minister David
Cameron, together with representatives of 44 countries, the UN and Arab
League, among others.
Al-Shabab is not invited, but countries such as Turkey and Qatar, which have
urged engagement with the militia, will be there.
Regional analyst Nuredin Dirie, once a presidential candidate in Puntland,
says "success" for this meeting would be the achievement of a better
international coordination of help and support for Somalia.
"We also need a better focus on the international engagement in Somalia, not
just seeing it through the eyes of security, but through reconciliation and
strengthening what is already succeeding in Somalia. But it all depends on
how Somali leaders will respond to this opportunity."
Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, told IRIN, "[We are by
and large] wary of foreign-led peace initiatives. The current scepticism
about London on the Somali streets is understandable considering past
failures. However, there is hope too that London can be different and must
be different. That is the only way to restore Somali faith in the
internationally led peacemaking and state-building processes."
The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has called the conference a "moment
of opportunity". He recently told a gathering of Somalis living in the UK
there were "compelling reasons why the time was right for a major push": the
success of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in taking control
of Mogadishu, the pressure exerted on Al-Shabab, the progress against piracy
and the fact that the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
was due to end "The current transitional institutions in Mogadishu run out
in August. After seven years of minimal progress, they must not be extended.
The Somali political process must become broader and more representative,"
> agreement signed in Garowe,
Puntland, on 18 February means there is a now a proposed framework for what
could succeed the TFG.
The deal foresees a role for the semi-autonomous Somali regions, something
likely to be welcomed in London, where preliminary meetings have emphasized
the need to build on the successes achieved by these quasi-states.
Piracy and Al-Shabab
One of the suggested ways to use these regional islands of relative
stability is to encourage them to become more involved in the battle against
Participants will consider plans for internationally supported special
courts to try pirates in Mauritius and the Seychelles and special prisons in
Puntland and Somaliland where they will serve their sentences.
The meeting takes place against the background of a new offensive against
Al-Shabab in the south of the country. People who took part in preliminary
meetings say Britain hopes to persuade the UN Security Council to agree to
an increase in AMISOM troop numbers, which would allow the Kenyan soldiers
already in Somalia to be join them, with new contingents from Djibouti and
Sierra Leone. Along with that would go pledges of more financial support, to
put AMISOM funding on a more sustainable basis.
The various initiatives on the table will cost money, but this is not a
pledging conference, despite the Somali Prime Minister's optimistic call for
a "Marshall Plan", with a trust fund and a complete reconstruction
Nor is it primarily about humanitarian funding, although there will be a
side-event about these issues. But NGOs will not be involved.
This distancing of the humanitarian issues is a relief to those
organizations struggling to work on both sides of the lines, especially
since Al-Shabab has made its hostility towards the London Conference very
clear. A representative of one such group told IRIN it had been worried
about being co-opted into the political- and security-based agenda of the
Roger Middleton, who leads Somali policy for Oxfam, told IRIN there were
still huge needs in Somalia, and it was important that the international
community recognized that and did not do anything to compromise it.
"There are some things we are very clear about. We are not calling for the
international community to negotiate on our behalf in terms of access. We
are not calling for military support for our humanitarian actions. It's very
important that we continue to operate, as we do operate at the moment, as
impartial actors, neutral to any side in the conflict, and deliver aid to
the people who need it, when they need it and where they need it."
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Received on Tue Feb 21 2012 - 18:03:03 EST