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[Dehai-WN] Crisisgroup.org: Somalia: An Opportunity that Should Not Be Missed

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 00:23:45 +0100

Somalia: An Opportunity that Should Not Be Missed

Africa Briefing N87 22 Feb 2012



The next six months will be crucial for Somalia. The international community
is taking a renewed interest in the country; the mandate of the feeble and
dysfunctional Transitional Federal Government (TFG) expires in a half-year;
and emboldened troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM),
Kenya and Ethiopia are keen to deal the weakened (though still potent)
extremist Islamist movement Al-Shabaab further defeats. This confluence of
factors presents the best chance in years for peace and stability in the
south and centre of the country. To achieve that, however, requires regional
and wider international unity of purpose and an agreement on basic
principles; otherwise spoilers could undermine all peacebuilding efforts.

The crisis has been climbing steadily back up the international agenda. The
one-day London Somalia Conference on 23 February will bring together senior
representatives from over 40 countries, the UN, African Union (AU), European
Union (EU), World Bank, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD),
Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and League of Arab States.
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) will participate, as well
as the presidents of Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug (regional governments)
and representatives of the largest armed group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a
(ASWJ). It should prepare the way for desperately needed greater
coordination, especially with Gulf and regional states, as well as between
AMISOM and the UN.

Coordination is required because the mandate of the TFG is set to run out in
August 2012. Although it has failed to achieve any of its core objectives,
many officials desire another extension, such as it received a year ago. But
it is unreformable – too many of its members benefit from the fully
unsatisfactory status quo. It must not be extended. Instead, the London
Conference should agree on a new political framework and principles for
governing Somalia.

This is important, because AMISOM and regional forces have made impressive
gains against Al-Shabaab and are poised to renew their offensive.
Nevertheless, their greatest challenge will probably be not to drive the
militants out of major cities and towns, but rather to secure peace
thereafter. Al-Shabaab, though weakened, is far from a spent force; its
militant jihadi ideology is radicalising young Somalis at home and abroad;
veteran foreign jihadis are exerting ever-greater influence; and recently
its emir pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and global jihad. But it is no
longer the only threat to stability; the resurgence of inter-clan
competition and warlordism is as serious. While there is an understandable
inclination to strengthen the central state in Mogadishu (in the form of the
TFIs) and its security apparatus, past and present transitional
administrations have failed to bring stability, in large part because many
clans do not support the reestablishment of a strong central government. A
more decentralised political framework and local inter-clan reconciliation
are required.

The root cause of Somalia’s many troubles – terrorism, piracy, periodic
famine and constant streams of refugees – is collapse of effective
governance, with resulting chronic conflict, lawlessness and poverty. The
most effective and durable solution to these ills is to build gradually an
inclusive, more federal government structure that most clans can support.
Otherwise, Al-Shabaab (or some similar successor) and other disparate groups
of would-be strongmen with guns will exploit continued dissatisfaction with
Mogadishu and innate Somali hostility to “foreign occupation”.

This coming six-month period is a critical time for Somalia. To make the
most of the opportunity to end more than two decades of chronic conflict,
the international community should:

q increase AMISOM’s force strength and provide more resources. To maintain
momentum and consolidate gains, AMISOM should quickly assume full tactical
and operational command of the AU, Ethiopian, and Kenyan missions and
coordinate closely with Somali allies. Any major offensive should be
accompanied by a political strategy to win the support of local clans and
social groups and stabilise those areas in which they are present;

* rebuild internal cohesion among core members of the International
Contact Group;
* enhance the role of Turkey and other Muslim nations in the
stabilisation effort, so as to build Somali confidence in the process;
* endorse closer UN/AU cooperation and insure that the two
organisations’ Special Representatives work closely together;
* endorse the formation of a truly inclusive Somali deliberative body,
one that represents all clans and most regions of the country, and can
establish an interim government to replace the TFG if necessary;
* create a Local Stability Fund to help local administrations that are
economically viable, can administer and impose law and order, are committed
to peace and renounce terrorism and are willing to engage in an inclusive
dialogue and give priority to cross-clan alliances that seek to establish
viable administrations;
* create a joint financial management board and consider establishing
within it a governance and economic management program for the major
national sources of revenue, such as Mogadishu port and airport, as well as
Kismayo port, based on the kind of partnership between local government and
internationals to promote transparency and accountability that lowered
corruption in post-civil war Liberia. Once funds enter the treasury, Somalis
should transparently decide their use; and
* encourage the Somali authorities to indicate continued willingness
to negotiate a political accommodation with or incorporate into a
national/regional security force Al-Shabaab commanders and fighters willing
to renounce terrorism and work towards peace, since this would weaken the
group further and could help stabilise newly recovered areas.

Nairobi/Brussels, 22 February 2012


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