Somalia: Perilous Peace at a Great Risk of Derailment

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All the progress made in recent years is in jeopardy. It is easy to see how the noxious cocktail of stress-free preponderance of Al-Shabaab, the neglect and perpetual weakness in many regional administrations, once great hopes for state and peace building in Somalia,the clan conflict in Galkayo,with the bankruptcy of the group in charge of the ‘Government’ in Moqadishu,points to relapse and further turmoil. It is a huge irony that the big players with a stronger balance sheet in today’s Somalia are Islamist movements, from Al-Islah, Al-itisam to Al-ittihad and Al-Shabaab.Even the most peaceful, hopeful and politically enhanced Republic of Somaliland is facing social and political problems. This calls for a serious rethinking of the whole Somalia policy. External players need to reflect on what went wrong and are at a point where they have to show either restraint or dramatically change their strategy.

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Somaliland: In October, in what has been described as a Islamist-instigated coup, a dozen of Islamist-Oriented influential Ministers in the breakaway State of Somaliland announced their resignation from the government of President Silaanyo – a move that resulted a simmering spilt within the ruling Kulmiye party. The squabbling within the ruling party, the deteriorating health of President Silaanyo and the absence of a strong opposition parties that could present a viable alternative, heralds bad omen for Somaliland’s tenuous security climate and the upcoming general election scheduled to be held in March 2017.  

Puntland/Galmudg: Heavy fighting erupts in Galkayo between Puntland and Galmudug forces. A mediation effort spearheaded by Omer Abdirashid, the Prime Minister of Somalia has not resulted a ceasefire or a long-term resolution to the conflict. Galkayo is the capital of the Mudug region, which is located in central Somalia. The city is divided by a heavily guarded frontline that existed for the past two decades, with the northern portion ruled by Puntland and the southern part being under the control of Galmudug. The city had been a potential conflict flashpoint between Majeertein (Darod) and Habar-gidir (Hawiye) clans and epitomizes the unresolved underlying, deep-rooted mistrust between the Darod and Hawiye clans that remains the key obstacle to restoration of a viable and functioning representative government in Somalia. The current conflict in Galkayo has the potential to derail the nascent efforts of the international community, the AU and the neighboring countries geared towards restituting a functioning state in Somalia that is at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

South-Central Somalia: Despite the repetitive assertion of AMISON and the Somali government of routing out or defeating Al-Shabab, the prevailing ground reality tells a different, more accurate picture.

Large expanse of territory and almost all of the productive agricultural areas of the country, including Middle and Lower Shabelle and Middle and Lower Juba – Somalia’s breadbasket – are under the control of Al-Shabab. It is an open secret that Al-Shabab is generating huge revenue from the private sector through extortion dues levied on each and every active business in Somalia. Every notable business in Somalia is subjected to payment of “protection fees” and “taxes” to Al-Shabab. These sources of capital have been essential to Al-Shabab’s growth after “tactically withdrawing” from many major cites and vital ports and airports in 2012. Businesses that declined to comply with Al-Shabab’s directives on extortion funds are subjected to targeted, recurrent bombings and assassinations.

Unquestionably, the security climate of Mogadishu, has severely deteriorated since Hassan Sh. Mohamud’s ascension to the helm. Vital government organs including the very seat of the government – villa Somalia, the parliament, the high court, the airport and key hotels populated by senior government officials were subjected to sustained attack by Al-Shabab militants. Since January 2015 alone, seven prominent hotels were targeted and five MPs were assassinated on broad daylight in Mogadishu. In every devastating incident the government officials resort to feel-good bromides and a much hackneyed hallow rhetoric of winning the war without showing any tangible results in tacking the core problem facing the beleaguered government that is obviously unable to stretch its tentacles beyond the confines of Villa Somalia. Again and again, Al-Shabab has sent a loud and clear message that no place is safe in Mogadishu or elsewhere in Somalia and is capable of striking any target at any time, with impunity.

The Somali Federal Government led by President Hassan Sh. Mohamud has been characterized as feeble, indecisive, inept, visionless and corrupt and has wasted the public goodwill it has received in the beginning. Furthermore, it has failed to articulate a viable strategy to defeat the ultra-radical Al-Shabab insurgents; a political vision for a national reconciliation and good governance, and to build an inclusive national army and curtail the flourishing corruption within his government.

Somalia’s political culture is inherently corrupt and clan-driven – an ailing body politics dominated by inept, self-serving elite whose personal and business agenda takes precedence to collective national interest. In the past three years, President Hassan Sh. Mohamud has dismissed two Prime Ministers. His inexperience and leadership weaknesses have further strained his outreach capacity. He has done little to come up with and pursue a comprehensive national reconciliation strategy that adequately accommodates the aspirations of all the vying clans. He failed to accommodate the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamma (ASWJ), followers of the Sufi Islam and bitter adversaries of Al-shabab, who were initially supportive of the SFG.

Recent setbacks suffered by the Ugandan and Burundian troops that make the bulk of the 22,000-strong AU force – AMISON, has virtually stalled the military offensive against Al-Shabab. On June 26 and September 1, Al-Shabab overrun two military outposts manned by Burundian and Ugandan forces - respectively, killing hundreds of troops and capturing large amounts of weaponry and ammunition, including long-range artillery pieces, which precipitated hasty retreat of both AMISON and Somali forces from areas previously dislodged from Al-Shabab. The initial euphoria and the much-vaunted defeat of Al-Shabab seem to have short-lived. Regrouped and emboldened, Al-Shabab has seized the momentum and has been on the offensive for the past several months. Definitely, Al-Shabab is not a spent force. It is agile, resilient, robust and a ruthless force to be reckoned with. Somali government is the one that categorically lost the initiative, the political will and the momentum to win the war politically and militarily. It is time for a reality check and accountability!

After the downfall of Siad Barre’s government in January 1991, Somalia quickly plummeted into anarchy, inter/intra factional warfare and national disintegration. In May 1991, the northwestern region unilaterally seceded from the rest of the country and declared itself as the Republic of Somaliland. Subsequently, in 1998, the north-eastern region formed its own regional government and proclaimed itself as the autonomous State of Puntalnd. Unstable and fragmented, central and southern Somalia became the nucleus of a ruthless turbulent storm. An internationally supported weakling government controls pockets of territory in beleaguered Mogadishu under the protection of the 22,000-strong African Union peacekeeping forces.

The main reason for the failure of reconciliation among the Somali society was and remains the inability to take ownership of their own destiny and find indigenous solutions for peace. Essentially, one contributing factor for any peace deal to hold remains the top-down approach adopted by the international community to bring Somalis together, a process that places the institution of a national Mogadishu centered government in Southern Somalia as a priority, while the rest of Somalia including towns, hamlets and villages await solutions to materialize from Mogadishu. Inevitably, that solution has not come from Mogadishu despite the international community’s investment on more than 15 reconciliation conferences that produced numerous transitional governments in Mogadishu that even today remain a government only in name but does not have any writ in any place in the country. This approach is further compounded by the failure of the international community to adequately provide peace dividends to stable zones in Somalia.

The time has come to look for an alternative approach and option which forges sustainable peace in Puntland and Somaliland that also eventually embraces all of Somalia. A fresh approach to the solution of Somalia’s predicament should be based on the imperative need for a sustainable rapprochement between Puntland and Somaliland aimed at creating a peaceful and stable zone from which the rest of society could operate and which could set a positive example and tone to less stable regions.

In both Somaliland and Puntland, a hybrid governance structures that combine elements of traditional inter-clan co-existential mechanisms and modern parliamentary system prevails symbiotically. The post conflict reconstitution of governance in Somaliland and Puntland is hailed as an exemplary case of successful indigenous post-conflict recovery initiatives in Africa. The success of indigenous initiatives for the restoration of peace, rudimentary institutions, post-conflict local livelihood production and a semblance of law and order in Somaliland and Puntland provides a promising model that can be replicated elsewhere in the country. Both regions provide an environment conducive for the development of viable civil societies, democratic institutions, and respect for the rule of law and human rights and legitimate governance systems. Time-honored mechanisms based on tradition are in place to facilitate inter-communal/inter-clan dialogue among traditional community leaders, religious and political leaders within each and between the two regions. These indigenous peacemaking and peace building mechanisms can be further harnessed to promote understanding and cooperation and help institutionalize culturally-appropriate traditional conflict resolution systems, and also explore collaborative approaches and strengthen areas of commonalities between the two regions.

 

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