Saturday, July 07, 2012
By JOE KIARIE
For 21 years, Somalia has in the eyes of the world passed as a war theatre and terrorists’ haven mired in a humanitarian disaster.
With no effective central government control since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, and being one of the poorest and most violent states internationally, it has perennially topped the list of the world’s failed states.
But a cloud of optimism now hangs over the Horn of Africa republic as significant accomplishments on the security, political, and economic fronts give hope to the birth of a new Somalia.
Among the major successes is the rooting out of the Al Shabaab, a terror group operating in the country. Military advances by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces have succeeded in pushing the extremist militia from the capital Mogadishu and large areas of south and central Somalia.
And in yet another major boost to the peace process in the Horn of Africa, the presidents of Somalia and Somaliland met last week and held formal talks for the first time since the latter broke away 21 years ago.
Somalia transitional government President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Somaliland’s President Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo were brought together by the UAE at the counter piracy conference in Dubai.
The two, whose first formal direct contact took place in England on June 21, committed to jointly fight terrorism and piracy along the Indian Ocean coast.
This unfolded days after Turkey pledged to play a leading role in rebuilding Somalia, whose basic infrastructure has been ravaged by years of strife.
But as the Al-Shabaab relinquishes its control and Somalia opens up to the rest of the world, yawning leadership voids have emerged, leaving the country in dire need of a political process to complement security operations.
Efforts to stabilise Somalia politically, however, seem to be gaining root.
The main step made so far towards this end has been the approval of a final draft constitution representing the views of a cross-section of Somali society by Somali leaders in Nairobi on June 22. The constitution will be forwarded to the National Constituent Assembly, whose appointment process is ongoing, for provisional adoption.
This could be a phenomenal step as leaders of Somalia’s competing political factions push to beat the August 20 deadline on the formation of a functional post-transition Government. Under the current timeline, the National Constituent Assembly is set to open on July 12 and close on July 20, while the selection and induction of the new Federal Parliament is expected to take place between July 15 and July 20.
This will be followed by election of the House Speaker and his deputies on August 4 and culminate in the presidential election on August 20.
However, with similar deadlines having been missed before, the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somali is keen to see the process comes to a fruitful conclusion.
According to a communiqué from the 22nd meeting of the ICG, which took place in Rome, Italy, early this week under the chairmanship of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, the group urged Somali stakeholders to adhere to the latest timelines.
“The ICG noted the joint UN/AU/Igad open letter of May 1, warning all would-be spoilers that anyone obstructing the peace process would be referred to the Igad Council of Ministers and possibly also to the UN Monitoring Group with a view to the imposition of sanctions,” the communiqué reads.
Another major step towards a peaceful Somalia has been the accord by previously warring Somali elders to support the development of processes to determine political and administrative arrangements in areas liberated from the Al Shabaab.
Elders from Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Gedo regions met in Karen, Nairobi, last weekend and vowed to cease hostilities and work together towards the formation of an inclusive Interim Regional Authority in line with the proposed constitution.
“The Karen meeting has secured the commitment of key military and political actors to engage in a consultative process and reach a negotiated solution on the appropriate governance arrangements for the region thereby consolidating the battle against Al Shabaab,” reads a joint statement on the meeting’s deliberations.
Represented factions included the TFG, Azaania, Ras Kamboni, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jaamaa (ASWJ) and Harti group. This was the first meeting between the five groups of which Ras Kamboni and ASWJ are predominantly armed groups.
The three-day consultative forum was organised by Kenya, Ethiopia, and TFG under the Igad joint committee.
An Igad representative at the meeting intimated that some of the actors in the peace process have been taking advantage of suspicion and differences between Kenya and Ethiopia to derail progress.
But he noted that this would be no more as Kenya and Ethiopia have come together and are working closely under the Igad committee where each of the countries has six members. Last week’s meeting was the first of several planned consultative forums that will bring together other key stakeholders from the region, among them all clans, the business community and the Diaspora.
This is part of the Grand Stabilisation Plan for South-Central Somalia endorsed by Igad heads of states in January this year to determine the leadership of areas liberated from the Al-Shabaab.
In February, the UN Security Council also stressed the importance of stabilising recently liberated areas, promoting reconciliation, law and order, the delivery of basic services, and strengthening of governance at district, regional, state and federal levels. The council encouraged the international community to support the delivery of stabilisation plans developed by Igad and the TFG.
As part of its rationale, the Igad stabilisation plan alludes to the fact that there can be no purely military solution to the Somali crisis.
“The recent hard-won military progress in the newly liberated areas can only be consolidated and sustained once there is local agreement on how power and resources will be shared and managed, and what political and administrative governance arrangements should underpin such agreements. In the absence of local agreement on these critical issues, the success of the on-going military effort will be at risk,” it reads in part.
Gedo, Middle and Lower Juba, Bay, Bakool, and Hiraan are the main targeted areas, with the objective of facilitating the emergence of broad-based and inclusive local political settlements that provide the basis for the establishment of credible and legitimate political and administrative arrangements in liberated areas.