Understanding and resolving Somalia’s unfathomable political entangles has been a challenge for the international community and foreign stakeholders. A close scrutiny of the three-decade long stalemate and the political and social knots of the imbroglio signify that there are no quick fixes for the predicament. The third chaotic decade is running with no solution in sight. The situation is exasperated by unholy international meddling, a perennial brain-drain, ineffectual charlatans who knew no trade other than extortion, robbery and war-mongering, profiteering from the current status quo. Still worse, the dynamics of the political hurricane is being driven by a generation which had never known the rule of law and which is on the rampage in the form pirates, highwaymen, extremists, and trigger-happy freelance extortionists, etc. Keeping these evil forces in check demanded dedicated leaders with lofty partiotic ideals and honest knowledgeable international support which are all in short supply in the Somali political arena.
Somalia has had a dozen of fruitless reconciliation talks, all foreign-sponsored with pseudo agenda and ultra motives. These reconciliation processes produced lame duck parliament, not being democratically elected which comprised mainly of visionless lot, which impeded or killed any reconciliation process. To make matters worse, the numbers of these concocted ad hoc grouping were inflated in a subsequent conciliation conference in Djibouti in 2009 under the sponsorship of the United Nation’s Office for Somalia (UNPOS). The new arrangement served nothing other than to prolong the war of attrition, the alienation of peaceful local administrations and further fragmentation and disintegration. The term of the illgotten transitional institutions is due to expire in August, 2011. It is no wonder that the duplicitous parliament unilaterally extended its term for three more years long before its presumed mandate came to an end. That dimmed any hopes of finding a way forward from the logjam.
The unsteady Somali situation had been left to drag on with negative repercussions. It begot social evils which had negative local and global impact - extremism, piracy, terrorism, displacements, wanton looting and sell-out of Somali sovereignty and the meager natural resources which would have been used to prop up any rebirth of Somalia.
This deprived Somalis of any prospects of qualified leadership which can retrieve Somalia from the deep chasm it finds itself in. The Somali elites escaped the mayhem and chose to settle abroad and remain passive spectators of the meddling back home or became party to the problem.
The war-weary people of the country were never given the chance to come up with an in-house indigenous plan to put their house in order. The outcome of all these meetings just procrastinated or frustrated or overwhelmed any procured attempts to produce a local initiative.
Somalia’s conflict resolution capability inherited from the conflict-prone nomadic culture is dying out with the old generations bowing out from life. The new generation lacks the cultural understanding and creativity to redress the precarious situation and had developed a sense of dependency on the guidelines of the ill-informed foreign initiatives. This aggravated the situation even more and perpetuated the stalemate.
The Somali people had suffered for so long with no much international concern on their plight until the problems spread across its borders and impacted the interests of other nations. Piracy has surged off the Somali coast endangering the international commercial maritime lanes in the Indian Ocean. Ecoterra International organization, in its January estimate of this year, put the number of sea‐jacked ships held for ransom to 47 vessels with 812 hostages onboard along the Somali coasts. International warships thronged along the Somali coast to clamp down on the rampant piracy which has proven to be a total failure. It has been realized that taking the war on piracy inland is the only viable and effective approach to end this problem. Again, this is hindered by the lack of legitimate national government with some control.
This vacuum made the country become the breeding ground for international fugitives and extremists. The fact that autonomous regions like Puntland and Somaliland had succeeded in establishing some semblance of law and order in their respective regions and distanced themselves from the multifaceted chaos in the South undermined the possibility of forming a central Somali government in a federal framework which had under consideration for quite some time. Somaliland had declared secession - a move rejected not only the rest of Somalia, but the other unionist clans in what the secessionist would like to call ‘Somaliland’.
A glimpse of the background of the previous Somali peace processes leads one to the conclusion that the current extension of the term of the self-proclaimed parliament and the presumed care-taking government run by the same old folks who failed to fulfill their mandates is a futile exercise if a lesson is to be learned from the antecedents. Somalia had had 16 reconciliation talks which shared the following characteristics:
1. They were all sponsored by the international community and hence were non-Somaliowned. The Somali mainstream was a passive spectator with no much confidence of any positive outcome.
2. They were all held outside Somalia far from the mainstream of the very community whose future was at the stake.
3. They all ended up in total failure and precipitated into further bloodshed and subsequent debacle, due to the fact that the problem was not addressed from grassroots.
4. They all perpetuated the current twenty-year old stalemate, prompting unnecessary displacement, political stagnation and the birth of detrimental armed groups coming under whatever slogan and holding ransom for the Somali resurgence.
5. They all diminished the confidence the Somalis had in themselves as a resilient community and led to a state of disappointment, indifference, hopelessness and desperation.
6. They all produced and installed as leaders mostly frivolous lot – outlaw-turnedlegislators
whose notoriety of warmongering, corruption misappropriation of the meager national resources and an unparalleled infamy put the country in deeper crisis.
With this background in mind, any honest effort to address the Somali problem should not harp on the same string, but seek another alternative to the Somali solution. This puzzled the international stakeholders and observers.
Fumbling for solution to the problem, the Obama administration recognized the magnitude of the Somali problem. In October 2010, the American undersecretary Johnnie Carson proclaimed that American will pursue a dual track approach in resolving the Somali crisis, instead of heavily investing on earlier unproductive approach that focused on the badly procured Transitional Federal Governments in Mogadishu. This American policy shift was prompted by the growing frustration on the transitional federal government’s ineffectiveness, lack of vision and unrestrained corruption. The policy aimed at keeping the life-support system on the inept TFG while giving peace dividend to those administrations that established local administrations, namely Puntland and Somaliland.
This approach could have been an untried magic wand that would have led to constructive rivalry among the Somali regions. This new policy stood as a redress of the international community’s faulty, if not devious, strategies towards Somalia. The mere assertion had already taken the elders of many regions in Somalia to task. Galmudug, SSC, Ximan iyo Xeeb, Central State and Hiran State, the unionist SSC in Somaliland and others were declared. This is a healthy scramble for federal entities, the building blocks of Somali federalism. Many regions expressed their desire to lay down the foundation for their own federal states. The groundwork for federal Somalia, rising from the ashes of destruction, seemed to be taking shape.
This policy shift didn’t make many Somali politicians happy, though, for different reasons. Some cried foul about the whole approach. Their concerns centered around the argument that this approach will stand on the way of reconciliation. The lot in this school of thought fails to point out any other alternative avenue to the solution of the Somali clan-based quagmire. They seem to overlook the fact that the Somali clan-based conflict deems any Somali unitary central authority a thing of the past and any future patch-up will only be on the basis of a system that is immune to any clan rivalry, the very source of Somali conflicts at the present and in the past. This reality paves the way for decentralized power in a federal setup. No doubt, such federal entities would have inhibited any hegemonic ambitions of the dominant clans and would have been the only immunity against military coups, large scale clan-based insurgency and unjust power grabbing and ensuing strife.
In the light of the crisis in the North Africa and Yemen, the skyrocketing prices of energy sources due to probable closure of the Suez Canal and the choking piracy of the international commercial sea lanes in the Indian ocean by Somali pirates having a free rein in chaotic Somalia, the international community cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the overdue solution to the Somali problem. And in that connection, the prolongation of the incompetent TFGs manipulated by the shadowy motives of some stakeholders and uninformed alien decision makers will not be an answer. Grassroots build-up and empowerment of solid foundations for Somali federalism will be the only port in the storm in Somalia’s myriad problems and political maze.
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