By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
During the first three weeks of July, a shift in “donor”-power/U.N. orientation towards Somalia’s conflicts has begun to emerge. The T.F.G. has lost its privileged place in the calculations of the “donor”-powers/U.N., leaving the latter without a Somali political entity through which to exert its influence.
The international coalition has placed its bets on the “Consultative Meeting on the End of the Transition,” which it is orchestrating in its latest effort to take over the process by which Somalia is supposed to transition to permanent statehood.
The “Donor”-Power/U.N. Strategy
The title, “Consultative Meeting on the End of the Transition,” tells the whole story. The international coalition wants the “transition” over and done with by August, 2012. It thinks that it can do this by bringing together the T.F.G., regional states (Puntland), autonomous administrations (Galmudug), and a set of administrations (A.S.W.J.) to create a “roadmap” for a permanent state.
The U.N. unveiled its take on the conference on July 12, when the U.N.’s special representative to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, visited Mogadishu. He told the press that he had met separately with the T.F.G.’s president, Sh. Sharif Sh. Ahmad; the T.F.G.’s prime minister, Abdiweli Ali; and the speaker of the transitional parliament, Sharif Hassan Sh. Adan, to discuss the next steps in the transition. Mahiga said the “consultative meeting” would be “an inclusive meeting of Somali stakeholders that will accept and define a roadmap.”
The aims of the meeting were defined more ambitiously on July 14, when Mahiga’s deputy, Chirstiana Manahl, said that it would aim at power sharing among Somali administrations. “It will not be like past conferences,” said Manahl. It will “determine the next steps after the transition.” Manahl also said that the meeting would be a “Somali-Somali dialogue.”
On July 16, the U.N. News service issued a statement from Mahiga, in which he said the aim of the consultative meeting was the formulation of a transitional roadmap. Staying on the level of rhetoric, Mahiga said: “We need to take advantage of the positive momentum. This consultative meeting will advance the process of ending the transition period and consolidate the political good will resulting from the Kampala Accord.”
It still remained to be determined where the meeting would take place, and, until that was decided, exactly when it would occur.
The ambitious strategy of the international coalition is to get the transition over with through a power-sharing deal (if Manahl is representing policy) among “stakeholder” administrative units. The first step is a “roadmap” agreed to by the “stakeholders” at the “consultative meeting.”
“Consultative” and a “Somali-Somali dialogue” the meeting is not. It is a direct attempt by the international coalition to take over the transitional process and – it bears repetition – to end it. The international coalition does not have, from its point of view, the time or resources to engage in “nation building” (it never did, but it played at it) in Somalia. Its members do not even have a favored solution. They just want a “government” they can make deals with and that will cooperate in anti-terrorism. Somali interests are not involved at all in their calculations. They have their own fiscal crisis to worry about. They are trying (U.S. most of all) to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. They want to get out of transitional Somalia and into anti-terrorist Somalia.
That the international coalition’s ambitious aims fueled by their will to get out of Somalia might seem extravagant and unrealistic, given the fragmentation and contentious political situation in the country, is obvious. Is a power-sharing deal even a remote possibility? A power-sharing deal implemented by August, 2012 is even more remote. Is the international coalition engaging in wishful thinking, as it usually does? That may well be the case, but it is not the point here, which is :What happens if the international coalition fails, as it most likely will? Will it keep the interminable transition going or move towards Balkanization, de facto or de jure? If the various administrations do not make a deal, will they be dealt with separately by the international coalition?
Balkanization is not the international coalition’s present strategy; it is an option if its efforts to end the transition fail. The only other alternatives are imposing some sort of trusteeship (but the “donor”-powers/U.N. do not want to expend the resources) or going back to more of the old games. By having demoted the T.F.G. to one administration among others, they have taken responsibility (like it or not – and they are certainly capable of defaulting). In the new game, it comes down to whether or not the international coalition sticks with “Somalia” or gives up. It is unlikely that the international coalition will revert to its old support of the T.F.G.
The Venue Issue
The difficulties in the way of the international coalition’s plan for a roadmap based on power sharing became evident in the dispute that has surfaced between the T.F.G. and Puntland over where the consultative meeting should be held.
The international coalition had sparked the dispute by allowing the site of the meeting to be chosen by the meeting’s preparation committee from Mogadishu, where the T.F.G. is based; Garowe, the capital of the regional state of Puntland: and Galkayo, the capital of the Galmudug administration. It was at that point that the international coalition detached itself from its T.F.G. anchor and placed itself in a position of responsibility without cover. By the second week of July, the site of the meeting had become an object of dispute between Puntland and the T.F.G.
On July 6, the T.F.G.’s foreign minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, told the press that the member states composing the Horn of Africa regional organization, I.G.A.D., had agreed to host the consultative meeting in Mogadishu, and that Mahiga had said that Mogadishu was the “right place” to hold the meeting.
On July 8, Puntland’s interior and security minister, Abdullahi Jama (Ilkajir), responded by urging Sh. Sharif to accept Puntland as the meeting’s site if it was chosen. Ilkajir reaffirmed Puntland’s position that it could “ensure security” for the meeting. He said that Sh. Sharif could bring guards from the African Union peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu (AMISOM) if he was worried about security. Ilkajir asked why Sh. Sharif had not visited Garowe to assess its suitability as a venue.
On July 11, Puntland’s president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, said that he had spoken with Mahiga and Abdiweli Ali in Nairobi in attempts to persuade them to make Garowe the venue for the consultative meeting. On July 16, a group of M.P.s in the transsitional parliament came out against holding the meeting in Garowe and said that Mogadishu was the proper site for it. The Hawiye clan elders group (Puntland’s residents are primarily from the Darod clan family), the Tradition and Unity Council, expressed opposition to Garowe as the meeting’s venue. The opponents of Puntland’s bid argued that Garowe’s population was not representative of the broader range of Somalia’s groups.
On July 18, Farole shot back that the consultative meeting would have to be held in Garowe because Mogadishu is too insecure for it to be held there.
On July 20, a closed source in East Africa reported that Mahiga was trying to arrange a deal to resolve the venue dispute in which the consultative meeting would be held for two days each in Mogadishu and Garowe. If such a deal did not materialize and neither the T.F.G. nor Puntland backed down, the source reports that the consultative meeting might end up being held in Kampala or Nairobi. If the consultative meeting were held outside Somalia, it would be no different than any other “donor”-power/U.N.-inspired conference in the past – another non-event.
Another closed source reports that the “donor”-powers favor Garowe over Mogadishu as the venue for the consultative meeting, because the Puntland administration’s vision of a federalism with substantial regional autonomy fits with the former’s perceived interests – getting a government that they can deal and make deals with as fast as possible.
The dispute over the site of the consultative meeting might appear simply to be symbolic, another game, but in this case symbolism indicates substance. If Garowe is chosen as the meeting’s venue, it will signal that the international coalition has decisively broken with the T.F.G. From the domestic viewpoint, Puntland’s position in the balance of power would rise – it would have an important position at a table it had set. Correspondingly, the T.F.G.’s position would decline. “Somalia” would no longer mean the T.F.G., long an aim of Farole. On the other hand, if Mogadishu is chosen for the meeting, the T.F.G. will be signaled that it still has some leverage, at the expense of Puntland.
The venue is, most importantly, a sign that a power-sharing deal will not be easy to reach, if it is possible at all. The venue issue is a test of the international coalition. Can it take charge successfully? What balance of power will it impose? Will it dare to go for Balkanization if it fails? Or will it back down (but to what position?)?
The one thing that is obvious is that the international coalition is showing signs of impatience with the “transition” and wants to engineer its end – and that it is not very particular about what that end might be.
The point of the preceding analysis is that “donor”-power/U.N. sentiment toward Somalia shifted during the first three weeks of July.
The world has changed. Due to the fiscal crisis, the West is on the defensive, having to repair itself at the same time that it faces populist-nationalist political forces that increasingly pose a threat to Western/global integration. Under present conditions, in which austerity is the name of the game, one cannot expect greater attention to Somalia by the West than there was in the past; indeed, one can anticipate less. The Western states are disengaging from trouble spots around the world, trying to maintain their influence through governments that will cooperate with them on anti-terrorism. Those that do will receive something in return. That is the emerging deal that the West is offering to the weaker political entities, an offer they will, for the most part, not refuse as long as other great powers refrain from trying to win their favor.
In Somalia, the general tendency in the West is expressed in a policy towards transition to legal statehood of “take over and get it over with.”
Right now, there is mostly a sentiment of frustrated impatience – an irritation with Somalia that is becoming a dominant sentiment. Policy has not changed yet, although it is shifting. The West is still thinking in terms of “Somalia;” indeed it is expressing big ideas for it – its “consultative meeting.”The great break would increase in probability if –as is likely – the “donor”-powers/U.N. fail and there is nowhere to go but an effectively Balkanized policy, whatever legal cover that practice might be given. It appears that the international coalition has cut itself loose from its anchor in the T.F.G. It is putting itself in the position in which it will either have to impose a government on “Somalia” or give up on a government for “Somalia.”
The expedient concerns of the West might force Balkanization on Somalia, for better or worse.
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago firstname.lastname@example.org