Al-Shabaab could take advantage of the row between Somalia government and leaders of the Kismayu-based Jubaland State, a new report has warned.
Researchers called on key stakeholders to resolve the crisis immediately and strengthen Mogadishu’s authority. The report called on leaders in Somalia’s capital to “robustly engage” Nairobi and reassure their legitimate security concerns by sharing a workable plan to stabilise border regions.
“The growing crisis in Kismayu has the potential to undermine the Somali Federal Government,” said the researchers. “It also threatens to bring the fragile and recovering nation back to the brink of civil war.
“The report warns of hardening political positions over the fate of the port city that could “destabilise the entire country if not properly dealt with”.
“The government (of Somalia) is mortgaging its political capital to undermine the efforts to establish a ‘ Jubaland’ state,” the report warned.
The document, prepared by The Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, called on President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to endorse the current leader of the Jubaland State, Ahmed Mohamed Islam, to lead a fresh interim administration that paves the way for the formation of a new federal state in the region. Islam, better known as Ahmed Madobe, was on May 15 elected president by hundreds of clan elders who met in Kismayu. Mohamud rejected the vote as unconstitutional and unilateral.
A regional bloc has recently urged Mogadishu to “convene and lead a reconciliation conference” to chart out a way to set up an interim administration in regions recently liberated by Kenyan and allied forces. In the interim, though, it called upon the stakeholders in Kismayu “to go to Mogadishu and dialogue with the Federal Government”.
Mohamed Husein Gaas, a Horn of Africa analyst with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, said it “not practical” for the federal Government at this stage to lead a reconciliation conference on Jubaland because it has lost the trust of the people in the region.
“What is imperative now is to launch a substantial trust building between Mogadishu and Kismayu, and that begins with the recognition of the elected administration of Jubaland,” Gaas said.
Ethiopia and Kenya have spearheaded IGAD’s process to help Somalia’s government in setting up local administrations in the country. Both countries are wary of insurgent groups operating in Somalia who can easily penetrate their vast, porous borders.
The Heritage Institute’s recommendation is significant as it is comes from researchers whose clan, Hawiye, is overwhelmingly against the Jubaland State. It also shows that some Hawiye are willing to differ with President Mohamud. When the President burst onto the political scene in September last year, many Somalis, regardless of their clan affiliations, welcomed him as a unifying figure. But his stand on the Jubaland issue has cost him popularity among members of the Darod clan, who now accuse him of trying to impose a Hawiye hegemony on other clans.
“First, the Kismayu crisis should be recognized as a critical reconciliation issue that requires creative political solutions,” the report said. “Second, the (Somali Federal Government) must recognize the realities on the ground and articulate a pragmatic political dispensation.”