The Communiqué coming out of the February 23 Conference on Somalia falls far short of all expectations. The promised new approach by the international community to tackle the root causes of insecurity and lack of a functional government responsible for Somalia’s inexorable decline over the past 20 years did not materialize. Further, nothing in the Communiqué responds to possible solutions for the dreadful situation in Somalia, a country suffering from years of war and natural disasters. The reasons are a matter of conjecture.
The Communiqué listed operational tasks before a national polity capable of pursuing the interests of the Somali people. Prof. Stephen D. Krasner, in his paper, “Troubled Societies, Outlaw States and Gradations of Sovereignty”, argues that alternative institutional arrangements, such as trusteeship and shared sovereignty must be legitimized if international threats are to be reduced and the prospects for individuals in troubled societies improved. This view seems operationalized through the New Deal of Engagement with Fragile States adopted by the Conference.
In a blatant contradiction to the statement that “decisions on Somalia’s future rest with the Somali people,” which is true, the London Conference on Somalia decided for Somalia and stripped Somalia of its indivisibility, sovereignty and polity. Although Somalia’s president and prime minister did participate in the conference, the absence of a national leader representing the voices of Somalis before the international community did undercut Somalia’s common cause. The fact that under pressure from Ethiopia, the invitation to Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, the current Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), was revoked, and was a snub to large segment of the Somali population and was clear evidence of Ethiopia’s veto power over Somalia.
The Communiqué, released before the conference, failed to take into consideration suggestions made by members of the international community. Mary Robinson, emphasized humanitarian considerations over military actions, and Omar Guelleh, president of Djibouti, advocated funding Somali forces over further funding of AMISOM forces. With political mastery to deflect any criticism from the humanitarian activists, the United Kingdom did address AMISOM funding outside the conference. On Feb 22, the UK pushed through the UN Security Council a resolution that increased AMISOM forces from 12,000 to 17,731 with an annual budget of $550 million.
Besides the Communiqué ignoring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Somalia, it also remained silent about illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste off Somali’s coast. The Communiqué was also silent about the indiscriminate shelling and killing of civilians by UN supported forces and the frequent Ethiopian military incursions into Somalia. Some of the unanticipated issues in the Communiqué are the pre-concluded anti-piracy agreement between the UK, Seychelles and Somaliland, the revival of EEZ issue overwhelmingly rejected by the federal parliament, the quick approval of an increase of the AMISOM forces, the concession for the secession of Somaliland and the formation of a core group of engaged countries responsible for Somalia in the foreseeable future.
The Somali people are oblivious to the substance and meaning of the plans and programs decided upon on their behalf by the international community and written in English. This wide gap of information and the needs and interests between the international community and the Somali people will erode public confidence and support which is critical for Somalia’s prospect for peace and stability. Somalia’s socio-political problems, culture and experience are significantly different than those of many failed states. Yet, Somalia shares with them the fundamental need for governance.
My expectation from the London Conference on Somalia was a focus on strategic measures to rebuild Somalia’s failed state at national and local levels throughout Somalia on the basis of new approaches, which encompass the following four points: Change of the current failed strategy of IGAD/UNPOS with its attendant constructs like Kampala Accord, Djibouti Agreement, the Roadmap, Garowe Principles, and Addis Ababa Agreement between Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama and TFG. Call for the appointment by the Security Council of a powerful, credible international leader with a transparent political agenda for State building in Somalia.
Call for Somali National Accord, which would deal with reconciliation, peace and State formation in Somalia as the mandate of the Transitional Federal Institutions ends on August 20, 2012. Pledge for the disbursement of at least 10 billion dollars in aid over the next 4 years specifically for State building. The need for humanitarian assistance will decrease as peace and hope expands. Somalia enters another era beyond its control. Nevertheless, there is always hope for a better future.