By Jerome Mwanda
The United Nations has launched a $1.3 billion humanitarian appeal in Mogadishu to address the immediate needs of the Somali people over the next year and enhance resilience in the country, which has for decades been mired by conflict, drought, floods and food insecurity.
The appeal issued on December 4 is part of three-year strategy. It is expected to benefit 369 humanitarian projects targeting 3.8 million Somalis in need, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The strategy will be implemented by 177 national and international non-governmental organizations and UN agencies operating in Somalia.
“While the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains critical, the improvement in the food security situation and the new security and political landscape present opportunities to break the cycle of recurring crises brought on by drought and conflict,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Stefano Porretti.
Launching the 2013-2015 appeal along with the Somalia’s Minister of Interior and National Security Abdikarim Hussein Guled, who is responsible for humanitarian affairs, Poretti said: “By strengthening Somalis’ ability to cope with droughts and floods we can prevent future shocks from developing into a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“This is a humanitarian event, not a political one. It is the first humanitarian gathering in Mogadishu for over 20 years. Somalia and its people are happy that the humanitarian community is presenting the strategy to us on our home soil,” Guled said, according to OCHA.
After decades of factional fighting and lawlessness, the East Africa country has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with a series of landmark steps in past months that have helped to bring an end to the country’s nine-year political transition period.
However, it is still facing one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, with 1.1 million people who have been internally displaced and more than one million that live outside the country as refugees.
“The road to resilience will be long and difficult,” Porretti said. “There is an absolute imperative to continue supporting the humanitarian work in Somalia. The new three-year humanitarian appeal allows for greater continuity in programming and aims at responding to the existing emergency needs of the population in crisis in a sustainable manner.”
The 2012 humanitarian appeal for Somalia has been 57 per cent funded, the humanitarian agency added, with over $668 million provided out of $1.1 billion requested.
The humanitarian appeal was launched less than two months after UN special envoy Augustine P. Mahiga told the Security Council that the nine-year-old transitional period in Somalia had ended peacefully and that the authorities needed urgent assistance to meet the challenges associated with peacebuilding as well as stabilizing areas liberated from insurgents. the top United Nations envoy to the country said.
Filling the vacuum
“The change met the expectations of most Somalis and has raised higher expectations for more change,” the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine P. Mahiga, told a Security Council meeting on Somalia on October 16.
The war-torn Horn of Africa nation now has a new Constitution, a new Parliament and new elected Speaker and President. Early October, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed Abdi Farah Shirdon as the new Prime Minister.
Briefing the 15-member Security Council via video-conference, Mahiga added that the Somali authorities now urgently need assistance to meet new challenges. Among the priority tasks facing the new administration is to move quickly to lead in the stabilization of the liberated areas.
“This is critical in filling the vacuum which could otherwise emerge from the retreat of the insurgents,” the envoy said. “The immediate challenge which the Government faces is, hence, the establishment of local and district administrations, justice and rule of law, as well as to provide basic services to the population.”
He noted that the security situation in Somalia has “vastly improved,” thanks to the continuing efforts of the UN-supported African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Ethiopian forces and the Somali Government and its local allied forces.
“The fall of Kismayo, the last stronghold of the extremist Al-Shabaab insurgents, in late September, marked a decisive turning-point in the conflict,” he stated, referring to the southern port city that was liberated by AMISOM. “The challenge now is to align the security and political strategies in Kismayo as part of the overall stabilization strategy in the newly-recovered areas.”
Although the Al-Shabaab has now dispersed into a “rag-tag militia,” it has nonetheless, embarked on more asymmetrical, terrorist and hit-and-run tactics as it occasionally does in Mogadishu, said the UN official.
“These are tactics which AMISOM and the Somali forces must be equipped to deal with, as they control more territory and their lines of supply get extended. Another worrying trend is the ongoing assassinations and targeted killings of civilians,” Mahiga said. “These trends call for the expeditious deployment of AMISOM to its full strength, with the necessary logistical support and the enhanced training and strengthening of the Somali Security Forces.”
The Security Council extended for four months the AMISOM peacekeeping mission (which expired on October 31), to allow for a review of operations, including consideration of the request to lift the arms embargo and a call for permission to resume the export of stocks of charcoal.
Talks with Al-Shabaab
Without undermining the danger posed by the Al-Shabaab, independent analyst Abdihakim Aynte says the President Hassan has realistic narrative towards negotiating with the group. “Like he often says, Al-Shabaab made up of two camps – nationalist (Somalis) and global Jihadist (foreigns) –, all with their own views of negotiation and peace agreement. There’re a considerable elements, mostly a frustrated and disoriented youths, who can be reconcile and pursued.
“And this is the camp the president wants to bring into the process, and he’s right about it. Then, there is small – but quite powerful – global Jihadist inspired hard-core contingent whose vision for Somalia, among other things, is to become a launching pad for terrorist activity and keep Somalia in anarchy for their own benefit and safety. There can be no accommodation room for this camp.”
But Aynte says that to avoid past mistakes, the president needs to articulate his negotiation strategy package. A blank-check negotiation would not help, the president must appoint an interlocutor or governmental body to spearhead the process.
For its part, international community, while continuing its decapitation figures, should abandon its narrow focus on fighting terrorism to a broader approach of reconciliation and diplomatic engagement by strengthening the government institutions, providing resources and support for the national reconciliation project, Aynte suggests.