(February 21, 2011)
If Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) – incompetent, corrupt and hobbled by weak leadership – does not reform within six months, the international community should withdraw support and concentrate on more effective local administrations, said the International Crisis Group.
Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support , the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses structural flaws that hinder peace-building in central and south Somalia. At the core of the governance crisis is a deeply-flawed centralising state model. The international community has not yet learned the lesson that re-establishing a European-style centralised state, based in Mogadishu, is almost certain to fail.
“The logical alternative is a more decentralised system of governance in which most power and resources are devolved to local administrations, while the federal government takes a modest role of primarily coordinating the activities of those administrations”, says Rashid Abdi, Crisis Group’s Analyst.
Despite attempts to push transitional governments to delegate power away from Mogadishu, the political class and much of the international community have remained committed to re-establishing a strong central government. The current TFG is even less willing to share power than former transitional governments, which explains the recurrent tensions between it and self-governing enclaves like Puntland, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb and local grassroots movements like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ). As a result, Somalia is experiencing a multi-faceted, chaotic, clan-driven and virtually country-wide revolt against the centre.
The TFG needs to be reformed. Somalis should constitute an inclusive consultative forum to amend the transitional charter, deliberate on the constitution and agree on reform of the transitional federal institutions for the period after August, when the TFG’s mandate expires. The forum’s focus should be solely on governance, in particular the relationship between local administrations and the national government in Mogadishu, the structure of that national government and the division of power within it.
The international community also has a key role to play. Focus should be given by the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and donors on assistance, including capacity building, directly to emerging local administrations. Efforts are needed to improve revenue collection and management, fight corruption, increase budgetary transparency and strengthen internal auditing capabilities. UNPOS and donors should also investigate, stop supporting and sanction corrupt officials. If the TFG does not show clear signs of progress in reconciliation and governance by August, they should withdraw support and direct it instead at those administrations that are serving the interests of the Somali people.
“The decision to prop up the TFG at all cost has been a failure, feeding complacency and contributing to stalemate and humanitarian crises”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director. “But the situation is not as bleak as it may seem. The extremist Al-Shabaab movement is militarily weaker than many believe. If the right political conditions and strategy are put in place, it would be possible to rapidly re-establish peace and stability in central and south Somalia”.