By Abukar Arman, Somalia’s Special Envoy to the United States
Let me begin by saying that had it not been for Somalis transgressing against other Somalis, the state would neither have been in its current pitifully fragmented state, nor would it have become the poster child for the failed states.
Since its independence 51 years ago, Somalia has been a pawn in a geopolitical chess game and a gambit in the global war on terrorism. In that half a century, Somalia has never been entirely independent of foreign influences, and exploitations. But, it was never pushed down to a level similar to the current one where its nationhood, history, and indeed future aspirations are at a great risk.
Climbing out of the current predicament would require an entirely different approach, and stepping outside the confinement of the conventional.
Like a human being facing a deadly threat, there comes a time in a nation’s history when screaming, kicking, scratching, and using whatever means available to it is not only an existentialist obligation, but a moral one. Somalia is facing such a moment as a result of a number of policies and resolutions designed to systematically erode its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Straw that broke the camel’s back:
Though the motives driving these policies and resolutions are by no means monolithic, they have further divided a war-fatigued nation and traumatized people; they exacerbated the humanitarian disaster; they exposed it to the exploitation of the political vultures of the 21st Century; they hindered and in some cases sabotaged the incubation process for progress and reform, and facilitated a process whereby the annexation of the Somali state by its patiently keen neighbors is imminent. The latest of these eroding elements was ceremoniously delivered through the Kampala Accord.
Though the Kampla Accord offers a number of provisions to bridge the sensationalized political difference between the top leadership, in a vague language used to articulate Articles 4 (j), (k), and (n), it dictates certain impositions. It denies the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) its authority to thoroughly debate the merit of the Accord before ratifying it, scrutinize leadership and if necessary hold them accountable, and it officially places the TFG under what political scientist Afyare Elmi calls “stealth trusteeship” (define). Specifically, under what the accord refers to as The Bureau- a coalition of stakeholder nations and institutions.
Building-blocks of deconstruction:
Somalia’s fate is now in a runaway train known as the “building-blocks”- a political train fueled with what could only be described as “groupthink” energy. Within the Somali context, the concept promotes the official dismemberment of the State by “re-tribalization” and paves the way for its detrimental deconstruction or “re-colonization”.
In his 1994 essay, ‘The Bondage of Boundaries’, prominent Africanist—Professor Ali Mazrui—argues that “External re-colonization under the banner of humanitarianism is entirely conceivable. Countries like Somalia…where central control has collapsed may invite an inevitable intervention”. Uncharacteristic of his long running scholarly contributions, he takes a simplistic approach in advocating for Ethiopia’s re-colonization of Somalia on behalf of the international community, and if it proves necessary, to annex it as it (Ethiopia) has the imperialist appetite that attracted it in the past to annex its neighboring ethnic communities.
The result was a bloody fiasco of historic proportion. Ethiopia’s two year deadly occupation (2007-09) left tens of thousands of Somalis dead and close to 2 million displaced, it leveled one third of Mogadishu, and boosted the recruitment appeal of the violent extremist militia al-Shabaab.
Despite the trail of blood it left behind, some are still convinced that the building-blocks concept is a viable one-size fits all. They argue that this system has anchored “sustainable federalism” in Ethiopia…never mind the profound complexities of the Somali clan dynamic, and the history between the two nations.
The Politics of Simplicity:
A year or so ago, in the course of our discussion over lunch in Washington (DC), my interlocutor—a prominent analyst and one of the leading opinion makers on Somalia—asked me a question that perplexed me a bit. “So, when would President Sharif Ahmed realize that the only way the international community would continue its support is to declare his outfit as SCS?” he siad. Asking for clarification, I responded: “What is SCS?” My interlocutor replied with a flare of confidence and a grin: “South Central Somalia, of course. And considering how resourceful the southerners are, SCS could easily become the commercial center that attracts business people from Somaliland and Puntland”.
I told the expert that this could only be a viable approach if one deliberately ignores certain crucial facts: 1) That the Transitional Federal Institutions, as a body, is a microcosm of the Somali society as there is not a single clan left out of the power-sharing. 2) That there are many Ministers and Parliament Members currently serving in the TFI, and many soldiers serving in the Somali National Army who hail from Somaliland and Puntland. 3) That after two decades of bloody push and pull, people have finally resigned to the fact that there is not a single clan who could claim exclusive rights to Mogadishu. Currently, the economic, military, numerical, and political power is spread across clans. 4) That the suggested approach would be like solving a problem by creating several others.
However, the expert remained relentlessly convinced; giving a fresh meaning to George Orwell’s “One has to belong to the intelligentsia (or the expert community) to believe things like that…”
On September 2010, the Noref Report by the Norwegian Peace-building Center titled ‘Remaking of the Somali State: a renewed building-block approach’ was released. The report would resuscitate the ailing concept. The report advocated breaking up each regional territory into “a smaller pieces—building blocks—that can more effectively be managed by local authorities; then, when these become working polities, reunite them under a decentralized, federal or even con-federal structure.”
A month later, on October 2010, the US State Department officially unveiled its “Dual-Track approach toward Somalia.” In this approach, the US decided to continue its dialogue and support of the TFG, open the political floodgates and actively engage all actors, and keep all doors open for the emerging ones so long as they oppose al-Shabaab.
Less than a year later, a quick gaze at the political landscape projects a daunting picture.
Over a dozen regional administrations, city and village states with their own presidents, foreign ministers, and defense ministers have emerged. So much for sustainable security collaboration, unified military command, and nation to nation treaties of mutual interest.
It is within this context that the Accord became the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. The Accord has ignited protests in many parts of Somalia and abroad. Somalis in many parts of the world are organizing grassroots movements intended to salvage the Somali state. Kacdoon (uprising in Somali) is a Facebook group that started less than a month ago and it already has close to 10,000 subscribers.
Finally, the dormant conscience had a rude awakening. And the collective will of the people, especially the younger generation, is making a clear demand: the Kampala Accord shall only be ratified if it is in the best interest of the nation, not as result of a pressure or coercion from the international community or regional authority. The will of the people is reverberating throughout the country as well as the diaspora communities around the world and they are screaming for an indigenous solution to the Somali problem.
Foreign concocted solutions have a miserable record in Somalia. The irony is that the very aforementioned report promoting the Building-block approach recognizes that “Somalia has become the graveyard of externally sponsored state-building initiates” while it offers yet another one.
Proponents of the Accord argue that it is too late to discuss, change, or reject it as one of its critical aspects has already been implemented. A Prime Minister was ousted and another one appointed and approved by Parliament, and a new government is being formed. The opponents, on the other hand, cite a number of reasons why the Accord should be declared null-and-void; chief among them is the argument that the Accord was an agreement made between two of the top leadership—the President and the Speaker of the Parliament who had a difference of opinion—and did some costly horse trading that flies in the face of the Transitional Federal Charter and the original Somali constitution. While the President has the authority to unilaterally represent the Presidency, the Speaker of the Parliament has no authority to unilaterally represent the Parliament in such an agreement that, among other things, shackles their authority.
So, TFP should yield to the will of the Somali people. It should unequivocally reject the aspects of the Accord that clearly encroaches in the autonomy of the nation and the right of the Parliament to discharge their mandate. This is the only way to face up to the long unyielding campaign to eradicate the Somali state, and to the special interest groups who have cleverly been weaving their short-sighted schemes into the international effort to find a political panacea. Moreover, this is the way for the TFP to demonstrate its willingness to transcend its own short-sighted political interest and stand for the nation.
Abukar Arman is Somalia’s Special Envoy to the United States.