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Somalia: UN Monitoring Group And Politics Of “Good Governance” – OpEd

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By Abukar Arman

Since its inception, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia (and Eritrea) has been rolling over controversies, mainly in its reporting, sourcing, and unsubstantiated claims. I just got through reading its latest report made of truths, half-truths, and a whole lot of innuendoes that implicate at least four present/past officials and presidential candidates with certain level of skepticism.

This is not to deny or dismiss any accusations made against anyone in the report for I neither have the facts to prove nor disprove their actions or inactions. It is to simply practice the fundamentals. In politics a moderate dose of skepticism is a healthy requisite that only the gullible can afford to ignore; especially when the entity in question has a record in political myth-making.

In its 2007 report, the Monitoring Group made two outlandish claims which were clearly orchestrated to pave the way for Ethiopia’s invasion and occupation of Somalia. They claimed that al-Shabaab (Sunni extremists) has exported 720 of its militant fighters to help Hizbullah (Shi’i nationalists) of Lebanon in its fight against Israel, and that Iranian scientists were mining uranium for their nuclear program in Dhuso Mareeb. This wild claim, which was a page out of the Iraq war playbook, has earned Ethiopia the International Community that it needed to fund and sustain that failed project. You may read more on The Making of Another Iraq.

Interestingly, this latest report comes out only a few weeks before Somalia was to emerge out of a long transitional period on August 20th, and due to its broad media coverage, it ends up dominating the political discourse. Much of the report is insightful and apolitical while the rest is clearly used for political reasons or simply as a red herring.

The central questions dominating the political discourse are no longer: Why are certain elements within the International Community is forcing a controversial new constitution on the Somali people? What specific geographical boundaries of the new constitution? Would the new government be able to fully claim its sovereignty? Would it be able to claim its national assets in various Western banks? And would it have the right to demand the UN agencies and varies NGOs who are members of the Ghost-lords network to open their books and report publicly how they have been handling roughly around $1 billion aid money to Somalia per year? It is about $130 million that the Monitoring Group claims has not been accounted for or may have been misappropriated by officials in various transitional governments since 2000. Make no mistake, these are very serious revelations in this report that if proven accurate ought to be grounds for prosecution.

Indeed, “kleptocracy” and institutionalized corruption is still alive though there is snail-pace progress toward improvement. Decades since independence, before any institutions of checks and balances could be built, clans would and continue to compete on who should have the exclusive rights to this ministry or that. The driving assumption almost always being if an individual from one’s clan were to be granted that exclusive right he or she would favor individuals from his or her own clan by way of nepotism.

While exploiting that inherently unflattering reputation coupled with the successive status of being rated the most failed state, the Monitoring Group uses two different yard sticks for ascertaining allegations.

A case in point, the Monitoring Group exonerates Eritrea against allegations of illegally arming al-Shabaab with shipments of weapons despite multiple testimonies and reports from, according to the report, government officials, “an intelligence report from a military source”, “an international organization with contacts on the ground,” and the Kenyan government. Despite all these, the report concludes “The Monitoring Group received no credible reports or evidence of assistance from Eritrea to armed opposition groups in Somalia during the course of the mandate.”

On the other hand, the report directly condemns various members of the current and previous transitional governments based on claims made by two disgruntled employees who were both (for the right or wrong reasons) sacked disgracefully. Should such information not be relevant? And what was their attitude before they got the urge to go public with their seemingly not-so-divinely-inspired claims? I suppose only when they support foregone conclusions. When it comes to incriminating or condemning people based on unsubstantiated individual testimonies or that of an entity, credibility should be the determining factor. Therefore, it is utterly reprehensible for the Monitoring Group to recommend the Security Council to take punitive actions against these accused officials.

Weeding out corrupt officials out of the political system is in the best interest of Somalia, but it is a matter that Somalia can investigate and pursue on its own. If the fast approaching end of the transitional period means Somalia would be able to claim its lost sovereignty and be given enough room to handle its own affairs, then the new parliament and government should deal with this matter.

Meanwhile, if this is about the promotion of good governance and the protection of revenues and donated funds, the Monitoring Group should consider urging the Security Council to demand the Ghost-lords and all UN agencies that are tasked to provide services to Somalia to open their books and list any and all tangible projects that they have completed in Somalia. Coincidently, the report has nothing to say about the laboratory of international corruption in Nairobi that profoundly hinders any significant progress in Somalia. It says nothing about the almost $1 billion per year squandered in Nairobi that the Transitional Federal Government has no say or knowledge as to how, when, and where it is spent.

It is interesting how the allegations in the report are solely based on monies collected or promised the government on bilateral bases. It is even more interesting how these crocodile tears against corruption started immediately after officials within the TFG requested all UN agencies to open their books and to hire an independent firm to conduct general audit and administer forensic accounting to reclaim Somalia’s assets in various Western banks.

It is about time the Security Council reconsiders the absolute power it granted to the Monitoring Group. It is about time to “police the police” or monitor the Monitoring Group since they have full immunity from any law suits for lies that they occasionally propagate, not to mention defamation and character assassinations. It is about time that the Security Council protects the integrity of that august institution.

Abukar Arman is Somalia Special Envoy to the United States and a widely published political analyst.

Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman is a foreign policy analyst and a former diplomat. On Twitter: @4DialogSK

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