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Formation of Jubbaland tests delicate political balance

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
By Majid Ahmed

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addresses the media during a press conference at the presidential palace in Mogadishu on November 14th. Mohamud focused his speech on corruption, security and the formation of a Jubbaland state. [Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP]

After Somali and allied forces took over Kismayo from al-Shabaab in September, sharp differences have emerged regarding the formation of a Jubbaland state in the federation.

Formal efforts to create Jubbaland began in Nairobi in July with sponsorship from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Kenyan government, the African Union and the UN Political Office for Somalia.

Under the federal system outlined by Somalia's new constitution, at least two administrative regions must join together to create a state in the federation. The proposed Jubbaland state would include Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Gedo regions, considered one of the most tribally diverse areas in Somalia.

"The technical committee is working on a plan for the formation of the state of Jubbaland by conducting consultations with local communities in all three regions with the objective of building a broad-based regional government," said Abdinasir Serar, spokesman for the Ras Kamboni militia.

According to Serar, the process is in the hands of a technical committee comprising 32 members. Twenty-nine represent Somali tribes living in the three regions, and three are from Kenya and the IGAD taking part in a monitoring capacity.

The current process, however, has a number of critics.

"Some of the tribes in Kismayo are seeking to dominate the government in Jubbaland, claiming that they are a majority tribe in the region and thereby marginalising the other original tribes in the area," Gedo Governor Mohamed Abdi Kalil told Sabahi. "Local residents in the three regions want to form an all-inclusive administration that satisfies all sides."

He said no single tribe or group should take the responsibility of forming the Jubbaland administration "without consulting with other tribes in the area because that could create a new conflict among the tribes that live in the region".

Role of the central government

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on November 14th said in his first speech since his election that the Somali government should lead efforts to form local governments in territories liberated from al-Shabaab.

"The Somali government supports local residents in the liberated areas, including the Jubba regions, in forming regional administrations," he said.

"This does not mean that we will appoint regional officials from Mogadishu, because that is the responsibility of the local communities, but the federal government has to be responsible for leading the efforts to form the regional administrations."

Mohamud urged communities in the Jubba regions to overcome minor differences and work together to form an all-inclusive administration. He also stressed that neighbouring countries should not interfere in Somalia's internal affairs.

Opposition to Kenyan influence

Mohamud also expressed his opposition to unilateral efforts on the part of Kenya and IGAD to create a regional administration in Jubbaland without collaboration with the Somali government.

According to Hussein Abdi Aden, former president of Kismayo University, Kenya wants to take control of forming a Jubbaland regional administration so that it can protect its strategic interests and create a buffer zone.

"Kenya supports the formation of a buffer zone in Jubbaland to secure its land and maritime borders with Somalia against any terrorist attacks that could negatively impact its national security and economic projects," Aden told Sabahi.

Ismail Mohamed, a Mogadishu-based political analyst, said the Jubbaland issue is complicated and exacerbates political differences between officials in Mogadishu and regional representatives in Kismayo.

"There is a political battle over control of the upcoming process to govern Jubbaland and if the relevant parties do not reach an agreement on creating the administration of Jubbaland, then the political battle will turn into a tribal crisis," Mohamed told Sabahi.

"Kenyan support for particular tribes over others in Kismayo could set the region on fire, so the Somali government should be cautious when it comes to Kenyan intervention," he said.

"Although the tribes living in the Jubbas and Gedo regions were allied against al-Shabaab, which represents an obstacle on the path towards peace in Somalia, this alliance will not last long due to a conflict of interests and external interferences that favour some tribes over others," Mohamed said.


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