By Abdirashid K. Hashi
Friday, April 20, 2007
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) announced that it will convene, in the middle of April, what it terms as a national “reconciliation” Congress. In an eighteen pages document titled Roadmap to National Dialogue and Reconciliation in Somalia, the TFG outlined the aim and the expected outcome of the proposed Congress. As per the TFG document, the Congress is to be led by a six member Committee headed by Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, a former Somali President, during the tumultuous early days of the Somali civil war.
The TFG – by way of a Presidential degree - sets April 16th as the starting date of the reconciliation conference; it also declares the end of the Congress to be 15th of June; the TFG further determines Mogadishu to be the venue for the Conference; it sets the number of participants to be three thousand; the TFG decides the selection criteria and assigns the regions and districts to choose participants; the TFG states that the core mandate of the Reconciliation Committee shall be “to facilitate inter and intra clan reconciliation”; it further announces that the expected outcome of the Congress to be “cessation of hostilities” and a “verifiable disarmament mechanism” and the “adaptation on Resolution of Good Governance ”and “power-sharing” and an “agreement on future national constitution making process”;
The Proposed TFG Congress Is Misguided
The proposed Transitional Federal Government Congress will not produce genuine reconciliation, lasting peace or herald an era of good governance in Somalia. In fact, if it’s held as planned by the TFG, the said Congress will be remembered as - yet again - another squandered reconciliation opportunity and wasted donor resources – hence, my counsel against this wastage and my call for a genuine bipartisan (multiparty) reconciliation – the suffering Somali people deserve nothing less than this.
What the TFG is orchestrating here is to IGNORE its opponents: whether they are groups / entities / clans or individuals; Even though these are parties that the TFG had been in an open contest for good two years. The conflict between the TFG and its opponents finally cumulated into the bloody TFG / UIC war which resulted in the killing of thousands of Somalis on both sides of the political divide.
Amazingly though, the TFG is pretending that that its rivals - be it the dissidents MPs, armed Union of Islamic Courts, or Hawiye clansmen do not exist, never existed and or if the TFG keeps ignoring them will for somehow disappear into a thin air. More astonishingly though, the TFG plans to convene a “reconciliation” Congress for three thousands Somali clansmen (and perhaps some womenfolk) – when there is no ongoing blood-letting and power-struggle between (and among) the three thousand soon-to-be summoned citizens and the TFG!
To illustrate how bizarre the proposed TFG clan-centric “reconciliation” Congress is - one needs to just revisit a conflict that the TFG President was involved couple of years back. In April 2002, there was a fierce fighting over the control of Puntland region and the two protagonists were Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the current TFG President and Genral Adde Muse Hersi – who now inherited the presidency of Puntland from Mr. Yusuf. After bloody fighting the two sides agreed to a political settlement; this was negotiated – through emissaries in the beginning - and finally face to face meeting between two warring military men - Col. Abdullahi Yusuf and General Adde Muse. When the parties in the conflict agreed to make peace, they fallowed the standard conflict resolution mechanisms such as ceasefire, disarmament, integration of militias, political power-sharing and the like – and Puntland got the peace it needed.
The obvious question to the TFG leaders – particularly to Mr. Yusuf would therefore be: if it did not make any sense during the Puntland contest to convene charade “reconciliation” Congress for one thousand persons from the assorted clans in Puntland, why would the proposed Mogadishu conference make any sense now? Why ignore all opponents of the TFG such as the dissident TFG Parliamentarians, the armed Islamic Courts, and the incensed Hawiye or Habbargider clans and invite hand picked ordinary citizens and spend millions of dollars in such futile exercise. Even children could understand that the proposed Congress does not make any sense – and to expect the international community to pour their tax-payers’ hard earned dollars into this ludicrous conference would further reinforce the prevailing perception in national and international political and diplomatic circles that the TFG leaders are out to lunch and out of touch;
Genuine Reconciliation is the Only Way Forward
The appointment of Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed as the Chairman of the Government Reconciliation Committee is a wise idea. Mr. Ali Mahdi has the political experience required to appreciate the complexities of the Somali conflict. To build on this good move on the part of the TFG however, what is needed is to enlarge the Reconciliation Committee (adding this time persons trusted by the opposition); what would also be needed is to pair Mr. Ali Mahdi with another political heavyweight as a co-chairman of the Somali Reconciliation Congress. What enlisting other prominent and credible personalities would do is to convince the opposition parties (UIC, TFG MPs or Hawiye / Habir Gidir clans) to come to the negotiating table - in another words, involving Somalis of impeccable record or high political stature will enhance the chances of durable reconciliation in Somalia.
The following personalities have the experience and credibility that they could be a good fit to balance the current TFG appointed reconciliation team: Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadrawi) the most respect Somali poet and a peace champion; Mr Abdullahi Ahmed Adou – who was number-two in the last presidential election; Ambassador Adou is also a former Somali envoy to the UN/USA. Similarly, Mr. Abdiqasim Salad Hassan – Mr. Yusuf’s predecessor as the President of the Republic is also qualified to co-chair the reconciliation committee; other eminent personalities are also qualified to win over the trust of the opposition among which are: Mr. Nurradin Farah, respected author, Dr. Ali Khalif Galaydh – a former Prime Minister and a university professor; Dr. Hassan Ali Mire – a scholar and seasoned politician, Mr. Abdirizak Haji Hussein – an elder statesman and a former Prime Minister; Abdulkadir Haji Masalle – former Interior Minister and a seasoned politician; General Muse Hassan, respected Somali general; and last but not least General Mohamed Ali Samatar – a former Vice President and one time Prime Minister;
Another area that requires modification is the venue, which the TFG insisted to be Mogadishu. The battered Somali capital cannot host a peace conference at this point in time; the city is engulfed by war and carnage and it needs time to heal; Bosaso – the largest city in Puntland – on the other hand, is a safe city and has all the required amenities and could therefore be more suitable to host a national reconciliation Congress.
Accepting Saudi Arabia’s offer to mediate could also be helpful; and Somalis could meet in Makka if need be.
Also, participants NEED NOT to be three thousand as the TFG’s inflated number suggests; rather, a maximum of couple of dozen senior opinion makers are needed to sit together in a serious Somali-owned strategy session where a way out of the current predicament is charted. Participants in the initial meetings could be: members of the enlarged Reconciliation Committee; leadership of the TFG – particularly the President; leadership of the Union of Islamic Courts – particularly Sheikh Sharif and of course representatives of the dissident TFG MPs;
This Somali contingent should be assisted by a three high-level international envoys – namely seasoned diplomats from the EU, USA and the Arab League and they should act as facilitators and above all as guarantors and financiers of the outcome of the Somali-led agreement;
If I were to advise the international community, Mr. Ali Mahdi and his team, the TFG, UIC and other opposition groups I would have asked them to ponder on the following principles / points for I believe these recommendations could help foster genuine reconciliation and peace culture in Somalia, .
1) That Ethiopia withdraws its troops / agents from Somalia fully and immediately – and in a verifiable manner;
2) That the TFG continues to govern Somalia until at the end of its mandate on August 2009;
3) That the Union of Islamic Courts and other opposition groups renounce the use of violence against the TFG and transform themselves as political parties;
4) That the TFG renounces the use of force to fight, intimidate and prosecute the opposition groups and pledge to accept them as legitimate national stake holders;
5) Free and fair national election for Somalia; election managed and monitored by the UN and held at the end of the TFG mandate in 2009; (Let the people decide who should run their affairs; the Somali people waited too long; and this is not too much to ask);
6) A government of National Unity should be created; the form and the composition of this lean caretaker administration should be determined by the Reconciliation Committee; this government could be an augmentation of the TFG – incorporating in its ranks - senior Islamists, dissident TFG MPs and independent Somali technocrats- the Cabinet should not exceed more than a dozen Ministers;
7) Independent Reconciliation Commission must be created for Somalia – a Commission whose responsibility is to undertake a un-politicized national healing process;
8) Mutual amnesty should be offered to all combatants who took part the wars between the TFG and its opposition;
9) Warlords must not be allowed to regain their influences;
10) The TFG must not equate Political Islam with terrorism and it should allow Somalis who want Islam to shine in their country the deserved political space;
Abdirashid K. Hashi attended both the Arta and Mbaghati peace conferences; the author also served as Secretary to the Somali Council of Ministers and Deputy Chief of Staff, in the Office of the Somali Prime Minister (2000-2002) - He could be reached at: [email protected]