Dr. Ali Said Faqi
The international community and the non profit organizations working inside Somalia seem usually reluctant about the positive changes in the country. Their reaction to any new developments is always cynical unless it serves their interest. When the TNG was formed in Arta, Djibouti, members of the community and the NGO’s began immediately echoing displeasure to the government alleging that it does not have the blessing of warlords, and would not succeed. Even though the international community was right to demand a broader government, it was wrong to assume that without warlords Somalia will not be pacified. The public uprising in Mogadishu of last year that led the ICU to power has proved that concept wrong. As a matter of fact it was demonstrated that the warlords had no loyal supporters who would sacrifice their lives for them. Mogadishu was safe again for the first time after sixteen years of hell. I must reiterate, however, that the TNG wouldn’t have succeeded by any means even without the meddling of neighboring countries and the definitive no-go resolute imposed by the international interest groups as it lacked public support. A combination of various factors including the notion that Somali warlords are crucial to the success of any peace process has led the UN to convene the 14th reconciliation conference in Mgabathi, Kenya aiming to form a broad based government of warlords.
At the time the countries providing the conference funding and the UN preferred to ignore the public demand to include the civil society in the reconciliation conference and in the process of forming a government. And after almost two years of wrestling and maneuvering, the TFG was modeled in Nairobi, Kenya. Immediately, after its inauguration, however, the international community was divided again, and some of them embarked creating factions within the government. A year has passed before the parliament could convene its first assembly inside Somalia.
International NGO’s have never been impartial on the Somali issues; as a matter of fact some of them are considered factions in the conflicts. The international crises group (ICG) is one of them. The reason is that there is a tremendous concern that the organization will lose its political influence if peace prevails in Somalia. The irony is however, that ICG employees identify themselves as experts without grasping profoundly the Somali conflicts. It is like someone writing an expert opinion about the Italian mafia after only gathering information from streets, coffee shops and bars. This is a deeply rooted social ailment that has a history almost as old as the country. Likewise, clan conflicts in Somalia are much older than the history of the nation.
The recent press release by ICG entitled, “Somalia: The tough part is ahead”, looks like some of the wording were chosen to create hatred and deepen the animosities among the Somali clans. Creating controversy would not help a society that is struggling to come together and reconcile.
In their press release the ICG also criticized the state of emergency ratified by the Somali parliament. I consider this as an intellectual dishonesty; any government willing to bring peace and stability in a ruined country like Somalia will have no choice, but to declare a state of emergency. Let us not ignore the fact that there was anarchy and human rights violation for the last 16 years and the ICG who was active all the time would not condemn the vicious rule of the warlords. We all understand that a state of emergency is declared when a country is at war. During the state of emergency the constitution is temporarily suspended and this is due to the fact that war may require certain actions be taken by the government which would ordinarily be considered beyond their scope. However, it will be very unfortunate if the TFG uses the state of emergency as a ruse to crack down legitimate opposition groups.
The ICG also expressed concerns about the sacking of the speaker of the parliament saying “Deposing the speaker of the parliament, who had been prominent in efforts to engage the Courts in dialogue and compromise, have not been promising”. The ICG might be right on this, but I doubt that his motives were far-sighted as the ICG has described it. The ex. Speaker was a man who gambled on his political career to promote his personal agenda; most members of his constituency wouldn’t mind to see him removed from the office as he did nothing to secure their support.
The current proposal of the international community to make the TFG a broad based government is a good thing, but it seems that the meaning of the broad based government is different from what most people expect. It is my understanding that the international community is honoring only the armed clans and those who have committed human right abuses in Somalia. What about the hitherto occupied and victimized southern Somali indigenous communities? Instead of rewarding only the warmongers, the international community should consider inviting these indigenous communities to the table for a genuine and inclusive reconciliation process? The EU has made very clear that any aid for Somalia will depend on the TFG government willing to negotiate with ICU and other armed clans. It is fine and well that the international community demands a broad based government to tackle the conflict, but the details need to be worked out. Who should be invited to the table? The victims or the victimizers only or both! If the pre-condition; however, for the invitation to the peace negotiating table is to slaughter, then let us arm them so they would not be considered underdogs in the peace process anymore. My point here is that the international community should avoid empowering individuals who abused the country and the society for over decades. This will only lead to a wider marginalization of the silent majority in this long conflict and will be a recipe for disaster.
Most analysts believe this is the best opportunity that Somalia has ever had since the collapse of the military regime in early 1991 if the TFG leaders wouldn’t indulge it. I must re-iterate, however, that without the help of the international community Somalia will have difficulties to exist. It is in the interest of the world community to ameliorate the current conditions of Somalia. The help Somalia needs is not the distribution of the food aid that the West and the UN like to rush for after airing humiliated images of Africans dying for hunger. Instead the country needs badly financial support to rebuild the government institutions that could bring back law and order. The international community should have every right to demand transparency from the TFG, but has to empathize that the lives of millions of people are at stake, therefore should avoid entertaining only special groups. It will send bad signals and promote violence as means to achieve political goals. Reconciliation is a long process that requires time, funding, commitment and it has to promote justice and peaceful coexistent.
Dr. Ali Said Faqi
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