Somalis and Experts on Somali Affairs have recently witnessed a history without a known parallel. Much efforts and ink have been spent on analysing and discussing many noteworthy history events such as the transformation of the notorious Mogadishu-based warlords into so-called “Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism; Washington’s bungled policy of supporting them and the dramatic rise and fall of the Union of Islamic Courts. We witnessed the diplomatic u-turn of the UN Security Council, which opened the gates to flood the country with deadly arms. And finally, we saw the dawning of the occupation of Somalia by the country’s historical enemy, Ethiopia, and their troops roaming round the streets of Mogadishu.
Even before Ethiopia invaded Somalia, there was no consensus within Somalis to give the TFG a chance to govern, due to Addis Ababa’s hand in the election or selection of the Transitional Federal Government in 2004 in Nairobi. That mistrust has widened when the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) called for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. The TFG is, therefore, seen as a puppet regime which is morally bankrupted and unable to act freely in the interest of the Somali people. And the call to end Ethiopian’s occupation of Somalia and the removal of the TFG is gaining momentum.
Since Somalia’s affairs are infinitely complicated, it is an arduous undertaking to develop a route map that can lead Somalia back to normality. In this paper, I am making a set of prescriptions that I consider it to be a suitable answer to the chronic situation that Somalia finds itself today. Firstly, I will outline what needs to be done if the TFG is made to realise that it has failed as a government. Secondly, I will argue what the natural response will be if the TFG is allowed to hang on power and continues to serve essentially at the convenience of the political and economic interests of its backers, which seems to be the case at the moment.
I am fully aware that what I have in mind could be difficult for some to accept. It might taste as a bitter pill to swallow, but my suggestion is based on the reality on the ground. No one can deny that what we see today is on a course leading nowhere (a cull de sac) or a vicious circle that has no end and while in the meantime both the country and people are suffering.
This response is possible when the TFG and the international community accept that the TFG does not have what it takes to lead Somalia and call for an all-inclusive and genuine reconciliation. The following suggestions should not necessarily be implemented in a sequential manner; in fact, some of them should occur simultaneously. However, if the international community chooses to see Somalia through green-tinted spectacles or the TFG uses coercive measures to silence its opponent, the amenable response is a non-starter.
The International community
A UN-backed government, an internationally-recognised government, a Western-backed government, an Ethiopian-backed government are some of the names that are used to describe the TFG. Unfortunately, none of these names makes the TFG a generally accepted one. Throughout Somalia’s troubled history solution imposed by outsiders has zero chance to succeed. In other words, the international community can make a government for Somalia but it cannot force the people to accept it. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer recently said, “One of the key tasks in front of us is the security of that government and those people particularly as we see an increase in violence or mortar attacks in Mogadishu.” For the last three years, the international community has been trying unsuccessfully to legitimize the TFG. Therefore, it is time that the international community changes its attitude of ‘we know what is good for Somalis’ to ‘Somalis know what is good for them’. The TFG is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Hence, keeping the TFG on a life supporting machine will only prolong Somalia’s agony and hardly make it a popular government.
A Somali Mediation Council
Once the international community recognises that the TFG cannot function, I wish to propose the establishment of a Council of genuine Somalis who have the interest of the Nation at heart and who profoundly understand the root-cause of the problem. A Council which enjoys the trust of all the sections of the Somali society and with the people’s mandate to bring peace and can find viable solution to break the impasse. A Council with the ownership of its commission, and not guided by foreigners, who can play the role of honest brokers.
The Council will lead the country for the remaining two years mandate of the present government This Council’s priority should be the building of bridge between the different groups in Somalia so that they could, at least, normalise the situation and call for truce in order to work out for the implementation of the provisions of the Provisional Charter. I know it is difficult to convince certain quarters; however, we need a new approach to solve an old problem.
Cessation of Hostilities
Once the Council is formed, the influential leaders of the Islamic Courts and other actors need to exert maximum effort to contribute to building peace and stability in the country by ceasing hostilities, not only in the capital, but also in other parts of the country. This is hard to achieve due to multiple conflicting interests and the lack of political will among the groups. Nevertheless, one must try. This will enable the Council to operate freely in a friendly environment so that it can take up the task of finding a lasting solution to the country’s problem.
We have to understand that the enmity created within the society during the past decade and a half of civil war, and current political crisis being so strong, the people have lost the sense of trust and the fear of revenge is always present in the minds of the Somali people.
Deployment of peacekeepers
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed recently told the Aljazeera Television: “The problem cannot be resolved by international forces because what has happened is an invasion and following up on that with international forces will further complicate the crisis”. The widely shared belief is that Somalia’s problems should be solved by Somalis alone. Unfortunately, with whatever pretext, Somalia is today under Ethiopia’s occupation, which for any normal Somali would be hard to accept it. And as long as the presence of Ethiopian forces in Somali soil persists, the achievement of peaceful environment conducive to better understanding between the different groups in Somalia will remain illusive. To end the presence of Ethiopian troops International peacekeepers should be deployed but it is important to ensure that Ethiopia troops do not constitute part of the international forces.
An effective nationalistic group
Ethiopia started to undermine Abdiqasim’s government through Somalia Reconciliation and Reconstruction Council (SRRC), which was built up around a number of warlords and other faction leaders. The subsequent failure of the TNG led to two years of plodding negotiations in Kenya. In 2004, the SRRC emerged the winner when Abdullahi Yusuf became the president of Transitional Federal Government and its members dominate the TFIs. The Islamic Courts were the only effective opposition that challenged the hegemony of the SRRC. Ethiopian occupation is unacceptable to most Somalis however disunity and poor coordination among them had created an environment that Ethiopia could exploit.
SRRC is an Ethiopian backed group and it is unlikely to divorce Ethiopian sympathizers from Somalia’s politics; therefore, to counter this, it is important to create an effective nationalistic group that truly embodies Somalia’s values and identity. Somalis deserve to have a government full of honest intellectuals and not a government full of Ethiopian-handpicked ministers.
If the government fails to listen to the many voices calling for a genuine reconciliation and chooses to serve its backers, in broad outline if not every particular, a recalcitrant response will become inevitable. Dr. Michael A. Weinstein also expressed the same concern in his article ‘Somalia’s Political Future Appears to be its Pre-Courts Past’. In it he said: “With the T.F.G. haltingly struggling for power and authority, and determined to avoid genuine power sharing; the clans and sub-clans, and their warlords asserting themselves; and an incipient Islamist insurgency forming that will league with disaffected sub-clans and warlords, reversion to political fragmentation is underway in Somalia.” Under this difficult circumstance, creating an effective, credible national movement that can arrest Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia and offer a government that has the welfare of its people closer to heart will be a top priority. If this movement is to succeed, it must not only liberate Somalia but it must also address the dynamics behind Somalia’s ills.
In conclusion, the international community should allow Somalis bring about peace in their own country, in the way they deem it necessary and their decision must be respected without prejudice. The TFG should realise that the only way out from the present political dilemma is through a national reconciliation free from foreign interference and that it is good to leave the stage before the stage caves in. for the Somalis, it may seem to reach acceptable solutions is as difficult as it has been since the last decade and a half, ending Ethiopia’s occupation must be the first step towards the long road to recovery while keeping in mind that a nation cannot be built on the basis of collective amnesia.