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Regional Reconciliation and Reconstruction Approach: A Paradigm Shift for Somalia

RRARA is the Real Way to Go for The Reconstruction of Somalia: A System Based on Responsibility and Accountability for ALL the Stakeholders


By Dr. Ahmed Dirie 


The political, social, and financial sacrifices made and risks taken by the international community and brave Somalis could be wasted if regional reconciliation and reconstruction Approach (RRARA) efforts, long overdue, are not implemented right after the National Reconciliation Congress. In this feature, RRARA is proposed as a drastic political paradigm shift to achieve stable and sustainable political system.


Keywords: Accountability, Regional Hotspots, Intellectual Debates, Marginalized Educated Somalis, Satellite offices.

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For the last 17 years, the Somali people, with the guidance, support and intervention of the international community, have been relentlessly pursuing the institutionalization an all-inclusive Somali Government. However, the pursuit of an all-inclusive Somali government exclusively through a national reconciliation process has probably become an obstacle itself for any budding Somali government to rise from the ashes of the brutal civil conflict.

Under the current political environment, an all-inclusive Somali government means a government with representations of all clans, from warlords and money lords, from politicians, representatives from civil society, women and other marginalized groups, from intellectuals and Diasporas, and all the warring factions including leaders of Islamic courts. For this reason, there have been 14 attempts in convening all-inclusive national reconciliation conferences and almost all attempts have ended in vain. The most recent of these attempts were the conferences in Arta, Embaghati, and Mogadishu held in Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia, respectively.

To the dismay of those closely following and monitoring these developments, the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Arta has collapsed two years after its election; the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Embaghati is still struggling to take off after three years. The latest attempt in this pursuit was the 45-day National Reconciliation Congress (NRG) convened by the TFG leaders concluded last August 30th, 2007 in Mogadishu.

Conceptually and without argument, the idea of establishing an all-inclusive Somali government is definitely a cause worth pursuing for it is one of the ways of re-establishing civility and governance and achieving lasting peace in the country. However, it appears that the timing and means of attaining this goal does not fit with the present political situation nor is it realistic in its approach. At the moment, the insistence of bringing in ALL warring entities may not be the most appropriate in the absence of ideal democratic institutions and processes in place. One may then ask, is an all-inclusive Somali government an elusive dream for any transitional government to install given the highly complicated, volatile and unstable political situation in Somalia? Or is there a way to achieve peace and development by re-evaluating the processes and steps taken and adopting alternative approaches?

The All-Inclusive NRC Approach: Why it’s not Working?

It is most likely that the previous National Reconciliation Conferences (NRC) failed because of the following reasons:

  •  National Reconciliation as Top-Down Approach: In principle, the national reconciliation conferences should pave the way for political and social reconciliation through forgiveness of atrocities committed during the civil war at the national level by concerned parties – from the aggrieved to the aggressor. For example, the recently concluded Mogadishu NRG has paved the way for social reconciliation to a certain degree — where clan leaders have committed, in principle, to forgiveness, peace, disarmament of militias, and resolution of property disputes. However these commitments were not followed through because the national reconciliation programs terribly failed to specifically address the root causes of the Somali conflict or solve specific regional conflicts.
  • Appeasement of Warlords and Habitual Defectors: For the longest time, the Somali political system has been using the “fire hydrant” approach by appeasing ever-defecting warlords, local leaders, parliamentarians, and money lords to gain support for current reconciliation attempts. The common practice was for defecting political entities to be given greater recognition and extended more political concessions from both the transitional Somali governments as well as the international community. This approach has led to the indirect legitimization of “warlordism” and political defection as a way of gaining political leverage. Furthermore certain clans demand more representations due to their sizable number of warlords and the political influence that they wield. But the appeasement of defecting individuals or groups has never led and will never lead to political stability or to the strengthening of democratic processes and institutions. Instead, this tactic of “pacification politics” will most likely lead to the demise of transitional governments as we have witnessed in Somalia causing more violations against the human and political rights of the Somali masses and under-represented and marginalized groups.
  • Click this map to enlarge
    Prioritization of Mogadishu Security vs. Regional Political Hot-Spots
    : Unquestionably, Mogadishu is the  capital and the pulse of the Somali nation. Yet an overemphasis of Mogadishu security to the neglect and exclusion of the rest of the country is absolutely misplaced. History has seen the failure of two Somali governments by overemphasizing in controlling only the national capital region (Banadir region or Mogadishu) and where Somali presidents have been reduced to mayors of Mogadishu. In fact the current TFG was isolated in Jowhar and then Baidoa before it was rescued by African Peace Keeping forces and the international community. Thus, the efforts taken and the political risks made by the international community were again wasted and rest of the country remains neglected.
  • Single-minded Pursuit of Ideal Political Conditions under Extremely Difficult Situations: A functioning and an all-inclusive Somali government is hard to achieve in a short span of time under the prevailing difficult political  conditions. In reality, the current state of affairs in Somalia may not be conducive for any transitional government to take off and be regarded as an inclusive and legitimate regime. This is further compounded by experiences in the past where the international community and the Somali people were quick to withdraw their support of and for transitional authorities due to the defections and boycotts of parliamentarians, warlords, and interest groups. These quick withdrawals of political support have prolonged the civil war that eventually led to the current level of political complexity and conflict. It might be worthy to remember that it may be not feasible to immediately create a spotless political system in Somalia or anywhere in the world after 17 years of brutal civil war. It is therefore very important for various stakeholders to have long term commitment and for the international community to sustain their support for any effort at implementing reconciliation processes both at the national and regional levels and find a system that doesn’t work as fire hydrant.
  • Lack of Intellectual Debates of the NRC Approach: For more than a decade and a half, the international community and Somalia's political leaders were stuck with a political process that hardly produced any tangible success. This may indicate the lack of formal and informal intellectual discussions among the different stakeholders on the practicality of the 16 year-old NRC strategy and the lack of consideration of alternative processes that might lead to the same desired result. With the inherent flaws of the NRC processes as applied to the Somali situation, it is crucial to implement an aggressive, coherent and appropriate conflict resolution programs at the regional levels. A regional reconciliation and reconstruction approach (RRARA) may prove better than the NRC approach which has only resulted in the negligence of regional conflicts, endless pursuit of unachievable democracy under difficult political conditions, the legitimization of “warlordism” through the appeasement of warlords, and the utter lack of accountability of who is in charge. The implementation of an RRA will bring with it small but sustainable distributed successes in various areas which are badly needed to sustain the Somali people’s spirit in these difficult times as they pursue a peaceful and dignified existence.

Regional Reconciliation and Reconciliation Approach (RRARA) 

The regional reconciliation approach (RRARA) is a bottoms-up process which tries to move away from the primary weakness of the NRC by addressing specific regional conflicts. It defines the involvement, responsibility, and accountability of the stakeholders and clearly describes what is at stake—the survival of the Somali people under politically stable Nation. This process will serve as a complementary peace building effort to the recently concluded national reconciliation congress. The regional reconciliation process starts at the grassroots level of a defined geographical territory (Table 1). Concerned Somalis with common concerns and interests and other stakeholders are brought together repeatedly over time to have meaningful discussions and dialogues over the kind of future they want and how to approach it.

This process is greatly empowering because the local people will finally become part of the solution through their participation and their contribution in the political dialogues and processes meant to achieve peace and stability at the local level. The adoption of this approach eventually becomes the foundation of a participatory democracy at the national level. 

Therefore, the regional reconciliation model defines the role of the TFG representatives, local tribal leaders, Somali intellectuals, peacekeeping forces, other stakeholders and that of international community. 

  • Transitional Federal Government (TFG) representatives: The current TFG representatives are parliamentarians and ministers selected through a 4.5 clan representation system. Symbolically, each representative brings with him/her the political support of his/her clan or region; thus it is understandable that their initial sense of accountability is towards protecting and preserving their clan or regional interest. But it certainly does not help the TFG to fulfill its role in nation building when its members are safely nestled at Baidoa and not actively engaged in the politics and reconstruction of their own regions. In addition to this, the TFG members must learn to widen their sense of accountability—that to their clan or region to that of being accountable to the Somali nation as a whole. Continuing to pursue limited and narrow clan or regional interest without representing the nation as a whole will prevent any step towards rebuilding Somalia. Certainly, nation building transcends petty politics and narrow clan interests. Therefore, representatives not committed to nation-building and those who continue to view their role on a very limited scale must either shape up or ship out. To ensure compliance to this role and given the abnormal situation of the political environment, concerned oversight agencies or institutions may impose political, financial, and travel restrictions, and if necessary military action to weed out erring members or elements.
  • Traditional Community leaders: There is no doubt that the role of the Somali tribal and clan leaders has been weakened and challenged by authoritarian regimes, warlords, money lords, unrestrained population growth and the urbanization in the last 37 years. Despite this perception of the erosion of power and credibility of traditional leaders, it is important to include them in regional conflict resolutions processes. These leaders have a stake in a peaceful and developed nation, thus it will not be difficult to ask their commitment to support the will of the people and the RRARA outcomes. 
  • Minority Populations in the South: It is very important to unite and empower the minority communities of Southern Somalia by letting them participate in the political process and nation building. These minority communities have bore the brunt of brutal human rights violations by major Somali clans and they will be balancing force to achieve peace and stability in the South. The minorities must be given a leverage to participate the reconciliation and reconstruction of Southern Somalia.
  • Somali Intellectuals: The Somali professionals cannot set themselves apart and not participate in the efforts towards rebuilding Somalia. It is impossible for the outside community to sustain their efforts to help the nation when Somalis themselves will not productively participate in the affairs of their own country. More importantly, it must be stated here that a call for a resistance or liberation movement is counterproductive and unrealistic in current international politics. A resistance movement will only prolong the civil war and cause more human rights violations. There is no doubt that the highly-educated Somalis are maginalized by the international community as well as TFG officials. But, Somali professionals could challenge “the system” in more productive ways if they become integral part of the reconstruction process. At the moment, it seems that the national affairs are already beset with enough players. But there will be more room in the very near future. However, Somali professionals can still involve themselves in the politics of national reconstruction through diverse venues (including RRARA) and they will find out that RRARA approach can certainly make a big difference—Maybe, national reconstruction by educated Somalis through their regions of origin.
  • Peacekeeping Forces: Unfortunately, the realization of peace and stability in Somalia is dependent on the deployment of sufficient peacekeeping forces. It is undeniable that Somalis terribly failed to end the civil conflict and foreign intervention is indispensable at this time. However, peacekeeping forces must be deployed all over the country especially the regional hot spots (please see map deduced from the regional characterization table) and not be confined only to the national capital region (Mogadishu). There must be a political commitment and the will to deploy a thousand peacekeeping forces in those regions identified as regional hotspots (1000 peacekeepers/hotspot region). On top of that thousand-readably deployable peacekeepers must be ready for any emerging hot-spot. The peacekeepers with the help of government and international representatives will facilitate for the local people to participate in the regional reconciliation process. In addition, the peacekeepers can effectively neutralize any militia or other spoilers who are threat to the political will of the Somali people.
  • International Development Community (IDC): The IDC must re-evaluate its role and be willing to abandon the 16-year old strategy of endorsing NRC and managing Somali affairs from satellite offices safely nestled in Nairobi (Kenya). The IDC leadership must adopt a drastic policy shift and implement the following:     

 I.      Adoption of regional reconciliation process as a urgent follow up process to the recently concluded national reconciliation congress in order to conclude the political and social reconciliation process.

II.   Shift from relief operations mode to nation building mindset through the creation of regional economic development zones and investment of mega development projects that will spur reliable and decent livelihood and job opportunities. Besides, the economic growth opportunities will set forth a healthy regional competition which may eventually lead to peace and stability at the national level.

III.      Genuine and aggressive engagement of critical mass of educated Somalis in the reconstruction of Somalia. At the moment, there are short assignment (3-6 months) programs intended to engage educated Somalis in the Diasporas for skills and knowledge exchange. But these programs are not recruiting the critical mass and qualified Somali professionals needed for regional-national reconstruction. These programs need to be streamlined, less bureaucratic, scaled up, and become permanent relocation in nature in order to attract qualified Somali professionals in the Diasporas than marginalizing the much needed Somali technocrats. There is a need to establish a regulatory body that will oversee the selection and recruitment of highly qualified Somalis for the real reconstruction of Somalia.

IV.   Permanent or temporary relocation of IDC Offices to Somalia-or-autonomous regions. The international community (IDC) must be imbedded in the Somalia and must soak themselves into ground realities rather than just operating from a safe distance in Nairobi for 17 solid years. Relocation of IC offices to Somalia will not only cultivate confidence between Somalis and international community but it will also save substantial amount funds for development projects. Absolutely, there are serious security issues but the IC could operate from the relatively stable autonomous regions of Somalia. Relocation to Somalia means a goodwill gesture on the part of the international community to the Somali people and it may re-energize a fresh commitment for reconstruction of Somalia from the charitable foundations and foreign governments.

 Challenges to Regional Reconciliation:

The main challenges to regional reconciliation approach would be the lack of sufficient peace-keeping forces, the continued blind support to the flawed NRC and other reconstruction process, and the lack committed of international community as well as Somali professionals. In fact, democracy is an evolving and self-criticizing process and it is takes time and unwavering commitment for democracy to take off. Therefore, a shift to regional reconciliation approach would lay the foundation for a fresh mindset of how to stabilize Somalia and end the prolonged civil war.

However, the significant political and financial sacrifices and risks made by the international community and Somalis could be squandered if an overdue regional reconciliation approach is not implemented right after the National Reconciliation Congress. Somalia needs a new paradigm shift, implementation of painful reforms based on accountability, and committed individuals and communities to rise from the ashes of the brutal civil war.

Dr. Ahmed Dirie is the Founder and Managing Editor of DN Magazine (www.dn-sottedi.org). Contact [email protected]

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