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Time To Push The Political Track In Somalia Stalemate

Thursday, May 03, 2012

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It has been six months since our men and women moved in to Somalia to fight Al Shabaab and protect our territory. Since then, much has happened on the military front.

We successfully lobbied the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union to have our troops as part of the African Union force-AMISOM- reducing the burden of the military efforts to our domestic budget. So far our troops have been successfully re-hatted. This is a great exit strategy for us, a diplomatic success story of sorts.

Also critical was the decision by the European Union to extend its naval counter-piracy operations and further authorizing it, for the first time, to combat piracy on land.

Even when we have had such successes, the gap between the military efforts and the politics in Somalia is appalling. On a recent visit to Mogadishu, l could not fail to immediately notice the obvious gaps that exist on the implementation of the Roadmap. I wondered whether there is a possibility of achieving peace in Somalia after the elections are held in August this year as laid out in the Kampala Accord.

The political Roadmap adopted in Mogadishu last year has little to show in terms of meeting the benchmarks. The leaders and the international community have failed to find a solution to the parliamentary crisis that led to a breakaway group of parliamentarians declaring Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan deposed. The impeding end of the current transition in August is causing a lot of jostling among the political leaders limiting progress in many other political issues.

In theory, the United Nations has moved its political office (UNPOS) to Mogadishu to work more closely with the TFG, AMISOM and other stakeholders but the reality on the ground is there is no clarity as to the mandates of either of these organizations. The presence of UNPOS is too light to have any impact. Preparations for the Constituent Assembly seem to be fractured with little contribution from the UNPOS leadership.

The Transitional Federal Government is accused of being weak but it is not possible for a government to function effectively in any part of the world when it depends on handouts. Frequent accusations on the TFG about corruption are averse. Turkey is giving the only tangible or real financial support to the TFG after the international community failed to make good its financial pledges. The TFG cannot hold the delegates conference to chart a way forward for Somalis because it does not have money.

The transitional changes agreed through a series of meetings and conferences such as Garowe 1 and Garowe 2 need to be enacted into law but this is not possible until the parliamentary crisis is resolved. A negotiated political settlement on what to do with former members of parliament after the reduction of their numbers to 225 from the previous 550 is yet to be achieved.

The role of the signatories of the Garowe Principles who have a vested interest in the top leadership in Somalia leaves many worrying over the legitimacy of this whole process. The elders engaged in the nomination of the members to the National Constituent Assembly have not yet met and yet the timeline set for them to meet has already expired. The Constituent Assembly is expected to ratify the draft constitution. But what if they don't agree? If the Constitution is not ratified, would the current president continue to be in office indefinitely or is there any exit strategy?

AMISOM and IGAD have made every effort militarily to increase the territory under the control of the TFG, yet the Government has failed to take advantage of these gains to create political structures and provide basic services to the population. They do not have the capacity to do it. Development agencies that would in normal circumstances step in to assist the government with reconstruction efforts are still working from Nairobi and not making any dent in the newly liberated areas. Yet, we have been able to see the work of new development partners like Turkey that are focused on assisting the people of Somalia to reap the peace dividend.

The great leaps made in the military front alone will not bring sustainable peace in Somalia. Kenya must do more to engage all parties and stakeholders in the Somalia conflict and reinvigorate effectively the political track, otherwise the sacrifices of our men and women serving in AMISOM will be in vain.

The London Conference in February reminded all of us of what is at stake.That momentum has been lost and we all seem to resting on our military laurels and forgetting that only a political solution will lead to the complete defeat of the Al- Shabaab and the end of our military operations.

We cannot afford to be in Somalia for an indefinite period of time. It is in our interest as a country and for IGAD member states to ensure a stable government in Somalia after August. The United Nations has been facilitating the political process but it is clear that they have run out of steam. It is time for Kenya and IGAD member states to take ownership of the political process as we did during the Mbagathi process. Only then can we secure a political solution that will bring stability to Somalia and relief to our refugee camps as well as bring our soldiers home. Experience has shown that it is only IGAD that directly feels the pinch of instability in Somalia and therefore has the incentive to end the current crisis.

This article was orignially published in The Star (KE)

Hon. Richard Momoima Onyonka is the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs and MP for Kitutu Chache. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the Government of Kenya.


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