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The Inception of South-West State of Somalia – A Glimmer of Hope!

By Hon. Buri M. Hamza
Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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The newly-established South-West State of Somalia, the fruit of months of talks between the regions’ elders, offers a glimmer of hope!The State now enjoys the support and the recognition of the Federal Institutions of Somalia and the international communitythanks to the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the Speaker of the Federal Parliament of Somalia, and the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia. They are commended for the commitment shown and the role they have played in bringing about this entity.

The people of the three regions that constitute this new entity must now be in euphoria. For them, the formation of this State signals a new era of peace, stability, and prosperity for the entire nation. For them, this achievement further calls for the strengthening of devolution of authority to the grassroots while ensuring that the Somali unity will always remain sacred. Unless the country is united, its sovereignty and territorial integrity can be easily compromised.

Hon. Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden has been elected as the Interim President of the State, and many inside the country and in the diaspora have welcomed this choice. However, the responsibility that has been bestowed upon him is incredibly immense. His charisma and political experience will be needed to spearhead, inter-alia, a political consensus on the way forward. A great deal of creativity and shrewdness from his part will be required to ensure that the political differences that continue to loom among the major stakeholders in the State are set aside.

In his consensus building process,the President will at the outset endeavour to reach out and fully understand the interests and concerns of all the legitimate actors that will take part in the negotiations. Every attempt must be made to reduce the gap in the opposing positions, and ensure that the negotiation power is not based on zero-sum games. We all expect that the major actors in the reconciliation process will correct positional arguments through inclusive dialogue, and strive to replace the “win-lose” image of negotiations with the “win-win”.Moreover, our brothers and sisters who had called for a Six-Region State of South West must be reached out. As they will be part of the impending negotiations, their underlying interests, concerns, and influence must be taken into serious consideration.

The Federal Government of Somalia will be called upon to be proactively involved in order to spare the negotiations from a failure to reach a settlement.Likewise, the international community will be asked to respond rapidly and positively to the reconciliation process spearheaded by the Interim Administration of the South-West State.And once all the legitimate political actors in the State succeed in bridging their differences, the three regions of the State will witness the beginning of post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction.The non-state actors, the private sector, and the diaspora will be urged to play a very crucial role in these peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts.

But confronting the challenges that this State faces,after the conclusion of a political consensus on the way forward, and following the protracted crisis that has plagued Somalia and its people for over two decades now, will not be an easy endeavour. The progress so far made, particularly in terms of the expulsion of Al Shabaab militants from many of the areas of South-West State, should be commended. However, this military victory alonecannotbring about a lasting peace. What is now needed is the understanding of the deep underlying grievances that have led to radicalization and extremism. I must reiterate: unless the truth that led to radicalization is well understood and acknowledged, fear of a relapse of violence will always prevail.

Al Shabaab militants have been chased out of South-West State of Somalia thanks to the Somali National Army and AMISOM. But it is believed that they have melted into the civilian populations. Suicide bombing and other terrorist attacks are likely to continue. The threats to peace and stability so far attained are still great.Nonetheless, this post-inception period offers a window of opportunity for the leadership of the Interim Administration to:

 1.Support basic security, particularly in the areas that have been liberated from the control of Al Shabaab. The focus should be on the protection of civilians, the strengthening of the rule of law, and the demobilization, disarmament and re-integration.

2.Commence building institutions of governance. The emphasis should be on the strengthening of the capacity to lead peacebuilding and recovery efforts.

3.Develop a plan for the provision of basic services for the population, particularly in the areas of water and sanitation, health and education, and the return of the IDPs and refugees to their habitats to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

4.Put in place a strategy for economic revitalization, including employment generation for the youth, and the rehabilitation of basic infrastructures. Tackling the challenges of job creation, particularly in the areas liberated from the control of Al Shabaab can play an important role in reducing the risk of relapse into conflict.

5.Develop a strategy for environmental recovery. The three regions of the State have witnessed a very severe environmental degradation due to conflict and unsustainable use of natural resources. Charcoal production has stripped bare the regions’ forests. And as the State is being resurrected, measures must be taken to ensure that its environmental policies and strategies are put in place.

6.The interconnectedness of these core objectives must be taken into account. For instance, economic revitalization cannot be implemented independently from the issues that deal with security and environment. Economic and environmental recoveries are important bolsters to security. Likewise, security is a prerequisite for jump-starting economic and environmental recoveries.

While the above core objectives are primarily the responsibility of the Interim Administration of South-West State of Somalia, the central government, the international community, and other stakeholders can play a crucial role. The leadership of the Interim Administration is, therefore, called upon toforge partnership and strong coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, the other Regional Administrations, the international community, the private sector, and the civil society organizationsand engage them on how to meet these urgent and important priorities. Given the limited capacity of the South-West Administration and the insufficient resources at its disposal at this juncture, it will not be possible for the State to meet these urgent demands alone.

In conclusion, this inception of a State that is of a great strategic importance for the nation, both politically and economically, is truly a breakthrough! It will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the overall peace and stability of Somalia. And because of the rich natural resources that the State is blessed with, it will witness a very rapid transformation due to a massive influx of funding from investors for recovery projects and economic reconstruction. This State is also blessed with a manpower that is skilled, ingenious and resourceful. The latter qualities being the case, foreign and local businesses will not hesitate to commence investment in, among others areas, the rebuilding and rehabilitation of agricultural and industrial infrastructures that were once upon a time the backbone of the Somali economic potentials.

Buri M. Hamza (MP)
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
and Investment Promotion of
the Federal Republic of Somalia

Tel: +252699 900889    (Mogadishu)
       +25261 5936903    (Mogadishu)
       +254 716982008    (Nairobi)

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