CDRC: Developments in Somalia and the role of Somalia in regional integration

“The changes in Ethiopia and the rapprochement with Eritrea created an opportunity for Somalia’s Federal Government to join a tripartite effort towards economic integration. It is very well known that Somalia has yet to establish a government that fully exercises a monopoly of coercion in the entire country, and there are a number of Federal Member States (FMS) that have resisted dictation from the current officials of the Somalia Federal Government. This tension emerged following the election of the current officials of the SFG in 2017. The FMS had created alliances to show strength and make a better deal with the SFG, but the SFG preferred to weaken the states individually through coercion or inducements. Rather than engaging them as a united front, the SFG opted to deal with them one by one and try to fragment their alliances. The SFG has succeeded to some extent and has changed the leadership in some of the FMS, and eventually ensured that the alliances the FMS created are no longer functional. This is similar to how the Islamic Courts Union dealt with their opponents to emerge as the sole power in Southern Somalia from 2005 until early 2007. Currently the SFG is facing a dual challenge: addressing the threats that Al-Shabaab poses on the one hand and asserting itself as the de facto and de jure government of the entire country and the federal member states on the other. It appears that the SFG has yet to show progress on both fronts. The assault it has waged on the FMS has created fault lines that Al-Shabaab is manipulating. The situation of the Sourhwest, Galmudug and Hir-Shebelle states and the strength that AlShabaab is showing indicate these fault lines. Puntland and Jubaland have survived the onslaught of the SFG and are reasserting themselves in their respective areas of control, although the SFG is trying to asphyxiate them, Jubaland in particular. But these confrontations will not help either the SFG or these contesting FMS, as resources spent on self-defense and attacks could have been used to strengthen each other against a common enemy. Obviously, if the SFG had created a framework of cooperation with all the Federal Member States, the war on AlShabaab and the creation of governance institutions that will allow the government to slowly exercise a monopoly of coercion legally would have been easy to achieve. If the international community cannot push this, it will not help Somalia consolidate its achievements. There is no doubt that the Somalia Federal Government with the support of the international community is trying to exercise its de jure legitimacy. But this effort has yet to bring the necessary result since the leadership does not seem to have used a wise approach with the Federal Member States such as engaging them in dialogue to create a common platform for joint governance and consolidate peace elsewhere. Eventually the SFG could claim the progress in these administrations as its own success. The new leadership of the SFG that came to 8 CDRC DIGEST OCTOPBER 2019 VOL. 4 NO. 4 power in 2017, rather than following a process of institution-building on the basis of existing structures and nurturing federalism and coordinating itself with the regional administrations, opted to undermine the Federal Member States and impose itself on them. Rather than considering them as partners of governance and jointly addressing the threats of Al-Shabaab and ISIS, the confrontation with the FMS created more opportunities for the extremist groups to manipulate the fault lines between the SFG and the FMS. And while some of the regional administrations have succumbed to the intrusions of the SFG leadership, others have resisted and survived. For example, the effort to influence the elections in Puntland and Jubaland faltered, while the SFG succeeded with the support of local actors and others from the neighborhood in unraveling some of the achievements of the FMS in Galmudug, Southwest State, and HirShebelle. The SFG successfully imposed its own president on the Southwest after jailing Muktar Robow, and it dismantled the Galmudug administration. The recent agreement with Ahlu Suna Wal Jamaa is not going anywhere although millions of dollars have changed hands. Obviously, the SFG will sway the upcoming election in Galmudug in its favor. But this may not ensure a long-term and sustainable peace, and might create further crisis instead. Since the area was the first that challenged al-Shabaab leadership and broke the myth regarding the group, and being adjacent to Ethiopia’s buffer zone one cannot ignore the challenge it poses and hence needs a serious follow up. Given these realities, the possible role of the SFG is the regional integration scheme needs a scrutiny. As indicated earlier, the changes in Ethiopia and the rapprochement that followed with Eritrea created an opportunity to bring the Somalia Federal Government onboard for regional integration. But this goodwill might have complicated the situation in Somalia as the SFG misused the effort to undermine the FMS. Two consecutive meetings that were held in Asmara and Gondar between the leaders of the three countries emboldened Farmajo and his colleagues to take aggressive and forceful measures to assert themselves on the ground through destabilizing the FMS that were in the process of transition through elections or setting up better administrative apparatuses. It appears that the SFG has been advised to reverse federalism in Somalia. But this is not an easy feat. In actual fact, rather than contributing to regional integration by mobilizing the regional administrations to consolidate peace and security, the SFG is using the tripartite framework as a source of power and external legitimacy to intimidate the FMS. Eritrea’s leaders consider federal structures as balkanization of Somalia and do not support federal arrangements. The Eritrean leaders have encouraged the SFG leadership to destroy the federal structures in Somalia. Since the leaders of Eritrea have a very hostile attitude towards federalism in general, including in their own country, it would not be too surprising if these suspicions were found to be well-grounded based on Somalia’s experience and SFG’s actions. Even if one contests the application of federalism in Somalia, one should look at the challenges in a manner that considers facts on the ground and the way most 9 CDRC DIGEST OCTOPBER 2019 VOL. 4 NO. 4 administrations are created. Hence more emphasis should be made on how to support Somalis create frameworks of dialogue for institutional development that Somalis can eventually build consensus around. Somali leaders should refrain from using external leverage to force changes that are not sustainable and lead the country to further fragmentation. Moreover, protests are heard regarding the benefits of, for example, clanbased power sharing in the country. The 4.5 formula—a framework was put in place in a reconciliation conference in Djibouti in 2000 and one that ensures equal representation to all the major clans and fair representation to the remaining ‘minority’ clans—might not be an optimal arrangement and may reveal a number of fault lines. But as a framework of power sharing, it had solved part of Somalia’s problems. It has also expanded the relatively peaceful areas and developed them as local administrative mechanisms. These local level structures have also facilitated indigenous governance institutions that have immensely contributed to uprooting extremist groups. It should be emphasized that these processes have created beneficiaries and losers and that those who have benefited have the capacity to sustain them. But when the SFG introduces huge financial inducements, fault lines widen and affect the equilibrium existing on the ground. Although the SFG claims to provide a unitary governance structure in Somalia, most Somalis may feel that federalism is helping to address some of the fault lines as well as the decentralization of power that Somali communities resent when a single community or clan overuses nationalism. The contestation between these divergent views will continue to consume resources and energy in the country. Given the local contestation in Somalia between the SFG and the FMS, the positions taken by opposing communities in support of this or that group further deepen existing fault lines. The export of the Gulf crisis into Somalia that is witnessed in the support of contesting local actors financially and logistically will worsen the situation further, making the SFG’s effort to assert itself in Somalia an uphill struggle. The recent election in Jubaland and the failure of the SFG to influence the process to its liking has further complicated the situation. The embargo that the SFG imposed on Kismayo will affect the normal life of the population there. The positions the regional actors and governments took regarding the election in Jubaland added fuel to the fire. These differences further complicate the upcoming election in Mogadishu for the new leadership, since the recent difference between the SFG and Jubaland leadership is the beginning of the contest of the 2020/21 elections. Puntland and Jubaland have boycotted the ongoing Somalia Partnership Forum, which will eventually affect the role of the partners, which could be sanctioned by the SFG. These complex factors will prevent the SFG leadership from contributing its share to regional integration and overall peace and security in the Horn. The capacity of the SFG to address the challenges of Al-Shabaab, without having a clear roadmap to bring Somalia’s actors together, is feeble. The major strategy therefore should be to ensure that the SFG and the FMS sort their 10 CDRC DIGEST OCTOPBER 2019 VOL. 4 NO. 4 differences amicably and aim to address bigger challenges Somalia is facing”