Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Prospects for Sustained Peace in the Federal Republic of Somalia

Since the division of the Somalia, at the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) as a result of the resolution of the conflict opposing imperial Africa conquering powers, the struggle for or against the Somalia has always been international, roughly opposing unidentified camps

Like people everywhere, Somalis want security and comfort, but the great majority of Somalis face daily hunger, homelessness, violence and starvation. Yet these suffering people are entrepreneurial and full of creative energy. They would be perfectly able to build their own security and comfort if only allowed to do it within a stable framework. In most Somalia’s regions, however, it is legal to start a business without a license, and getting start a business usually involves bribery or good connections with the warlords.

The real freedom Somalis need is not just shows of democratic reform but real institutional reforms: safety rights and the rule of law, allowing them to produce and trade freely, to save and to prosper, free of overbearing warlords and NGO’s corruption. The real trade "justice" they need is safely free trade with each other, within their countries and with each other's countries, free of compulsory-purchase marketing boards, of customs barriers and of preferential licenses.


The capacities of the national leadership at independence were not sufficient to start tackling correctly the problems of the country in the World divided by Cold War, given the country’s strategic position. In fact, very soon the leadership that fought for independence and had some sense of its significance was replaced as a presumed solution to the crisis of independence. The resulting troubled Somalis history made it difficult to develop those necessary capacities. Western dependency mentality, on the part of would-be-leaders, has increased than decreased: each time the country faces a problem the call is made for outside help. To the extent that Western direct involvement tends to be a problem, basic problems remain unresolved.

The impression given by the nature of help which comes is that the Somalia is seen as “a sick person that must be kept alive in an intensive care unit, but not allowed to be totally cured.” There has been no real vision to guide the transformation of a conquered and colonized territory, freed with precipitation, into a self-reliant Nation, responding positively to the basic interests of the Somalis majority of people. The Somalis people have, thus, had no confidence in the existed post-colonial institutions and their actors. The latter have failed to develop mutual trust with each other, and each actor, in the main, has had no self-confidence. And while occupying a strategic position, the country’s public consciousness has never reached the level required by that position.

Crucial problems have not been mastered. The country, so large, has not been even physically sufficiently integrated. Surrounded by 3 bordering countries, the country’s well understood national interest can only be articulated with some consideration of its relation to those of the neighboring countries. 2 out of the 3 countries have had or are still undergoing political instability—which, due to the decomposition of our State, has been slipping over the Republic of Somalia, making it easier for external interventions into the country. The international dimension of the country has not been mastered. The nature of the post-colonial State, as a colonial legacy, i.e., a State created through conquest and non-responsive to the basic needs of the conquered peoples, has not been practiced and transformed to make it responsive to the needs of all Somalis. The economy, dominated by a problematic of destruction and extraction of natural resources whose hungry markets are outside of the country, entertains violent civil war and famine. This makes it unresponsive to the basic needs of impoverished masses of people. The centuries’ history of the Somali’s internal capital investment and wealth has been a complete and total failure in terms of human and socioeconomic conditions of the Somali society. In the absence of a true middle class and a patriotic political class, it is difficult to achieve and sustain the necessary structural break from the existing political economic structure. This break, if accomplished, would allow both foreign investors and Somali society conceptualize, define and articulate their respective interests, requirements and needs as equal stakeholders in mutual beneficial partnership based relationships. The primary sources of conflict, in the Somalia, are political and socioeconomic structural problems. They have national, regional and global dimensions.

The protracted crisis has always had concrete symptomatic forms of expression in each situation. Presently, we are facing principally a major political crisis, whose symptoms are as follows:
  • A) An absence of legitimate political institutions serving openly all the Somalis and responding positively to their basic needs and aspirations and in which they have confidence and trust;
  • B) An absence of a democratically rooted constitutionalism, since the 1969 coup d’Etat, constitution-making has been devoted to underwrite and justify dictatorial powers;
  • C) An absence of a relatively independent, self-reliant and truly patriotic national political leadership mobilizing the population to keep at bay interventionist forces and tendencies;
  • D) An insufficient national consciousness among the people;
  • E) A de facto balkanization of the country;
  • F) A continuous warlord militarization of the secessionism administrative structure; being closer to or having recourse to arms as a way of getting to or keeping power is seen as a good thing and warlords seen as heroes awarded with the title of ‘leader’/Minister;
  • G) An absence, especially within the structures and institutions of leadership, of political ethics ( public morality, respect for the republic, active opposition to corruption and other negative values, the will to truth, active pursuit of a healthy intertribal conviviality, ultimate concern for human life, respect for political adversaries or dissidents, etc.).

The debasing of Somali intellectuals, devoting their intellectual work to the celebration of faction leaders, to spreading fear in the population or in gravitating around mediocrity; with the lapsing of the political model of ‘liberation movements’ and the crisis of faction form, the existing numerous factions (close to 40 well known) function as NGO’s almost the same way as civil society NGO’s with no clear vision or organized people mobilization; even after the end of the Cold War and the overthrow of military ruler’, a transition to democratic rule has been indefinite—the country giving the impression of having embarked on a self-destructive course and a real possibility of partition.


IGAD sponsored search for peace in the Republic of Somalia-- leading to the Nairobi Reconciliation Conference, its Cease-Fire Accord-- and the long lasting Inter-Somalis political negotiations—leading to the Global and Inclusive Accord-- have singled out the end of the anarchy, peace, the re-unification of the country and a transition towards a new political dispensation as their targets. The complexity of the problem, the shaky determination of the Somali Warlords and its relative financial and material poverty allowed the international community to take over the active “sponsorship” of the overall process. This long and frustrating process of inter-Somalis negotiations eventually led to the Global and Inclusive Accord, one year ago has being implemented. Due to the nature of the Somali “political class” and the mediation methodology, some real dialogue over the Somali crisis did not took pllace. Negotiations were subordinated to the imperatives of power sharing—between the major Somali tribes (you must get a State post or chair or …die)! The mediation team was composed of representatives of the UN (the UNSG’s Special Envoy), IGAD members, AU, EU, and the Arab Union. The delegates chose the Federal system and has been selected 275 MPs who elected the president of the TFG.


The transition, so far has succeeded in the Somalia. A new attempt has taken off, with the formation of the Transitional Federal Government. Will this transition succeed? Of course, the crisis of legitimacy has been at the center of the Somalis political crisis, not size of the country, tribalism or the mere presence of the ‘fabulous’ potential of natural resources. Transition to democracy aims at dealing precisely with the legitimacy question. Forces (domestic and external), opposed to democracy, have made democratic transition in the Somalia almost impossible

To assess the chances of success of this new attempt, two questions need to be addressed separately: what is ending and what is starting? Basic principles which guide the process of transition have been arrived at on the basis of a formal consensus between Somalis parties reached and sustained under foreign pressure.Allthough mistrust between Somalis actors still prevails. The profound pacification of the population at large, the presence of people political mobilization and the absence of political will on the part of some warlords to deal with crucial issues of the crisis make the people at large interested and politically powerful to exercise pressure for the transition to be non-conflict bound and successful.

So, what is ending? People want the war and balkanization to end as a way also of ending the State decomposition and collapsing. The reconstructed State is supposed to transform the conditions of existence of the protracted Somalis crisis. Foremost, it is supposed to organize credible, free and fair elections to lie to rest the problem of legitimacy. With the choosing of Federation System, the specter of the “strong man” or “providential man” politics seems to have diminished. Perhaps, such as a situation may end the secessionisms and balkanization phenomena. Even if there is no debate, and thus clarity, on what type of State is going to be reconstructed. The people want it to be the one responsive to their needs; this will need to be struggled for.

And what is starting? Federalism with Pluralism is creating a real possibility of debates on national issues. Political battles are likely to be conducted on the basis of ‘policy against policy’ (politique contre politique) and battles may be more focused on points of public consciousness.

With this, different forms of political organization of politics are likely. The question of what kind of relationship to power is possible for power to be openly serving the Somalis people is going to be raised and confronted more consciously. If institutions of democratic empowerment are allowed to function relatively independently, transition will be more focused on bringing about credible, free and fair elections.

These possibilities will be very much constrained by the everlasting weight of external forces opposed to the transformation of the structural socio-economic conditions of the Somalis crisis. The result of the now being planned IGADS leaders will be the test of the political will of the regional political leadership and the international community to opt for sustained regional peace, equity, representative democracy, social justice, mutual trust based pursuit of regional security and pro-people developmentalist regional cooperation. It is a big challenge; it requires stronger and more open and trustworthy types of political leaderships within each country and in the region.

By Jama A. ELMI PhD,
Toronto, ON CANADA
The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "the Center for Peace and Democracy in Somalia (CPD)"


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