Thursday, February 23, 2012

Somalia: Somalia's political roadmap - potholes and all

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN. Seeking stability: years of conflict in Somalia has caused widespread displacement

Source: IRIN

NAIROBI, 22 February 2012 (IRIN) - In August, Somalia faces constitutional limbo if the key provisions of a political "roadmap" agreed in September 2011, and one of the topics of this week's conference in London, are not met.

What governance structures exist in Somalia?

The internationally recognized and funded administration in Somalia is the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), appointed by parliament in 2004 after three predecessors and more than a dozen major and often internationally sponsored conferences failed to establish a nationally effective government, something Somalia has lacked since the fall of Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

The TFG's legislative branch is the 550-seat Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). It and the TFG are defined in the Transitional Federal Charter, a sort of proto-constitution, and have outlived their original mandate, which expired in 2011. New governance structures are supposed to be in place by August 2012.

The fact that the TFG has little presence or control outside Mogadishu and is unelected, being a product of prolonged negotiations in Djibouti between armed groups, former warlords, international mediators and some elements of civil society, weakens its legitimacy.

The TFG depends on foreign military and financial assistance, including 10,000 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Mogadishu. Large parts of southern and central Somalia are controlled either by loosely allied factions, militia and self-regional administrations or "micro-states" or by the hard-line Al-Shabab. Kenyan and Ethiopian troops are attempting to push Al-Shabab out of key towns and economic strongholds in the south and centre.

Meanwhile, stable northwestern Somaliland has claimed independence since 1991 but plays no part in the TFG.

What is the roadmap?

The "Somalia End of Transition Roadmap" is a detailed nine-page list of dozens of tasks designed to steer Somalia towards more permanent political institutions and greater national security and stability.

These tasks are grouped under the headings of security, a new constitution (due by June 2012), political outreach and reconciliation, and good governance.

The roadmap includes measures for countering piracy; co-opting local militia groups (although there is no specific reference to Al-Shabab); preventing the recruitment of children into armed groups; demarcating territorial waters; reducing the size of parliament and planning for elections; developing peace-building initiatives; and tackling corruption.

It was announced in Mogadishu on 6 September 2011 and initialled by the Somali prime minsister, leaders of regional entities Puntland and Galmudug, the head of the Ahlul Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah (ASWJ) militia group, the UN envoy to Somalia, representatives of the League of Arab States, the African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

What support does the roadmap enjoy inside Somalia?

Augustine Mahiga, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Somalia and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), described the document as "probably the most inclusive instrument and most inclusive process" of all the efforts to rebuild Somalia's governance. Mahiga pointed to the involvement of regional entities such as Puntland and Galmudug.

"We have also brought in civil society, which is a whole array of social and political actors, including women, elders, religious leaders, the youth, business community and the diaspora... Our [UN] role was only to facilitate in terms of logistics; it continues to be Somali-led and a Somalia-owned process," said Mahiga.

In early February, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali declared his government's commitment to the roadmap "and to fulfilling the tasks that will allow us to move into a new era of security, stability, political inclusivity, and financial integrity.

"We believe government should come from the people. We need to re-establish that link between our parliament and our public - that is why we must reform our parliament," he added.

Do legislators back the roadmap?

Not all of them. In early January, 185 legislators, led by second deputy speaker Ahmed Dhimbil Asawe, wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon complaining that a copy had not been submitted to parliament for approval.

"The word 'roadmap' is being used to mislead and confuse the Somali public," he said, adding that the only substantive topic of discussion at related conferences was reducing the legislature's size. The letter also called for the TFP's mandate to be extended for three years.

One legislator, Omar Islaw Mohamed, told IRIN the roadmap was "the brainchild of the international community with very little Somali input. Only a small group of Somalis - who appointed themselves - are pushing something many Somalis have no clue about."

Mahiga told IRIN the reforms had "created insecurities among parliamentarians" because the changes "will not only reduce their numbers but also define new criteria on representation in parliament".

What other issues are contentious?

Political analyst and president of the Somali Canadian Diaspora Alliance Abdi Dirshe said the roadmap "undermines the sovereignty of the state institutions of Somalia as the institutional oversight mechanisms are now in the hands of external forces", such as the UN, AU and IGAD, as well as Uganda and Ethiopia.

"This approach will undoubtedly strengthen support for resistance and the likelihood of wider support for groups like Al-Shabab," he warned in an article published on the Somali Talk website.

Dirshe said priority should rather have been given to the restoration of law and order by reinforcing national security forces and establishing an effective judiciary.

Countering the charge of unwanted foreign meddling, Abdihabib Yasin Warsame, a US-based Puntland Diaspora Forum leader, wrote in a recent article that "an honest inspection of history reveals that Somalia has been bogged down by its own leaders refusing to reach a collaborative solution. The lack of personal accountability and the never-ending crisis among our leaders was the rationale that led the creation of the roadmap."

Political scientist Oduesp Eman said that by failing to focus on bolstering and unifying the army, the roadmap "sets the stage for indefinite dependency on AMISOM".

Concern has also been raised about the clout accorded in the roadmap process to select regional entities such as Galmudug and the ASWJ, given their unelected status and alleged financial backing from neighbouring states. The exclusion of other similar entities, say critics, undermines the objective of political unity and confidence in the process and runs the risk of increasing the perceived legitimacy of groups such as Al-Shabab, which claim to champion the interests of the wider population against foreign intervention.

For Mahiga, there is no alternative to the current strategy. "The message is clear: the roadmap is the way forward and spoilers seeking to derail the process will not be tolerated," he said in December 2011.

While "engaged, constructive dissent" was welcome, he said there was "no place for those who work to unravel years of work advancing the cause of peace in Somalia".

Is the roadmap on track?

Mahiga told IRIN the document's deadlines were being met and that the London Conference would give "added momentum" to the process and provide new ideas about what has to be done after the transitional period expires in August.

But independent Horn of Africa analyst Rashid Abdi said that despite progress on drafting the constitution, there was only a "minuscule" chance that all the benchmarks would be achieved on schedule. Parliamentary infighting and dysfunction, he said, would slow down the key pillar of legislative reform.

Some analysts argue that members of the TFG and TFP would like the roadmap not to be completed, because they could then avoid elections and remain in a governance structure they believe the international community would have no option but to continue to recognize.