Report: ISS Seminar on Somalia Held in Nairobe on 16th August – 2012
Held at ISS Nairobi Conference Room, Thursday 16 August 2012
The mandate of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was expected to come to an end on 20 August 2012 (this deadline was not upheld and at the time of writing it was not clear when exactly the presidential elections would be held). While it was hoped that the election of a new government would usher in a more legitimate, inclusive and acceptable leadership in Somalia, developments towards that deadline generated cynicism with allegations that a section of the Somali political elite, motivated by the exigencies of survival, had hijacked the transition process and were bent on retaining power. This was compounded by serious vulnerabilities relating to insecurity, unresolved political issues, clan fault lines, and broader geostrategic interests that could easily have unraveled the transition process and its outcome, and return Somalia to the period of warlordism in a new guise.
While the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) had done credibly well in weakening and restricting the militant group Al Shabaab, the challenge remained on how to transcend the political dysfunction in order to consolidate peace and stability. With Somalia then going through the motions of anticipation and uncertainty, this seminar sought to understand what sort of change or transition was expected after August 20. Significantly, whether it offered hope for stability and lasting peace or, if it did not, what the alternatives were. The purpose was to generate policy debate and guidance on charting a new direction for lasting peace in Somalia.
Chaired by ISS Senior Researcher Dr Kisiangani Emmanuel, the seminar brought together the following speakers: Hon. Wafula Wamunyinyi, Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (DSRCC) to Somalia; Abdulrazak Fartaag, the former Head of Public Finance Management, Office of the Prime Minister, Republic of Somalia; and Dr Ibrahim Farah, Lecturer, Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS), University of Nairobi. Dr John Distefano, ISS’s Divisional Head for Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis, provided a wrap-up of the seminar.
The first presenter, Hon. Wafula Wamunyinyi, began by highlighting the accomplishments of the transition process, including retaining the six principal signatories to Somalia’s Transition Roadmap (with their divergent views) and having them subscribe to ending the transition; convening the 135 traditional leaders; selecting the National Constituency Assembly (NCA) with 24 per cent female representation; having the NCA endorse the Provisional Somalia Federal Constitution; establishing a functional Technical Selection Committee (TSC) to oversee the end of the transition; and starting the selection of the 275 Members of Parliament (MPs). He observed that there had been challenges to the transition process relating to tight timelines, security concerns caused by the actions of Al Shabaab and the selection of traditional elders and MPs. The latest delay in finalising the selection of MPs had to do with two major clans failing to revise their nomination lists as per the recommendations of the TSC. Previous lists had been scrutinised and rejected by the TSC because of linkages to warlords and/or other misdemeanors.
This delay in selecting MPs threatened the transition schedule, although the African Union (AU) was still committed to the deadline to ending the transition. Other challenges to the process included heavy political interference, especially by the incumbent political elite, and challenges to enforcing the 30 per cent quota for women, given the conservative nature of Somali society. Wamunyinyi also noted that members of the TSC that were selected by the principal signatories to the Transition Roadmap were paid very meager allowances. He underlined the problem of corruption, which is made worse by the lack of functioning institutions. Corruption, he said, undermined the transition process as some of those with money often attempted to compromise those without.
He described the international community’s engagement with Somalia as not being well coordinated. He was apprehensive of the possibility of continued unrest as a result of the political fall-out from the election process by one or more of the key actors in the transition. Containing the losers from the transition process in the context of Somalia’s fragility would require working closely with AMISOM.
Wamunyinyi gave a number of possible post-transition scenarios:
The transition ends with elections, the main principals accept the outcome and a government is formed. The main principals lose and refuse to concede, but Somalis back the outcome.The process goes terribly wrong, leading to renewed insurgency by one or more of the key presidential candidates.
An ideal scenario would be where the transition ends with a new and quality executive and legislature, the Somali people accept the outcome of the elections and AMISOM gets more committed partners to help drive the stabilisation process forward. What this means is that there will be a need for security enhancement, coordinated international response, regional unity, and financial institutional support (especially to the police, military and intelligence sectors). In his concluding remarks, he described Somalis as extremely resilient and hard working and underscored the fact that Somalis are now weary of conflict. He emphasized the need for proper management of the post-transition period but stated that ultimately it would be up to Somalis themselves to chart the country’s destiny.
In a presentation titled ‘The truth about Somalia’s public finances: the cost of twelve years of financial mismanagement’, Abdirazaak Fartaag referred to the current political system in Somalia as being out of touch with local realities. He said members in the Somali parliament rarely traveled to their local areas due to security concerns. He also described the financial system in Somalia as being donor dependent and lacking programmes that would generate substantial domestic revenues. According to Fartaag’s investigation and analysis, the Transitional National Government (TNG) and its successor, the TFG, misappropriated 67 per cent of donor funds from 2000 to 2011. He argued that since 2000-2006, the Somali government did not record the amount of donor funds received. Domestic revenue figures were only generated from 2009 onwards with social services allocated the least amount of funds despite Somalia suffering from inadequate social service provision.
He said the mismanagement of Somalia’s public finances had resulted in suitcase institutions, the centralisation of budget formulation and a lack of generation of fiscal reports. To him, the way forward was to prioritise structures to improve financial management, which could take place through the proposed Joint Financial Management Board. The board members, he said, should consist of Somalis in diaspora and the international community and its tenure should be 10 years. He added that the Ministry of Finance should not overshadow other financial structures in making decisions on public finance management, but should work in consultation.
Dr Ibrahim Farah contextualised Somalis problems from an internal and external perspective. He linked the external dimension to the post-9/11 global security measures taken by the United States, and the subsequent interventions in Somalia by Ethiopian and later Kenyan military troops. He argued, however, that part of the reason why there has been ‘interference’ in Somalia by external actors is because of the weaknesses of local Somali actors in taking the initiative, as well as the absence of Somali think tanks to offer policy direction. He called the ‘end of transition’ on August 20 a myth that should be described as the emergence of transition phase three. The presidential elections could see the recycling of certain leaders and this might lead to renewed strife caused by some of the loosing presidential contenders.
On the flipside, however, he said if the transition process led to the election of new leaders, it could usher in a new beginning that could offer a chance to reconstruct Somalia. He faulted the dual track approach by the international community, involving attempts to create a central government and also give support to regional administrative units, saying it could exacerbate the Somalia impasse. But he noted that following the London conference there was a realisation within the international community that there was a need to speak with one voice. Farah cautioned that Somalia’s fragmentation along clan and other political fault lines could easily delay the process towards ending the transition.
On the constitution, he observed that the Somali federal constitution was adopted together with its contentious issues due to pressure from the mediators and the international community, which was characteristic of all attempts to bring about peace in Somalia. In his concluding remarks, Farah argued that there was too much focus on the post-conflict phase rather than on doing things correctly towards the end. The previous parliament was just assumed to have ceased, and he insisted on the need for proper procedures to dissolve it by suggesting that the current traditional elders use the power vested in them to disband the current Parliament or the current President uses a decree to do so before constituting a new one. Otherwise, he said, a precedent would have been set whereby subsequent executives could easily ignore or bypass parliament on a whim.
Question and Answer Session
During this session, a number of issues were raised. These included whether or not reforms could be exported and if they could, if a fragile country like Somalia could reform itself. This was in the context of complains by some Somalis about the folly of external prescriptions. Farah responded by saying reforms could be exported as long as they were made relevant to the context. He gave the example of the training of Somalia’s government forces, which takes place outside of Somalia and does not take into consideration Somali allegiances to their clan systems, only for these trained Somalis to return to pledge allegiance to clan leaders rather that the government.
One participant raised the issue of why donor governments continued to give funds to the TFG even after the release of numerous reports on the misappropriation of funds, to which Fartaag responded on a lighter note by saying that was the question he was asking himself. He did, however, add that the Somali government preferred funding from Islamic states rather than Western donors, who require stringent accountability for their funds. Another question was on which activities in Somalia were major contributors of domestic revenue, to which Fartaag responded that the telecommunications industry and the Mogadishu port were two major sources of revenue for the government and need effective management. He added that there was a lack of political will by leaders to generate domestic revenue because their offices were guaranteed donor funds. He emphasised the need for foreign technical advisers for the Joint Financial Management Board, but cautioned against outsiders taking over the entire process.
Another question related to how the AU was able to measure whether or not Somalis appreciated its work, to which Wamunyinyi responded by saying that they observed the reaction of ordinary Somalis, who now largely seemed to appreciate AMISOM’s work. He added that the international community was partly to blame for the war in Somalia since it had to an extent ignored the plight of Somalis or pursued interests that endangered factionalism, and therefore had a responsibility to help Somalia find peace. He advised non-governmental organisations working on Somalia and operating from Nairobi to be more accountable and ensure that their projects were implemented on the ground in various parts of Somalia. He expressed confidence in the activities of the AU in Somalia and maintained that the AU would protect its gains and continue with its work of consolidating stability and supporting reconstruction.
Concerns were also raised on what Somalis wanted for their country, to which Farah responded by saying that Somalis wanted assistance in the form of trade and not aid, as well as partnerships and not projects. He also noted that Somalia needed a big brother to steer it to peace and prosperity and suggested that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was better placed to play that role than other countries in the region, who had subjective interests in Somalia.
(Compiled by Mashaka Lewela, CPRA Intern, Nairobi)