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Longer, analytical article.  Somalia: Continuation of war by other means?

Summary & Comment: Despite apparent progress indicated by the declaration in October of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Somalia's peace process risks collapse, leaving the country a dangerous failed state, unless a genuine government of national unity can emerge. The TFG should have been reason to celebrate: after nearly fifteen years of statelessness and civil strife and two years of tortuous peace negotiations in Kenya, Somalia seemed to be emerging from its crisis. But the peace process has since gone largely downhill. The country is still controlled by a patchwork of factions, land remains occupied, and violations of the ceasefire and UN arms embargo are rife. The TFG has to tackle these issues, while earning the legitimacy to do so effectively. Otherwise the peace process will stall, and Somalia will likely return to all-out violence.

Author: International Crisis Group Date Written: 21 December 2004
Primary Category: Eastern Region Document Origin: ICG. Africa report #88
Secondary Category: Africa General Source URL: http://www.icg.org
Key Words: Somalia, transitional federal government, national unity, factions

Printable Version

Somalia: Continuation of war by other means?
Africa Report N88


The declaration, in Kenya, of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in October 2004 was heralded as a breakthrough in Somalia's protracted crisis of statelessness and civil strife. But the peace process has gone largely downhill since then. The Transitional Federal Parliament's choice for interim president, Colonel Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed, is divisive and controversial.

To many Somalis, his election represents not a step toward peace but continuation of the war by other means. The status of the peace process is grim but not altogether hopeless. Yusuf and his partners need to use their political advantage to form a genuine government of national unity, rather than attempt to impose their own agenda on the transition. The international community needs to make clear that only if this happens will the TFG get the recognition and support it desperately seeks. The probable alternative is resumption of Somali's conflict through all-too-familiar means

The archetypal Somali warlord, Yusuf's opposition to the now defunct Transitional National Government (TNG), his advocacy of a federal structure for Somalia and his close ties with neighbouring Ethiopia, together place him firmly in one camp in Somalia's long-running conflict. In order to cement his victory, Yusuf called for deployment to Somalia of a 20,000-strong multinational military force. His choice for prime minister and the composition of the first TFG cabinet confirmed his pursuit of a narrow political agenda, provoking a parliamentary revolt, a no-confidence vote (ostensibly for other reasons) and dissolution of the government.

The 15 December deadline for the return of the TFG to Somalia, set by the member states of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), expired with it still in Nairobi, citing insecurity in its homeland. Divisions between regional powers and the wider international community have impeded the emergence of a common orientation toward the interim Somali leadership.

The challenges ahead are formidable. The TFG must reconstitute itself and return to Somalia; the decision whether to go to Mogadishu or identify an interim seat of government is charged with political significance and may well have repercussions on the security situation in parts of the country as well. Restoration of a secure environment is a top priority: the AU favours a modest monitoring and observer force, rather than the big battalions envisioned by Yusuf; but no deployment is likely until a formal, measurable ceasefire instrument has been drawn up and the deployment of foreign troops has been authorised by the transitional parliament.

The TFG was born impoverished and quickly needs to secure sources of revenue. Few governments are willing - or able - to provide direct budgetary support, so the TFG will be obliged to tap domestic sources such as ports and airports. Although most faction leaders have agreed in principle that these should be turned over to the control of the interim government, their commitment is questionable, and no agreement has been reached as to how or when revenues will be shared and managed. If the TFG attempts to gain control of economic infrastructure by force or subterfuge, it risks serious violence.

Over the longer term, the elaboration of a federal structure and the development of a permanent constitution are delicate issues fraught with risk. Despite agreement on a Transitional Federal Charter, many (if not most) Somalis will need to be persuaded of federalism's merits. As yet, there has been little substantive discussion on the form it might take. The demarcation of new administrative boundaries, control of revenue, and the future of existing institutions such as regional "governors" or, where they exist, parliaments, are just some of the issues that are likely to be fiercely contested.

The question of Somali unity is still pending and has been complicated by Yusuf's election. The self-declared Republic of Somaliland associates Yusuf, as the former president of Puntland, with Puntland's claims to the regions of eastern Sanaag and Sool, which lie within the colonial boundaries inherited by Somaliland. Within two weeks of his election, unusually bloody clashes between Somaliland and Puntland forces in the Sool region had left over 100 people dead. Violence has since subsided, and both sides are employing various channels of communication to defuse the tension, but Somaliland's claims to independent statehood have yet to be addressed by the international community and will continue to be a source of friction throughout the transitional period.


To the Leadership of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG):

1. Constitute a new, smaller and cost-effective cabinet that is a genuine government of national unity.

2. Prepare for parliamentary debate and approval of a comprehensive and measurable ceasefire plan and proposal for deployment of an AU monitoring and observer force.

3. Enter negotiations with those groups currently in control of economic infrastructure, including on the terms of revenue sharing and management.

4. Initiate substantive dialogue and debate within the Transitional Federal Parliament and beyond on federalism options.

To the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP):

5. Recommit to the cessation of hostilities implicit in the Transitional Federal Charter and co-operate with the TFG in designing comprehensive, verifiable ceasefire arrangements.

6. Pass legislation authorising the deployment of an AU peace support mission, providing clear parameters for its mandate and duration.

7. Establish parliamentary committees as soon as possible to exercise oversight of the TFG and to help enforce the principle of parliamentary supremacy.

To the African Union (AU):

8. Continue planning for deploying a modest monitoring, observation and protection force in Somalia, including some training for Somali security forces.

9. Insist that the preconditions of a measurable ceasefire plan and parliamentary approval for the force be in place prior to any deployment.

10. Exclude troops from "Front-line States" (Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya) from the AU force, or at least from any role that could expose them to combat operations.

11. Dispatch a fact-finding mission to Somaliland, take the leadership's claim to independent statehood under formal consideration, and in this context, also explore options for resolution of the border dispute with Puntland.

To the United Nations Secretariat and Specialised Agencies:

12. Augment UN representation to the level of Special Representative of the Secretary- General and appoint a diplomat from a disinterested and impartial nation to the post.

13. Plan for expansion of the UN Political Office for Somalia to a fully-fledged Peace Building Office on condition that the TFG returns to Somalia and demonstrates a reasonable degree of legitimacy and authority.

14. Continue decentralised programming of aid resources in Somalia independently of the TFG (respecting the Coordination and Monitoring Committee's guidelines), while working toward gradually closer collaboration and coordination with TFG ministries and agencies.

15. Commit resources for capacity building of TFG institutions.

16. Expand the membership and resources of the existing UN Monitoring Group and recommend to the Security Council concrete actions against individuals and groups identified by the Group as being in violation of the embargo or otherwise obstructing the peace process.

To the EU, U.S., AU, IGAD, Arab League and Other Members of the Coordination and Monitoring Committee:

17. Formalise the draft Declaration of Principles together with jointly agreed monitoring criteria and mechanisms.

18. Engage Front-line states to minimise the risk of interference with the peace process; the EU and U.S. should appoint Special Envoys to demonstrate their commitment to the process and provide adequate leverage with regional governments.

19. Develop plans for short and long term support of the TFG, along the lines of the Rapid Assistance Plan (RAP) and Recovery and Development Plan (RDP) already under discussion.

20. Encourage the TFG and aid partners to continue decentralised programming of resources until otherwise agreed.

Nairobi/Brussels, 21 December 2004

Printable Version

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