Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State
Africa Report N°147
23 Dec 2008
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Since 1991 Somalia has been the archetypal failed state. Several attempts to create a transitional set-up have failed, and the current one is on the brink of collapse, overtaken yet again by an Islamist insurgency, despite the support of an Ethiopian military intervention since December 2006. Over the last two years the situation has deteriorated into one of the world’s worst humanitarian and security crises. The international community is preoccupied with a symptom – the piracy phenomenon – instead of concentrating on the core of the crisis, the need for a political settlement. The announced Ethiopian withdrawal, if it occurs, will open up a new period of uncertainty and risk. It could also provide a window of opportunity to relaunch a credible political process, however, if additional parties can be persuaded to join the Djibouti reconciliation talks, and local and international actors – including the U.S. and Ethiopia – accept that room must be found for much of the Islamist insurgency in that process and ultimately in a new government dispensation.
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has failed in four years to create a broad-based government and now is non-functional, existing almost only in name. President Abdillahi Yusuf has marginalised large parts of the population and exacerbated divisions. The latest confrontation with parliament and the prime minister has underlined that Yusuf hampers any progress on peace, has become a liability for the country’s survival and should be encouraged to resign.
Ethiopia’s attitude has hardened over the last few months, and the mood in certain circles in Addis Ababa has become almost hostile to the TFG leaders, in particular Yusuf. The intention to withdraw reflects this frustration, as well as unwillingness to continue to accept considerable losses in a war against the insurgency that is going badly. Opposition to the Ethiopian occupation has been the single issue on which the many elements of the fractious Islamist insurgency could agree. When that glue is removed, it is likely that infighting will increase, making it difficult for the insurgency to obtain complete military victory, or at least sustain it, and creating opportunities for political progress.
For now, however, the Islamist fighters are gaining ever more ground. All major towns in south-central Somalia have been captured by one faction or another except for Mogadishu, where TFG control is ever more contested, and Baidoa. The Islamists already dominate nearly as much territory as they did before the Ethiopian invasion, and a takeover of the entire south seems almost inevitable.
While the Djibouti peace process did initiate new dialogue, it has accomplished little in its eight months, not least because the parts of the Islamist insurgency that have the most guns and territory are not participants. The key aim of its architects was to create a powerful political alliance, capable of stabilising the country, marginalising the radicals and stemming the tide of Islamist militancy. This was quickly made unachievable by splits within the insurgent Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) as well as the TFG, and the rapid advance by the parts of the opposition, in particular radical militias like Al-Shabaab, that reject the process. The ARS faction located in Asmara (ARS-A) and its controversial leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, also have stayed away from Djibouti. Those around the table – the ARS faction based in Djibouti (ARS-D) and the TFG – control very little territory. In addition, Yusuf has continuously undermined the process, as he believes Djibouti is ultimately a strategy to oust him.
Despite the reluctance of the international community to engage with the Islamist opposition, there is no other practical course than to reach out to its leaders in an effort to stabilise the security situation with a ceasefire and then move on with a process that addresses the root causes of the conflict. Support for the process from countries with moral authority or influence on the militias, such as Eritrea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will need to be sought.
Timing is vital. The African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) originally sent to Mogadishu to relieve the Ethiopians is far too small and weak and will be at increasing risk from insurgent attacks following the Ethiopian withdrawal. But it would be a bad idea to try to send a UN peacekeeping mission in now, as the U.S. is urging the Security Council to do, when there is no viable peace process and sufficient troops cannot be found. The priority must be the political settlement, after which UN peacekeepers will have a vital, traditional monitoring role to play.
There is no guarantee that a political settlement is achievable. The militias that have carried the fight to the TFG and the Ethiopians and now control most of the territory will be reluctant to negotiate just when they have reason to believe that they have defeated their enemies and can take what they want with guns. But there is no good alternative to making the attempt. One way or the other, Somalia is likely to be dominated by Islamist forces. It makes sense for the international community to use the incentive of international recognition and extensive support for such a regime to ensure that it draws in a wide spectrum of militia elements, including not only ARS-A but also Al-Shabaab elements; respects the territorial integrity of its neighbours, including Ethiopia, and the internationally guaranteed rights of its people; and renounces any relationship with terrorists.
Consultations should be pursued with Muslim countries from outside the region (Morocco, Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh) about troop pledges so that the UN could swiftly introduce a peacekeeping operation to support implementation of a serious ceasefire agreement, the first step toward a genuine political settlement. If hard-core elements reject negotiation and either press on to establish a more extreme regime or fall into conflict with each other, however, Somalia will become an even more chaotic and dangerous place. No conceivable peacekeeping force could reasonably be expected to bring order. Parallel to the urgent efforts needed to reform and re-energise the political process, therefore, contingency planning should be started so that AMISOM can be swiftly evacuated if the security situation deteriorates further, and it is repeatedly attacked. Planning will also be needed on how such a Somalia might be cordoned off in a way that minimises its ability to export instability and per-haps terror to the region and even beyond.
1. Use intermediaries and back channels to reach out to the insurgent groups, including the Asmara-based ARS faction (ARS-A) led by Hassan Dahir Aweys and Al-Shabaab, and be prepared to take in to the negotiations members of such groups even if their current leadership refuses.
2. Set negotiation of a comprehensive ceasefire as the first step for the expanded Djibouti peace talks toward a power-sharing arrangement.
3. Establish, once a ceasefire has been secured, a structure organised in commissions, each with no more than 30 participants, to open negotiations on the following issues:
a) the drafting of a new constitution for Somalia within its current internationally recognised boundaries and including the clarification of its internal state boundaries, including addressing the implications of these changes for the regions of Somaliland and Puntland;
b) the integration of all armed forces into a common army and regional police forces, devoted to the establishment of a secure environment for completion of the transition;
c) a comprehensive plan for the adoption of the constitution by referendum, the holding of national elections and the progressive integration of the various territories into the constitutional framework; and
d) transitional justice processes to address impunity and national reconciliation requirements.
4. Encourage Somali participants in the Djibouti process to use influential clan leaders, business community leaders, clerics and civil society to create momentum and grassroots support for that process.
5. Negotiate humanitarian access separately from the Djibouti peace process, geographic area by geographic area, to speed up food supplies and alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.
6. Implement sanctions against a list of individuals who are known spoilers of the peace process.
7. Authorise a UN peacekeeping operation only when a comprehensive ceasefire has been achieved and a viable political process is in progress.
8. Appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides and provide recommendations for a judicial process to address them and a reconciliation process that should be incorporated in a negotiated settlement.
9. Enhance efforts to implement the Ethiopian-Eritrea border settlement, in part to reduce the “proxy war” impact of this dispute on Somalia.
10. Resign from office and participate in the political process in a privileged role as former TFG president.
11. Proceed with an impeachment process in the absence of the TFG president’s voluntary resignation and appoint to the office after the president resigns a more conciliatory personality who has the capability to reach out to all parties.
12. Renounce violence and human rights abuses, state a commitment to the peace process, clarify positions on democracy and the role of Sharia (Islamic law) in organising Somali society and renounce any relationship with al-Qaeda or other terrorists.
13. Renounce irredentist claims over the Ogaden made in the past and reassure Ethiopia of commitment to the principles of good neighbourliness.
14. Withdraw its troops swiftly and in accordance with the Djibouti accords.
15. Investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Ethiopian army in Somalia and support the new Djibouti political process as outlined above.
16. End support for dissident Somali groups and support the Djibouti political process.
17. Rebalance its counter-terrorism strategy in Somalia to give greater weight to a political approach, support intra-Somali negotiations, including with the Islamist insurgency, and consider removing individuals and groups from its terrorism lists in exchange for a constructive role in the peace process.
18. Support the Djibouti process as described above, give support to Prime Minister Nur Adde and press for the resignation of Abdillahi Yusuf as TFG president.
19. Support politically and financially the political processes described above and Prime Minister Nur Adde, while ceasing all supportive contacts with President Abdillahi Yusuf so as to encourage his resignation.
20. Start contingency planning to support swift evacuation of AMISOM if the mission is repeatedly attacked in Mogadishu, and lead consultations with troop-contributing countries for the deployment of a UN mission to support implementation of a ceasefire agreement if agreed in the Djibouti process and a viable political process is in progress.
Nairobi/Brussels, 23 December 2008