Open Analytical Letter to Friends of Somalia 18 Aug 18, 2012 - 5:48:02 AM
By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
Dear Colleagues (Somali and Not):
It is time for us to recognize and acknowledge that, with the end of the “transition,” Somalia has become a dependency.
The choice has been made by the “donor”-powers/U.N. to set up a neo-colonial system formed by proxy-chains that begin at the top with the “donor”-powers/U.N., work through regional powers (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti), and lock Somali factions into dependent, exploitative relations that benefit the domestic political class at the expense of the rest of the Somali people. The keenly perceptive analyst, Mohamud Uloso, who has written an ongoing series of studies of the “transition” as it has proceeded (anyone who wishes to understand Somalia’s dependency through the most penetrating political-legal analysis needs to read Uloso’ series), has put the situation concisely – the “transition” has not ended; Somalia has ended.
The theory/ideology of neo-colonialism in Somalia has been provided by Western policy analysts – the prominent American Somalia analyst, Kenneth Menkhaus (in his August, 2012 article “Somalia’s 20-year Experience in Hybrid Governance” [World Politics Review]); and Chatham House (in its “synthesis” of a 2011 meeting of Somali “opinion-formers” in its January, 2012 report “Somalia’s Transition: What Role for Sub-National Entities”).
For Menkhaus and Chatham House, Somalia will have a weak central government in the post-“transition” period. The political fragmentation of the country will persist. The parts are currently stronger than the whole. As analyst Ahmed Egal puts it, fission prevails over fusion. Menkhaus and Chatham House are correct. As the situation stands now, there are no political forces in Somalia capable of initiating a process of fusion. National disintegration is the objective fact. Proxy-chain neo-colonialism proceeds from that fact (Menkhas and Chatham House, of course, have nothing to say about that).
The ideological component of Menkhaus’ and Chatham House’s discussions comes in the former’s notion that a post-transition “central” government in Somalia should function as a “mediated state” and the latter’s idea that a post-“transition” government should perform “coordinative activities between federal entities.” In the Menkhaus version, the (nominal) central government cedes powers to sub-national units. In the Chatham House version, the sub-national units cede powers to the central government.
Given the factual situation that Menkhaus and Chatham House have described, the mediative/coordinative state is a utopian cover for the balkanization of Somalia. In order to perform a mediative/coordinative function, the central government would have to be strong. But it will be weak. That means the parts of Somalia will be open to divide-and-rule tactics and sphere-of-influence deals by external actors. That is what the end of Somalia (as a political community, whatever form it might take) means.
How does a central government mediate among and coordinate the parts when the sub-national units are stronger than the central government? The answer is that it doesn’t do it.
How does a friend of Somalia respond to the country’s neo-colonial dependency? Somalia has been weak since the collapse of the Somali state; it was in political limbo. Now it is in the first stages of dependency. The problem has been pushed back to liberation from dependency.
The solution is not armed liberation. The conditions for that, if it were to occur, would not be present before a prior requisite is met. The solution is reconciliation among Somalia’s factions: self-generated reconciliation by Somalis. A commitment by Somalis to live together, which is not now present, would have to be made by enough Somali friends of Somalia to start a fusion process.
A non-Somali friend of Somalia can do nothing about reconciliation but point out that it is always there as an option for any Somalis who want to exercise it. There is nothing else. Abukar Arman’s ghost-lords have made their decision.
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago email@example.com