Somalia: The “Transition” Takes a Detour Through Puntland 3 Sep 3, 2011 - 11:47:59 AM
By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
On August 30,the Puntland State of Somalia and the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) of “Somalia” issued a memorandum of understanding in which they agreed to cooperate with one another, resolve their persisting political differences, and end their dispute over where an impending (September 4-6) “Consultative Meeting” on the political future of “Somalia,” engineered by Western powers and the United Nations, would be held (Puntland’s capital, Garowe; or the seat of the T.F.G., Mogadishu).
According to All Headline News, which quoted a “senior official” in the T.F.G., the agreement, which was made in Garowe between Puntland’s president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, and the T.F.G.’s president, Sh.Sharif Sh. Ahmed, was consummated under pressure from the U.N.: “The president [Sh. Sharif] went to visit Puntland under pressure from [the] United Nations Political Office for Somalia.” The All Headline News report has been confirmed by closed sources in the Horn of Africa.
The resolution of the dispute over the venue for the Consultative Meeting was a must for the Western “donor”-powers and their agent, the U.N., which are determined that “Somalia’s” “transition” to a permanent constitutional government be completed by August 2012. The transitional process was to be initiated at the Consultative Meeting, and that, of course, could not take place until there was an agreed-upon venue. The dispute between Puntland and the T.F.G surfaced in the first week of July and continued until the August 30 MoU. By July 20, the transitional process had ground to a halt, as the U.N.’s special representative for Somalia and the head of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (U.N.P.O.S.), Augustine Mahiga, failed to get Farole and Sh. Sharif to agree to hold the Consultative Meeting, which was to draw up a “Roadmap” for the “transition,” for two days each in Mogadishu and Garowe.
The “transition” clock was ticking and there was no movement. A two-week lull ensued after July 20, in which U.N.P.O.S. struggled to figure out its next move. A closed source in the Horn of Africa reported that U.Nl.P.O.S. was constrained from acting by the requirement that it had imposed on itself that the Consultative Meeting appear to be “Somali owned,” even though it was a pure creature of the “donor”-powers/U.N. that none of the Somali actors in the process, not to mention those outside it, would have mounted on their own. The “donor”-powers/U.N. could not maintain the pretense of a “Somali-owned” process, so the thinking went, if they applied obvious pressure to resolve the dispute.
Yet the clock was ticking and by the end of the first week of August, a month of the short “transition” had already been lost. The process would only be started if the “donor”-powers/U.N. did something and exerted their diplomatic power. The pretense of a “Somali-owned” process would have to be sacrificed if necessary.
The “Donor”-Powers/U.N. Swing a Deal
The “donor”-powers/U.N. made their move on August 8, when the U.N. Security Council issued its “Update Report #1” on the transition, stating that the Consultative Meeting was “now scheduled in Mogadishu for the 4-6 of September.”
It almost immediately became obvious that the announced decision was not sticking. On August 9, the Pan-African News Agency reported that what the venue for the Consultative Meeting should be was still a subject of dispute within the T.F.G. On August 10, Shabelle Media reported that Sh. Sharif wanted the Meeting to be held in Mogadishu and that his rival, parliamentary speaker, Sharif Hass Sh. Adan, was holding out for Garowe, with the backing of Farole. Pan-African News Agency reported that Sh. Sharif was under pressure to be firm on Mogadishu as the venue from the Hawiye clan family and members of parliament from southern and central Somalia. On August 10, the T.F.G.’s cabinet met with spokesman Abdirahman Omar Yarisow reporting that the Consultative meeting would be held on September 4-6.
A closed source reported that U.N.P.O.S. was committed to holding the Meeting in Mogadishu, but that Farole was resisting the decision and was holding out the possibility that he would not attend the Meeting, but would send a ministerial delegation instead. Sharif Hassan was reported to be supporting Farole, but to be powerless, having been isolated by U.NlP.O.S.
Another source reported that Farole had been told earlier by the Meeting’s preparatory committee that the Meeting would be held in Garowe, and had put substantial preparation into getting ready for it. The source went on to say that one reason that the “donor”-powers/U.N. wanted the Meeting held in Mogadishu was the high cost of transporting troops from the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) in Mogadishu to Garowe to guard the T.F.G.’s delegation.
On August 15, the U.N.S.C. issued a press statement on the Consultative Meeting that showed that the venue problem was not yet satisfactorily resolved. The U.N.S.C. “stressed the need for all Somali groups to participate” in the Consultative Meeting, which was intended “to seek an agreement on a roadmap on key priorities [for the transition] to be implemented by the Transitional Federal Institutions.” The U.N.S.C. warned that “future support for the Transitional Federal Institutions would be contingent upon completion of the tasks in the roadmap.” The U.N.S.C. announced the Meeting for September 4-6, but it did not mention the venue.
On August 20, a closed source in the Horn of Africa reported that the “donor’-powers/U.N. were trying to find a way to convince Farole to attend the Consultative Meeting in Mogadishu, which is why the U.N.S.C.’s press statement did not mention where the Meeting would take place. It had become clear to the “donor”-powers/U.N. that a deal would have to be cut with Farole. According to the source, Mahiga was offering Farole the promise of a second conference, which would be held in Garowe in October, at which the centerpiece of the “donor”-powers/U.N.’s “transition” scheme – a permanent constitution for “Somalia” – would be discussed. That would arguably be a more important conference for the political future of Somalia than the Consultative Meeting in Mogadishu. The source added that Mahiga was pressuring Sh. Sharif to visit Farole in Garowe in advance of the Consultative Meeting.
In the third week of August, Mahiga applied his pressure directly, traveling to Mogadishu with a delegation of U.N.P.O.S. officials and meeting with the T.F.G.’s president and prime minister, and the transitional parliament’s speaker. According to Shabelle Media, the talks were about how the Consultative Meeting “could be held in the country [Somalia].”
The push by Mahiga had its desired effect. On August 25, the T.F.G.’s prime minister, Abdeweli Gas, traveled to Garowe at the head of a delegation of cabinet ministers concerned with social affairs and members of the transitional parliament to “pave the way” for Sh. Sharif’s arrival. Gas said that he would attempt to “repair strained relations” between the T.F.G. and Puntland, and to persuade Farole to attend the Consultative Meeting in Mogadishu. The Mareeg website reported that Mahiga had told Farole and Sh. Sharif to “reach an understanding.” A Puntland government press statement posted on Garoweonline said that talks during the visits of the T.F.G.’s leaders would include implementation of previous agreements (that had not been honored by the T.F.G.), the Consultative Meeting, political and security cooperation, and sharing of international aid. On August 27, Gas announced from Garowe that the T.F.G. would “improve cooperation” with Puntland. The deal-making was underway.
On August 29, Sh. Sharif was in Garowe. Shabelle Media reported that Farole and Sh. Sharif had met for “several hours” and then held a joint press conference at which they announced the resolution of the venue dispute. Speaking first, Sh. Sharif said that there would be two conferences, the first on September 4-6 in Mogadishu and the second later in Garowe. Farole confirmed Sh. Sharif’s statement and said that Puntland would “play a significant role” in the Consultative Meeting. He said: “A new chapter of Somali history has begun today and the disputes are over.”
In order to bring Farole on board, Sh. Sharif had to make concessions. In a symbolic gesture, Sh. Sharif said: “The president [Farole] would love to hold the conference and I want that too. But I personally requested him that we divide [the Meeting] into two parts.” More importantly, Sh. Sharif acknowledged Puntland’s complaints about the distribution of international aid. That acknowledgment and other Puntland interests would be embodied in the memorandum of understanding of August 30. Farole made no concessions to Sh. Sharif except for agreeing to attend the Consultative Meeting in Mogadishu.
U.N. News reported that Sh. Sharif’s visit to Garowe had been “facilitated” by U.N.P.O.S. Mahiga was quoted as “praising the statesmanship” of Farole and Sh. Sharif. The special representative added that the agreement reached by the two presidents “opens the way for the advancement of national reconciliation in Somalia,” which “is particularly critical as the Somali leadership and their partners prepare for the Consultative Meeting to adopt the Roadmap defining priority tasks for the next 12 months as agreed in the Kampala Accord.”The “donor”-powers/U.N. had swung their deal and the “transition” was set to re-start, but they had paid a price. The Consultative Meeting, which is to be chaired by Mahiga, will clearly be “owned” by the “donor”-powers/U.N.
The Memorandum of Understanding
The most important immediate result of the Garowe talks between Farole and Sh. Sharif was the memorandum of understanding, to which they agreed and which is essentially a promissory note to Puntland that its interests will be addressed. Of the ten points of the agreement, which was published by All Headline News, four are perfunctory, committing the parties to “improve ties and strengthen cooperation;” take measures against terrorism, piracy, and illegal immigration; “promote political and economic development;” and “promote and protect human rights.” Five other points, however, deal with Puntalnds concerns: equipment and security training are to be provided to Puntland, aid donations are to be distributed equally among regions, the ARMO police academy in Puntland is to be renovated and expanded; “reconsideration” is to be given to “reconstructing the navy” (in which Puntland would expect to play a leading role), and, most importantly, “the Galkayo Accord of August 23, 2009 and security cooperation between the T.F.G. and Puntland in April 2010” are to be implemented. The last provision is for the “donor”-powers/U.N. with a nod to Puntland’s position in favor of a federal system for Somalia: “Complete the federal constitution.”
The key provision in the MoU is the implementation of the Galkayo Accord of 2009, which was signed by the T.F.G. at a time when it was desperate for support, and which was highly favorable to Puntland. The Accord was, however, never implemented because the T.F.G. quickly signed an agreement with Djibouti to establish a naval station that, according to the Accord, was to be placed in Puntland. The T.F.G. never acted on the other provisions of the Accord, one of which has now been forced upon it – holding a constitutional convention for Somalia in Puntland.
Indeed, the MoU appears to be a new version of the Galkayo Accord, embodying many of the same provisions favorable to Puntland. In 2009,the “donor”-powers/U.N. stood on the sidelines while the T.F.G. failed to implement and violated the “Accord.” At that time, Farole understandably became distrustful of the “donor”-powers and certainly of the T.F.G. In the days leading up to Sh. Sharif’s visit to Garowe, Farole had become even more disabused of the “donor”-powers/U.N. and the T.F.G., having had his expectations that the Consultative Meeting would be held in Garowe frustrated. The MoU was Puntland’s compensation for getting with the “donor”-powers/U.N.’s program. He expects that this time the agreement will be honored. He has put himself in a politically vulnerable position and will be constrained to drop cooperation with the “donor”-powers/U.N. and the T.F.G. (as he did with the T.F.G. in January 2011) if Puntland’s interests are not addressed as the MoU promises that they will.
Puntland’s gain would be the T.F.G.’s loss in the zero-sum game that the two sides play. Will there now be resistance from the T.F.G.’s side, as there was after the Galkayo Accord was signed? Or is the T.F.G. sufficiently weakened by the lack of “donor”-power/U.N. diplomatic support for it that it will cede to Puntland’s interests? The “donor”-powers/U.N. proceed into the Consultative Meeting laden with Puntland’s expectations and the T.F.G.’s resentment at having been forced to cede to Puntland’s interests. Have the “donor”-powers/U.N. tilted toward Puntland, or is the MoU another set of empty promises? The so-called “dual-track policy” pursued by Washington and by the other “donor”-powers, in which they deal with the T.F.G. and with regional administrations such as Puntland, is viable as long as hard choices between the two tracks do not have to be made. Once such choices crop up, the “donor”-powers have to take sides, or evade the choices and have the “transition” go on interminably, as it has done up until now.
Is it a pyrrhic victory that Puntland got the MoU and the constitutional conference? Is it a pyrrhic victory that the T.F.G. got the Consultative Meeting? Is it a pyrrhic victory that the “donor”-powers/U.N. got Puntland to attend the Consultative Meeting represented by Farole? It all depends on what happens at the Consultative Meeting, which will be more complicated for the “donor”-powers/U.N. than solving the venue dispute, since more domestic stakeholders (the Galmudug Authority and the Ahlu Sunna wal-Jama’a movement) will be there pressing their interests, which are often incompatible with the interests of either Puntland or the T.F.G., the latter two of which have not reconciled their deeper interests, despite their professions of unity in Garowe. It is likely that new disputes will arise over the Roadmap. Will the “donor”-powers/U.N. take sides? If so which side? If not, will the “donor”-powers/U.N. attempt to impose their own Roadmap on the Consultative Meeting? Or will the “donor-powers/U.N. fold their hands and let the Meeting break down. One thing is clear, the “donor”-powers/U.N. lost two months of a fourteen-month “transition” period, that it had prescribed, trying to resolve the venue dispute between Puntland and the T.F.G., and, in the process, had assumed clear “ownership” of the “transition,” and had appeared to tilt toward Puntland, setting up expectations in the latter. The “donor”-powers/U.N. have clearly not acted on careful planning of political strategy, but are behaving instead in an ad hoc manner, reacting to problematic situations as they arise, and trying to resolve them as quickly as possible without regard for the longer-range consequences, and for the other actors outside the dispute with which the “donor”-powers are currently pre-occupied.
Since they proceed in an ad hoc fashion, it is not possible to predict what the “donor”-powers/U.N. will do. It is not clear that the “donor”-powers will be willing to use the diplomatic power that they have to take over the “transition.” If they do use it, they will have to take responsibility overtly for the “transition”, which they do not want to do. Yet with each conflict that emerges, new side-taking choice-points will crop up, demanding that the “donor”-powers/U.N. take action or draw back.
The “donor’-powers own a prcess that they have not yet found the will to control. Everyone else reacts to them according to their own respective interests, which is to be expected because the “transition” is not a Somali-owned process. What else are the Somali actors supposed to do” They are not the decision-makers for any general solution. Not only do the “donor”-powers own a process that they do not have the will to control, but they are determined to pretend that it is a Somali-owned process. That is not so much hypocrisy as it is evidence of irresolution and weakness. What will they do now that they have led themselves and everyone else into a political swamp? What will they do to save their expedition/adventure?
A closed source in the Horn of Africa reports that the “donor”-powers are pleased that Garowe will host the constitutional meeting, because they have decided that the fastest way to get the “transition” over with is to use the constitution, drafted by a Somali committee that met in Djibouti and was funded by and presided over by the “donor”-powers/U.N., as the basis for a permanent constitution. The Djibouti constitution embodies a federal political formula for Somalia, which is favored by Puntland, and has languished because of opposition by the T.F.G., elements of the Hawiye clan family, and nationalist-minded intellectuals and politicians. Conflict is nearly inevitable on the fundamental question of the form of a permanent Somali state. Are the “donor”-powers/U.N. ready for the fight?
If the source is accurate, “donor”-power/U.N. backing for the Djibouti constitution does signal a tilt toward Puntland. If so, that tilt is not based on a principled or even interested affirmation of federalism, but on getting the “transition” over with by 2012. Puntland is, perhaps, the current beneficiary of “donor”-power/U.N. eagerness to tack a state-form onto Somalia, but Puntland has been left in the lurch before. Indeed, all the Somali actors are keenly aware that the “donor”-powers/U.N. are unreliable and unsure of themselves, despite their proclamations and directives.
On September 2, Mahiga held a press briefing in which he said: “In this one year, we want to achieve, literally, what has not been achieved for over seven years.” When asked how proposed elections for a parliament and president could be held in August 2012 when much of the country is insecure or under the control of the armed Islamist opposition to the T.F.G., Reuters reported that Mahiga said that the answer lay in “coming up with a new constitution that would change the way lawmakers and presidents are selected,” which he maintained would be “crucial to giving any new government credibility.” “That constitution,” said Mahiga, “will be the basis of forming the next government. .. If there is going to be a change, it has to be in that area, so that we don’t have another government formed by the same parliament.” Mahiga is clear that he wants to get rid of the transitional parliament, but what will be put in its place and, even more importantly, what does he mean by a new way in which “lawmakers and presidents are selected?” Will there be elections or not? Will a new government have “credibility” if it is not elected by the Somali people? Mahiga has provided no confidence that the “donor”-powers/U.N. know what they are doing, except trying to get out – to solve it all in a year.