Somalia: The “Transition” is Deferred 11 Jun 11, 2011 - 1:51:10 PM
By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
By mid-May, all momentum to effect a “transition” of Somalia’s internationally-recognized Transitional Federal Institutions (T.F.I.s) to a permanent constitutional order by August 20, 2011, when their international mandate was supposed to expire, had been dissipated in a controversy between the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and the Transitional Federal Parliament (T.F.P.) over how long the terms of the T.F.I.s should be extended beyond August.
Museveni and Somali leaders
As the conflict between the T.F.G. and T.F.P. went on without any results, the Western “donor”-powers (United States, European Union, and Western European powers), which finance the T.F.I.s and wish for the “transition” to occur as quickly as possible, made a vague gesture on May 12, through the United Nations Security Council (U.N.S.C.), towards exerting pressure on the T.F.I.s to end their deadlock.
In a non-binding “Presidential Statement,” the U.N.S.C. expressed “concern” over the conflict among the T.F.I.s, urged them to refrain from further “unilateral actions” (such as extending their terms), and threatened that their mandates would be terminated if elections for the T.F.G.’s president and the T.F.P.’s speaker were not held.
The weak presidential statement fell far short of what the U.N. secretary-general’s envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, had desired. In his speech at the U.N.S.C. meeting, Mahiga had asked the Council to “weigh in” on the term-extension debate, which it had clearly failed to do. In light of the U.N.S.C’s indecisiveness, Mahiga was left in the thankless position of trying to enforce the U.N.S.C.’s demand for August elections against the T.F.P.’s plan to hold elections for T.F.G. president in August in parliament, and the T.F.G.’s plan to defer elections for the T.F.I.s for one year. In a statement following the U.N.S.C. meeting, Mahiga observed that the “crux of the problem” was that the T.F.G. and T.F.P. “did not want to change.” He said that he would attempt to persuade external stakeholders to agree on “benchmarks” for performing “transitional tasks,” such as holding elections and drafting a permanent constitution, to which they would hold the T.F.I.s accountable. From Mahiga’s viewpoint, simply threatening the T.F.G. and T.F.P. with a mandate cut-off was insufficient to motivate them to resolve their term-extension/election-timing dispute.
With the “transition” in a state of drifting conflict, attention of all the actors shifted to a “consultative conference” called by the T.F.G. for June 12 in Mogadishu, at which all the players would be present to discuss the “transition.” Under the shadow of the U.N.S.C.’s threat to end the mandates of the T.F.I.s on August 20 if they did not solve their rifts and hold elections, the coming Mogadishu conference, which the U.N. had agreed to sponsor and the T.F.G. insisted that it organize and chair, spurred a controversy among the players over which of them would control the conference, who would attend it, and what its agenda would be. As the conference approached, the drifting conflict heated up, with the players still in disarray and firming up their respective positions. The issues of term extension and the holding of elections were deflected to the new issue of how to hold the June conference.
Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan Fail to Agree
Under the threat of a mandate cut-off from the U.N.S.C. and the impending and disputed June conference, the two contending actors in the T.F.I. disputes – the president, Sh Sharif Sh. Ahmad, and the parliamentary speaker, Sharif Hassan Sh. Adan – held a series of meetings from May 17 to May 22, in which they attempted to form a united front against the “donor”-powers/U.N. at the Mogadishu conference.
Shabelle Media reported that the discussions began inauspiciously, with Sh. Sharif accusing Sharif Hassan of fomenting an “uprising” in parliament for August presidential elections, and Sharif Hassan responding that Sh. Sharif should bring any “legitimate views” on postponement of elections to parliament. The conversation ended with no common ground having been reached. Sh. Sharif was reported by Shabelle to be eager to have another meeting.
RBC Radio reported that the president and speaker met again on May 19, and that a source in the presidency said that they were preparing a joint press statement. Any prospect that the two Sharifs had formed a defensive alliance was dispelled when they met again on May 20 and failed to agree on election timing and procedures. They had not budged an inch from their fixed positions.
Parliamentary secretary, M.P. Omar Islow, held a press conference, saying that the talks had “ended without any result.” Sh. Sharif, said Islow, pushed for his one-year term-extension plan, “and that was really rebuffed by the speaker.” Horn Cable TV reported that Islow asserted that no negotiations could change parliament’s decision to hold August elections.
The failure of the two Sharifs to find any common ground jeopardized the Mogadishu conference and made it an occasion for conflict. Would other stakeholders, internal and external, accept the T.F.G. organizing and chairing the conference? Would the U.N.S.C., through Mahiga, use its sponsorship of the conference to try to take it over and impose its plan of having elections for president and speaker in August, which would remove the two Sharifs and substitute (they hoped) more pliant leaders? Would some way be found of getting the T.F.G. to hand organization of the conference to a committee representing all significant domestic factions, so attendance would be assured?
The U.N.S.C. “Weighs In”
Faced with factional divisions in the T.F.I.s and anxious uncertainty among all the players, the U.N.S.C. traveled to Nairobi on May 25 to address the domestic and external stakeholders, and to reinforce its presidential statement, which had thus far had no practical effect.
In briefing the press on the U.N.S.C’s visit, Mahiga was sketchy on the Council’s agenda, saying that security issues would be discussed, as well as resolving the rifts in the T.F.I.s. Mahiga stressed that this was “the first time the entire membership of the U.N. Security Council” would meet in Nairobi “in order to address the situation in Somalia.” He said that the visit was “different from previous meetings,” because the U.N.S.C. was now “very keen to keep abreast of the latest political and military developments.”
After hearing “Somalia’s” various factions replay their fixed positions, the U.N.S.C. stated its position through British U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, who concentrated on the Mogadishu conference, saying that the meeting should result in a schedule for elections and their timing, a “roadmap” for the transition, and “benchmarks” (urged by Mahiga) for progress on “transitional tasks.” The Council, said Grant, demanded an end to conflicts over term extension among the T.F.I.s, and a focus on the “key” transitional tasks of outreach, reconciliation, governance, financial responsibility, and drafting a constitution. Grant warned the T.F.I.s to resolve their differences or lose the “backing” of the U.N.S.C. Most importantly, Grant directed the T.F.I.’s leaders to “engage immediately and constructively” with Mahiga, who “has the full support of the U.N. Secreatry-General and the whole of the Security Council in the consultative process he is facilitating.” He said that Mahiga would report to the U.N.S.C. on the Mogadishu conference and would be its convener, appearing to oppose the T.F.G. plans to dominate it.
In summarizing the essence of the Council’s position, Mahiga said that the T.F.I.s were expected to end their disputes immediately and to hold “presidential elections” before August, appearing to side with parliament in the election dispute. The Council had not, however, accompanied its demands with a statement of the specific consequences that the T.F.I.s would suffer if they did not reach agreement.
Response to the U.N.S.C.’s (re-)statement of its position was immediate. The T.F.G. put its own interpretation, favorable to its position, on the U.N.S.C.’s message, with its information ministry spokesman, Abdifatah Abdinor, saying that the T.F.G. welcomed the U.N.S.C.’s statements; the Council had backed the June conference. “We achieved our goals,” said Abdinor. T.F.G. prime minister, Mohamed Farmajo stressed that the U.N.’s role in the conference was “only to facilitate.”
Sharif Hassan counter-attacked, saying on May 30 that the T.F.G. did not have the right to organize the conference exclusively. Local media reported that the speaker had been holding meetings with Mahiga in a bid to move the conference to another country. The Mareeg website reported that Mahiga had told Sharif Hassan that parliament had the right to hold elections in August. Waagacusub Media reported that Mahiga had broached to Sharif Hassan the idea of setting up a “joint committee” of domestic statkeholders to organize the Mogadishu conference. In a public statement, Sharif Hassan denied reports that he opposed the Mogadishu conference, hinting at the possibility that the T.F.I.s might be represented at it by a joint delegation, and adding that, given present political circumstances, it would be best for parliament to elect a new president.
Farmajo responded that the June conference would be chaired and organized by the T.F.G.
With less than two weeks remaining before the Mogadishu conference was scheduled to begin, May ended with its convening in doubt. It was unclear who would organize it, and Mahiga had appeared to give the contending leaders in the T.F.I.s support for their respective and contradictory positions at different times. On June 1, Mahiga expressed his frustration with the T.F.I.s’ leaders, observing to Reuters: “The bottom line is that they all want to cling to power.” All he could say was that he hoped that Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan might decide that their common interest in staying in office would be best served by a power-sharing deal:
“Let them believe there is something for all of them, that there is a win-win situation.” Mahiga suggested that the U.N. might incentivize a deal by providing more money for projects, giving more say for the T.F.I.s in “defining reforms,” and “rewarding good performance.” Mahiga ended on a sour note: “These are people who have perfected the art of deception and discouragement and making you feel that you are ready to give up.”
Reporting on remarks to the press by Mahiga, Horn Cable TV presented a more assertive side of the U.N.’s envoy, who warned that the June conference was “the last chance for Somalis to reach a common consensus,” and that the “case” would be “transferred to the U.N. if Somalis failed to reach an agreement in the coming conference.”
Museveni Weighs In
With a power vacuum opening up in the “transition” conflicts due to stalemated and irreconcilable positions, the International Contact Group (I.C.G.) of “donor”-powers and subsidiary external stakeholders met in Kampala to reinforce their position.
Aware of the “donor”-powers’ desire not to have the “case”of Somalia “transferred” to them, which would mean that they would have to take responsibility for it, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, whose country along with Burundi contributes the troops for the African Union “peacekeeping mission” (AMISOM) that props up the T.F.G., made his move to seize control of the term-extension issue. For Museveni, the interest was in securing gains that AMISOM had made with T.F.G. –allied forces against the armed Islamist opposition to the T.F.G. in Mogadishu, and to protect his troops from a power vacuum that would open up on the ground if the T.F.G.’s mandate was allowed to expire.
With the advantage of presenting the opening remarks at the I.C.G. conference, Museveni pre-empted the “donor”-powers by forthrightly coming out in favor of the T.F.G.’s plan for one-year term extensions for the T.F.I.s, upping the ante by countering the U.N.S.C.’s threat to end the mandates of the T.F.I.s with the threat that Uganda would pull its forces out of Somalia if a “disruptive” election process served to strengthen the Islamists or left no non-Islamist authority in Mogadishu.
Uganda, Museveni said, “cannot be in that kind of situation.” To add to the onslaught, Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, closed the I.C.G. meeting by advocating the one-year term extension, although he did not threaten that his country would pull its troops out of AMISOM.
Thrown on the defensive, the “donor”-powers could not come up with a position of their own. Mahiga was left to say that Museveni’s “proposal” had been supported by Burundi and “had been voiced by Kenya and Djibouti.” On May 4, Mahiga made a last attempt to persuade the “donor”-powers to take some action: “I have flagged to the Security Council and also wish to propose to this meeting that in order to secure compliance from the future T.F.I.s on implementing the transitional tasks, we together with the T.F.I.s should agree on a set of implementable benchmarks, timelines, and a monitoring mechanism and mutual obligations in achieving the transitional tasks.” He urged the I.C.G., which he chairs, to support the U.N.S.C. position and convince the T.F.I. leaders to “muster their political will” to make the June Mogadishu conference a “landmark success.” The “donor”-powers showed no sign of heeding Mahiga, having withdrawn to public silence.
Sh. Sharif and Farmajo welcomed Museveni’s statement, which had put a powerful external actor on the T.F.G.’s side in the term-extension controversy.
On June 3, in an exhaustive article, Xinhua reported that the Mogadishu conference had fallen into a state of collapse, with Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan disagreeing on the conference’s agenda, who should attend it, and what its results were supposed to be. Xinhua reported that the two Sharifs were consolidating their positions and lobbying for support of domestic and external players, and that they had agreed to meet on June 6 to try to resolve their dispute over mandate extension – the same position they were in on May 17.
Power-Sharing: A Last Resort
It was now a foregone conclusion that the Mogadishu conference would not take place, but Farmajo made one last-ditch attempt to save it by threatening that “if the politicians do not agree on one common position, then the T.F.G. would turn the “transition” over to “the traditional elders.” By June 7, Farmajo was ready to throw in the towel, announcing that the Mogadishu conference had been postponed to an unspecified later date, because of “disagreements and misunderstandings” among the T.F.I.s. Farmajo accused Sharif Hassan of undermining the T.F.G. so that he could colonize the cabinet with his allies, and of by-passing parliament by taking “unilateral actions.” Farmajo said that Sharif Hassan had requested a “private meeting” with him, but that he had rejected the offer, because “we need to settle the disagreement as a general problem facing the nation” that could not be solved at “an individual level.”
Meanwhile, All Headline News reported on June 7 that Mahiga had been joined by Museveni in attempting to broker a power-sharing deal between the two Sharifs that would resolve the term-extension dispute. Closed sources in East Africa provided insight into the negotiations, with one of them reporting that Sharif Hassan had agreed to accept a one-year term extension for the T.F.I.s if the T.F.G. cabinet was changed and he was allowed to name some of its members; and the other source reporting that Sh. Sharif had offered to fire Farmajo and let Sharif Hassan select some cabinet members if he accepted the one-year term extension.
Aware that he was, as one of the sources put it, being made “the sacrificial lamb,” Farmajo went public with the power-sharing talks, saying that discussions about the T.F.I.s’ mandate had changed from consultations into a “bargaining deal,” and that he would not “accept ay bargaining condition on Somalia peace.” Nonetheless, Farmajo was called to Kampala and reluctantly went.
On June 8, the Mareeg website reported that a meeting between Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan had “ended in vain” and that Sh. Sharif and Farmajo had then conferred. Hiiraan Online reported that, in a move to break the deadlock between the two Sharifs, Museveni had taken over the chief mediating role and was trying to broker a deal that would “include fresh sharing of ministerial portfolios.” Were the two Sharifs to agree to the deal, Sharif Hassan would bring it to the full parliament for approval. According to Hiiraan Online, Museveni was arranging a meeting between Sh. Sharif, Sharif Hassan, and Farmajo.
A closed source reported that the “donor”-powers had folded their hand and had accepted the one-year term extension and the prospect of having to deal with the old T.F.I. politicians. All of their efforts since February, 2011 to manage the “transition” had, for the moment, ended in total failure.
With Museveni now in charge and exerting pressure, negotiations moved to the nuts-and-bolts issue of dividing up the cabinet. Somalia Report cited a diplomatic source as saying that Sharif Hassan was demanding that he name the defense, interior, finance, and foreign ministers; and that Sh. Sharif was willing to give the speaker only the choice of appointees to the defense and finance posts. Shabelle Media reported that the two Sharifs had converged on the number of cabinet ministries that each would control, with both agreeing to an even split between the eighteen cabinet posts. As part of the deal, Sharif Hassan would accept a one-year extension of the T.F.I.’s mandate and Sh. Sharif would dismiss Farmajo, who was resisting being removed. The last piece fell into place when T.F.G. information minister, Abdikarim Hasan Jama’a, announce that Farmajo had resigned.
On June 9, the deal was done and signed by the two Sharifs, under the “auspices” of Museveni and the “facilitation” of Mahiga. The “Kampala Accord,” a copy of which was obtained and published by Garowe Online, provided for a one-year extension of the mandate of the T.F.I.s, elections for president and speaker to be held before August 20, 2012, and the resignation of the prime minister within thirty days. No details of the power-sharing formula were provided – the division of the ministries.
The operative part of the deal – what was actually done – is exhausted by its term-extension/election-timing provisions, and its dismissal of the current prime minister. The former solves the cause of the dispute among the T.F.I.s (and the “donor”-powers/U.N.) in favor of the T.F.G. – a victory definitively done through Museveni and his African allies. The latter gives Sharif Hassan his payback – the government will be changed (and he will have a part in making the change). The Kampala Accord paves the way for a new fight over the composition of the new government unless that has been decided already. It is most likely that the T.F.I. games will continue – Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan have clawed out another year against “donor”-power demands that their tenure must end on August 20, 2011. The “donor”-powers are back to exactly where they were before they began their campaign in February, 2011 to take over the “transition,” now run to ground and in ruins. August 20, 2011 – the end of the international mandate for the T.F.I.s – is now a meaningless date. The can has been kicked down the road.
The Kampala Accord, however, is not exhausted by its operative part. In addition to sections on the technicalities of implementing the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, there is a series of promises by Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan to cooperate, speed the transition, and refrain from media and juridical fights; and there is a series of directives on the relations between the T.F.I.s and the “international community” (“donor”-powers). The promises and directives are the payback to the “donor”-powers for failing to make good on their threat to pull the plug on the T.F.I.s.
The promises are inconsequential – they make sense only if there is enforcement of them. That problem is addressed by the directives, which are aimed at holding Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan to their “accord.” They are the next attempt by the “donor”-powers to take over the “transition.”
Mahiga got his idea of the U.N. and the T.F.I.s establishing a roadmap with “benchmarks, timelines and compliance mechanisms for the implementation of the priority [transitional] tasks.” He also got the possibility of enforcement through the provision that a “Political Bureau” charged with overseeing and monitoring compliance of the T.F.I.s with the roadmap would be formed and would include representatives from the U.N. and sub-regional and regional African organizations. Then came the teeth, the threat: “The international partners [“donor”-powers] and the Regional Bureau reserve the right to evoke appropriate measures with consequences to ensure compliance with the benchmarks and timelines by the T.F.I.s including the application of appropriate sanctions against spoilers.” All the directives of the Kampala Accord are empty unless the “donor”-powers are ready to “evoke appropriate measures with consequences.” Will they be ready to withhold aid to the T.F.I.s? Will they be ready to step in and replace Sh. Sharif and Sharif Hassan if they do not keep their promises and follow their directives? “Evoke appropriate measures with consequences” is about as vague as it is possible to get. Do the “donor”-powers have the will to enforce the promises and directives? The T.F.I.s are cognizant that the “donor”-powers lost the great term-extension fight.
Looking to the next chapter of the “transition” saga, the Kampala Accord revives the Mogadishu conference, which “will be convened by the T.F.G. and T.F.P. and facilitated by the SRSG [Mahiga] to be held at a mutually agreed date as soon as possible.” Another conference: Who will participate? What will the agenda be? Who will organize it? What will be its aim?
The Kampala Accord defers decisions; it does not take them. Will there be a wrangle over the new prime minister and cabinet? Will there be a wrangle over roadmaps? Will there be a wrangle over the Mogadishu conference? Those kinds of disputes have been chronic in the past and there is no reason to believe that they will not happen now.
The only thing that can keep the interminable T.F.I. games from repeating themselves is the will of the “donor”-powers to “evoke appropriate measures with consequences.” Museveni engineered a political deal; he did not change the strategic game and he cannot “guarantee” the fulfillment of the promises and directives. That rests squarely on the shoulders of the “donor”-powers if they can bear the burden.
Mahiga expressed his satisfaction with the Kampala Accord: “I am delighted that we have managed to overcome the deadlock in such a constructive way. … The Somali leadership now needs to focus on implementing reforms, continuing to restore peace and security for Somalis, and accomplishing the tasks required to complete the transition.”
The Kampala Accord Starts to Unwind
On the ground, massive demonstrations against the Kampala Accord and in favor of Farmajo’s retention erupted in Mogadishu on June 9 and continued and turned violent on June 10. The protestors considered the prime minister to be the only leader in the T.F.I.s who was honest, service oriented, and public spirited. In a public statement, Farmajo thanked the protestors for their support and urged them to return to their homes. Meanwhile, the T.F.P.’s election committee announced that, despite the Kampala Accord, its preparations for August, 2011 elections would go forward and that they would be held. It appeared that the Kampala Accord was far from comprehensive, even of the T.F.I.s, and that it had not even necessarily “resolved” the term-extension controversy.
On June 11, Reuters reported that Farmajo announced that he would not resign as prime minister unless parliament “votes for the Kampala decision.” Reuters also reported that more than 200 members of parliament had released a statement that the Kampala Accord had deprived the T.F.P. of its right of oversight. Scarcely had the ink dried on the Accord and a new T.F.I. game was in full swing.
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago firstname.lastname@example.org