Somalia: After Col. Barre Hirale concession, what‘s next for Jubaland?
Analysis by Abdirashid M. Dahir| The return of former Defence Minister Col. Barre Adan Shire (Barre Hirale) to political arena seems a paradigm shift and striking political achievement when it comes to Jubaland peace process after over two-decades of anarchic clan feuds and terror operations in the coveted and strategic seaport of Kismayo. Despite trivial grudges, Barre Hirale’s move sent local communities of Jubaland into celebration and at the same time demonstrated the precarious statesmanship of Col. Hirale who spent a year in nearby Goobweyn.
In advance of what is next for optimistic Jubaland people, it is quite crucial to shed light on combat experience of Col. Hirale, recent track record for Somali bloody stalemate and his future role in contributing to progress.
Pariah but strongman
In my weekend column i have no preference between President of Jubaland Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe) and former chief of once powerful Jubba Valley alliance Col. Hirale who has more recently accepted to quit boisterous forces on the ground. Being prestigious US military academy graduate made the adamant colonel a popular in national politics.
He arrived back in Somalia in 1990s and took up arms against Aydiid militiamen in Gedo region of southwestern Somalia. His loyalists flushed occupying forces from Mogadishu out of Gedo region by subsequently striking unity deal with Gen. Mohamed Said Hirsi Morgan.
No sooner had they voiced support for Jubaland than the two broke ranks with each other. Given the formation of Jubaland was hot issue at the time, now Barre Hirale’s standpoint on Kismayo is flexible.
Former transitional Federal Government of Somalia’s President late Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed appointed Col. Barre Hirale as the Defence minister, placing him atop in the high level counter insurgency in Middle Juba and the southern port city of Kismayo in 2006. Pariah scenario emerged after Col. Hirale and his militia vacated Kismayo in June 2013 following days of deadly clashes with Rasa Kamboni brigades.
Despite the fact that the longtime warrior laid claim to Jubaland presidency, he later proved vulnerable and stationed his private militiamen in Goobweyn where he left for Kismayo last week as a result of robust talks.
As of now, Bare has not gained popularity among Jubaland people, with his monopolistic approach and ‘divide and rule’ policy plunging the fledgling state deeper into political uncertainty. He is still pariah but can only reshape his geopolitical influence if he lobbies for peaceful co-existence and put an end to long-running bitter split.
Madobe versus Hirale
Col. Barre Hirale’s rival to whom he conceded defeat-Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Ahmed Madobe)- has long sought social and political solution to standing differences, however the pariah colonel posed challenge to every effort being undertaken by Madobe and his henchmen.
Though Jubaland leader is committed to uplifting the lives of millions who suffered from sporadic battles over the control of fertile tracts of land along Juba River and the second largest seaport, Kismayo, he needs to politically surrender too much at this early stage to realize historic development in various fronts.
Landslide victory of Madobe on May 15, 2013 is being billed as a step towards creation of effective federal member state which shoulders political and economic responsibility of local communities in Jubaland.
Definitely today Col. Barre Hirale is keen to join Somalia political landscape again as he preferred to shake hands with Ahmed Madobe following persistent and overt mediation efforts but difficult question if not conundrum looms over the fate of the former army commander.
What is next for Jubaland?
As he said at an event held in Mogadishu where he maintains close allies and considerable support, Col. Barre Hirale officially renounced violence and has not left any militiamen behind either, henceforth what’s next for Jubaland? Among the pressing issues at hand are fight against Al Shabaab group, in depth reconciliation and implementation of Juba agreement.
The former Juba Valley Alliance Chief can assist Jubaland administration in liberating Baardheere, Jilib and Bu’alle from Islamist militants in line with Juba agreement which was signed in Addis Ababa in August 2013 in the presence of Ethiopia as guarantor. Ahead of the anticipated military offensive against Al Shabaab fighters, Hirale militiamen should be either integrated into Somali National Army (SNA) or Jubaland forces in a bid to squeeze extremists out of the remaining strongholds.
On the consolidation of Jubaland peace process, rival politicians in the region are expected to agree on mutual consensus about a year-long bloody conflict by taking advantage of forth coming peace-building conference in Kismayo by mid-September. The most stunning peaceful reaction came from Gedo residents that Col. Hirale belongs to shortly after the concession.
The implementation of bilateral agreement between Somalia’s Federal Government and President Madobe is of utmost priority for all parties, particularly the handover of Kismayo airport and seaport, two key cash generating sources of revenue that led to deadly disputes in the past.
With almost one year left to the date on which Madobe’s tenure of office would expire, I do believe that Col. Bare Hiraale has slender chance to unseat neither candidate in 2015 Jubaland presidential elections.
Whatsoever, supremacy of will and aspirations of Jubaland people is stronger than future murky agendas of opportunists with the vision of dooming the public interests to failure.
Abdirashid M. Dahir, in Puntland capital of Garowe has contributed to this weekend column - follow him on twitter @puntsom