Assessing Ministerial HLPF Copenhagen Conference on Somalia
By Mohamud Uluso
In September 2013, International Development Partners (Donors) of Somalia endorsed a three year (2014-2016) “New Deal for Somalia” outlined in the Somali Compact (SC) and Somaliland Special Arrangement (SSA) in Brussels, Belgium and pledged 2.4 billion dollars for its implementation. The SC and SSA are complementary documents to the Provisional Constitution which is the supreme law of Somalia.
Thus, after one year, International Donors and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) were looking forward to filling the airwaves and international headline news with success and progress stories in Somalia during the first “Ministerial” High Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) conference on the “New Deal for Somalia” in Copenhagen, Denmark, 19-20 November 2014. More than 60 delegations and 400 participants were expected to attend the conference.
But, nasty political power struggle between President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed of FGS literally overshadowed and spoiled the celebration spirit of Copenhagen conference. The power struggle between the two leaders simmered for a while but Cabinet reshuffle announced by the PM but immediately made “null and void” by the President was the public trigger. Five days before the reshuffle that affected the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Review, H. E. Farah Abdulqadir, the Foreign Affairs Council of European Union (EU) issued statement saying among other things, “While the EU welcomes recent progress, further efforts will be needed if the ambitious timeline [2016 election] is to be met. The EU therefore urges the federal government of Somalia (FGS) to maintain momentum, unity of purpose and build the positive gains made to date.” This might offer another clue that precipitated the crisis.
The political crisis spilled over into the federal parliament where a motion of no confidence against the PM has been drafted “on all-purpose allegations.” It has also engulfed the Somali Cabinet, regional administrations, the Somali people, and the international community. The handling of the crisis has shown that the Somali politics has no ethics, proper conduct, legal constraints, and borders beyond which certain actions are not permissible because they constitute political malpractice. Within six months, members of the federal parliament have submitted two motions of no confidence, one against the president and one against the prime minister accusing both of them of the same failures. Furthermore, a group of ministers led by Minister Farah Abdulqadir demanded the prime minister to resign, which demonstrates the shamelessness of Somali politics.
There were no attempts to subject the PM’s action (reshuffle without consultation with the President), the President’s action (nullification of PM reshuffle decree and instruction to the cabinet), and the Parliament’s action (no confidence motion on “all-purpose allegations”) to independent expert opinion or judgment. This would have established good governance practices.
In the weeks before the Copenhagen conference and in the context of the legitimate politics goal of the New Deal, of clan federalism and reconciliation, diplomats of the international community undertook serious attempts to diffuse the political crisis with no avail. The UN Special Representatives for Somalia Ambassador Nicholas Kay proposed a “mutually satisfactory compromise” and warned against vote buying for no confidence motion. Then, EU, US, UK, Germany, and Italy issued press statements asking the suspension of no confidence motion against the PM for unity, stability, and continuity, which stands for cohabitation between them. IGAD played double game. Egypt called for an emergency meeting of Arab League committee on Somalia. The United States cancelled its participation at Copenhagen conference and floated the possibility of cutting aid to Somalia. These serious signals did not dissuade President Hassan and his supporters from pushing forward the no confidence motion against the PM.
For political, economic, and administrative considerations, most invited countries decided to send low level delegations to the conference. The host country, Denmark, was forced to cancel invitations and special ceremonies and to restrict media and public access to conference area and to increase security protection. Many observers hoped that President Hassan would not go to Copenhagen but he did.
Copenhagen Conference Speeches
The headline of the opening speech of Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, the Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs, was “Somalia cannot afford pattern of division, paralysis.” In his speech, Mr. Jeffrey anticipated the participation of “presidents” Abdiweli Gas of Puntland and Ahmed Madobe of Jubbaland who declined to attend the conference. He expressed great sadness at the political infighting and urged President Hassan to resolve the crisis rapidly with new commitment to unity and stability. Again, in his concluding remarks, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman echoed compromise solution expressed during the conference which turned out to be false hope.
Federica Mogherini, the High Representative/Vice President of EU, and Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development were expected to attend the conference but both kept low profile outside. The speech of the EU Representative described as harsh and critical of President Hassan has not been circulated to the media.
The speech of President Hassan carried resentment and frustration towards the international community and was filled with assertive claims by calling the international community to respect the sovereignty and independence of Somalia and of country led and owned principle of the New Deal. For the first time, President Hassan deflected the pressure to move quickly on the implementation of vision 2016 and argued that “the constitution, federalism and preparing for national elections in Somalia must be in the hands of Somalis, with the support of international partners…. Reconciliation must not lead to compromise and continuity should not be confused with progress. National unity cannot be delivered through external intervention.”
He made reference to the political standoff between him and the PM to quickly point out that “no one wants progress than him and that he will not accept less than leadership with vision, competence and integrity to move the agenda of Somalia forward.” He complained about the role of third parties delivering public goods and services directly to the people of Somalia.
Ironically, President Hassan recognized and extended his gratitude to “the prime minister, the council of ministers, ministers, agencies and government staff for their hard work and dedication and request their continued efforts in terms of implementing their roles.” Then in an interview, he accused the cabinet of incompetence and inefficiency.
Philippe Lazzarini, UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, presented the real face of the situation in Somalia where 3.2 million Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance which is dwindling. One million of the 3.2 million are unable to meet their basic food requirement. The Coordinator underscored that, “many figures have been mentioned already but I would like to flag that there are a number of humanitarian indicators that are similar to the situation in 2010 ahead of the famine. …We are for the first time since the end of the devastating famine seeing an increase in the number of people in Somalia who struggle to meet their daily needs.” The Somali leaders failed to mention this looming humanitarian crisis in their speech and as part of their priorities.
To improve the impact of the Somali Compact, SaferWorld and World Vision– Independent International Organizations- prepared a briefing on the weaknesses (gaps) and strengths of the New Deal for presentation to HLPF Copenhagen conference. The briefing has identified that the availability of the New Deal information only in English has limited the participation and common understanding of the local population. It also noted the considerable disagreements on the suitability of federalism to address clan conflicts and competition in Somalia. The briefing advocates quick completion of fragility assessment and devotion of attention and resources to conflict sensitivity approaches at community levels to mitigate conflict drivers.
The final 24 points Communiqué did not provide quantitative or qualitative indicators about the first year impact of the New Deal, including the total financial outlays spent from domestic resources and from $2.4 billion aid pledged by donors. The communiqué urged the federal government to strengthen the link between the central and local administrations.
The priority actions recommended for 2015 include actions on inclusive politics and legitimacy, effective judicial system, completion of maritime security strategy, funding of police and civilian staff working in local administrations by the FGS, integration of local armed forces and development of Somali National Army (SNA) as discussed in London Security event, finalization of federal structures, establishment of Inter-Regional Consultative Forum (IRCF), establishment of independent constitutional review and implementation, of parliamentary constitution oversight committee, of national independent electoral commission, of boundaries and federation commission, reengagement with International Financial Institutions-IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank-, establishment of anti-corruption commission, completion of the “windows” of the New Deal Financial Architecture managed by WB, IMF, AfDB, UN, Financial Governance Committee (FGC), transparent and accountable public financial management (PFM), and an international conference on Somalia’s infrastructure priorities and projects.
The conference expressed alarm about the looming humanitarian crisis but did not offer specific pledges beyond the expression of support for building resilience through better linkages between humanitarian and development programs.
The tension between President Hassan and the International Partners weakens the FGS and complicates the future of the population under FGS’s jurisdiction. In addition, the incompatibility between the complex requirements of the New Deal (the Somali Compact) process and the dysfunctional nature of the FGS exacerbated by security, objective constraints, and other nagging problems will escalate public discontent and political conflicts.
The attitude of the leaders of the FGS, namely to embrace certain goals without undertaking the necessary efforts to accomplish them through domestic policy development, a democratic and legislation process will increase the likelihood of failure. The leaders of the FGS commit crime and political malpractice if they enter into international commitments without the will, conviction, and capability to hold up their side of the bargain or deliberately sidestep the constitution.
(*) Mr. Mohamud M Uluso can be reached directly via mohamuduluso[AT]gmail.com