By Liban Ahmad
Somali MPs and Senators will elect a president of the Federal Republic of Somalia on 8 February. Britain’s engagement with Somalia will enter a new phase. Whether the incumbent, unpopular President is re-elected or a new broom takes over, Britain’s role in Somalia will be scrutinised on its enabling role to help Somali political leaders work together for the benefit of Somali people. Britain pioneered the initiative to end the transitional period of the Somali politics in 2012. However, the new leadership that came on the scene in September 2012 binned a cardinal tenet of the agreement to end the transition: to channel assistance aid for Somalia through the Joint Financial Management Board unveiled in London almost five years ago.
This wilful disregard for commitment to transparency has cost Somalia opportunities to access development assistance. The frustration of Somalis with AMISOM as an entity that gets more funding priority to keep Al-Shabaab at bay reflects contradiction in the stabilisation model for Somalia. The International Community has yet to find a way to reconcile the irreconcilable goals to fund African peace-keeping forces and rebuild the Somali army and security forces. The decision to fund forces of federal states instead of the clan-based Somali Army is a temporary solution that could undo the spirit of political cooperation that Britain’s engagement has contributed to the Somali political landscape.
Admission of policy failure is commendable but what Somalis would like to see in place is an approach that can push Somali political leaders towards deliberations, consensus-building and accountability at the federal government and federal state levels. Somalis were aware of the anomalies and inadequacies in the stabilisation model, but it took the London-based The Economist to highlight those facts and trigger a policy review on the part of Somalia’s International Partners.
The adoption of a quota for Somali women MPs in the federal parliament is undeniably putting Somalia on the road to recovery. Somali women had selflessly assumed the role of a breadwinner when men destroyed the state, and unemployment soared at an astronomical rate. Somalia’s ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index is still high, but Somalis are becoming intolerant of political corruption, as the themes in pro-change presidential candidates’ political programmes indicate.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is organising a Somalia Conference for the Federal Government of Somalia later this year. For the conference to make a meaningful contribution to the political progress in Somalia conference organisers could do well to consider incorporation of a session on the plight of Somali minorities into the conference agenda.
One-fifth of the Somali population under the current power-sharing mechanism is a clan without a federal state. The status of the Fifth Clan (previously known as Others ) means fewer life opportunities and more political oppression for minorities. The conference can be a golden opportunity to commit Somali political leaders to action-plans to widen the political participation of minorities in the federal government and federal states. Institutionalising federal states without de-institutionalising marginalisation of Somali minorities will deepen political inequalities.
By sensitising Somalis political leaders to the plight of Somali minorities Britain will signal that its friendship with Somalia is based on commitment to shared democratic values. Any international assistance from donor countries to Somalia must be assessed on, among other indicators, outcomes from policies aimed at widening political participation of Somali minorities.
As the World Bank’s World Development Report 2017 states: “Unequal distributions of power can lead to exclusion, capture, and clientelism.” Britain can help Somalia frame the discussion on the rights of Somali minorities in the agenda the Word Bank has outlined in its latest the report on world development. The London Somalia Conference in 2017 is the best opportunity to change the World Bank recommendation into a policy initiative for the Federal Government of Somalia to be formed soon.