What the Galkayo conflict means to Somalia By Liban Ahmad

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By Liban Ahmad

The sporadic war in the outskirts of Galkayo is yet another evidence that the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is either unable to act impartially or is ineffectual at bringing two warring federal member states to the negotiating table to work out a durable solution. 

Although it is not easy to pin the blame either on Puntland or Galmudug for starting the Galkayo confrontation, it is important to note that the FGS has airlifted wounded Galmudug soldiers to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, but has denied wounded Puntland soldiers a similar medical facilitation.                                              This federal government decision could lead to state-wide demonstrations in Puntland and possible derailing of the presidential elections to take place in November.  If the latter scenario comes to pass, it might lead to extension of the FGS’s term in office.

There is little doubt that the federalism project in Somalia has hit a major snag if federal leaders turn out to be partial or lack legitimacy nationwide. It may sound far-fetched to blame a federal government with no national army for failing to contain the conflict in Mudug region. Its status as a permanent  government formed in 2012 entitles it to be seen as the sole representative of Somalia in the international fora. 

With this privilege comes higher expectations, despite the absence of governmental capacity and willingness to build consensus among political stakeholders in federal member states. 

Galkayo district enjoyed relative peace until Interim Galmudug Administration was formed in 2014. Puntland objected to the formation of Galmudug as federal state for not meeting the constitutional criteria for federal state formation. Another catalyst for the conflict is the federal government’s insistence that the Somali National Army (SNA) is based in South Mudug, a region controlled by the Interim Galmudug Administration. 

This national defence policy is powder keg due to the contested nature of the Somali Army made up of clan militias with a single, nominal commander in Mogadishu. The so-called Somali Army in Mudug can join the conflict on the side of Galmudug because no efforts has been made by the federal government to make the army inclusive. That is why the international community opted for the policy to strengthen the capacity  of regional administration forces who are more capable of fighting Al Shabaab extremist group. 

According to the UN, the Galkayo conflict has displaced 50,000 people in a district  already grappling with internally displaced  people from other parts of Somalia. Neither the argument that federalism is the solution to Somalia’s persistent political problems nor the purported ability of the Federal Government of Somalia to promote reconciliation has any merit in the face of Galkayo crisis.

peace agreement signed in 1993 in Mogadishu by General Mohamed Farah Aideed and Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (both deceased ) became a springboard for peaceful co-existence of clans in Galkayo and a model to which other war-torn regions of Somalia looked up to. After  23 years, the Galkayo agreement has come under intense political pressure that brings back traumatic experiences of 1991 clan wars in and around Galkayo.

The Somali generation born in 1991 does not have enduring memories of early 1990s civil war or what it means to have lived through internecine wars caused by state collapse and warring political elites. This generation is the least war-prone segment of the Somali society and the pillar on which a future, prosperous Somalia will rest. Somali  political leaders at national and federal member state levels must be persuaded or pressured to return from the brink and avoid consuming the future of another generation in the coals of a pointless civil war.

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