From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Dec 05 2008 - 08:28:39 EST
A Travesty in Somalia: Djibouti IV
Dec 5, 2008 - 7:59:53 PM
November in Somalia was a month of sound and fury signifying very little. The political scene remained the same as it had become in October, with the multitude of domestic factions jockeying for position, making or failing to secure alliances with one another, and unable to achieve even a shred of certitude about what a more stable power configuration might look like. The external actors were fixated on a spike in piracy, which they failed to acknowledge was attributable to a collapse of authority in the sub-state of Puntland, and made fruitless efforts to patch together a power-sharing agreement between the tattered Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and the
conciliatory wing of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia based in Djibouti (A.R.S.-D), as a withdrawal of Ethiopian occupation forces, which had failed to protect the T.F.G. from an insurgency led by the Islamic Courts movement, appeared to draw near. By early December, analysts, international and regional organizations, Western powers and regional states had reached a belated consensus that a "security vacuum" was opening up in Somalia - something that they should have admitted months before - but the external actors were unwilling or unable to take any effective measures to prevent its occurrence.
No doubt, there were shifts in the balance of power during November, yet none of them was decisive enough to purge the domestic and external actors of their radical certainty about the future, leading to rampant speculation among Somali intellectuals and foreign analysts who offered up prophecies of doom, pet nostrums and conspiracy theories, all of which symptomized the lack of trust among the political actors who could not gauge the others' intentions and, therefore, were unable to achieve clarity about their own. The result of uncertainty and mistrust was a blurring and fragmentation of lines of conflict that eliminated any actor from the position of protagonist.
Amid the confusion, the single discernible tendency, which was to be expected, was a reversion to clan as the driving force of political dynamics. For the first time since the rise of the Islamic Courts movement in 2006, Somali intellectuals, whom foreign analysts regularly ignore at their own peril, began discussing clan rivalries openly and often without even perfunctory deference to Somali nationalism. The re-emergence of clanist discourse was a response to a perceived shift in support by Addis Ababa and Washington, with Nairobi and Brussels in tow, from the Darod clan family, which was represented in the T.F.G. by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, to the Hawiye clan family, which was represented by the T.F.G.'s prime minister, Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein, and the head of A.R.S.-D, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad.
The attempt by Addis Ababa and Washington to isolate and probably to depose
Yusuf, who has resisted power sharing between the T.F.G. and A.R.S.-D, was taken
as a sign by the Hawiye that their marginalization had ended, and by the Darod
and Rahenweyne that they had become vulnerable. The pursuit of a power-sharing
deal that would allow Addis Ababa the cover to withdraw its forces from Somalia
and settle back into its accustomed policy of exploiting clan divisions to weaken the country, and would give Washington the cover to claim that it had prevented Somalia from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda (even if the agreement would not be worth the paper it was written on) has had the consequence of putting the Darod into play as a new potential "spoiler" and has emboldened the Hawiye. In addition, neither Nur Adde nor Sheikh Sharif is perceived widely any longer as a national reconciling figure, diminishing the credibility of any deals they make. In short, the major shift in the balance of power in Somalia in November promises to destabilize the country even further - if that is possible - and to put in motion a process that might satisfy Addis Ababa, but would run contrary to Western perceived interests.
The Travesty of Djibouti IV
The move by external actors to pressure the T.F.G. and A.R.S.-D into a power-sharing agreement ("unity government") culminated in the fourth round of negotiations in Djibouti, sponsored by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia, in late November. Originally planned as a meeting to firm up previous agreements between the two parties on a cease fire (broken by both sides), the establishment of a joint
security force (yet to be initiated), the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Mogadishu (delayed for "technical" reasons) and the gradual institution of a unity government within the confines of the clan-based transitional constitution, the talks quickly foundered when A.R.S.-D demanded that it immediately be given seats in the transitional parliament and Prime Minister Nur Adde balked, counter-offering A.R.S.-D some cabinet posts.
A.R.S.-D was confident in mounting its power play, because the T.F.G. had ceased
to function in any sense, due to a deadlock between Yusuf and Nur Adde over the composition of the transitional cabinet that Addis Ababa had failed to resolve, the success of the armed factions of the broad and divided Islamic Courts movement (including factions affiliated with A.R.S.-D) in taking territorial control of most of central and southern Somalia, and signals from Addis Ababa that it was willing to support elements in the Courts movement that repudiated the militant trans-clan al-Shabaab group.
With A.R.S.-D holding the cards, Nur Adde caved in and acceded, under U.N. pressure, to an agreement that would double the size of the transitional parliament to 550 seats, with 200 of the new seats going to A.R.S.-D and 75 to civil society organizations, business interests and diaspora figures. The reformed parliament would elect a new president, effectively removing Yusuf, and would be legalized by "amendments to the Transitional Federal Charter." The transitional institutions would be given a two year extension beyond their August 2009 termination date, delaying the establishment of a permanent state structure in Somalia. Finally, a "working group" was to be established that would submit proposals to implement the agreement by the end of December, "under the facilitation of the United Nations," which is the front behind which the Western powers act and the other permanent members of the Security Council acquiesce.
It is not necessary to go into detail to show that Djibouti IV is a travesty; its flaws have been abundantly catalogued by Somali intellectuals: the 550 member parliament is unwieldy, the formula of representation is undetermined, the selection of representatives is neither transparent nor inclusive of opposition factions outside A.R.S.-D, and the agreement alienates factions in the T.F.G. loyal to Yusuf and representing clan interests reluctant to accept an increase in Hawiye power. It is surely too much to expect that these problems will be resolved in a month's time, if ever. Response to Djibouti IV among Somali political actors was predictable and showed that the basic political situation in Somalia had not changed appreciably. Both the militant faction of the A.R.S., based in Asmara, (A.R.S.-A) and al-Shabaab
rejected the agreement, as did the committee of Islamic scholars who have attempted to mediate the conflicts within the Courts movement. A.R.S.-A spokesman Ismail Haji Adow warned that if A.R.S.-D joined the parliament, "we will treat them like the T.F.G." The chairman of the Islamic scholars, Sheikh Bashir Ahmed Salad, commented that it was "unacceptable that a small group decides the destiny of the Somali people and signs an agreement with the group that brought Ethiopia into the country," and warned that Djibouti IV could lead to "civil war." On November 30, the scholars held a forum in Mogadishu on "Whither the Somali Jihad" that reportedly was attended by several thousand people, where they called for redoubling the struggle against the Ethiopian occupiers and their "allies."
Even elements of the Islamic Courts Union (I.C.U.) affiliated with A.R.S.-D repudiated Djibouti IV; on November 30, Courts spokesman Abdirahim Isse Adow read a statement by Sheikh Abdukadir Ali Omar, ground commander and deputy chairman of the I.C.U., stating that no unity government would be acceptable until after Ethiopian forces had withdrawn from Somalia. There was also displeasure within the ranks of A.R.S.-D; Mohamed Abdi Yusuf remarked that Djibouti IV was a compromise deal to get a unity government: "It is a bitter pill but we have to swallow it."
>From the side of the T.F.G., Yusuf flatly rejected Djibouti IV on the grounds that it was a "clan deal." Having traveled to the Darod's power base in Puntland where he was attempting to mediate disputes over the composition of the sub-state's electoral commission in advance of a scheduled January 2009 presidential election, Yusuf was also preparing to host a delegation of disaffected T.F.G. officials, including parliamentary speaker Adan Madobe, former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, and recently ousted mayor of Mogadishu, Mohamed Dheere, in order to form a counter-alliance. Garowe Online reported that the trip was postponed after Addis Ababa and the regional organization of Somalia and its neighbors - the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.), which has followed Addis Ababa's lead - "stopped" it. On December 1, Madobe endorsed Djibouti IV.
In response to the misgivings about and rejection of Djibouti IV, Abdirahman Warsame, who signed the agreement for A.R.S.-D, said that the non-participation
of "hardliners" in the Courts movement was of "no concern," since the Ethiopians
would pull out and the unity government would be "inclusive." Nur Adde expressed confidence that "the people will accept the new power-sharing agreement."
On the day following the signing of the Djibouti IV agreement on November 26,
Addis Ababa officially announced that it would withdraw all its forces from Somalia by December 31, setting off fears that the dreaded "security vacuum" was at hand, and calls by the African Union and Nur Adde for the Ethiopians to remain on the ground until they could be replaced by a multi-national force - either a beefed-up African Union mission, an international force sanctioned by the U.N., or a U.N. force, none of which is likely to materialize, since the Western donor powers, which would have to fund such a mission and exert strenuous diplomatic effort to staff it, do not have the resolve to do so. As Ethiopian spokesman Wahide Belay put it: "The expectations we had from the international community were never fulfilled."
Although it is unclear what Addis Ababa's announcement means - whether it is serious; a ploy to extort more support from Washington, which Britain's Guardian
newspaper reports is "terrified" of an Islamic state in Somalia; or the result of a secret deal with the I.C.U., which would turn against al-Shabaab in return for a promise that Addis Ababa would block recognition of Somaliland and Puntland by the African Union, as Abaha Welde Gorges has written in Garowe Online - it is most likely that Addis Ababa will retreat to border defense and mount incursions into Somalia whenever it perceives that its interests are threatened or that its allies of convenience in the country need help. That is, Djibouti IV gave Addis Ababa the cover it believed it needed to end its failed occupation, which has wound around to the same situation that it faced two years ago when it launched its invasion.
November in Somalia was much ado about nothing. The drainage of power down to
clan interests has continued; the splits within the Courts movement and the T.F.G. have deepened and have both reinforced clan divisions and cross-cut them; and control over territory by various clan and trans-clan Courts militias has widened and solidified. With Djibouti IV, the T.F.G. no longer exists except as a name for another political form that has yet to be instituted and is unlikely to be any more functional than its predecessor if it does come into being. External actors that might intervene lack the resources to do so; external actors that have the resources lack the will to act. The Ethiopian occupation, should it actually be terminated, will be replaced by looming clan conflict, destabilization of Puntland and the confounding of the various Islamic political formulas with clan interests.
Anyone who is willing to predict the political future of the entities comprising post-independence Somalia is on a fool's errand. It is impossible to estimate how long it will take for the political forces in southern and central Somalia to compose a discernible power configuration, how scheduled elections in 2009 will be negotiated in Puntland and Somaliland, and how external actors will attempt to meddle in Somali affairs, which they will surely do, even if their interference is mixed with malign neglect, as it so often has been.
Although there can be no credible and grounded forecasts about Somalia's political future, some modest advice to observers and actors is to look for signs of the emergence of a Darod interest and to watch Puntland closely as it teeters between devolution and re-consolidation. Puntland can no longer be held constant and ignored just because it is inconvenient to pay attention to it and to the Darod clan family that calls it home. Somehow the narrowly self-interested and short-sighted obsession with pirates has obscured Puntland
itself from view.
Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University
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