From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Dec 23 2008 - 11:20:45 EST
Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State
Africa Report N°147
23 December 2008
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Since 1991 Somalia has been the archetypal failed state. Several attempts to
create a transitional set-up have failed, and the current one is on the
brink of collapse, overtaken yet again by an Islamist insurgency, despite
the support of an Ethiopian military intervention since December 2006. Over
the last two years the situation has deteriorated into one of the world’s
worst humanitarian and security crises. The international community is
preoccupied with a symptom – the piracy phenomenon – instead of
concentrating on the core of the crisis, the need for a political
settlement. The announced Ethiopian withdrawal, if it occurs, will open up a
new period of uncertainty and risk. It could also provide a window of
opportunity to relaunch a credible political process, however, if additional
parties can be persuaded to join the Djibouti reconciliation talks, and
local and international actors – including the U.S. and Ethiopia – accept
that room must be found for much of the Islamist insurgency in that process
and ultimately in a new government dispensation.
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has failed in four years to create
a broad-based government and now is non-functional, existing almost only in
name. President Abdillahi Yusuf has marginalised large parts of the
population and exacerbated divisions. The latest confrontation with
parliament and the prime minister has underlined that Yusuf hampers any
progress on peace, has become a liability for the country’s survival and
should be encouraged to resign.
Ethiopia’s attitude has hardened over the last few months, and the mood in
certain circles in Addis Ababa has become almost hostile to the TFG leaders,
in particular Yusuf. The intention to withdraw reflects this frustration, as
well as unwillingness to continue to accept considerable losses in a war
against the insurgency that is going badly. Opposition to the Ethiopian
occupation has been the single issue on which the many elements of the
fractious Islamist insurgency could agree. When that glue is removed, it is
likely that infighting will increase, making it difficult for the insurgency
to obtain complete military victory, or at least sustain it, and creating
opportunities for political progress.
For now, however, the Islamist fighters are gaining ever more ground. All
major towns in south-central Somalia have been captured by one faction or
another except for Mogadishu, where TFG control is ever more contested, and
Baidoa. The Islamists already dominate nearly as much territory as they did
before the Ethiopian invasion, and a takeover of the entire south seems
While the Djibouti peace process did initiate new dialogue, it has
accomplished little in its eight months, not least because the parts of the
Islamist insurgency that have the most guns and territory are not
participants. The key aim of its architects was to create a powerful
political alliance, capable of stabilising the country, marginalising the
radicals and stemming the tide of Islamist militancy. This was quickly made
unachievable by splits within the insurgent Alliance for the Re-liberation
of Somalia (ARS) as well as the TFG, and the rapid advance by the parts of
the opposition, in particular radical militias like Al-Shabaab, that reject
the process. The ARS faction located in Asmara (ARS-A) and its controversial
leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, also have stayed away from Djibouti. Those
around the table – the ARS faction based in Djibouti (ARS-D) and the TFG –
control very little territory. In addition, Yusuf has continuously
undermined the process, as he believes Djibouti is ultimately a strategy to
Despite the reluctance of the international community to engage with the
Islamist opposition, there is no other practical course than to reach out to
its leaders in an effort to stabilise the security situation with a
ceasefire and then move on with a process that addresses the root causes of
the conflict. Support for the process from countries with moral authority or
influence on the militias, such as Eritrea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
will need to be sought.
Timing is vital. The African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) originally
sent to Mogadishu to relieve the Ethiopians is far too small and weak and
will be at increasing risk from insurgent attacks following the Ethiopian
withdrawal. But it would be a bad idea to try to send a UN peacekeeping
mission in now, as the U.S. is urging the Security Council to do, when there
is no viable peace process and sufficient troops cannot be found. The
priority must be the political settlement, after which UN peacekeepers will
have a vital, traditional monitoring role to play.
There is no guarantee that a political settlement is achievable. The
militias that have carried the fight to the TFG and the Ethiopians and now
control most of the territory will be reluctant to negotiate just when they
have reason to believe that they have defeated their enemies and can take
what they want with guns. But there is no good alternative to making the
attempt. One way or the other, Somalia is likely to be dominated by Islamist
forces. It makes sense for the international community to use the incentive
of international recognition and extensive support for such a regime to
ensure that it draws in a wide spectrum of militia elements, including not
only ARS-A but also Al-Shabaab elements; respects the territorial integrity
of its neighbours, including Ethiopia, and the internationally guaranteed
rights of its people; and renounces any relationship with terrorists.
Consultations should be pursued with Muslim countries from outside the
region (Morocco, Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh) about
troop pledges so that the UN could swiftly introduce a peacekeeping
operation to support implementation of a serious ceasefire agreement, the
first step toward a genuine political settlement. If hard-core elements
reject negotiation and either press on to establish a more extreme regime or
fall into conflict with each other, however, Somalia will become an even
more chaotic and dangerous place. No conceivable peacekeeping force could
reasonably be expected to bring order. Parallel to the urgent efforts needed
to reform and re-energise the political process, therefore, contingency
planning should be started so that AMISOM can be swiftly evacuated if the
security situation deteriorates further, and it is repeatedly attacked.
Planning will also be needed on how such a Somalia might be cordoned off in
a way that minimises its ability to export instability and per-haps terror
to the region and even beyond.
To the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SRSG):
1. Use intermediaries and back channels to reach out to the insurgent
groups, including the Asmara-based ARS faction (ARS-A) led by Hassan Dahir
Aweys and Al-Shabaab, and be prepared to take in to the negotiations members
of such groups even if their current leadership refuses.
2. Set negotiation of a comprehensive ceasefire as the first step for the
expanded Djibouti peace talks toward a power-sharing arrangement.
3. Establish, once a ceasefire has been secured, a structure organised in
commissions, each with no more than 30 participants, to open negotiations on
the following issues:
(a) the drafting of a new constitution for Somalia within its current
internationally recognised boundaries and including the clarification of its
internal state boundaries, including addressing the implications of these
changes for the regions of Somaliland and Puntland;
(b) the integration of all armed forces into a common army and regional
police forces, devoted to the establishment of a secure environment for
completion of the transition;
(c) a comprehensive plan for the adoption of the constitution by
referendum, the holding of national elections and the progressive
integration of the various territories into the constitutional framework;
(d) transitional justice processes to address impunity and national
4. Encourage Somali participants in the Djibouti process to use influential
clan leaders, business community leaders, clerics and civil society to
create momentum and grassroots support for that process.
To the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia:
5. Negotiate humanitarian access separately from the Djibouti peace
process, geographic area by geographic area, to speed up food supplies and
alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.
To the United Nations Security Council:
6. Implement sanctions against a list of individuals who are known spoilers
of the peace process.
7. Authorise a UN peacekeeping operation only when a comprehensive
ceasefire has been achieved and a viable political process is in progress.
8. Appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the
allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides and
provide recommendations for a judicial process to address them and a
reconciliation process that should be incorporated in a negotiated
9. Enhance efforts to implement the Ethiopian-Eritrea border settlement, in
part to reduce the “proxy war” impact of this dispute on Somalia.
To the Transitional Federal President:
10. Resign from office and participate in the political process in a
privileged role as former TFG president.
To the Transitional Federal Parliament:
11. Proceed with an impeachment process in the absence of the TFG
president’s voluntary resignation and appoint to the office after the
president resigns a more conciliatory personality who has the capability to
reach out to all parties.
To the Insurgent Groups:
12. Renounce violence and human rights abuses, state a commitment to the
peace process, clarify positions on democracy and the role of Sharia
(Islamic law) in organising Somali society and renounce any relationship
with al-Qaeda or other terrorists.
13. Renounce irredentist claims over the Ogaden made in the past and
reassure Ethiopia of commitment to the principles of good neighbourliness.
To the Government of Ethiopia:
14. Withdraw its troops swiftly and in accordance with the Djibouti
15. Investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Ethiopian army in
Somalia and support the new Djibouti political process as outlined above.
To the Government of Eritrea:
16. End support for dissident Somali groups and support the Djibouti
To the U.S. Government:
17. Rebalance its counter-terrorism strategy in Somalia to give greater
weight to a political approach, support intra-Somali negotiations, including
with the Islamist insurgency, and consider removing individuals and groups
from its terrorism lists in exchange for a constructive role in the peace
18. Support the Djibouti process as described above, give support to Prime
Minister Nur Adde and press for the resignation of Abdillahi Yusuf as TFG
To the European Union and its Member States:
19. Support politically and financially the political processes described
above and Prime Minister Nur Adde, while ceasing all supportive contacts
with President Abdillahi Yusuf so as to encourage his resignation.
To the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the African Union
Peace Support Operations Division:
20. Start contingency planning to support swift evacuation of AMISOM if the
mission is repeatedly attacked in Mogadishu, and lead consultations with
troop-contributing countries for the deployment of a UN mission to support
implementation of a ceasefire agreement if agreed in the Djibouti process
and a viable political process is in progress.
Nairobi/Brussels, 23 December 2008
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