Thursday, January 23, 2020
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Somalia: From Partner Forum to Accountability Partnership

By Faisal A. Roble

The Mogadishu conference of the Somali Partnership Forum (SPF) lasted for two days (October 1-2, 2019). The October conference was the last of a serious of four so far held – two in Somalia and two outside the country. This time, it was different from previous ones both in form and in content. In terms of form, it left a bad aftertaste.

DPM Mahdi Gulied

The conference was an optical disaster. The speech which the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), his Excellency Mahdi Mohammed Gulied, gave in his chosen foreign language (English) was not legible and compromised on the content of his message, and it effectively betrayed him in that most of what he wanted to convey was lost in the ether. As if that was not bad enough, he was followed by the newly appointed Mayor of Mogadishu, Honorable Omar Mohamed Finish, reportedly a former Warlord. He too was not served well by his choice of yet the same foreign language.  Mr. Finish was embarrassingly bad that his caricature prompted one to picture what racists in the antebellum era used to call sambo. He was so embarrassing to his listeners that his colleagues had to stop him!

Both leaders forgot that, when not proficient in a given foreign language and you represent your country at a higher capacity, it is preferable to use your own language.  More importantly, the masses of your country would like to hear it directly from you.

It wasn’t either a winning conference in terms of substance for Villa Somalia as evident from the final communique of the conference issued October 2, 2019.

The main theme of the conference was expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Mahdi Mohammed Gulied, who said the following:

“Somalia continues to make ever-increasing strides in overcoming challenges it presently faces on security, economic recovery, and social development. These landmark achievements so far have been made thanks to the commitment from Somali political stakeholders with generous financial and technical assistance from our international partners.”

Unfortunately, key stakeholders – Puntland and Jubaland – were not at the conference thanks to the autocratic-leaning rule of the current administration in Mogadishu. DPM Guild’s remiss was corrected by a cogent statement read by Mr. James Swan, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), who said the following:  all sectors of Somali society needed to be included in the political decision-making process, particularly women and youth, noting that “politics in Somalia cannot be fully inclusive without the meaningful participation of these large segments of the population.”

In the current system of governance in Somalia, Federal member states, the youth and women are not represented that which in effect slowed down the recovery of Somalia, and more so in the last three years.

Despite quite significant niceties and over-the-board diplomatic greetings which parties showered on each other, a representative from the British embassy spilled the beans when he unveiled how much donor countries are disappointed with the progress so far made and the [mis] direction of the country.

At the conclusion of what appeared to be a hastily organized and less attended conference, an overarching picture emerged for Somalis: After thirty years of a clan civil war that consumed one of Africa’s most homogenous nations, why is it that only anemic progress has been registered? This question and many others would require an in-depth study of Somalia’s post-civil-war recovery. Nonetheless, it is no longer a secret that a frustrated international community publicly expressed to President Farmajo that his country is from now on under a more nuanced road map called “Mutual Accountability Partnership.”

Somali Partnership Forum (SPF) held in Halane, Mugadisho

Under this new nomenclature of MAP, a more stringent road map so to speak, there will not be any more free lunch to Villa Somalia.  On the contrary, Somali leaders in Villa Somalia will be held accountable and be measured on deliverables in a timely fashion. In other words, except for non-emergency aid, all other programs including security sector funding, government capacity building, and reconstruction of the state of Somalia will be conditioned on first satisfying more stringent timelines and benchmarks with serious threshold and timelines to be met.    

One wonders why the UN and donor countries accepted mediocre results from the current administration and kept silent for about three years. Still, it is better late than never.

With a thick cloud by the absence of key states from the Mogadishu casting on the conference, the alarming stagnation of progress, the murder of the Mayor of Mogadishu, the late Abdirahman Yarisow, the reemergence of Al-Shabab as a parallel shadow state in Mogadishu, the ever delayed architecture of “inclusive politics, the “Mutual Accountability Partnership (MAP)” rightly puts Somali leaders in a bind – they have to report back regularly on about ten agenda items for donor countries. Here is a partial list of the MAP program to be reported by Villa Somalia.

1.  The security force must be finished by November 2019.
2.  Establish and work out Rules of engagement between SFG and FMS by December 3.
3. Finish electoral architecture and rules and regulations by December 2019.
4. Finish election registration.
5. Finish party regulations and registrations.
6. Start national reconciliation and complete it by Jan. 2020.
7. Come up with a plan for 30% set aside for women legislators and leadership at the   national level.
8. Finish the Draft Constitution in March 2020.
9. Must establish Security taskforce by November 2019 (next month).
10. Complete pacification of Mogadishu and decide on Banadir status ASAP.

This is only a partial list. On top of this, an extra headache lies in that this new road map calls for concerted resource mobilization to implement all these items. Somali leaders are not know for working on even a liberal timeline let alone as stringent as this one provided by MAP.

In the end, the international community was not shy of expressing its displeasure with the progress registered under President Farmajo’s reign. To that end, it said: “International partners noted that despite advances on a number of key priorities, strengthened political cooperation between the FGS and some Federal Member States (FMS) would have accelerated progress. Somalia’s leaders agreed that such cooperation is critical in order to make further progress on political, security and economic reforms, and that this will require the strong personal commitment of all FGS and FMS leaders.”

The key question is whether President Farmajo has the leadership to deal with his challenges through a mature strategic approach or still follow his populist and autocratic-leaning system of rule that has retarded the progress anticipated. This remains to be seen and I for one anxiously wait how he delivers on the items outlined in the MAP document.

Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division

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