Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, May 2010
New Strategy to Resolve the Somali Conflict
By Mahamed Abdullahi
Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, May 3, 2010
I hereby forward to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) institutions, wider Somali public and the international community an alternative strategic plan to resolve the catastrophic situation and leadership paralysis long prevailing in Somalia. The current TFG whose term expires August 2011 has totally failed due to lack of national vision, poor leadership and systemic corruption. This government continues to cling to the erroneous opinion that it can implement its mandate by end of its term. It fails to recognize at a great peril to the future of our people the realities on the ground that demand swift and concrete changes of mandate, strategy and the entire modus operandi. TFG’s long publicized military offensive to rout the armed opposition, dubious peace deals and the illegal process of writing new constitution for the country in neighboring countries’ five star hotels are empty measures designed to deflect public opinion so to prolong its stay in office which means continuation of the status quo.
The armed and extremist opposition groups are another failure having repeatedly rejected many peace proposals from different quarters and are unable to overthrow the TFG. They do not offer an alternative workable national solution other than continuation of the long conflict giving it a more dangerous religious anecdote and its internationalization. TFG’s weak leadership, lack of proper counterinsurgency plan, high profile corruption scandals and the international community not delivering repeatedly pledged funds and material support has emboldened the opposition. The balance of power currently in favor of the armed opposition must be tackled head on to eliminate the plague of extremism, give chance to future peace talks and institute long term solutions.
Continuation of this situation only means destruction of Somali nationhood and identity.
The much suffering Somali nation urgently needs new approach and direction for national rebirth. The era of holding peace conferences in foreign lands to replace failed transitional government with another failure bound transitional government must end. Lasting solution must come from within on national basis and people’s participation. The current TFG mandate mainly centered on reconciliation, preparation of the contentious federal constitution and multiparty elections has failed to be implemented for its lack of national consensus and not first resolving the security dilemma. TFG needs new achievable mandate which first focuses on restoring national security and unity and from there embark on the long processes of constitution making, decentralization, multiparty elections, development and further solidify national reconciliation. This approach is the only way by which peace, reconciliation and governance can prevail in Somalia. In this context, it is of paramount importance to urgently and meticulously reform the current TFG.
Outline of the plan:
Formation of new national government, change of TFG mandate and amendment of the Interim Charter
1. Formation of new national government
a. A new prime minister is to be named and approved by parliament to form new national government. The new cabinet must be reasonably sized (i.e. twenty ministers and five ministers of state) due to financial limitations and efficiency factors. Also, ten assistant ministers are to be named to broaden power sharing.
b. The new leadership must be selected on the basis of merit, competency and high integrity. The new government must fully embrace the far reaching reforms contained in this plan.
c. The new government will call for and start serious peace talks with all opposition groups.
2. New mandate of the TFG
a. Restoration of national sovereignty and unity, security and rule of law.
b. Mobilization and organization of the people inside and outside the country for national defense, reconciliation and development.
c. Relief, economic recovery, reconstruction and environmental protection.
d. Public service, capacity building and good governance.
e. Organizing national reconciliation and reconstitution conference inside the country.
3. Amendments to the Interim Charter
a. The new government will setup a legal committee to review the Interim Charter to amend its articles that are not consistent with the new mandate and also improve it to operate harmoniously with the emergent political dispensation.
b. The infamous 4.5 clan power sharing formula must be abolished due to its illegal and unjust nature. It has to be replaced with 5 clan power sharing formula on equal basis further improving government legitimacy, national unity and public support.
c. The new mandate and all other amendments have to be incorporated as part of the Interim Charter.
Review, reorganization and resource mobilization
1. The new government has to start its work by commissioning a comprehensive review process of the political, security and socio-economic situation of the country to produce an extensive national policy and strategic plan that will guide it.
a. The review process will focus on among others defense, security and intelligence; justice and reconciliation; finance, economic recovery, national planning and development; public service, capacity building and good governance; information, public mobilization and organization; foreign policy and international cooperation.
b. The government has to hold high profile public consultative meetings inside the country with each of the important sectors of society such as the traditional elders, religious leaders, business community, civil society, Diaspora, high ranking former civil, diplomatic, armed forces officers to gather their input and support for the review process and in the wider scope mobilize public support for the government.
2. Reorganization process covers the laws, public administration, international cooperation, military and security apparatus.
a. Effective and expanded state of emergency laws and regulations has to be introduced to better combat the internal emergency. The government will setup a legal committee to prepare such emergency laws and regulations.
b. High security zones need to be established to enable the government, foreign embassies and prominent members of society supporting the government to operate in an environment of safety.
c. Grand corruption cases must be investigated and prosecuted to end the reign of corruption. For the government to make public administration effective and regain Somali citizens and international partners’ confidence it must seriously fight corruption and immediately adopt transparency and good governance practices. Effective National Anti-corruption Commission has to be setup to fight corruption. State officials and employees must be required by law to register their wealth and assets before assuming office.
d. Public service, judiciary and the diplomatic corps has to be overhauled to professionalize, modernize and their capacity strengthened as a matter of top priority. Effective system of public communication needs to be developed. State radio, television and information technology services has to be setup, expanded and modernized as an indispensable tool for informing, educating and guiding the public.
e. Parliament must be reorganized due to its expansion to six hundred ten members as a result of abolishing 4.5 formula, prevailing financial difficulties and for its efficient operations. The full parliament will only meet once a year. Parliament elects new Chair (Speaker and two Deputy Speakers) and another ninety seven of its members to form the Parliament Standing Committee to represent the full parliament and carry out its regular activities throughout the year. Members of the Parliament Standing Committee must be selected on the basis of merit, competency and high integrity. The Parliament Standing Committee is subdivided into the regular parliamentary committees.
f. The country will be divided into six super regions and corresponding military operational zones (southern, southwestern, capital, central, northeastern and northwestern) with parallel civil and military authorities. The regions and operational zones are designed in a manner to include all five major clans in each of them in order to ensure national unity, easy diffusion of national authority and create the environment of success for the counterinsurgency campaign. The governors and commanders leading each region and operational zone will not be from the area they are appointed to administer. The government must establish early presence in all six regions and operational zones to act as bridgeheads to introduce national authority and points of expansion.
g. In areas under government control all residents will be required by law to register and provided national identity card. The public will be legally required to carry national identity card at all times. Internally displaced people will be placed in controlled camps. These measures are aimed at isolating insurgents from the public.
h. The reorganization process includes mobilization of the wider public into non military national service program to undertake reconstruction and development works and as well serve as a labor program to reduce the rampant unemployment. Diaspora too are mobilized and organized in a centralized manner for lobbying the nation’s interests internationally, resource mobilization and national development.
i. The new government and international partners have to solidify and coordinate their cooperation in new negotiated arrangement. It is of paramount importance that sufficient, timely and coordinated international support is secured and directly offered to the new Somali government.
j. Military and security apparatus reorganization must be carried out on national basis across clan and regional lines. Armed forces command has to be reformed and new strategy and tactics evolved. Former Somali armed forces officers and personnel need to be mobilized to provide leadership, training and form the overall base and model for the new forces. To succeed in today’s modern and complex counterinsurgency warfare all armed services including the airforce and navy has to be reestablished. They must be provided adequate training and equipment. All basic training needs to be carried out inside the country in training camps setup in all operational zones to develop internal capacity and produce enough trained troops in short period of time. Foreign training will be for further and specialized trainings.
k. The national government has to directly and independently recruit its own troops from all over the country and mixed them across clan and regional lines. Militias who do not qualify to be part of the new army or police will be rehabilitated and inducted into the national service. To build professional and loyal forces as well raise moral and recruitment, the government has to provide reasonable basic salary, medical care and extra allowance for soldiers with families on regular and guaranteed basis. Continuation of the basic salary as pension, medical care and assistance with social development schemes need to be introduced as well for the wounded soldiers and families of soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty.
l. The national government must regain control of the airspace, airports and ports as the Interim Charter stipulates. Airports and ports not under the direct government control or management have to be blockaded except to inspected humanitarian traffic.
m. The Somali government has to secure complete lifting of the UN arms embargo on the government in order to sufficiently rebuild the Somali armed forces. Without the lifting of the arms embargo no counterinsurgency and stabilization campaign can succeed. The arms and other embargoes against the opposition have to remain, further strengthened and actively implemented.
3. Resource mobilization
a. The new government will organize in partnership with international partners a donor conference and debt cancellation for Somalia.
b. The government must strengthen and expand internal tax collection throughout the country across all businesses to increase national tax revenue. Somalia's funds and assets frozen outside the country have to be unfrozen to increase the available resources for the new government.
c. Non resident tax for the Diaspora has to be introduced to further increase government revenues. Diaspora too must contribute to national defense and development like other citizens inside the country. Diaspora tax evaders will be denied entry visa, consular services, voting rights, holding public office and enjoy future Diaspora investment benefits such as tax breaks until they pay all backdated tax.
d. Diaspora has to further contribute on charity basis to the National Relief and Development Fund supporting various relief and development projects throughout the country.
Counterinsurgency and stabilization campaign
1. Upon completion of the preparation phase a nationwide counterinsurgency and stabilization campaign will be launched to restore public security, rule of law and national unity. The preceding preparation phase does not prohibit defensive and limited operations.
a. A multifaceted approach to counterinsurgency has to be adopted. The insurgents need to be targeted at all levels whether ideological, military, intelligence, informational and at socio-economic levels.
b. National defense, security and intelligence center has to be established to centrally coordinate the campaign across the armed forces and government institutions.
c. The campaign must ensure it retains the hearts and minds of the people and their active support at all times. The government has to provide relief and medical aid in partnership with international partners to displaced citizens and immediately institute security, judiciary, reconciliation, public services and development in the liberated areas.
d. The campaign has to also tackle foreign fighters, funding, arms supply and external sanctuaries for the armed opposition. Elements of Diaspora supporting the armed opposition have to be stopped in all manners possible. Charcoal exports have to be banned and ports where charcoal is exported must be blockaded to further squeeze opposition funding and protect the environment. Foreign governments and international organizations concerned with these matters have to be actively engaged to seek their full cooperation.
2. Role of AMISOM peacekeeping force
a. AMISOM mandate must remain unchanged as approved by the UN Security Council.
b. AMISOM will not play primary role in the counterinsurgency and stabilization campaign for it has to be a Somali owned and led to ensure its long term success.
c. AMISOM must cease unnecessary artillery barrages against civilian populated areas.
a. Piracy can only be tackled permanently by restoring governance, public services and development at the areas pirates operate and stopping foreign vessels plundering Somali marine resources and dumping toxic waste.
b. The national government has to directly takeover the districts pirates operate from and patrol the Somali exclusive economic zone to stop illegal acts of piracy, fishing and toxic waste dumping.
c. Pirates must face prosecution and imprisonment only in Somalia under the national government as specified by the law. Somali government has to actively seek all pirates in foreign custody to be repatriated to restore our sovereignty and government public standing. To achieve this goal, Somalia must improve its judiciary and prisons as top priority in collaboration with international partners.
National reconciliation and reconstitution conference inside Somalia
1. Following restoration of security, rule of law and reunifying the entire country, a national reconciliation and reconstitution conference is convened inside the country.
a. The conference is to discuss all long standing national issues and conflicts without exceptions and conditions to achieve national reconciliation and maps out the future of the nation. The conference has to be given sufficient time in order to reach a lasting national reconciliation.
b. The conference also convened as a constitutional convention will adopt a new Transitional Constitution and establishes new National Parliament on non-clan basis of electoral constituencies and National Unity Government representative of all sectors of society. The new National Unity Government is tasked to prepare and hold referendum for a permanent national constitution, implement decentralization, hold multiparty elections in stages and further solidify the long processes of reconciliation and development within prescribed time period as set by the conference.
2. The Somali government and people must fund the conference through a national fund to free it from financial pressures and enhance its independence.
The necessary and must implemented strategic plan articulated above is possible to be put into action in the immediate term if there is enough political will and of visionary leadership with strong character. Exceptional responsibility lies with Somali parliamentarians therefore they have to reconvene immediately from their near year long recess and unite to defend the nation's interests like their historic rejection of the memorandum of understanding with Kenya on delimitation of maritime boundary. The ongoing bickering of parliamentarians centering on whose mandate the parliament chair or current government has expired was engineered by the top leaders to keep them divided so not to reconvene and hold them accountable. This bickering is irrelevant for always the parliament has the authority to give its vote of confidence on both of them.
As the base of TFG, the parliament must once again rise to the occasion by adopting the far reaching reforms this strategic plan proposes. These reforms entail evolutionary changes necessitated by the prevailing political and security environment in the country and will be adopted democratically through the parliament in accordance with the Interim Charter. There is no need for major structural changes to the current TFG system. This phased approach to a lasting reconciliation and peace is what Somalia needs and anything less will fail.
The Somali conflict is not different from other conflicts around the world and can be overcome. There must be full support and participation from the Somali people. At the end of the day, it lies with the Somali people to uplift themselves from the long suffering and indignity. Our victory lies in our just aims, moral and political unity, hard labor and solidarity of our people.
The expanding conflict in Somalia has adverse influence on regional and wider international security. Somalia to achieve peace with itself and its neighbors is in the interest of all humanity. The international community has moral obligation to re-engage in Somalia in a very serious manner as it does with other conflict areas. It is not enough to "observe" or "wait and see" as has been the norm in the past two decades of Somali conflict. Friends and international partners of Somalia must genuinely offer all necessary support in sufficient, timely and coordinated manner channeled directly through the new Somali government.
This strategic plan offers a practical way out of the current national catastrophe therefore all stakeholders to this honorable endeavor have to act and must act now!
The writer is involved in Somali politics and writes on national solutions and strategies.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org.
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