Somalia: Peace Prospects Sanaullah Baloch
Barre’s highly over centralised rule led Somalia to the current state of affairs. During the general’s unitary government Somalia experienced major armed conflicts, including a war with Ethopia, and indiscriminate use of force against the Issaq clan. That led to the secession of the northern part of Somalia, which became Somaliland.
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) came to an end in August and the new dispensation has taken over the process of political reconstruction.
However, Somalia, with millions living in displaced camps and with the country inundated with arms and ammunitions, faces an uphill task in restoration of peace and stability. Lack of dedicated leadership and absence of good governance, widespread resource conflicts, economic disarray, and external pressures are serious challenges that today’s Somalia is confronted with.
Somalia’s new constitution, adopted on August 1, 2012, introduces a new federal model for the country. Somalis, who lived under the unitary form of government for decades, are sceptical about the idea and consider federalism to be less viable for the homogeneous Somali society.
From 1969 to 1991, President Mohamed Siad Barre’s highly over centralised rule led Somalia to the current state of affairs. During the general’s unitary government Somalia experienced major armed conflicts, including a war with Ethopia, and indiscriminate use of force against the Issaq clan. That led to the secession of the northern part of Somalia, which became Somaliland.
In addition to these wars, many legacies of Barre’s over-centralised period fuelled conflicts in Somalia. First, the state had been oppressive and exploitative and was used by some political leaders to dominate others, to monopolise state resources and appropriate valuable land and other assets.
A constitution based on the principle of federalism and decentralisation can best suit Somalia, as the country is already divided into many self-proclaimed regions with their own administrations.
Besides complete implementation of the constitution, Somali stakeholders have to address the challenges that have torn the country apart in the last two decades. These challenges include the political integration of Islamists groups, particularly Al-Shabab, restoration of public trust in the country’s leaders, promotion of good governance, development of mechanisms for conflict resolution, demilitarisation and economic development. Equally important are management of the interests of regional and international actors in the region. To avoid further bloodshed, Al-Shabab’s leadership has to renounce violence and engage in political discourse. In the aftermath of the Arab spring, Al-Shabab needs to understand that non-violence political movements can better attain the objective of peace and stability.
Over the past two decades, one of the major impediments to the ending of turmoil has been lack of a strong, non-partisan leadership. As Ismail Osman, a Somali journalist said: “Somalia needs a leadership that can bring transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in the Somali political process. It is important that the government in Mogadishu provide an enabling environment and opportunities for the youth to take part in politics and in the development of Somalia. …The political culture shows little sign of embracing the necessary changes.”
Absence of good governance has made Somalis suspicious of governments. Many Somalis see the state as an instrument of domination, enriching and empowering those who control it and exploiting and harassing the rest of the population”.
The leadership in new federal Somalia has to amicably address the challenges of governance. Somali leaders need to restore people’s trust and confidence in the federal system and have to promote a participatory, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective, efficient, equitable and inclusive model of governance.
The new system must ensure that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account and the voice of the most vulnerable in society are heard in the process of decision-making.