President Obama Is Backing The Wrong Partners In Somalia
Two years ago, President Obama cited “impressive security and political gains in Somalia” to support his decision to grant diplomatic recognition for the fragile government of Somalia. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the diplomatic recognition of the President Hassan Mohamud’s government, the first Somali government America recognized since 1991, a “new chapter” between the two countries.
Last month, Obama nominated a career diplomat Katherine Dhanani to serve as the new U.S. ambassador to Somalia, since 1991, after dictator Siad Barre was ousted. But the new ambassador will not be posted in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, where a climate of insecurity prevails.
It has been more than two years since President Mohamud was selected as the leader of Somalia. But Mohamud’s government did little to contribute peace, security and political reconciliation for the war torn country. His government is struggling to govern, and its authority is not beyond Mogadishu, where al-Shabab is waging asymmetrical warfare with car and suicide bombings, including the recent attack on Central Hotel in the heart of Mogadishu, where 25 people were killed and 40 were wounded, including the deputy Prime Minister, Mohamed Omar Arte.
In fact, the prospect for a secure, stable and democratic Somalia looks grim, because of the clannish political infighting among Somalia’s top political leaders over the spoils of foreign aid or for factional reasons and the rampant corruption within the Somali government. Mohamud appointed three Prime ministers, in a span of just eighteen months.
And if the African Union troops were to withdraw from Somalia tomorrow, Mohamud’s government would collapse, and further anarchy and starvation would soon return to south Somalia.
Despite this, America, the EU, and the United Nations are expecting Mohamud’s administration to be responsible for holding nationwide referendum on a new Somali federal constitution, and elections to put in place a new government by 2016. This is a tall and improbable order for Somalia.
Instead of alienating more Somalis and expending vast resources on the side of failing regime, one unable to provide basic services and security for its citizens let alone protect itself, America might consider the facts on the ground.
Somalia’s problem is not a military but a political one. The conflict and its politics in the country are always local. A home grown, sustainable political settlement among the warring Somali clans has more chance of success than UN’s imposed political initiatives, including the road map.
In fact, the U.S.-backed United Nations road map for Somalia; a political process for recreating Somalia into a federal based system of governance, is unraveling. The UN’s road map created tension and conflict among the sub-clans across Somalia (south Somalia) over the formation as well as the boundaries of future federal states and lack of input from the Somalis. There are already local disputes over new federal states in the Juba and Shabelle river valley regions. Some of those disputes have turned into deadly violence.
Up to now, even the U.S.’s counter terrorism efforts, billions of dollars in financing and training provided to the Somali army, and 22,000 troops from eleven African countries thus far have failed to secure the war-ravaged country.
Let’s not forget the “Blackhawk Down” tragedy was a humanitarian mission. In 1991, after the overthrow of the then oppressive and corrupt dictator, Siad Barre, Mogadishu was divided by war. Two factions were blocking the delivery of the food that was piling up at Mogadishu port, to their own starving citizens, for factional reasons.
And now, after two decades, factional interests are obstructing the chance for peace and better life for the Somalis. In fact, there are no credible and dependable partners for peace and governance in Mogadishu.
But rebuilding Somalia’s society and creating a political process that would lead Somali clans into a lasting peace has to come from inside Somalia. The Somalis must do it for themselves because organic peace would endure more in the long term.
Indeed, to the north of Somalia, there is a stable, functioning democratic Republic of Somaliland, a former British protectorate, which was part a Somalia from 1960 to 1991 and has managed its own affairs. It has a democratically elected president and legislature, and held several free and fair elections since 2001.
Somaliland’s political leaders have their own problems, but they have delivered good governance, order, and security to their citizens compared with the rest of Somalia. The 4 million Somalilanders deserve a chance to decide their own political future democratically through ballot box, diplomatic recognition, and opportunities for investment and trade.
Why is the Obama administration using its diplomatic muscle to suppress the Somaliland people’s quest for independence — for the sake of preserving the territorial integrity of an artificial and inherently unstable state of Somalia?
Funneling more money and weapons to the inept and corrupt government in Mogadishu, which lacks credibility and the consent of the Somalis, neither benefits the Somalis, nor promotes America’s regional interest. Instead, it would only sow instability and prolong human suffering — contributing to the chaos in Somalia.
Ali Mohamed is co-founder of the Horn of Africa Freedom Foundation. It is a grassroots organization, located in Lewis Center, Ohio that advocates for the advancement of freedom and democratic values for the indigenous people of the Horn of Africa. He can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org.