23 August 2012

Somalia: Politicians Continue to Use the Country's Institutions for Personal Profit

analysis

Somalia's upcoming permanent government is feted as a model for national reconciliation and good governance.

The signatories are largely former militia members, intellectual Diasporans, and members of Puntland and Galmudug states. These corrupt leaders have been quick to set aside their differences in favor of future power sharing, where the bitter pill of sovereignty is bypassed, and the result is mere legal fiction. Doing so helps them to strategize in how to share the potential spoils in post-transitional government, signing away the country's future in return for personal financial gain.

The new regime will be established as planned in August 2012, which according to the grand designs of the international and regional stakeholders is a fait accompli. The preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections initially proceeded on schedule with voting planned for 20th August 2012 (now postponed).

The international community called this process "Somali owned to pull the country from the brink of ruins." If this plan fails, a trusteeship would entail a new enhanced form of international responsibility, where locals remain partners in any arrangements (multilateral joint ventures), taking control of the newly predicted sources of revenue, oil, etc.

Unfortunately, the TFG has misused the time to make things worse, by pre-selecting and handpicking MPs, through village chiefs and tribal elders, to dictate the country's future. Somalia's corrupt leaders and politicians have found it easy to outmaneuver the UN and the international community in the conduct of what locals call 'business as usual'. Despite claims that they are struggling for peace, democracy, and reconciliation, these leaders and their cohorts continue to use the country's institutions for personal profit.

The best option would be a radical intervention assigning a UN force, led by an elite career diplomat with strong military credentials, to disarm local fighters and the general population in Mogadishu prior to elections, build a working bureaucracy, monitor democratic elections, and establish the basis for lasting peace.

The established approach to tackling Somalia's classical failed state syndrome does not work without disarmament and genuine reconciliation. Healing Somalia requires a comprehensive long-term strategy not a quick fix. A wrong prescription of political reform, with little thought of its cumulative consequences, was given to Somalia by the international community. International actors should be involved for ten years or longer. A new approach will also require indigenous political institutions and frameworks that draw in all interested parties, including Somaliland.

Even if one of the few respectable candidates wins the presidential election in August 2012, there is little chance that he will be able to rectify matters. And if AMISOM and IGAD start to wind down their peacekeeping mission after the elections, as is currently planned, delegating some of their efforts to Somali police and army without appropriate administrative training, functional law courts, and police stations, the most likely outcome will be a resumption of chaos and recurrence of civil-war. To have a chance of success, planning for elections must take the city's fragile security dynamics into account.

Currently, the TFG cannot guarantee law and order throughout Mogadishu. Its citizens are victims without suffrage, and there is no diverse council that monitors or assures the fair selection of new MPs and fair election in parliament. Some of Al Shabaab's forces have been integrated within the Somali National Army without counseling or rehabilitation. According to force commander General Abdulkarim Yusuf -Dhaga-badan "Al Shabaab...are capable of executing covert missions and targeted assassinations while they operate under Somali National Army helmet. If unleashed by their non-ideological leaders (members of TFG), it can create another psychological havoc and destruction in Mogadishu."

Mogadishu's cost of living has risen across the board as have commodity prices, real estate values, construction materials, hotel rates and other goods and services. All these cosmetic changes, brought by an influx of Diasporas hoping for a better future, are temporary. Despite all these changes, the city remains the centre of Somali IDPs, where orphaned children receive one meal a day, sniff glue to stave off hunger, and foreign aid is considered a fat cow. A recently observed phenomenon is the wave of political participation from residents of IDP centers, collected from different districts and hired to rally behind every presidential contender in return for a free meal.

Somalia suffered for almost a generation through violent political infighting, lacking honest competent leaders and also office administration professionals and bureaucrats. Now there are even fewer people who are educated or trained for effective government work. Somalia's war today, often mistakenly understood as tribal, is actually a regional conflict with internally competing vested political interest groups combating each other for support from neighboring governments. A healthier, more stable and secure Somalia would benefit everyone in the region and around the world.

Prof. Liban A Egal is a professor at George Mason University.

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