analysisBy Aman H.D. Obsiye
The US government currently recognizes the Provisional Federal Government (PFG) as the sovereign authority in Somalia. The US government has not recognized a Somali government since 1991.
The Institute of Somali Affairs cordially welcomes this recognition and has produced this policy proposal to further enhance US policy towards Somalia.
Somalia needs innovative and creative policies to help stabilize her situation. Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, and untouched oil and gas reserves. Its economic potential is enormous.
The terrorist group Al-Shabaab poses a great threat to US national security and their elimination is needed to secure our interest in the Horn of Africa. Somali pirates are also creating global problems on the seas. Somalia's stabilization is vital to our national security interests in Africa. In order to stabilize Somalia we must:
· help re-establish governance through enhancing Somalia's federalism process;
· eliminate the terrorist group Al-Shabaab; and
· utilize the Somali Diaspora.
To help re-establish governance in Somalia we must provide incentives to the central government, and the regional stake holders, to engage in a federated process. To eliminate Al-Shabaab we need to utilize our Muslim allies, what we call Muslim Diplomacy. Finally, we must help organize and fund the Somali Diaspora to become active participants in Somalia's stabilization process; in particular the Somali-Americans.
Since 1991, the Somali nation has been in a state of war. The war began when rebels pulled a coup d'état on Dictator Siad Barre, and then later turned their guns on each other. The rebels eventually split along clan and sub-clan lines and what was known as the Somali Civil War ensued. In 2004, the international community helped establish a government in Somalia known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG remained a government in exile (Nairobi, Kenya) for two years but eventually relocated to Baidoa, Somalia.
In June 2006, an Islamic coalition known as the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU) took complete control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and eventually took complete control of South-Central Somalia. The ICU defeated a coalition of US backed warlords known as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT). Ethiopia, fearing an Islamic State on its borders, decided to invade Somalia and install the TFG in Mogadishu on December 2006. After the Ethiopian invasion, the ICU ceased to exist, and Al-Shabaab emerged as an anti-occupation/insurgency group. The US State Department subsequently placed them on their list of terrorist groups in 2008.
Early 2009, the Ethiopian troops left Somalia leaving Al-Shabaab in control of most of South-Central Somalia. Today Somalia is broken down in a triadic structure.
Somalia's Triadic Breakdown
North-West Somalia is controlled by a regional authority, Somaliland, seeking to secede from Somalia proper. Somaliland is peaceful, stable, and democratic. They held elections in 2010 that the international community deemed free and fair.
North-East Somalia is controlled by a regional authority, Puntland, seeking to become a semi-autonomous federal state within a Federated Somalia. Puntland is also peaceful, stable, and democratic, albeit it is known to be a hub for piracy.
South-Central Somalia is currenctly controlled by Al-Shabaab and the PFG with the help of African Union troops (AMISOM). PFG/AMISOM currently controls Mogadishu, Baidoa, Kismayo, and other cities, while Al-Shabaab controls the rural territories.
A. What is keeping central governance from formulating in the Somali territories?
The three main obstacles from keeping central governance from formulating in Somalia are: 1) the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, 2) Somaliland's stance on secession, and 3) the national government's inability to win legitimacy from the Somali populous.
1) Al-Shabaab first emerged as an anti-occupation group after the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. Ethiopia and Somalia have been historic rivals/enemies for millennia. The Askum Empire (historic Ethiopia) and the Adal Empire (historic Somalia) were constantly at war since the eighth century (CE). Because of the historic animosity between the two, Al-Shabaab was able to briefly win the hearts and minds of Somalis in Somalia and in the Diaspora. Even though the Somali masses do not adhere to their version of Islam, the Somalis were grateful that someone was standing up to the big bully in the Horn. Eventually, the Somali populace would turn on this bloody organization and overwhelmingly side with the Somali national government.
2) The Somaliland administration territorially controls one-fourth of Somalia proper and one-third of her populous. The capital of Somaliland is Hargeisa, which is the second largest city in Somalia. Somaliland also controls the strategic Gulf of Aden port city of Berbera, which also houses the longest airstrip in all of Africa. Its secessionist stance is hampering the International Community's efforts in bringing about a central government for Somalia. Also, the Somaliland military apparatus is attacking Northern Somali Unionists who want to create regional entities that are aligning with the central government of Somalia. The Awdal State and the Khaatumo State have proclaimed their desires to be federal states within Somalia, but Somaliland is currently suppressing these entities militarily.
3) Somalia's previous national government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was corrupt, ineffective, and was seen as a foreign, rather than organic Somali government. Many Somalis believed that the TFG's governing apparatus' loyalty lied with foreign interests, instead of having the Somali masses' interest at heart. Also, many members of the TFG were former warlords who have wreaked havoc and chaos on Somalia during the civil war era. In addition, the TFG was not been able to provide its people with the number one public good a government is supposed to provide: law and stability. It lacked a real security apparatus, as well as, other public institutions like courts, schools, hospitals, etc. Even though the current Somali national government, the Provisional Federal Government (PFG) is equipped with a new President, Constitution, and Parliament, it has inherited all of the TFG's problems.
B. How can the US help eliminate the terrorist group Al-Shabaab?
The US is in a unique position to help defeat the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Besides our military might, we have diplomatic and soft-power tools at our disposal and we must effectively use them to help stabilize Somalia. Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization with American (mainly of Somali decent) personnel. Al-Shabaab poses great national security risk because over two dozen of its members have American passports and can return to the US and potentially commit terrorist attacks.
C. What role can the Somali Diaspora play in stabilizing Somalia?
Somalia's greatest resource is her Diaspora who mainly reside in Western
democracies. If the Diaspora were a collective corporation, they would be considered the number one foreign direct investors in Somalia, with per annum remittances of more than a billion dollars. Also, many of Somalia's national ministers were/are Somalis who have been educated, and worked in the West, including the two former Prime Ministers.
Option 1: Helping Establish National Governance through Regional Authorities.
To reduce the terrorist threat from Somalia, we must help re-establish national governance. For two decades, the International Community has been using the same tactics to help bring governance back to Somalia to no avail. When one looks at where governance is established in Somalia, you can only look to Somaliland and Puntland. These two regional governments were formulated from the bottom-up, with many conferences held within their respective territories between key stakeholders (businesses, tribal chiefs, etc.).
Puntland recognizes the unity of the Somali state and pledges allegiance to the central government in Mogadishu. We should increase Puntland stature in Somalia so other regions will follow suit.
Somaliland considers itself a separate Republic and has been a de facto republic since the fall of Siad Barre. Somaliland can play a vital role in re-establishing governance in Somalia if she ceases to have these secessionist ambitions. Somaliland combined with Puntland represents more than 50% of the Somali populous, land mass and territorial water. If Somaliland were to say they recognize the unity of the Somali state and they are a Federal Member State (instead of separate country), Somalia can re-emerge as a nation-state. Not to many African countries control 100% of their territory and Somalia, with Somaliland and Puntland at its helm, will be no different.
South-Central Somalia needs three or four regional authorities to help federalize it. Currently, the Juba provinces along with the Gedo province had combined to form the Jubaland State of Somalia. The US and the International Community should support this initiative and encourage the PFG to further federalize South-Central Somalia.
Once the entire Somali Peninsula is federalized a conference can be held with the Federal Member States representing their constituencies. Through this Federal Member States conference a new organic, inclusive, and legitimate Somali national government can emerge in 2016.
Option 2: Using ' Muslim Diplomacy' to Eliminate Al-Shabaab.
America has two distinguishable Muslim allies, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These two Muslim allies can play a pivotal role in helping eliminate Al-Shabaab through soft and hard power, respectively.
Saudi Arabia, with the shahada (the Islamic Proclamation) on her flag and being the custodians of the two holy mosques (Mecca and Medina), is considered the Muslim soft-power. Also, the religious scholars ( Ulama) of Saudi Arabia are the most renowned and well respected Islamic scholars. Saudi Arabia can flex is soft-power muscle in Somalia by doing two things: (1) using their Ulama to discredit the religious sway of Al-Shabaab, and (2) use its extensive experience in de-radicalizing its youth.
The Ulama of Saudi Arabia have been denouncing suicide bombings and terrorism prior to 9/11 and its credibility in the Muslim World is quite solid. The backbone of Al-Shabaab is the youth, and once the terrorist organization loses its religious legitimacy with the youth, they will easily crumble. Once the youth leave the movement, Saudi Arabia can use her extensive experience helping Muslim youth transition from terrorist to citizen.
Turkey is arguably the political, economic, and military power of the Muslim World. Also, Istanbul was the head of the last authentic Islamic State ( Usmaniya Khalifa, the Ottoman Empire). In addition, its reputation is enhanced by having the Islamic symbol on her flag, the crescent and moon. Turkey has extensive military experience fighting in both World Wars, and currently has the largest military in NATO, after the US.
In relations to Somalia, Turkey's military experience in its counter-insurgency operations against the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) is of enormous value. Turkey's military have been successfully fighting the PKK for three decades. Turkey can help defeat the Al-Shabaab insurgency more effectively and efficiently than AMISOM. It can also train a proper Somali army, equipped to fight counter-insurgencies, better than AMISOM can.
We should replace AMISOM troops with Turkish peacekeepers for three main reasons.
· First, Turkey is a Muslim country with a Muslim army. This single aspect will de-legitimize the claim that Somalia is occupied by Crusaders or Infidel Colonizers (Al-Shabaab greatest recruiting tool).
· Second, as aforementioned, Turkey's counter-insurgency experience will help defeat the Al-Shabaab threat more effectively and efficiently than AMISOM.
· Third, Turkey has the sixteen largest economy in the world and can afford to help contribute to her peacekeepers, along with the International Community. In addition, Turkey is one of the few countries that have a functioning embassy in Mogadishu, which indicates that Somalia is a foreign policy priority. Currently, we contribute the most finances to AMISOM. By having Turkey as peacekeepers, we can divert some of those AMISOM funds to help re-establish public institutions in Somalia.
Option 3: Utilizing the Somali Diaspora .
Most of the Somali intellectuals and professionals reside outside of Somalia, mainly in Western countries. Like most African countries, Somalia suffers from a brain drain, more so than any other African nation. The Somali Diaspora can play a leading role in the brain gain of Somalia. Also, the Somali Diaspora can help minimize anti-Americanism (anti-Western sentiment) in Somalia by being cultural ambassadors for American values.
Course of Action for Option 1.
The US government, along with the International Community (US/IC) must press the PFG to establish and encourage federal states throughout Somalia. The US/IC should give incentives to the PFG, like more funding for the central government when they help establish a federal state.
The US/IC must present a 'carrot and stick' type option for Somaliland. The US/IC must articulate to Somaliland that recognition is not an option, so it must become a productive stakeholder in the new Somalia. When Somaliland denounces its secessionist stance, the US/IC should provide them with an enormous amount of development aid.
Course of Action for Option 2.
The US/IC should support a UN resolution re-allowing the import of arms to Somalia, so a professional national army and a credible police force can emerge. Somalia is already swamped with arms, and has been so for two decades; therefore the current UN resolution banning arms to Somalia is obviously futile and only hurts the national government/regional governments who seek to acquire arms legally.
In addition, we should encourage our two key Muslim allies to make Somalia one of their main foreign policy priorities.
Saudi Arabia can use its religious might to discredit Al-Shabaab. She can also play a leading role in the Arab League, so the organization can provide more tangible support to the Somali national government.
Turkey can train and provide military equipment to the Somali National Army, as well as, training and equipping the regional (federal) states' police force. Also, Turkey can continue to play an important diplomatic role in keeping Somalia a priority within the International Community.
Course of Action for Option 3.
The United States Government should establish a Somali Peace Corps, with Somali-Americans as the main personnel. A Somali Peace Corps will greatly enhance Somalia's reconstruction and development projects, as well as minimize Anti-Americanism in Somalia.
The State Department and the US Intelligence Community should also have ad-hoc Somali-American groups advising it on the intricacies of the Somali socioeconomic and political systems, and also the delicate nature of the Somali clan structure. The Somali-American assets are better equipped to facilitate US-Somalia relations.
Aman H.D. Obsiye is a law student at the University of Minnesota. He serves as the Executive Director of the Institute of Somali Affairs (somaliaffairs.org).