Has the August 27 "Agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and Jubba Delegation" broken the deadlock between the contenders for power in Somalia's deep south?
The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies seems to think so: "The Agreement ... is a much needed break from a protracted stalemate between the two sides... ." Is that true? A careful look at the document shows that it is not.
To put it as concisely as possible, the Agreement splits the difference between the adversaries on all the issues it covers; in that sense, it is a genuine compromise and, in consequence, would seem to break the deadlock. Yet in splitting the difference, the Agreement leaves the adversaries poised to press their respective agendas against each other. The fundamental split between the S.F.G. and Jubbaland (now called the Interim Administration for Jubba) over centralized and decentralized federalism has not been overcome. The adversaries have connected themselves to each other with fragile threads that would have to be reinforced with steel if some kind of genuine reconciliation was to occur.
To call the Agreement a break from the deadlock (stalemate) is to misunderstand it. Two closed sources report that the Agreement was the result of heavy pressure being exerted by the "donor"-powers/U.N., I.G.A.D., Kenya, and Ethiopia on the domestic adversaries. This time, the external actors were on the same page. It does not appear that the adversaries would have reached any accord on their own; on August 23, Shabelle Media reported that the talks in Addis Ababa that led to the Agreement had "ended in chaos after both officials [Abdiqadir Farah, S.F.G. state minister; and Ahmed Madobe, Jubbaland's president] denied the outcome of the meeting." H.I.P.S. comments: "Negotiations were extraordinarily arduous." That those negotiations were concluded with an Agreement does not mean that the adversaries' power struggle is over.
Splitting the Difference
H.I.P.S. praises the adversaries for "demonstrating the ability to compromise for the sake of the nation." Yes, they compromised (under pressure). The S.F.G. gave up its refusal to recognize the Jubbaland administration, and the Jubbaland administration gave up its claim to being an already constituted federal state. In return, each adversary gained a foothold in the administration of the deep south. Somalis can argue as much as they want about which side got the long or short end of the stick; the point is that their conflict has not been resolved.
A close look at the Agreement shows it to split power between the adversaries in each of its articles, with the balance shifting in favor of one side or the other depending on the article.
Article One is the core element of the Agreement, because it defines (somewhat sketchily) the political organization of Somalia's deep south for the next two years by creating an Interim Jubba Administration (I.J.A.) to replace the Jubbaland administration.
Article One exemplifies how the adversaries split the difference rather than break the deadlock. It is a balanced construction, the tilt of which will be determined by future events; the tilt is not clear now.
On the surface, it appears that Jubbaland gets the lion's share. The new Jubba administration will have a "Leader," the powers of whom are undefined, who will also be the Chairperson of the Executive Council (executive function) and will appoint his three deputies who also constitute the Executive Council.
In practice, the "Leader" will be Ahmed Madobe, the current President of Jubbaland. For two years, Madobe and his coalition will be the dominant political force in the deep south; they will control the political apparatus. It will be their strategy to use the political apparatus to secure their continuation in power after two years.
What the S.F.G. gets in return for handing the Jubba authority over to Madobe are checks on his authority. The "Leader" "Shall be accountable to the Federal Government of Somalia." (What "accountability" means is not stated.) The "Leader" will "consult" and "coordinate" with the S.F.G. on the three deputies that he appoints. (Again, what "consultation" and "coordination" involve practically is left open.)
It is likely that the S.F.G. will try to use its checking mechanisms to thwart any attempts by Madobe and his coalition to assume dominance over the deep south. Whether Madobe's advantage in controlling the administrative apparatus proves to be decisive in his favor depends on how much teeth the S.F.G. can put on its abstract checks. Expect a struggle. The Agreement sets it up. In order to avoid it, the adversaries will have to advance beyond splitting the difference to give-and-take.
A key revealing element of Article One comes in its last sentence: "The current Gedo administration will remain as it is for now." That provision, which keeps in place a pro-S.F.G. and anti-Jubbaland administration, shows that the deadlock over the deep south has not been overcome; the interest-power configuration that existed before the Agreement is still extant and unchanged.
The adversaries have been brought close together, so they are likely to switch their style of conflict to political trench warfare.
Article Two on control of government infrastructure - Kismayo's seaport and airport - reverses the order of precedence among the adversaries. The seaport and airport are to be "handed over" to the S.F.G. within six months. The S.F.G. will appoint "a competent management team in consultation with the Interim Jubba Administration." The same judgment made about Article One applies to Article Two, only the positions of the adversaries are reversed.
Article Three on security issues continues to split the difference. In an apparent victory for the S.F.G., all militias, including Madobe's Raskamboni Brigade, are to be "integrated into the central command of the Somali National Army (SNA)." The section, however, continues: "the regional police will be under the command of the Interim Juba Administration." Another check on the S.F.G. is the provision for a Technical Security Committee to be established "jointly" by the S.F.G. and the I.J.A. That Committee would be responsible for drawing up a "timetable for the integration of all security elements" and undertaking "Security Reform." A final check on the S.F.G. is the provision that the S.F.G. "give priority to the Jubba Administration" in reintegrating (former) members of the jihadist Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen (H.S.M.) into civilian society.
Article Four "On Reconciliation and Confidence-Building" completes the difference splitting, calling for the S.F.G. to "organize and convene a Reconciliation Conference in Mogadishu" within two weeks of the Agreement, and for a "follow-up peace building conference" to be "held in Kismayo." The Mogadishu Reconciliation Conference (M.R.C.) will be a "consultative mechanism on the process of completing the formation of the interim administration [I.J.A.] and peace building." The M.R.C. circles back to the checks on the I.J.A. in Article One; the Conference is an instrumentality for the S.F.G. to attempt to exercise its "coordinative" function.
Article Four turns utopian when it mandates the M.R.C. with agreeing upon "modalities of development of the roadmap for the establishment federal member states." Nothing better can be said about that provision than H.I.P.S. has already said: "While it would be encouraging for such an agreement to be reached in the next fortnight, it is neither likely given the depth and breadth of conflict in the Jubba regions, nor legal according to either side's constitutional prerogatives."
The conflict does, indeed, remain broad and deep, as the Agreement shows. It is enough to say that Madobe is still installed in Kismayo and the current administration is installed in Gedo. In order to get beyond the deadlock, splitting the difference will have to grow into give-and-take. Otherwise the stage is set for political trench warfare, since the sides cannot be physically separated if they refuse to share.
Will the external actors keep up their pressure or will they sit on their hands? They are all telling the adversaries to "implement" the Agreement; do they see any role to play for themselves?
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago email@example.com
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