Somalia: The Graveyard of the “New Deal” for Statebuilding
Somalia has become the graveyard of the internationally acclaimed “New Deal” under the “Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation” for the “Engagement in Fragile and Conflict-affected states,” due to leadership failure. The sad fate of the internationally hailed initiative for peacebuilding and statebuilding has undone years of global research, debate, and dialogue on aid effectiveness, state failures, civil wars, humanitarian crisis, human rights abuses, and abject poverty.
The 15 core principles of the New Deal includes “country-owned and country-led” one vision one plan implemented through a Compact of partnership between the national government and the civil society of the country, and the international donors. The one vision one plan principle focuses on political legitimacy, justice, security, public finance and services, and economic foundations for employment and improved livelihood. Without doubt, the implementation of such strategy is complex and challenging but it is more preferable for fragile states in comparison to previous strategies. Effective Leadership, political will, moral responsibility, discipline, good diplomatic qualities, respect of the rule of law, and democratic participatory process are needed for compliance and success.
The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) as one of the prototype of failed states signed three year “Somali Compact” with International donors during the 1st High Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) conference in Brussels, Belgium in September 2013. The international partners pledged 2.8 billion dollars subject to the provisions of the Somali Compact. However, in retrospect, it seems that the leaders of FGS never liked or embraced the New Deal Agreement because they have never shown proactive leadership and practical actions focused on the New Deal. Authoritarianism and corruption topped the Somali politics.
The 2nd Ministerial HLPF Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in November 2014 was eclipsed by President Hassan’s tussle with former Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed. Many partners decided either to stay away or send low level delegations to the conference for protest. This has ruined the prospect of goodwill cooperation between the international partners and the FGS. But in pursue of their overarching global interests and strategy, international donors continued to work with FGS on selective issues at the expense of Somali national interests.
In my article on the assessment of 2014 Copenhagen conference I wrote, “The attitude of the leaders of FGS in embracing certain goals [commitments] without undertaking necessary efforts to accomplish them through domestic policy development, democratic and legislation process, will increase the likelihood of failure. The leaders of FGS are committing crime and political malpractice if they enter into international commitments without the will, conviction, and capability to hold up their side of the bargain…”
Fatefully, the 3rd Ministerial HLPF hosted by the Turkish Government in Istanbul on 23-24 February 2016 was also overshadowed by the uncertainty and controversy over the electoral model for 2016. Puntland Regional State rejected the 4.5 electoral model adopted against the framework and “Consensus Principle” of the National Consultative Forum (NCF) and stayed away from the Istanbul conference. The 2016 electoral controversy left the international partners with no good options. The question mark is how the 2016 electoral model will be different from the corrupt selection and election process of 2012.
The 3rd HLPF was critical for three reasons. The first reason was to take stock of the implementation of the Somali Compact. The FGS presented to the Istanbul conference a progress report not shared with the Somali people, institutions, and the media. The Somali people are skeptical about the purpose and impact of foreign aid.
The second reason was to agree on the 2016 electoral model and the completion of the review of the Provisional Constitution, and to discuss the road map for universal suffrage elections in 2020 for the purpose of mobilizing international political and financial support for those tasks as a measure of major milestones. This did not happen because the federal government did not present to the conference Somali detailed electoral plan.
The third reason was to agree on the next phase of the New Deal Strategy to address the urgent needs of the local population in terms of security, governance, political reconciliation and unity, humanitarian assistance, and recovery. Surprisingly, the Federal Government declared its withdrawal from the Somali Compact and preparation of a three year national development plan as an alternative, which is an ill-advised exercise.
The view is that the FGS hopes to use the development plan as shopping document for bilateral foreign assistance. By defying the international consensus on the engagement in fragile states, the FGS will face great difficulties and disadvantages for selling a development plan that conflicts with the principles of the New Deal. The international partners stated, “We look forward to developing the next phase of international engagement in Somalia based on a shared set of principles and a review of the joint partnership.”
In his assertive speech, President Hassan blamed the international partners for the failure of not achieving the expected progress through the New Deal because donors did not honor their commitments. The first part of the speech reminds the international partners what has been acknowledged and agreed three years ago. The second part is declaration of plans, processes, and legislative acts passed lately without due public scrutiny and participation accomplished by the federal government. The third part tells the international donors to do more and work with the federal government.
For example the President said, “When we met in Brussels three years ago, we acknowledged that situation in Somalia after 23 years of war, state collapse, a prolonged transitional period, and the operations of Al Shabab was risky. It would not be possible for advisers to join their counterparts in our ministries offices. We accepted that a fence would be built separating the international community from the country it was supporting-Somalia.” He added, “It is not enough that our international partners are still largely based behind the fence. We must do more so that our Ministries and institutions are supported by on ground advisers to support rapid capacity development.”
In another passage, the President said, “We acknowledged -three years ago- that every Somali should benefit from the rule of law, that justice should be accessible to all, that human rights should provide the basis for the application of the law and justice in Somalia. We agreed that reconciliation should be pursued, that the cycle of violence that had ruled Somalia for so long must be broken forever.” He added, “It is not enough that we are still waiting for Al Shabab to be absolutely conclusively defeated.” He boldly told the international partners, ” It is not enough that although the government has worked tirelessly to tick the boxes, set up systems and processes that safeguard transparency and protect against corruption, that we are still waiting for those three-year-old promises of direct budget support to materialize.” In short, President Hassan puts the failure of the New Deal in Somalia falls squarely on the shoulders of the international partners.
In response, the Communiqué of the Conference, which represents the positions and demands of the international donors, requires the FGS to fulfill long list of missed obligations and targets. It urges the federal government to improve its performance in order to gain international credibility and trust.
The international donors demand the FGS to take immediate actions on 2016 electoral model and completion of the review of the provisional constitution. In particular, they demand that the objection of Puntland Regional State be addressed. Categorically, the international partners said that, “We underscore our strong expectation that there must not be any impediments to the timely implementation of the electoral process including freedom of expression, nor any extension of the constitutionally mandated term of the legislative and executive.” This presumes obstacles, delays, and human rights abuses for political advantage in Somalia.
The Communiqué endorsed the guiding principles agreed upon during the HLPF held in Mogadishu on December 16, 2015. But, it overlooked the decision on the selection of 4.5 electoral model for 2016 and the distribution of the Upper House seats to six federal member states, including Somaliland. It demanded the completion of Hiran and Middle Shabelle Regional State and finalization of the status of Mogadishu, the capital.
As of today, the executive of the FGS did not submit the decision on the 4.5 electoral model and its detailed implementation plan to the parliament for ratification. The political forces and the population at large are denied the right to know about the 2016 election rules enough time before election date. The contentious issues are legitimacy, fairness, freedom, integrity, credibility, transparency, and neutrality in the election management.
There is dichotomy between the position of the international partners of no term extension of current executive and legislative bodies beyond August 2016 and the lackadaisical attitude of the leaders of the FGS towards legitimate, free and fair electoral model with its implementation plan. This dereliction of duty should be mitigated by forming national caretaker government with limited powers that will replace current FGS for legitimacy, stability, and credibility. The 2016 election is very consequential and improvised and rigged election process will certainly worsen the fragile situation in Somalia.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso