Somalia: Unwarranted Political Hardball Against ASWJ
Thursday, January 7, 2016, parliamentary delegation led by the Speaker of the federal parliament, Professor Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari visited Dhusamareb, capital of Galgudud region, the constitutional headquarter of the Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA) formed in Adado city in July 2015. The purpose of the visit has been described as an endeavor to explore the premises for the resumption of a long overdue dialogue between the federal government of Somalia (FGS)-cum-IGA and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ), stalled days before the election of IGA parliamentary Speaker in June 2015. ASWJ remit falls under the sphere of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Supporters of regional state in the central regions voiced repeatedly the need of direct engagement between the FGS and ASWJ for political inclusivity and confidence building which is fundamental for shared governance. It is worth recalling that political inclusivity is one of the milestones of peacebuilding and statebuilding goals of the New Deal signed by the FGS with the International Community at Brussels, Belgium in September 2013.
Leaders of ASWJ continues to maintain the position of being ready to enter into dialogue with the FGS-cum-IGA for successful and lasting integration and cohesion. The FGS is the national authority expected to guarantee the implementation of any political settlement concluded after honest and fair discussion.
To the surprise of many observers, IGA and federal political figures denounced the visit of Speaker Jawari to Dhusamareb. Without excluding the possibility of ulterior political motives underpinning the visit, the angry denunciation of the Speaker shows poor judgement, level of disrespect and distrust among political leaders, and the overall dysfunction of the federal government.
In duplicity, the FGS and IGA sought the mediation of IGAD officials (Kenya and Ethiopia) before any attempt of direct engagement with ASWJ or exploration of other alternatives. Paradoxically, last November, ASWJ and IGA delegations visited Ethiopia on the basis of separate official invitations of the Government of Ethiopia and FGS did not protest. These dynamics are important developments that deserve parliamentary attention and scrutiny for public interest.
Within the framework of the Constitution and political system of Somalia, the Speaker of the Parliament has major role in dealing with the political problems existing between FGS-cum-IGA and ASWJ. The Federal Parliament has the responsibility of conducting public hearings on all issues that vex the Somali people, including ASWJ case. The involvement of the Speaker partakes the efforts for the inclusion of ASWJ in the federation and democratization process envisaged in Vision 2016.
However, it seems that the policy of President Hassan’s team is to prolong the paralysis of IGA and ASWJ and to confine the utility of IGA in national political alliances for power play. This harmful political strategy is to undermine the hope of the local population for development as well as for independent and effective interactions with other federal member states and FGS. It is believed that President Hassan is the principle enforcer of unwarranted political hardball against ASWJ. Indeed, ASWJ is removed from the concern and consideration of FGS decision makers.
ASWJ emerged in 2008 and gained international recognition and confidence in the fight against Al Shabab. The international community supported the inclusion of ASWJ in the Transitional Federal Government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Omar Abdidrashid through an agreement signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 15, 2010. The UN Security Council endorsed the agreement. In difference to other local entities, ASWJ claims to possess religious, clan diversity, and organizational characteristics.
The FGS of President Hassan Sheikh rejected ASWJ as a valuable partner and removed ASWJ loyalists from the federal and local government positions. This has embittered ASWJ followers. In 2013, FGS signed an agreement with ASWJ for recognition and integration. But, informed sources confide that President Hassan shelved the implementation of the agreement.
The Hardball play with ASWJ fits a pattern of contentious relation between FGS and Dhusamareb Community. There are several cases that demonstrate grievances and falling out like the clash over the venue and capital of IGA, the fighting between federal government and ASWJ forces in Guri El, believed to be instigated by the federal government, the lack of implementation of the ceasefire agreement signed on March 5, 2015, and other government mistreatments. As of today, the killed, wounded, and displaced civilians as a result of wrong government policy are not helped and compensated.
ASWJ resents the manipulations of the Federal government during the IGA formation process. Few days before the election of the speaker of IGA parliament, President Hassan directed the Minister of Interior and Federal Affairs, Abdirahman Odawa, to open dialogue with ASWJ in Dhusamareb for its participation in the regional state formation process. The negotiations were close to succeed but they were abruptly put on hold to allow the Minister to go back to Adado for assessing the consequences of Al Shabab attack and to return within few days in Dhusamareb. The Minister did not return and the FGS went ahead with the completion of the process without ASWJ participation. One more time, this has shattered the trust of ASWJ in the FGS leadership.
As more injuries, despite the persistent calls of the international community for dialogue after the IGA formation in July 2015, IGA signed agreement with “ASWJ substitute” and President Hassan did not show interest and leadership for resolving the political problems compounded by unfulfilled agreements and promises. ASWJ leaders complain that the FGS pursued the policy of feeding the international community with false information and denigrations about ASWJ.
To the detriment of the people in the central regions, FGS and IGA wasted time and external support by avoiding dialogue with ASWJ. The international community decided to withhold the cooperation with and support of IGA until IGA reaches an agreement with ASWJ and relocates in Dhusamareb. Rather than opting for good faith political settlement, FGS-IGA decision makers look all ways and means possible to eliminate ASWJ as a political challenger.
FGS and IGA know fully that AMISOM forces in Galgudud consider ASWJ forces as reliable partner in the fight against Al Shabab. However, counterintuitively, the FGS resists to engage this valued local partner in establishing a shared governance that responds to the needs of the local population.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso