Somalia: Preparations for the London Conference

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The London Conference on Somalia is being held on Thursday next week, February 23rd. Chaired by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, over fifty delegations are expected. In addition to members of the international community and frontline states, there will be representatives from the TFIs, of the Puntland and Galmudug administrations, of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, and from Somaliland. Last week, the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, following his own visit to Mogadishu, laid out the UK’s aims for the Conference including the need for a better international strategy to address Somalia’s problems and help its people. He described a more stable Somalia as vital to the UK’s national security, essential for the stability for the Horn of Africa and long overdue. He mentioned terrorism and piracy and the importance of trying “to change the dynamic from one of inexorable decline to an upwards trajectory of gradually increasing stability and security.”  He outlined why he felt the time was ripe for a major effort. One reason was the improved security situation in Mogadishu; another was the need to intensify the pressure on Al-Shabaab and also build on the progress made in diminishing pirate activity; and thirdly with the expiry of the TFG mandate in August there was an opportunity to create a broader and more representative political arrangement.

Mr. Hague has made it clear he hopes the Conference will agree practical measures in a number of different areas. These include an expanded political process; regular and sustainable funding for AMISOM forces; a coordinated international package of support for Somali regions to complement peace and stability at the national level; concerted efforts to break the piracy business cycle; agree the areas to develop to disrupt terrorism across the region including stopping movement of terrorists and disrupting their finances as well as delivering effective intelligence gathering; and highlight the need for generous humanitarian responses. He also stressed that he wanted the Conference to be the start of a process not the end and to agree on how to handle Somali issues in the future with a revitalized International Contract group and more countries deploying diplomats and staff into Somalia. Somalia’s Prime Minister Abdiweli said in an interview with AFP earlier this week that Somalia hoped for a lot from this conference: “We expect the establishment of a trust fund for Somalia. We expect a complete reconstruction plan for Somalia. We expect a Marshall Plan for Somalia.”

The second consultative meeting of the core group for the Conference met last Friday, February 10th, at Lancaster House in London. Representatives from the African Union, Ethiopia, the European Union, France, Italy, Kenya, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations and the United States considered the proposed draft communiqué. It contains several sections, in addition to an introduction and a conclusion, covering the humanitarian situation, the political process, security and justice, piracy, counter-terrorism, stability and recovery, the diaspora and international coordination. 
Delegates discussed the draft communiqué paragraph-by-paragraph with particular emphasis on the political process during the post-transition period after August. Among the points raised were the need to create united international support; for accountability and transparency in the administration of funds; for Somalis to assume a central role in the peace process; enhanced international efforts to assist the speedy implementation of the political process; a call for the Istanbul Conference in June to come up with concrete proposals on the humanitarian situation; the need to deal with corruption and to take strong action against individuals and institutions bent on derailing the political process.
Participants at the consultative meeting also stressed the Conference was about crystallizing the existing Djibouti process, not creating a new initiative. They took note of the importance of providing access to print and electronic media to allow moderate elements to reach out to the Somali public. They emphasised the pivotal role of IGAD and the frontline states on political and security consolidation in Somalia as well as the importance of longer term development programmes with regional impact.They stressed  the need to address the genesis of piracy and take a comprehensive course of action on land and at sea. They raised the importance of tailor-made training and capacity building programmes to enhance the TFIs. They emphasised the need to understand clearly the impact of terrorism and all its manifestations in Somalia, in the region  and for the international community at large. They expressed their view on affirming the territorial integrity of Somalia and on the system of government and the constitution of Somalia after the TFG. The meeting also discussed the expected conclusions of the conference and what the conference might deliver. It considered possible annexes and identified countries and organisations to make keynote speeches.

The Ethiopian delegation led by Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the UK, Ambassador Berhanu Kebede, reflected the position of IGAD as well as Ethiopia at the meeting. It underlined the need to take strong concerted action against Al-Shabaab, now openly affiliated to Al Qaeda and stressed the key role to be played by frontline states, IGAD and the AU in the political and security process. It emphasised  the need to support the authorization of additional AMISOM troops and the expeditious delivery of all required equipment, force enablers and multipliers, as well as give due credit to forces of local administrations, Ahlu Sunna and neighbouring countries. It suggested putting in place an incentive package for those who accept the Djibouti Agreement, the Kampala Accord, the Roadmap and the Garowe Principles, and taking strong measures against those trying to derail the peace effort and called on the Istanbul Conference in June to produce strong proposals in this regard. 
The Ethiopian delegation also underlined the need to enhance international efforts to stop illegal inflows of small arms and light weapons into Somalia, calling on the UN Security Council to take concrete action against those involved. It emphasized the importance of supporting Somalia to build and develop strong institutions of governance and human rights accountable to the Somali parliament. It underlined the need to make training coherent and well-coordinated and for it to be demand driven and provided inside Somalia so it can respond to the reality on the ground. It noted the problems faced by neighbouring countries in hosting refugees from Somalia, and stressed that winning the hearts and minds of the people of Somalia was critical for the fight against terrorism.

…..moves for a UN Security Council vote to enlarge AMISOM
The sponsors of a UN Security Council Resolution to increase the numbers of AMISOM to 17,731 troops and increase support for equipment and logistics are trying to prepare a vote-ready text by the end of the week with the aim of getting a vote for an authorization of the increase by Wednesday, the day before the London Conference. Increasing military pressure on Al-Shabaab is a key element of the overall political strategy likely to be endorsed by the London Conference. Authorization of an increase in the size of AMISOM will also involve the transfer of the Kenyan forces, ‘rehatting’ them, as part of AMISOM. It will also cover additional units from Djibouti and Sierra Leone.
Last weekend, AMISOM announced that it intended to move out of Mogadishu and expand its control to Afgoye, 30 kilometers west of the capital and a strategic center for Al-Shabaab where the roads from Kismayo and Baidoa to Mogadishu meet. It is also an area which provides much of the fruit and vegetables for the capital. At the beginning of the week, TFG commander, General Abdikarim Yusuf Aden called on inhabitants of Afgoye to leave the town to avoid civilian casualties. Since then, AMISOM and TFG forces have successfully begun to advance towards Afgoye, setting up new army bases on the outskirts of Mogadishu, taking over an Al-Shabaab checkpoint at Ex-control Afgoye and defeating attempts to retake it. According to Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Hussein Arab Isse, this is the start of massive operations against Al-Shabaab and “from now we are ready to liberate the rest of the regions of the country from the enemy.” 
On Monday, TFG officials again called on the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo on Somalia. Hussein Arab Isse said the government had requested the immediate removal of the embargo following the announcement that Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda had joined forces. “We want to fight Al-Shabaab and wipe them out of the region”. The Defence Minister added that the TFG “wants to buy our own tanks and modern weapons to crush Al-Shabaab…to facilitate our security and rebuilds our ability to fight the insurgent group.”

… ICG report on Kenya’s intervention
On Wednesday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group released a report on Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia in October last year which it calls “the biggest security gamble Kenya has taken since independence”.  It emphasizes that Kenya must act cautiously and avoid a prolonged “occupation” in case it turns local opinion against it and galvanizes opposition which Al-Shabaab could exploit. The report questions whether the operation was given the go-ahead with adequate political, diplomatic and military preparation. The report looks at the background to the decision including the pressures from the Somali refugee problem in Kenya, Kenya’s “Jubaland project” and the threat to tourism. It also lists the challenges that the intervention faces: Al-Shabaab’s tactics and operations, the need to protect its supply lines and to win hearts and minds, the possible problems of urban conflict in Kismayo and other towns, and the terrorist threat to Kenya.  It notes that Kenya’s move was motivated in part to inoculate Kenya’s North Eastern province from the situation across the border, to ease the huge refugee problem and to curtail the activities and influence of Al-Shabaab. However, it warns that there might be unintended consequences, and the operation could reopen old wounds, cause new inter-clan discord, radicalize some elements in Kenya and undermine recent economic and political developments.
The report suggests Al-Shabaab intends to try and destabilise North Eastern province and wage a low intensity guerrilla campaign. Kenya will therefore need to ensure there is a settlement in southern Somalia in order to provide stability for its own border areas. This means not only defeating Al-Shabaab but for Kenya and its partners to develop a political plan that provides incentives for local clans to work together in the region. It will need careful planning and support and continued international involvement in development and capacity-building, and a body to control the resources of Kismayo, a perennial source of conflict, equitably. “Unless this occurs, there is little chance for long-term peace in the Juba Valley”. For Kismayo, the ICG suggests a transparent mechanism to assume responsibility for revenue collection for 5-10 years with an oversight board of mixed international and Somali membership but controlled by the former and supported by experts and international customs officers, to ensure revenues are used to develop all of Lower and Middle Juba and Gedo. More plausibly, the ICG also suggests that the Kenyan Government should articulate its aims and goals and outline its exit strategy clearly, and ensure that any offensive operations, either independent or as part of AMISOM, are accompanied by a political strategy to win local clan support.

…and the UN’s Garowe constitutional conference, part II

On Wednesday, the second phase of the UN organized Constitutional Conference opened in Garowe, Puntland, to continue discussions on issues relating to the principles of the Roadmap, particularly Somalia’s future constitution and federalism. More than 180 delegates attended the opening session, including President Sheikh Sharif, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Ambassador Mahiga. Representatives of the UN, the AU, IGAD and of Djibouti and international aid agencies were also present as well as ministers, representatives of the TFIs and of other administrations and organizations including Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a. Also present were President Abdirahman Muhammed ‘Farole’ and Vice-President Abdisamad Ali Shire of Puntland. Garowe is, of course, the capital of Puntland. Also present is Sharif Hassan, still recognized as the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament by the UN Political Office and by the international community, despite his ‘replacement’ in December by Madobe Nunow Mohamed. Despite appeals to settle the dispute, the dissident parliamentarians also held a meeting on Wednesday in Mogadishu. 268 MPs made clear their opposition to the Garowe Conference, claiming that it was only designed to benefit the interests of a few individuals, particularly Sharif Hassan rather than Somalia, and was not in accordance with the law. A major element in the discussion over the constitution revolves around proposals to sharply limit the number of MPs, at the moment numbering 550. Sharif Hassan himself said during the opening ceremonies of the conference that everyone had come “to agree on the constitution which will be used to govern the country”. He urged conflicting sides to think about how to reduce arguments and misunderstandings and resolve issues through reconciliation. Prime Minister Abdiweli said there was need to move from the reconciliation period to a fair government to reach across the country. A federal administration was, he said, a very important element in reaching the TFG’s goals. (MoFA)

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