The Somalia Federal Government (SFG) led by State Minister for the Presidency Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir and the Jubba delegation headed by Ras Kamboni leader Ahmed Madobe recently concluded a deal that on paper was one step intended to resolve the political and security crisis in the region.
On some levels, the deal kept the status quo as pro-SFG elements are to administer parts of Gedo and Kenya-supported Ras Kamboni are to administer Lower Juba and Middle Juba.
The fact that al-Shabaab controls large portions of the regions divvied up in the agreement should not go overlooked in terms of the authority conferred by the document.
It also further highlights how the crisis in the Jubba region has provided al-Shabaab with breathing space and opportunities for its top leader Ahmed Abdi Godane to increase attacks and consolidate his power amid the group’s own infighting.
Important Points on the Agreement in Addis Ababa
- “Jubaland” No More…For Now: Though media reports continue to use the name “Jubaland,” in effect it no longer exists until some other process takes place in the future. The term is not used in the agreement, and the official name is now “Interim Jubba Administration” for no more than the next two years.
- Proportional Representation?: As Somali think tank HIPS pointed out, fair representation in the Jubba “Regional Assembly” and “Executive Council” to be established per the agreement will be impossible without the availability of an up to date census. Even so, the agreement leaves out the core functions and duties of these bodies–leaving much of the de facto authority potentially with administration leader Madobe.
- Madobe in (one of) the Driver’s Seat(s)–for now: As a result, Madobe has new-found political legitimacy to complement his established influence in the region. It would be a surprise if the counter-force of a bureaucracy provided in the Addis agreement will actually have a significant impact on his authority.
- Consensus Among Only Choice Elites: The negotiations in Addis–though worth celebrating–only represent two factions in a region and do not outline specifics on how to ensure “fair” political representation and economic resource sharing among the number of clans and sub-clans in the region. Therefore, it remains to be seen if the deal can translate into a consensus on the ground.
- Port Control: While the SFG agreed to wait six months before having Kismayo’s air and sea ports transferred to its control, there remains little agreement on revenue sharing–except for the fact that it should be spent in the region. Interestingly, there is no mention of illegal charcoal exports that reportedly benefit al-Shabaab and the alleged involvement of the KDF/Ras Kamboni in the affair.
- Military Integration: The agreement punts any real decision on Ras Kamboni’s military integration to a future timeline decided by a joint committee. While practical, it again is another sign that the deal is a stop-gap rather than a comprehensive solution when it comes to core issues driving the stalemate in Jubba. Even if there was indeed “integration,” Ras Kamboni likely would operate autonomously given the national army’s loose hierarchy.
- Ethiopia’s Role in Somalia Post-Meles: Ethiopia has continued to commit significant focus to influencing influencing politics and security well after after Meles’s death. Its untimely military withdrawals in Somalia allow it to pressure the international community and Somali government to address its strategic and financial interests. Equally important, its diplomatic power (including its role in IGAD) and influence among Somali actors have allowed it to shape the future of Somalia federalism–which should worry those who are pushing for an in-country process. Suffice to say–Ethiopia is not turning its back on Somalia in all understandings of the phrase.
The Missing Grand Vision and Consensus on Federalism
While the Jubba deal is a welcome (and temporary) safety net for federalism’s free fall, it is unarguable that what is needed is a grand consensus on what federalism means and how to achieve it among all the country’s actors.
This is cannot be accomplished legitimately through ad hoc agreements in Addis or brief and non-inclusive conferences, such as the one schedule for September 2-6 entitled, “Vision 2016: Transitioning Towards Democracy.”
This most recent conference cannot be taken seriously given the gravity of the topic , and it appears more likely as an attempt by the SFG to convince the international community (IC) that it is moving the ball forward on federalism amid plans to implement aid within the much anticipated New Deal framework.
Puntland region President Abdirahman Farole strongly refused to participate in the conference, stating, “The people and Government of Puntland will have no representatives whatsoever at the planned conference in Mogadishu, as the foundation of national governance is lacking (agreed constitution) and the basis for cooperation is absent.”
Without a grand vision, Somalia risks limping across the federalism’s finish line through non-inclusive ad hoc talks and ignoring both contentious and reconciliatory conversations that need to be held between everyday communities under a forum with no time commitment.
This kind of endeavor is not without precedent. After declaring independence, Somaliland–importantly on its own terms and impetus–eventually held meetings that lasted for years in different forums including each strata of society in order to reach a consensus on governance. [PDF] As Somalilanders might agree, even a successful process to establish a system of governance does not mean problematic issues won’t develop over time. Federalism needs constant maintenance (i.e., constructive and inclusive dialogue in a trusted forum.)
Using Somaliland as a model is not a new thought, but it does take a tremendous amount of courage, vision, and leadership to propose such an idea when clan dynamics/histories are very different (if not trickier) compared to the north. Additionally, some communities may have grown weary of an idea that has been tried in other unsuccessful forums or not trust this administration to carry out the process.
Reaching a consensus on federalism will involve a lot of controversy, financial support, and time–of which the latter are not generally afforded to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud–especially when some in the IC are making interesting references toward elections in 2016.
Many observers and critics do not believe President Hassan has the will or ability to orchestrate the long slog of a locally-credible federalism process built on the backs of “reconciliation” (however it is defined among the players.)
But unless this happens, there are plenty of indications that other regions will shun Mogadishu, go solo, and form their own state–with Bay and Bakool conference organizers reportedly ready to do just that.
It is well-established that  brief,  foreign-led, and  non-inclusive conferences and agreements are not solutions to core problems driving conflict in Somalia.
The question is: will leaders in Mogadishu, Garowe, Kismayo, and other local power centers be willing to take the longer, more painful road to reach a grand vision that ultimately is where a potential solution may be found.