The Exotic Underhands Shaping Somalia's Stability Struggle

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Monday May 08, 2017 - 11:39:32 in Latest News by Local News Desk
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    The Exotic Underhands Shaping Somalia's Stability Struggle

    By default or design, the current stabilization model only perpetuates Somalia's dependency on external actors and makes any attempt to reclaim state sovereignty mere political rhetoric.

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By default or design, the current stabilization model only perpetuates Somalia's dependency on external actors and makes any attempt to reclaim state sovereignty mere political rhetoric.
Introduction
Somalia is in need of a strategic partner willing to pressure the neighboring tag-team that is holding her in a deadly headlock—Ethiopia and Kenya—to step aside; to weigh in and put economic pressure on key actors in order to engage in genuine, Somali-led reconciliation; and to help rebuild the national army and security apparatus that can keep al-Shabaab at bay. Kenya is among the active meddlers in Somalia throughout the past decade, asserting its influence both militarily and politically. 
Besides its geopolitical interest in the region, Kenya has a lot at stake, particularly in the disputed maritime border with Somalia. Turkey has been the greatest ally for Somalia since it sent massive aid to Somalia during the 2011 famine that killed hundreds of thousands of Somalis. Subsequently, the UAE, a long time strategic rival of Turkey had started copy-cat major developments in Somalia in a bid to outshine Turkey. Somalia is thought to have huge oil fields under the autonomous region of Puntland, which is practically ungoverned. Hypothetically, Turkey, UAE, Ethiopia and Kenya could be in a better position to extract wealth there than the Somali government. (Weiss et al.,2016).
Discussion
By default or design, the current stabilization model only perpetuates Somalia’s dependency on external actors and makes any attempt to reclaim state sovereignty mere political rhetoric. Though it initially played a positive role, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has become a serious liability to the stabilization of Somalia and has severely undermined its sovereignty. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s foreign policy toward Somalia is bearing fruits for Ethiopia. The Somali landscape remains littered with para-states that are perpetually hostile toward one another and are helplessly exposed to exploitation (Menkhaus, 2014). Though it initially played a positive role, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has become a serious liability to the stabilization of Somalia and has severely undermined its sovereignty. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s foreign policy toward Somalia is bearing fruits for Ethiopia.
In the past decade, since the fall of the Islamic Courts and the subsequent foreign intervention, no serious attempt has been made to rebuild a competent, adequately equipped, and paid national army to neutralize al-Shabaab and restore law and order. The main contributing factors are a clan-based, dysfunctional government that talks about genuine reconciliation, but does nothing; and an international community that outsourced its mandate to Ethiopia and the latter’s exploitation of its fiduciary responsibility for zero-sum gain (Brugger, 2013).
This is really where al-Shabaab, a profoundly despised movement, gets its fuel of support. The incompetence of successive clan-based governments failed to reconcile the nation, provide essential public services, and protect national assets, and they are heavily under Ethiopia’s command. Like other militant groups, al-Shabaab effectively exploits public disappointments and grievances, especially in remote towns and villages where the Somali government has merely a symbolic or no presence at all. 
The grievance that poses the most dangerous threat is the armed soldiers, whose salaries are squandered by corrupt officials and AMISOM bureaucracy. Against that back drop, it is hardly surprising to learn that a number of the Somali Armed Forces are situationally compelled to work for whomever will help them feed themselves and their families, whether it is private security companies, Ethiopia, or al-Shabaab. By and large, the government is seen as a bunch of charlatans, who sold their souls and nation to Ethiopia, and the country’s natural resources for personal gain (Palmer, 2014)
In August 2016, the current government’s term ends and a new government is expected to be elected. For any new government to succeed, its leadership must possess the vision for a modern Somali state that does not grant political legitimacy to clans whose very nature is to promote exclusive rights and perpetual zero-sum strife against other clans. Political legitimacy comes from the people—individual citizens (Brugger, 2013).
More importantly, the new leadership must have the will to transform the current dysfunctional political order by putting reconciliation on the top of its priority list. This, in turn, would become the foundation for a genuine constitution that enshrines citizenship rights and responsibilities, rather than the prevalent zero-sum clan rights. Without this, no new Somali government could claim national legitimacy or mandate. And without such legitimacy, any discourse or investment on security, good governance, and development would be an exercise in futility, at best. Despite the generous praise that President Barack Obama offered Ethiopia during his visit, Ethiopia’s strategic interest in Somalia is on a collision course with that of the U.S. Ethiopia wants a divided Somalia along clan and sub-clan lines, and the U.S. wants to deal with an official state, and therefore wants to see a united Somalia (Bruton, 2010).
Meanwhile, many Somalis perceive the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), which micromanages security and political process in Somalia, as representing the interests of Ethiopia rather than Somalia. Under Ethiopia/IGAD de facto trusteeship, al-Shabaab expanded in number and became a more potent transnational threat, and Somalia became divided into a number of mini-states with half a dozen cardboard presidents who are hostile toward one another. Clearly, the current arrangement must be wholly transformed for a safer Somalia to emerge, a sustainable U.S.-Somalia strategic partnership to materialize, and old oil exploration contracts to be reclaimed (Murunga, 2012).
History shows that no matter how divided and unpatriotic Somalis seem to look from outside, they have always become unified in the event of their country being invaded by foreign forces. Kenya should thus be advised that it will never achieve its own ill-intended interests in Somalia; no matter how hard they try to buy Somali politicians, or how much political pressure they put on them. While it would be a bit naïve to think that Kenya is solely involved in the Somali quagmire for its alleged financial gains, besides being used as a proxy war puppet that only advances the economic and strategic interests of foreign allies. 
The invasion of Kenya in Somalia was neither sanctioned by its parliament as required by the Kenyan constitution nor by the African Union or the United Nations Security Council and thus it was ill-fated from the get go. But Kenya has still time to rethink the far reaching negative consequences of its long term strategy and goals in Somalia due to the high potential for getting bogged down in Somalia, which might lead to its imminent implosion. Further, no amount of pressure should allow Kenya to blindly deprive and destabilize Somalia, including its deeply flawed threats to illegally deporting half-a-million of Somali refugees in Dadaab, or building a security wall along its entire border with Somalia (Lyons & Samatar, 2010).
In fact, one thing is clear that Kenya apparently hasn’t learned any lessons from the misguided offensive of Ethiopians to occupy Somalia back in 2006, which ended in catastrophic defeat of the Ethiopians. Ironically, the original insurgency that eventually gave rise to Al-Shabab stemmed from the Ethiopian’s invasion in Somalia. 
Notwithstanding, it seems Kenya has embraced the precarious strategy of illegally occupying Somalia under the pretext of fighting against terrorists while capriciously using predator drone attacks inside Somalia territories and therefore provoking many non-militant civilians and may create more people to join Al-Shabab forces. In fact, most Somalis now believe that Kenya’s reckless drone strikes in southern Somalia is totally counterproductive and only tends to motivate Al-Shabab militants to use as a recruitment tool, as well as conduct terrorist attacks that target against innocent Kenyan civilians, not to mention their main target – Somalis (Ahmed, 2011).
Likewise, it would be naïve to expect too much from elite Somali-Kenyans due to their conflicted-allegiance to the Kenyan Republic because their law-makers in the Kenyan parliament have become the epitome of flip-flopping on their stand against Kenya’s naked proxy war inside Somalia by one day standing with their Somali brethren in Kenya and then going against them whenever the going-gets-tough. Instead, they should try to convince other Kenyan MPs that Kenya alone cannot successfully defeat Al-Shabab and they need the full-partnership of the Somali government. Despite Somalia’s fledgling government and continuously being at the brunt of Al-Shabab terrorist attacks, still nobody knows better than them how to root out these terrorists from their hiding holes around the country and its border with Kenya. Thus, the Kenyan government would be better advised to seek the Somali Federal government’s close collaboration, instead of sending unhelpful emissaries to illegally annexed states inside Somalia proper (Lyons & Samatar, 2010).
In the end, no matter what Kenya wants from Somalia, the two countries’ relationship should be forged with honest dialogue, free from illegal land or marine annexations and using the wrong political leverages. The way forward may have to be found through a mix of middle-of-the-road approaches, accommodating reasonable expectations with respect to Somalia’s right of its sovereignty, aside from any long-pending or contentious bilateral issues. If this does not happen, security mechanisms and the deeply flawed counter-terrorism grid in Kenya would have to be rather perfected further because Al-Shabab’s excuse to exploit soft-target security threats against civilians would unfortunately continue (Menkhaus, 2015).
A closer look at Kenya’s "Jubaland Initiative” reveals Kenya’s intent to open up its northern region and assert its economic interests in the region. Kenya’s largest development project is dubbed LAPSSET (the Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor), a $24.7bn project that seeks to link the sleepy Lamu Island on the Swahili coast with the rich oilfields of Southern Sudan, as well as serve both the 80-million plus Ethiopian market and the Indian Ocean maritime trade lane (Lyons & Samatar, 2010).
Indeed 13 weeks after the KDF started the incursions into the southern sector of Somalia, a billion-dollar deal with neighbouring South Sudan was signed to construct a $3.9bn, 2,240km oil pipeline, connecting the oil fields of the Upper Nile state of South Sudan with Lamu. This is not an isolated economic plan. The LAPSSET project includes a 32-berth modern port and oil refinery at Lamu, with a rail line to Juba in South Sudan and a branch line to Ethiopia. A fibre optic cable will link South Sudan and Ethiopia, and the construction of three international airports at Lamu, Isiolo and Lokichogio, and upgrading of these three towns to become resort cities, is planned (Yirgu, 2014).
When completed, the Lamu port will be the largest port on the African continent. LAPSSET is the single largest investment project in Africa presently. And this explains Kenya’s involvement in the creation of Jubaland. Even though Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda (with the support of the US and EU) have secured their own economic and security interests by disrupting Al Shabaab’s terror links and curtailing piracy, a united Somalia complete with a universally recognised central government, remains a distant dream for now. 
In 2011, just one month after becoming the first non-African leader to visit Somalia in two decades, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began his statement to the UN General Assembly with these words. He devoted more than a quarter of his speech to Turkey’s foreign policy priorities in Somalia, which had then been suffering from a devastating famine for months. Erdoğan proudly explained how Turkey’s comprehensive, holistic and long-term vision there differed from previous international efforts, which had failed to address the famine or end the nation’s conflict (Ochieng, 2014).
At that time Turkey was a democratic, middle-income country with one of the highest sustained rates of growth in the world. Inflation, interest rates and debt were falling, and the currency had stabilized. The country enjoyed strong political, economic and security ties to the West, as a NATO member and as a candidate for EU accession. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs defined itself as a ‘new and dynamic player’ and ‘a lead humanitarian donor’ that had substantively increased and diversified its humanitarian and development assistance to make the transition from a former aid-recipient country to an ‘emerging donor’. Later that year, at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon included Turkey in a call for new and emerging donor countries’ to assume more responsibility in conflict-affected areas (Öniş & Senses, 2013).
Turkey’s engagement in Somalia has been one of the most visible examples of this. In the five years following Erdoğan’s speech, Turkey has gone well beyond delivering emergency aid and assistance to famine survivors in Somalia. It has hosted international and regional conferences, mediated among various parties, established a diplomatic presence in Mogadishu and Hargeisa, provided technical support and personnel for capacity-building efforts, boosted bilateral trade relations and engaged in development assistance. It has done all this via a wide array of actors: government institutions and agencies, religious institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector companies, security and military officials, and local municipalities (Yirgu, 2014).
Beyond its ambitions as an emerging donor, Turkey’s discourse on Somalia also reflects its foreign policy aspirations as a regional model and a model for the Islamic world. Domestically, engagement in Somalia clearly demonstrates the intention of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) to break from Turkey’s conventional foreign policies, reinvent the country’s image and reach out beyond its geographic confines and traditional Western allies. This ‘New Turkey’, as the representative of a Turkish NGO said, ‘looks beyond its traditional sphere of influence. With its traditional allies, it engages in different ways (Dalay & Friedman, 2013).
Turkey easily falls into this categorisation of emerging donors. It enjoyed relatively steady economic development and growth for over a decade, enabling the expansion of its development co-operation programmes. With a few fluctuations, Turkish gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an average of 5% per year since 2002. Since 2004 Turkey has been one of the world’s 20 largest economies. According to the OECD’s projections, Turkish GDP growth should increase from 3% in 2015 to more than 4% in 2017, despite the challenges posed by the protracted crisis at its southern border, the associated influx of refugees and political turmoil.
Turkey’s ODA, delivered through a range of public agencies co-ordinated by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), has dramatically increased over the past decade. Turkey has also grown in profile as an international humanitarian donor in recent years. When its response to the Syrian crisis is factored in – which constitutes 96% of the humanitarian assistance Turkey reported to the DAC in 2014 – it is the world’s third-largest bilateral donor of humanitarian assistance. Beyond humanitarian and development aid, it has promoted stability in several countries with which it has cultural, religious and historical ties, such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Somalia. It has expanded its diplomatic presence beyond its immediate neighbourhood, particularly in Africa, while mediating between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Somalia and Somaliland, and Israel and Hamas (Al-Ghazzi & Kraidy, 2013).
The Turkish role in Somalia has grown consistently since last Augusts’ visit. A development office was established in Mogadishu, with the effect that both the Turkish government and its non-governmental organizations can fearlessly arrive in Mogadishu – a city that even the Nairobi crowed UN agencies have categorized as no-go-zone since the civil war. Moreover, two new offices, one in Puntland and one in Somaliland, are to be opened within a short period of time. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines have introduced a regular flight – twice a week – to Mogadishu via Sudan, a clear indication that Turkey is open for business opportunities (Gullo, 2012). 
From Turkey's perspective, a stable, viable and reliable ally in the Horn of Africa, preferably Muslim nation, is critically important with economic calculations. In Somalia, Turkey is rebuilding the social fabrics by reconstructing roads, airports, hospitals for Somali peoples' wellbeing and paving the way for political resettlement. The list of some projects that Turkey is doing in Somalia is encouraging: up to 1000 students have been granted full scholarships in different fields in Turkey, schools that teaches Turkish language have open up, Turkish Red Crescent feeds up to 15,000 IDPs, a major hospital and outpatient clinic have been reconstructed which benefiting nearly three million Somalis coming from Mogadishu and other remote areas. The net effect of Turkey's contribution to the impoverished country of Somalia is mind-boggling. For the first time in two decades, Somalia is receiving global attention that might make a difference for the better (Akpınar, 2013).
Turkey has been an observer at the OECD-DAC since 1991. Having voiced no political desire for membership, it still endorses the basic principles of the DAC and regularly co-ordinates with DAC donors. It reports its humanitarian and development assistance in its publicly available reports while voluntarily reporting its top-line figures to the DAC. 
Turkey provides 0.42% of its GNI as ODA – well over the DAC average of 0.3%.27 It is also on the DAC list of ODA recipients, classified as an ‘upper-middle-income country’. For Turkey, which is a member of several multilateral organisations with mostly Northern membership such as NATO, the OECD and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and which has traditionally preferred to deliver assistance through multilateral channels, a pivot towards bilateralism has been part of a shift in its foreign policy identity. The numbers are striking: multilateral ODA accounted for 2% of Turkey’s total ODA in 2014, as opposed to 60% in 2003 and 44% in 2004 (Gilley, 2015)
Although UAE peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and Somalia were under different umbrellas, both countries were fellow-members of the League of Arab States. Following the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, the UAE extended its peacekeeping further afield. With only minimal economic ties with the Balkan states, the UAE had previously paid little attention to the region, although Yugoslavia did maintain an embassy in the UAE capital. Following the eruption of the conflict in Bosnia, however, the area rapidly became a focus of UAE foreign policy involvement. As with Lebanon and Somalia, humanitarian concerns were of major importance. 
In the case of Bosnia, the perception by the UAE was also that the failure of the international community, in particular Western Europe and the United States, to intervene and the imposition of an arms embargo both on the Serbian government and on Bosnia were permitting the killing to continue. President Sheikh Zayed made impassioned appeals for an end to the killing (Hellyer, 2011).
Beyond its relations with individual countries, the United Arab Emirates has, throughout its existence, devoted considerable attention to structures designed to strengthen international collective security, whether through established organizations or through temporary coalitions. In each case, humanitarian issues provided the essential motivation. This aspect of its foreign policy can be traced back to the 1970s, when the UAE provided a contingent for the short-lived Arab Deterrent Force stationed in Lebanon during that country’s civil war (Gruen, 2015).
Although its role in international peacekeeping was initially confined to the Middle East, there was a marked change following the experience of the 1990–1991 Gulf War. In the early 1990s, for example, the UAE responded to an invitation from the Secretary General of the United Nations to provide units for the UNISOM II peacekeeping operations in Somalia, which had already received development assistance from the Emirates. 
Although UAE peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and Somalia were under different umbrellas, both countries were fellow-members of the League of Arab States. Following the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, the UAE extended its peacekeeping further afield. With only minimal economic ties with the Balkan states, the UAE had previously paid little attention to the region, although Yugoslavia did maintain an embassy in the UAE capital. Following the eruption of the conflict in Bosnia, however, the area rapidly became a focus of UAE foreign policy involvement (Hellyer, 2011).
Conclusion
Somalia’s 2016/2017 election was enormously critical, as the country faced many challenges in security, reconciliation, institutional stability, and economic recovery. Analysts and commentators worried that foreign governments’ rivalries spilling into the country’s delicate politics threatened to further complicate a volatile political environment. For the past 25 years, foreign governments have openly interfered in Somalia’s politics by supporting one faction versus another. 
In the 2000s, it was Ethiopia and Eritrea that jockeyed for influence among Somalia’s warring political factions, leading to a "proxy war” inside Somalia between the two East African rivals. Since 2011, after Turkish foreign aid poured into Somalia, the UAE and Turkey have been at loggerheads competing for support among Somali federal leaders, regional states and business groups. Turkey has invested massively in Mogadishu, in reconstructing key governmental infrastructure, public facilities such as roads and hospitals, and built its largest embassy in Mogadishu. Turkey is also planning to train and rebuild Somali Army, which currently only exists in theory. The UAE also increased its presence in Somalia in recent years, contributing to anti-piracy effort in Puntland, donating food aid, opening a hospital and an embassy in Mogadishu building facilities in breakaway Somaliland with most recently signing a controversial deal with the Somaliland administration that created a strong indignation with the Federal Government. 
With the elections now concluded and a new Somali Nationalist and an American Beaurocrat winning the presidency, hopes are high that covert foreign presence in Somalia would diminish – citing the strongly worded speech President Farmajo gave during his inauguration ceremony in Mogadishu asserting his principle of good neighborliness and non interference in the affairs other sovereign states and expecting equal reciprocity for Somalia.

by Abdi Adan Tawane,
Email: abdirahimt@yahoo.com
Abdi Adan Tawane is a writer and analyst focusing on the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect editorial policy of Somaliupdate Online.


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