19 May 2007 04:26


  • Title: [SW Country] (Abdisalam M Issa-Salwe) Somali peace process in Djibouti should not be an end, but a means to an end
  • Posted by/on:[AAJ][28 July 2000]

 Open Letter to President Ismail Omar Guelleh 

Dear Mr President 

Subject: Somali peace process in Djibouti should not be an end, but a means to an end

 Your speech at the United Nations on 23 September 1999 was a ground-breaking step of historical significance as it has shaken the conscience of the international community to their ‘indifference’ to the Somali tragedy. Many Somalis, both inside and outside the country, saw you as their long-awaited saviour.

 Since the breakdown of the Somali state in early 1991, there have been many efforts by the international community to revitalise it. They were unsuccessful and, generally, counter-productive. The reason for the failure lies in the approach, because it aimed at the resuscitation of an externally driven state structure where the local people’s involvement is rarely sought. 

Your approach gained attention because it tries to address one of the main reasons for previous failure: that the victims of the civil strife should lead the peace process. This holistic approach, as you correctly mentioned in your proposal, must be an alternative paradigm to the Somali crisis as it is a very complex and thorny issue.

 Since your initiative is at the crossroads between proposal and implementation, care must be given to its practicality, as it lies poised between failure and success. 

Efforts must not be put into the formation of a national government without first laying suitable foundations. The idea of giving priority to government formation is exactly one of the elements which led previous peace conferences to failure. This stance is to advocate a top-down approach which leads to the centralisation of the Somali state. While it contravened your own initiatives, this perspective may also contradict the natural trend which Somali regions have been moving since the collapse of the Somali state. 

While it is true that lack of government is one of the main causes which perpetuate the Somali crisis, consideration must be given to the necessary elements. The Somali Djibouti peace process should not be an end, but a means to an end. Therefore, the solutions must be based on the today's reality. 

One aspect which should be considered is the recent development of institutions in Somalia. Currently, Somalia can be distinguished into three different zones: recovery zones, transitional zones and crisis zones. Similarly, the same classification is also used by Mr Kofi Anan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his report to the Security Council of 16 August 1999. Mr Anan urged that this classification be considered for assistance in humanitarian and rehabilitation strategic assistance (see S/1999/882, 16 August 1999). The Secretary-General’s conclusion is based on today’s Somalia. His recommendations range from emphasis on providing basic and life-saving service in the zones of crisis, to the provision of technical support for good governance and capacity-building in the recovery zones. 

From Mr Anan’s observations, we can perceive that what the Somalis need from the first stage of the Somali peace process in Djibouti is a means or mechanism which can bring each of the three zones to a stage of effective local governance. For instance, this mechanism should help those regions in the crisis zones to move into the recovery stage. So each may develop its own unique institutions according to local need, within the overall framework of a federal Somali state. 

Therefore, establishment of a national committee or a national operational body is one of the elements required at this stage. All the thorny and divisive issues, which are being addressed by the current conference, should be the task of this body. Taking into consideration the existing obstacles and difficulties, practically, this body may need at least one to two years to accomplish such complex and huge operation (by which time the provisional or transitional mechanism will be set to start). 

In theory, a state is developed as a response to disorder.  It tries to bring about harmony and humanisation against a backdrop of civil strife.  In this context the state acts as an agent influencing, shaping, informing and permeating human life with the value of civility. 

Honourable President, Somalis say, “Xoog waxaa kugu daran kan xarigga kaa gooya” (the worst force is the one which wastes your efforts). The Somalis’ expectation from the current peace conference is very high. They cannot afford another loss as this may lead to the end of the Somali nation for ever.


I trust that you will find my suggestions helpful in your deliberations.


Participant of the Technical Consultative Somali Peace Process Symposium

 Abdisalam M Issa-Salwe

168B Grafton Road

London NW5 4BA

Kentish Town

United Kingdom

Phone: (44 20) 7813 1105

E-mail: binsalwe@aol.com


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