19 May 2007 04:16


  • [SW Column] ( Burci M. Xamsa ) Glimmer of Hope in Mogadishu and Jowhar –  :Posted on [05/19/07 04:16 ]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of SW.


A Glimmer of Hope in Mogadishu and Jowhar

 By  Burci M. Xamsa


            A glimmer of hope is again sparkling in Somalia. Members of the Transitional Federal Parliament in Mogadishu, in a meeting convened in Sahafi Hotel in the capital city on November 15, 2005, called for direct negotiations with their brothers in Jowhar in order to reconcile their differences and collectively embark on the restoration of an “effective and functioning government”. In an unprecedented move, one of the key political figures in Mogadishu has very bluntly asserted that he would even consider going to Jowhar proper for the proposed negotiations. In response to their counterparts’ overture, members of the Transitional Federal Institutions in Jowhar welcomed the initiative and described it as a “step in the right direction”.


This initiative comes not long after the world has witnessed the sad and disheartening events that have recently heightened tension in Mogadishu and in other parts of Somalia: the recent assassination attempt orchestrated against the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government during his last visit to Mogadishu; the ships that have been attacked by the Somali pirates and the escalating insecurity off the Somali coast; the large shipments of arms to Somalia and the fear that they might fuel a renewed violence in central and southern Somalia; and the escalating verbal attacks and counter-attacks by members of the Mogadishu and Jowhar camps.


This opportunity that has availed itself must be taken very seriously. It appears that both Mogadishu and Jowhar camps are beginning to get less intransigent, less bellicose, and less confrontational. Both are willing to come together anywhere inside Somalia to quell their differences. Both contend now that power and coercion cannot be the ultimate solution to the problems plaguing Somalia; perhaps they mean that conflict resolution paradigms could be the sole mechanisms, at least at this juncture, that can possibly bail them out of their current predicament. They may also argue that the adoption of a realist approach to solve the prevailing impasse would be inconceivable. The latter approach assumes that through power and coercion and the domination of the powerless, violence can be suppressed and peace can ultimately be achieved. But neither camp is more powerful than the other, and it does not so far appear that there are adequate resources and reliable allies that can be exploited to ultimately tip the balance of power to one camp. Drawing upon the latter argument, it is reasonable to assume that both groups have opted for a negotiation power that is not based on zero-sum phenomenon where communication and good listening, the understanding of each others’ interests and concerns to better understand the contentious issues, and the adoption of the Somali indigenous conflict resolutions paradigms would prevail over the coercive devices that have for over 14 years proved to be ineffective.


For the impending dialogue and negotiations to be effective and produce the desired results, both parties –Mogadishu and Jowhar camps – must not allow themselves to get bogged down into difficult procedural issues as they commence their consensus building process to create value for successful negotiations. They must come to terms with the substantive issues that need to be deliberated and strive to reduce the gap in their opposing positions. It is also important that the two opposing groups identify the interconnectedness in the substantive issues that would be tabled for discussion. The contentious issues that have caused divisiveness and fragmentations among members of the Transitional Federal Institutions must not be addressed independently and separately – they must be integrated within a package because of their interconnections. For instance, the relocation issue cannot be discussed separately from the issues of security and disarmament, the presence of spoilers in Mogadishu, the flow of weapons into and out of Mogadishu, the deployment of the foreign troops, and the degree of the commitment of the international community to post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction.


In my last article – Salvaging the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions – posted in some of the Somali Internet websites, I stated that if the rift between the supporters of the President and those of the Speaker of the Parliament continues unabated, it would only produce a confluence of circumstances propitious to the strategies of the internal and external spoilers of the Somali peace process. I argue that a success in bridging the differences between the two opposing groups would be a mortal blow against internal and external spoilers of the Somali peace process. In other words, the privileged status of those who have benefited economically from lawlessness in Somalia is likely to be adversely affected should peace and understanding pervade among members of the Transitional Federal Institutions. The business of the war’s entrepreneurs which focuses on the control of property or income-generating infrastructures will be weakened should both contending parties decide to coalesce and commence post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction programmes.  


Furthermore, the international community must now be more proactively involved to salvage this initiative.  The UN, the European Union, the League of Arab States, the African Union, IGAD, and the US and Canadian governments must facilitate and broker this proposed dialogue and negotiations. A non-intervention on their part will be tantamount to a call for the continuation of destabilization in Somalia and the creation of a safe haven for global terrorism.


The Transitional Federal Institutions must embark on a very bold initiative of calling upon the Ethiopian government to take part in salvaging the proposed dialogue and negotiations put forward by the MPs and Cabinet members in Mogadishu. To dispel the perception that Ethiopia has all along been adamant to help Somalis reconstitute their state, the leadership in Addis Ababa must take advantage of what is now unfolding and exercise its political leverage in bridging the differences between the two groups. Some may argue that Addis Ababa has no time now to waste because of the current internal shambles in Ethiopia and the imminent military confrontation with Eritrea. I contend that Ethiopia will continue to champion the cause of the Somali peace process regardless of the current political predicaments that have emerged as a result of the irregularities reported in the last election. Ethiopia has invested a lot at Mbagathi Peace Process. Its political interests and strategies have motivated it to seek maximization of its power and influence by ensuring that its “friends or proxies” were disproportionately represented in the Somali Transitional Institutions that were formed at Mbagathi. And despite the fact that Ethiopia’s meddling with the problems of Somalia continues to linger in the memory of the Somali people, it is also fair to state that there has been a sea change in the attitudes of Somalis towards the people of Ethiopia. This was prompted by the generosity and the unwavering support that the people of Ethiopia have shown to their Somali brothers as they were fleeing the ravages of the civil war and the ensuing disarray that was so widespread and devastating. Ethiopia still harbors thousands of Somali refugees – they are not harassed by the police or other security forces, neither are they considered aliens in a country that still haunts the specter of the military defeat sustained in the 1977 war with Somalia. I, therefore, trust that the government of Ethiopia will do its utmost to ensure that the initiative proposed by one of the contending parties, and welcomed by the other, would not by any means be derailed by the spoilers of the Somali peace process, both internal and external.


I would like to conclude my present remarks by stating that once the members of the Transitional Federal Institutions from both Mogadishu and Jowhar succeed in bridging their differences, the country will witness the beginning of a long and arduous post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery efforts. The Transitional Federal Government together with the other state and non-state actors in the country would commence building effective institutions of governance; put in place a strategy for poverty eradication and the elimination of unemployment; plan and implement an effective programme of disarmament, demobilization and re-integration (DDR); put forth a plan that would assist to depict past injustices and human rights violations; and stress the importance of the understanding of the deep underlying causes of the Somali conflict. I must reiterate: unless the truth that led to the Somali conflict is well understood and acknowledged, fear of a relapse of violence will always prevail. Post conflict reconciliation and healing require a strong commitment to the acknowledgement of the past injustices.


Burci M. Xamsa

Toronto, Canada



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