Somalia: The Political Poisoning of the F.G.S. by Belgian WafflesSeptember 21, 2013 // admin1 // News in English
21 Sep 21, 2013 – 1:43:16 AM
By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
“It’s a bit like Belgian Waffles; sweet on the outside but really has not much substance to it.” So commented the revolutionary Salafist movement, Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen (H.S.M.), in a September 16 tweet addressing “The Somali Compact” between the Federal Government of Somalia (F.G.S.) and the Western “donor”-powers that was instituted on the same day in Brussels.
What H.S.M. meant by its metaphor was that the promises of financial aid made by the “donor”-powers to the F.G.S. were “hollow;” “the billions promised will most likely be unpaid.” If past performance is anything to go by, H.S.M. is probably correct; but there is another Belgian Waffle in the compact that has been largely overlooked – what the F.G.S. has been tasked by the “donor”-powers to give them in return politically for their money, the expenditure of which is contingent on the fulfillment of those political tasks, to which the F.G.S. has been committed.
With actors, analysts, and commentators fixated on the money, there has been a tendency to forget that Brussels initiated a compact, which has two sides. It is necessary to examine the other Waffle in order to understand the sham of Brussels and what its consequences are likely to be.
As tedious as it might be, the following analysis will put a microscope to the F.G.S. Waffle’s political promises.
PSG 1: Inclusive Politics
PSG means Peace and Statebuilding Goals. They are the “priorities” that the F.G.S. is expected to fulfill. Priorities 2 and 3 – “Finalizing and Adopting a Federal Constitution by December 2015” and “Prepare for and hold credible elections by 2016” – are explicitly contingent on Priority 1 – “Advance inclusive political dialogue to clarify and settle relations between the federal government and existing and emerging administrations and initiate processes of social reconciliation to restore trust between communities.” Attention will be given here to Priority 1, on which all political progress is supposed to depend.
The following analysis will unpack Priority 1, using the four explanatory paragraphs that follow it and comments on the situation on the ground in order to determine its operative political meaning.
The aim of Priority 1 is to “settle relations between the federal government and existing and emerging administrations,” which is restated in the first explanatory paragraph as “the emergence of a national political settlement.”
Priority 1 is, first of all, a confession by the F.G.S. of its failure during the first year of its four-year term to engineer a “national political settlement.” In 2012, the F.G.S. had plans to appoint interim administrations in the regions of south-central Somalia that would prepare for the establishment of federal states through a bottom-up process. That plan has now been dashed to bits and with it the F.G.S.’s claim to sovereignty in the eyes of the “donor”-powers.
Rather than managing a process of “statebuilding,” as a sovereign government would, the F.G.S. has now been given the charge, according to the second explanatory paragraph, to “facilitate an inclusive political dialogue for the establishment of regional administrations in all accessible areas, in line with the Provisional Constitution” (the proper interpretation of which, on that issue, is in dispute). The F.G.S. has been demoted from sovereign to facilitator of a “national political settlement” that it failed to guide.
A year has passed, as years used to pass under the F.G.S.’s predecessor, the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.), without political progress, and the “donor”-powers realize that and have given up politically on the F.G.S. and on the centralized federalist model that it represented. The parts proved to be stronger than the whole and the “donor”-powers have accepted that – and they have left the F.G.S. to “facilitate” what, if any, alternative arrangement (decentralized federalism? separation? a mix of both? a welter of confused authorities? – nobody knows) might come to be. It is possible that the tipping point to the Balkanization of the territories of post-independence Somalia has been reached with the demotion of the F.G.S. by the “donor”-powers. They were responsible for the F.G.S.’s failure by imposing the F.G.S. on the territories of post-independence Somalia before a political settlement had been reached and, more fundamentally, before social reconciliation had been achieved. It is the “donor”-powe
rs that actually have failed and they cover their failure and admit it backhandedly by tasking the F.G.S. with “facilitating” a political settlement and social reconciliation that were unmet prerequisites for the success of the “permanent government” that they engineered.
But, can the F.G.S. even begin to facilitate a political settlement and social reconciliation?
To begin with, to expect the F.G.S. to initiate a statebuilding process as a “facilitator” when it was unable to do so when at least the pretension was made by the “donor”-powers that it was a sovereign government beggars belief. The F.G.S. always suffered from a severe power deficit; now it is in the throes of a power failure.
How is the F.G.S. to initiate “an inclusive political dialogue” when Somaliland has been granted a separate “compact” by the “donor”-powers (Somaliland is now out of the national political settlement), Puntland has suspended cooperation with the F.G.S., Ahmed Madobe’s Juba administration is in charge of Kismayo, the Digil and Mirifle elders in the Bay and Bakool regions have broken with the F.G.S., the A.S.W.J. in Galgadud has suspended its alliance with the F.G.S., competing claims between Galmudug, A.S.W.J., and Himan and Heeb have not been resolved, and the Khatumo administration dissents from the compact? The question answers itself. The F.G.S. does not have sufficient power to function as a “facilitator.”
The fragmented and contentious situation on the ground, which, to repeat, is the result of the absence of prior reconciliation, is compounded by the desire of the “donor”-powers for a national political settlement, the prospect of which has set off a scramble among all the unreconciled factions to press their particular claims in order to gain whatever advantages they can in case there is such a settlement: the demand for a “national political settlement” undermines social reconciliation by bringing grievances forward and opening up old wounds.
The disconnect between the halls of diplomacy and the streets has never been greater. The distance between the diagram and the reality has never been so vast. Do the “donor”-powers do anything next? At least they will have ample opportunity and cover to withhold their money, because it is difficult to see how the F.G.S. will discharge its duties.
Annex 1 to the compact, which refers to PSG 1 is a “Results Matrix of Somali Peace and Statebuilding Goals” made up of “Milestones,” “Delivery Dates” for them, “Responsibilities” of the F.G.S. in reaching them, and “Support” of “development partners.” In brief, it is another “roadmap,” like the one used in the “transition” from the T.F.G. to the F.G.S., needed because the first roadmap had too many short cuts that have led to dead ends. Call it what you will, the “donor”-powers are starting all over again, only this time it is unlikely that they will exert as much pressure as they did to get the F.G.S. started (since they have given up on the F.G.S. politically and have no new “sovereign” in mind to replace it).
There are five “Milestones.” The first calls for the establishment of a “National reconciliation commission” and the development of “reconciliation programmes” in 2014. The cells for listing the responsibilities of the government and the support of donors have been left blank. The second Milestone calls for “Inclusive consultations on the establishment of administrations conducted in at least 10 regions and administrations established” in 2014. Again the other cells are blank. The third calls for “Inter-regional dialogue on the formation of federal states” to be initiated in 2014, with the responsibility and support cells again blank. The fourth Milestone calls for an “Annual conference on political dialogue with the executive head [sic.] of states of existing and emerging administrations” to be convened by the F.G.S. in 2014 (responsibility and support cells blank). Finally the fifth Milestone (responsibility and support cells blank) sets the final goal of a “Decision on the federal model” to be reached in 2015.
It is here, in Annex 1, that the Belgian-Waffle metaphor takes on its full resonance. The political Waffle is indeed “sweet on the outside” – it promises a resolution of the most fundamental political issue concerning the territories of post-independence Somalia, the determination of the form of a future Somali state. Yet the promise is hollow, given the conditions on the ground sketched above. In addition, the Waffle is half-baked, since it does not specify F.G.S. responsibilities and donor support. And, most importantly, it appears that it will end up undercooked, because it is due to be ready for its federalist topping in a year from now – another rush job courtesy of the master chefs, the “donor”-powers. One awaits the “annual conference on political dialogue.” Who will come? Will all factions disputing the same territory be invited? And will the “national reconciliation commission” have reconciled those who do come if, indeed, the conference is ever held?
In summary, the “donor”-powers have set up a new roadmap for another “transition,” with new “milestones” in their familiar pattern of rushing political solutions before social reconciliation has been achieved, guaranteeing failure. And this time, they have compounded the damage by making the weakened (in part, by them) F.G.S. the “facilitator” of a “national political settlement,” the prospect of which has exacerbated conflicts on the ground even more than they were before.
The question of state-form is once again totally up for grabs, but this time the interests in favor of centralized federalism are on the back foot. Although decentralized federalism is a viable option, the possibility of Balkanization has become real if confederalism is not precisely balanced. A two-state solution appears to have been adopted, with Somaliland having been granted quasi-recognition, making a league of states a possibility if Puntland splits with south-central Somalia and follows Somaliland on the independence track. Civil war also is possible, as is a resurgence of H.S.M. Hyper –fragmentation is unchecked. The political Waffle has been drowned in a poisonous stew of contention.
Why do the “donor”-powers continue to repeat what appears to be their pattern of behavior that is destructive to the Somali people and seemingly self-defeating for them? For H.S.M., it is an anti-Muslim strategy of infidels. The present writer finds no evidence to support that explanation. Rather, it seems to him that Somalia is simply a low priority for the “donor”-powers, but not a low enough priority to be left alone. As a result, they keep producing half-baked half measures in an endless succession.
The Somali people need to find a better diet than toxic Belgian Waffles.
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago firstname.lastname@example.org