America on Somalia’s side

Mr. Mohamud M Uluso — Lately, major news headlines on Somalia have diminished the hope for relief of the human suffering in Somalia.
America on Somalia’s side

Some of the news headlines include the disastrous political, security, and humanitarian consequences of two yearlong planned military offensive of African Union forces (AMISOM) against three Al Shabab stronghold cities (Elbur, Qoryoley, and Huddur), the UN global warning about children facing “starvation and death” and 2 million more in “food insecurity,”  deadly violence instigated by the hysteria of clan federalism (land ownership) in Kismaio, Belet Hawo, Marka, Baidoa, and in Khatumo regions ( Sool and Sanaag) disputed by the ethnic enclaves of Puntland and Somaliland, the political infighting among Somali leaders, the surreal talk about 2016 constitutional referendum and national political election, the surprise resignation of the Special Representative and Head of AU Mission for Somalia Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the “extremely alarming” outbreak of measles declared by WHO and UNICEF, the crackdown and forced repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya, and the provocative declarations of Ethiopia and Kenya leaders who insist that their forces will not leave Somalia as long as they are not satisfied with the political and security situation in Somalia.

The ongoing level of humanitarian disaster belies the shameful claims and fanfares of progress touted by donors’ officials and Somali leaders for justifying the financial resources dispensed or looted on behalf of Somalia. Foreign officials and Somali leaders would like to brag about ceremonies, travels, meetings, small and expensive projects that ceased to function like Mogadishu solar street lighting and market places, while in the western democracies the focus is on problems and shortfalls for accountability and actions.  In Somalia, institutions are not earning credibility.

In May, a coalition of Aid organizations warned the world that Somalia faces a humanitarian crisis with 50,000 severely malnourished children at death’s door, while 2.9 million persons are at risk of hunger. Immediately, the UN appealed for 60 million dollars for emergency food assistance to avert a famine similar to one experienced in 2011 which killed more than 250 thousand people.

These few selected news headlines provide partial explanation of the multiple external and domestic self-reinforcing problems afflicting Somalia. After seven years of international and local efforts on security, constitution, and political process, Somalia has yet to be stabilized, integrated, and governed by central and local authorities with clear hierarchical jurisdictions.

In the midst of these distressing news headlines, the Under Secretary of US State Department for Political Affairs, Wendy R. Sherman delivered speech on a US policy in Somalia on June 3, 2014, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. The speech did not bother to acknowledge that Somalia is also member of the Arab region (Middle East).

In a positive light, the United States proclaimed to be on Somalia’s side for support in governance, security, and development goals. However, the speech contained different messages that could muddle its understanding, interpretation, and implementation.

Central Message

The speech emphasized the US priority interest of an international readiness for counter-terrorism operations for which president Obama requested $ 5 billion fund that will be used to build the security capacity of international allies. One of the major reasons mentioned for the renewed US involvement in Somalia is to have a secure and united Somalia that will confront the forces of extremism and terror (Al Shabab). Therefore, Somalia has to have a central government able to combat terrorism, piracy, illicit trafficking, and radicalism. Unfortunately, IGAD, EU, and UN are implementing policies which divide Somalia into North and South and South into clan enclaves mired into clan disputes.

Message of compassion and hope

The speech recognized the long suffering of the Somali people for colonization, cold war, civil war, and natural disasters which impeded them to establish shared roots in Somalia. The US government wishes that Somalis have a home where they can live with dignity, a sense of ownership, and respect of each other. It offers to help Somalis to realize the unfulfilled promise from independence. This compassionate commitment uplifts the Somali spirit and augurs a new dawn for the Somali-American relation.

The speech recalled the unfolding humanitarian crisis by stating that an estimated 3 million Somali citizens lack secure supplies of food and 860,000 are in need of emergency help. The US is major contributor to the World Food Assistance for Somalia.

Message of generous Support

Since the diplomatic recognition in January 2013, the US Government provided $ 485 million to the Federal Government for security and recovery purposes. This figure is separate from the $ 500 million paid to African forces fighting in Somalia.

However, the speech makes clear that the lack of genuine consensus on a credible national government in Mogadishu is a major obstacle to substantial international support. This signals a rethinking of US Government about the federal government. As explained in the book, “Hard Choices,” of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Government spearheaded the end of transition and beginning of permanent government administration. As  a solution for change, the United States believes that “the Somalis have to decide whether they want to exist as disparate clans isolated from the world and with one and another or as united country will all the attributes, benefits, and responsibilities that such unity brings.” This existential challenge calls for a quick and an unambiguous response from the Somali people.

Message for internal strife and foreign intervention

On January 3, 2013, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was unequivocal about the end of the transition and the dual track policy in Somalia. But, the new US policy seems to extend the transition and maintain the dual track policy in place on the basis of the following remarks:


  1. Somalia now has an interim parliament, a president, and a prime minister, and roadmap calling for a permanent constitution and national elections.
  2. The united states will remain actively engaged with both national and regional leaders to strengthen institutions and promote cooperation on every level.” 
  3. In the Q&A session, Under Secretary Sherman said that since terror is not about location, the response has to be a regional approach. 

These statements convey conflict-provoking message. Regional Neighbors could interpret them as a continuation of the transitional status and of dual track policy, and a legitimate excuse for direct intervention and indefinite occupation as argued by the Government of Kenya. In reaction, liberation war, regional fragmentation, and clan disputes could continue and gain support.

The neighbors of Somalia-Ethiopia and Kenya- lack the capacity, interests, and values to accomplish the interconnected key elements of US policy in Somalia: rule-based security, democratic governance, and socio-economic development. As a strategic policy, they took advantage of the political and social vulnerabilities of Somalia and established IGAD controlled political framework founded on an institutionalized foreign driven political and security process. The focus of IGAD-UN led process is to promote political hostility and clan federalism which hinder Somalia’s unity, stability, and statehood.

If the provisional constitution failed to promote national unity, for sure, Jubbaland Agreement between federal government and clan militia Raskamboni with Ethiopia as a guarantor cannot be a model for internal unity. Somalia is not only cursed by geography but also by history and clan culture.

If the United States ignores to dissociate itself from the inherent risks in the biased premises on which IGAD-UN led political framework is built upon, the US policy in Somalia could face setbacks and credibility problems. The United States cannot support clan federalism and factionalism on one hand and constitutional democracy, citizenship, and human rights on the other hand.

Message of criticism

The speech did not express enthusiasm for the federal government or any other authorities. The Under Secretary repeated all the problems of crime, corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, insufficient political inclusion and local participation blamed to the federal government. Nevertheless, President Obama decided to propose the first US Ambassador as a sign of commitment to Somalia and not to the federal government. The process may take some time for different reasons.

As it is clear from the speech, the Somali government does not have the green light and necessary prerequisites to appoint an Ambassador to the United States but it could form a team within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will engage with the representatives of the US government on wide ranging issues of statebuilding. The cooperation with the United States requires extensive preparations, knowledge, sensitivity, and dedicated attention.

Personal observations

The speech comes at a time when Kenya, Ethiopia, and UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) headed by Ambassador Nicholas Kay took full control of the political and security affairs of Somalia. The ability of the federal government to lead the country on the basis of the letter and spirit of the constitution has dramatically eroded. It became embroiled in political deception, willy-nilly decisions, and financial mismanagement that undermined its domestic and foreign credibility.   

The truth is that the pivotal test for Somalia is not only an internal one, but it is also an external one since the security and politics of Somalia have been globalized. There is correlation between the federal government’s ineptness and corruption and external actors’ role and policies. This is not a blame shifting but reflects the reality.

Mogadishu Airport and Jazeera area have become a zone off for Nairobi Beach, makeshift offices, bases, and hotels where diplomats and international community stay and meet Somali leaders including the President during their visits to Mogadishu. The lack of trusted security beyond Mogadishu Airport is another irrefutable testament to the failure of the international efforts in Somalia. Former Governor of Benadir Region and Mayor of Mogadishu Mohamud Ahmed Nur a.k.a. Tarzan has conceded the total absence of security foundations in Mogadishu districts and many sources indicate that Mogadishu is still confidently controlled by Al Shabab operatives.   

The United States as the last superpower and guarantor of the international order and stability should do more to help Somalia to become a valuable member of the international community. Somalia needs honest partnership to regain the characteristics and credibility of sovereign State. For their part, the leadership elite of Somalia will commit a historical dereliction of responsibility if they let pass the opportunity of bringing the people of Somalia together as a nation for ending the decades long of suffering and political turmoil.

Mr. Mohamud M Uluso

Editorial 29 April 2022 13:51

Somalia is on the move. It is pushing for foreign investment, and large infrastructure projects are changing the face of its scarred capital city, Mogadishu. These developments could promise better fortunes for Somalis as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic