The Somali Compact: promising Deal but with fatal flaws

Mr. Mohamud M Uluso - After one year of consultations, planning sessions, and international conferences, representatives of the International Community (Development Partners) and High level delegation led by President Hassan Sh. Mohamud of the Federal Republic of Somalia (FRS) met at the headquarter of the European Union (EU) Brussels, Belgium on September 16, 2013 for a conference on a “New Deal for Somalia”, and jointly endorsed the Somali Compact (SC) based on the “New Deal Strategy for Engagement in Fragile States” adopted in Bussan, South Korea in November 2011.
Editorial Keydmedia Online
The Somali Compact: promising Deal but with fatal flaws

On the basis of the new partnership, the Development Partners (Donors) pledged 2.421 billion dollars to Somalia to implement fifty eight (58) statebuilding milestones detailed in the SC over the next three years (2014-2016). EU, UK, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, USA, Switzerland, Ireland, Finland, Netherlands, African Development Bank and World Bank contributed 98.72 % of the pledges. Except Turkey, Arab and Asian countries didn’t make pledges, while Italy’s contribution was 12.47 million dollars.

Although the new partnership is better than the former abusive international relationship devised after the collapse of the Somali State, it is not free from fatal flaws and booby-traps that could cancel its promising prospect. Professor Michael Weinstein has highlighted some of the major flaws of the SC in his analysis titled “Somalia: the political poisoning of the FGS by Belgian Waffles” of September 21, 2013. Similarly, Mary Harper of the BBC cautioned in her report titled “another conference on Somalia” that “with so many challenges, it is possible that the Brussels meeting will simply be the latest in the long list of expensive conferences on Somalia that end with ambitious communiqués but have little or no impact on the development of the country.”

Somalia has been put on a peace and statebuilding path designed, directed and managed by the international community in concert with distrusted Somali Partners. Reestablishment of State institutions and authorities at all levels, the holding of constitutional referendum in 2015, and a political election in 2016 throughout Somalia have been the central mission of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). It is not clear if the Development Partners, the Somali elite and people are on the same page and commit and deploy the efforts and cooperation needed to accomplish these ambitious but existential goals.

Shameful diplomatic ambushes

As usual, before and during the Brussels conference, the government of Ethiopia engaged diplomatic ambushes against the sovereign leadership of the FGS to demonstrate its supreme authority over Somalia in collusion with Dr. Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, president of the regional state of Puntland. Against the protocol of the conference published in advance, the Ethiopian foreign minister arranged a publicized photo-op between president Farole and Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, co-chair of the conference. He also lobbied to get president Farole be seated at the front row of the conference table rather than being seated behind the president of Somalia and to deliver a polemic speech, later expunged from the official record for violating the spirit of the conference and probably infuriating EU leaders. In strong disapproval, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel D. Barroso said in his closing remarks that “a country cannot live with two presidents. A country needs rule of law, of course in democracy, with inclusiveness, integrating all the parts in the federal structure of your country.”  

The Pillars of the SC

The pillars of the SC include a binding and respected social contract among the Somali people through the Provisional Constitution,  the existence of national (federal) representative government recognized by the international community, and the consensus that the international relations (foreign policy) of Somalia is an exclusive realm of the national (federal) government. Parallel or competitive local governments in international arenas are incompatible with the New Deal for Somalia.

While the communiqué of the conference reaffirmed the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Somalia, the SC concedes that the northern regions of Somalia (Somaliland) enjoy advanced level of peace, democratic process, development and governance not achieved by the rest of Somalia. However, Somaliland has agreed to seek international development assistance as part of Somalia but with separate implementation mechanism until national integration is completed. Also, Puntland declared its commitment to contribute to the peaceful, just and productive life for “the whole of Somalia.” The South Central Somalia, the seat of the national body responsible for the representation and protection of the unity and sovereignty of Somalia, is under the stabilization plan authorized by the UN Security Council.  

The content of the Somali Compact

The SC focuses on three issues: Peace and statebuilding goals in line with the five goals of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States (the inclusive politics, security, justice, economic foundations, and revenue and services); the principles of partnership and the establishment of Somali Development and Reconstruction Facility (SDRF); and the Architecture and Monitoring Arrangement for mutual accountability and transparency. The SC lists nine principles of partnership for international assistance. The principles of Somali ownership and leadership, transparent and predictable aid, sound Public Financial Management (PFM) systems, and support of institutional development capacity offer a promising prospect.  

Timelines and Constraints

The provisional constitution, the vision 2016, the national stabilization plan, and the SC, all are setting timelines for the implementation of overlapping priorities. The federal government agreed to develop an integrated plan which meets the requirements of an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy (IPRS) with financial cost figures before January 2014.  It has also agreed to identify limited number of top priority flagship programmers in December 2013. In consideration of the very weak human resource capacity of the FGS, the preparation and implementation of these multiple plans could take time and protracted or haphazard negotiations that will quickly dash the expectation of the Somali people.

Other constraints to the fulfillment of these deadlines include halted progress in fighting against Al Shabab, general insecurity, resisted national integration, lack of domestic financial resources, delayed aid disbursement, weak central leadership, and corruption. The Federal Government expects to collect less than 50 million dollars per year as revenue while it needs at least one billion dollars per year to establish a functioning institutional structure at national, regional and district levels.

The SC underscores the formation of core public sector capacities as a precondition for the FGS efforts to support the functioning authorities at all levels of government. The injection of foreign advisors without capable and conscious Somali counterparts at all levels will lead to public discontent and failure.

Fatal flaws in the SC

One major fatal flaw in the SC is the contradictory positions of the Development Partners. On one hand, they emphasize the sovereign leadership of the FGS over the Somali affairs while on the other hand, they practically deal with FGS as a faction that must negotiate with militias, regions, and self organized opponents, or as a faction required executing dictated conflicting tasks without strong diplomatic and financial backup. An urgent resolution of these contradictory positions is critical.

A second fatal flaw could come from the misinterpretation of claim made in the SC that the “Somaliland Special Arrangement (SSA) represents an important element of a larger shift in approach to development partners’ engagement” and of the claim that “the people in Somaliland are citizens of Somaliland” or from the use of the distinct names-Somalia and Somaliland- without qualification. On September 16, the Foreign Minister of Somaliland, Mohamed Behi Yonis published a carefully crafted letter in which he supported the conference and explained Somaliland’s absence. In the same context, the separate security arrangement of US and UK with Somaliland without link to the overall national security structure and strategy of Somalia could trigger new grievances.

A third fatal flaw is related to the confusion surrounding the question of federalism and the tainted legacy of the UN led constitution making process. The international community is fully aware that the issue of the form of federalism in Somalia has not been settled among the Somali people and therefore, the UN has the responsibility to dispel immediately the false claims made on the basis of the provisional constitution in order to avoid protracted controversies. Territory owned/controlled in the name and spirit of clan is unconstitutional.

The Federal government must operate within the limits of the provisional constitution and should not be used as a backdoor to settle, without legitimate process, issues that have been left unresolved during the constitutional negotiation between the stakeholders of the Somali National Constituent Assembly (NCA). The legitimate scrutiny of the FGS actions under and through the agreed conditions and institutions is different from political manipulations and accusations under false claims. Somalia needs a strong democratic developmental central authority with well defined decentralized and accountable system of governance.

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