Somalia's main transitional leaders are meeting in Ethiopia this week for talks on implementing the 'Roadmap'. Somalia's biggest Western donors, and the leaders of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Puntland, are focusing on the adoption of a new constitution and an end to the current Transitional Federal Charter before its mandate expires in August. The Roadmap emerged in September 2011 out of the Kampala Accord a few weeks earlier, which had functioned mainly to contain infighting between TFG factions. Since September, key politicians -- with the tacit backing of donors -- have focused on winding down in name the discredited transitional processes, while manoeuvring to avoid giving up their lucrative positions. Donors, especially the United States and United Kingdom, are also prioritising security-related goals, and attempting to keep pressure on the TFG's main opponent, al-Shabaab.
- Kenyan efforts to develop a northern transport corridor and new oil fields hinge on security conditions over the Somali border.
- External security intervention increases prospects for asymmetrical attacks by al-Shabaab, including in Kenya, Ethiopia or even London.
- Food security remains at risk amid TFG infighting, volatile security conditions and with some areas still inaccessible under al-Shabaab.
While attention is focused on ending the transition, and on security gains against al-Shabaab fighters, the risks are building for significant political volatility in the aftermath of the August political transition. Al-Shabaab remains a potent force, which the re-emergence of regional warlords and deployment outside Mogadishu of AU peacekeepers will not be able to counter effectively, exacerbating instability.
As the talks in Addis Ababa stalled yesterday, African Union (AU) peacekeepers -- AMISOM -- launched an assault on al-Shabaab positions in the Afgoye corridor about 25 kilometres outside Mogadishu. This area hosts some 400,000 internally displaced persons, and remains under al-Shabaab control, despite their withdrawal from fixed positions in the city in August 2011.
The operation is a reminder that containing al-Shabaab is the first priority of the TFG's main backers in the region, including Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya -- all of which have troops in Somalia, the latter two of which are part of AMISOM. Uganda, which plays the leading role in AMISOM, was the target of al-Shabaab's only successful foreign operation in mid-2010. Kampala has been pushing since then for an expansion in AMISOM's mandate, both in terms of troops and its remit.
Both have now been approved; with the re-hatting of Kenyan troops, and the arrival of Djiboutian troops, AMISOM has taken positions outside Mogadishu for the first time:
A Djiboutian contingent has deployed to Beledweyne, in Hiraan province near the Ethiopian border. Burundian troops are stationed in Baidoa, in Bay province, from which al-Shabaab was dislodged in mid-February. Kenyan troops remain in the positions just inside the Somali border, where they have been mired since shortly after Nairobi's invasion in October 2011.
Ethiopia's activities have been concentrated in Gedo, Bay, Bakool and Hiraan. There were recent signals that it might be prepared to support an offensive on Kismayo, an important southern port and a key continued area of influence for al-Shabaab, despite Kenya's intervention. Former TFG Defence Minister Barre 'Hirale' Aden Shire, a long-time warlord with influence in the region, was released from 'house arrest' by Ethiopian forces in Gedo in mid-May.
Barre Hirale's re-entry into the security dynamics of Lower Juba province are emblematic of what is likely to become a wider pattern in coming months. Regional warlord and clan competition is set to increase, as the stabilising influence of al-Shabaab's overarching control is shaken. Clan interests did not disappear in these areas, and Kismayo and Beledweyne had both seen periodic episodes of violence during the last 3-4 years. However, as competition increases, and given al-Shabaab's continued ability to launch attacks on TFG and AMISOM targets in these areas, instability is set to rise.
Meanwhile, TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan -- whom the Transitional Federal Parliament has voted out, but whom the international community continues to recognise as speaker -- are both manoeuvring with an eye to the post-August presidency. Although donor rhetoric is mainly focused on the process of approving and adopting the draft constitution, more diplomatic energy -- especially by regional governments -- is being expended on the negotiations between these competing factions within the current framework.
The office of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development issued a statement on May 1 threatening sanctions on those opposing the Roadmap. This warning highlighted both the quandary the TFG's funders find themselves in, as well as the problems latent in the top-down approach being taken to the political transition in southern and central Somalia under the Roadmap.
On one hand, donors are reluctant to endorse any further extensions to the Transitional Federal Charter, which has been in place since 2004. However, there appear to be no acceptable alternatives to continued support, given that:
- the TFG has accomplished so little of its mandate, and still relies heavily on international financial and military assistance for its survival; and
- negotiations with al-Shabaab, the single most coherent and potent political actor, remain unacceptable to Western donors, particularly the United States. Nevertheless, pushing the Roadmap through is adding to dissatisfaction with the TFG, and building up resentments which will quickly confront its successor administration.
Legitimacy and buy-in
While it attempts to draw in representation from areas still under the control of al-Shabaab, the Roadmap process does not sufficiently factor-in the difficulties those constituencies would face by participating; there is also the question whether such constituencies would want to participate at all. Al-Shabaab's administration of its territories rests on cooptation of local elites. Given that many areas have been under al-Shabaab control for 2-3 (or more) years, the position of local elders could be compromised by engagement with the TFG; they could face intimidation or assassination.
The constitution was drafted by mid-2010, but public consultation has predictably been thin, given the TFG's limited territorial remit. The Constituent Assembly -- 885 clan elders -- is currently deliberating in Mogadishu, mandated to ratify the new constitution and elect a new 225-member parliament. Questions have been raised about the selection process for members of the assembly, as well as the criteria the body will use to elect legislators.
Moreover, as ratification of the draft constitution approaches, challenges to some of its provisions have emerged:
- Puntland has expressed concerns over some of the definitions of federal units, seeking to preserve its autonomy from Mogadishu after August.
- The requirement that a state contain at least two of the country's former provinces is also exacerbating clan competition, given that outside Puntland, few potential states would meet this criterion.
- Religious concerns have also emerged, with some questions about the state's role in defining or regulating religious practice.
Moreover, Somaliland remains aloof from the constitutional dialogue process (though the basic law seeks to encompass its territory). Its border dispute with Puntland, and increased al-Shabaab presence in northern Somalia, present underlying security risks.
- Oxford Analytica
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