Somalia: Federalism, Division and The Dual Track Policy
OPINION | MAY 20, 2012
Photo: Alternative to federalism and Somaliland/Somalia ideology – the three branch Somalia (three branches of government in three different parts of the country and three administrative regions).
Abdisamad Mooge “Kayse”
In September 2010 the United States announced a dual-track policy for Somalia that it claimed would broaden its capacity to engage with the Somali government and sub-state political stakeholders in order to promote peace and stability.
The Obama initiative, drafted by the office of Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, has however done the exact opposite to its pledges and is only helping divide Somalia even further.
Ever since it came into effect, more than a dozen sub-state regional administrations have been formed or announced by few exiled men high up on the social ladder among their clan peers. Like a kid behind the virtual game, The Sims, the exiled men with the support of small groups have been dotting virtual administrations all over the Somali map. The declarations have reignited long-standing feuds between rival clans largely due to the fact that their virtual clan borders have often overlapped other virtual boundaries.
Each virtual sub-state actor felt his neighboring state was cashing in from Obama’s dual track policy so they felt the need to have their own account. The United States helped the phenomena spread by stating that they would reward sub-state actors across Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug and “other emerging administrations”. These groups, many of them unknown before, felt that they were climbing up in the Somali social and political ladder because now they were a “government” dealing with the world’s most powerful nation.
In retrospect, the dual track policy is only a sugar-coated version of America’s covert prison system that it operates outside its national borders. The policy has fueled the scramble to seize control of mixed and/or disputed territories across Somalia. America is not interested in a stable and peaceful Somalia but this policy allows her to reward those who help her contain the war on terrorism in Somalia including Ethiopia.
Anyone who declared their own semi-state and their dislike for al shabab were included in the process.
In fact this policy predates the Somali independence and can be found in the files of U.S. president Harry Truman under the title of “Truman Doctrine”. It is a new label for his “containment” policy which only gave Obama the option to replace the Bush “doctrine” or his so called “pre-emptive” policy.
It is not a policy designed to help strengthen peace and stability in Somalia but a long-strategy policy to contain insurgents such as al-shabab in Somalia, in particular in the south, that is stopping their geographical and influence expansion. The same policy will also be used against a future Somalia to safeguard Ethiopian and Kenyan interest against the Pan-Somalism ideology.
Just like in 1947 when Truman portrayed the USSR and U.S. rivalry as a mighty clash between “totalitarian regimes” and “free people,” the Obama administration is trying to sale this policy as a solution to the Somali conflict. However, it is only deepening the Somali conflict and creating more confusion and division. The policy, like that of Truman, is empowering the wrong actors in Somali sphere and undermining the UN recognized Somali government and clan leaders.
The Truman doctrine which called for the U.S. support for Greece and Turkey against the Soviet is considered as the start of the cold war and today’s dual track policy will only spread more catastrophic disasters.
The United States should not politicalize humanitarian and development aid and should allow the USAID to operate independently. This policy did help contribute to Somalia’s current illnesses including last year’s famine in which tens of thousands of Somalis died of malnutrition-related causes.
Had aid not been politicalized, the U.S. could have saved tens of thousands of Somalis who starved to death because the U.S. refused to engage with millions of Somalis under al shabab insurgents. The regions in southern Somalia including the capital were hit the hardest. Dual track policy is a complete failure and should be rolled back. The policy did not achieve its objectives in regards to containing al shabab either, this is why the country is awash with foreign troops from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti.
The dual policy undermines the Somali government and its sovereignty because how would Washington feel if Iran was dealing with the state of Texas?
The policy is only supported by small segment of the Somali sphere in particular secessionist, federalist and clanist groups and is not the interest of the Somali public.
The United States should channel its foreign assistance through Non-governmental organizations and should for once stop starving people to death because they disagree with Washington. There are better options. America should for once stop buying support and should give generously to those in need without asking anything in return.
The policy champions division and Somalia and its people are not ready for separation nor the so called federal system. Somalia is home to only 9 million inhabitants and that small population should not be forced to break up into two state solution or six or more federal states. Being a tribal society, both federalism as Puntland leaders want and secessionism as Somaliland advocates, will only have severe long-term implications for generations.
The country must remain under a unitary government with Mogadishu as its capital and Hargeisa as its parliamentary seat. All newly formed regions including the so called Marodi Jeeh, Sahil, Cayn and Haylaan just to mention few must be abolished.
What Somalia needs is healing not division and partition. The people must be listened to rather than opportunists who have convinced some locals that it is impossible for them to share anything with other Somalis from other regions. Somalia must wait until a rational debate on secessionism or federalism can focus on good governance as opposed to defending clan identities.
The federal system supported by the likes of Garowe leadership might work for that one clan state but it should not be the blueprint for the rest of the country. It seems the international community is listening to Abdirahman Farole more than it should to President Sheikh Sharif.
The picture Mr. Farole portrays of Puntland is not all rosy and locals are still waiting for him to call for an election. Others in the region have formed their own states within Puntland such as Ras Asr state and West Puntland State. This is a snub shot as to what could happen in future federal system.
Somalia needs to reform but further divisions are not needed. Anyone who knows Somalia knows the country has never in its history been neatly geographically divided along tribe lines. Right now, Somalia needs to reduce the original eighteen regions (gobollada) into three states (each consisting of 6 regions) if it is to build a nation for the Somali people.
Originally Somalia had the following eighteen administrative regions; Awdal, Bakol, Banadir, Bari, Bay, Galgadudud, Gedo, Hiiraan, Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, Mudug, Middle Juba, Middle Shabelle, Nugaal, Sanaag, Sool, Togdher and North West (Waqoyi Galbeed).
I want to propose that we break it up into only three manageable and productive states that unify our people while being competitive. I am proposing that we combine Awdal, Bari (excluding Bosasso), Sanaag, Sool, Togdheer and North West (excluding Hargeisa) into one State or region.
Then we can have Bakool, Galgadudud, Hiiraan, Mudug, Nugaal, and Middle Shabelle as another region and finally Bay, Banadir (excludes Mogadishu), Gedo, Lower Shabelle, Middle Jubba and Lower Jubba as the third region/state.
The reason I excluded Mogadishu, Bosaaso and Hargeisa is because as we know a lot of people from north Somalia felt all the executive powers in our former government went to the south. The way we can fix that and come up with a formula that works is to treat Mogadishu, Bosasso and Hargeisa as exclusive zones outside the three administrations.
We can keep Mogadishu as the capital and should host our executive branch of government and foreign embassies. Hargeisa can host our legislative body including Gurit and parliament after all Xeer Law and Elders are strong here and Bosaaso can be our Judicial center hosting our High Court and any legal body. Finally Elbur (Ceelbur) in central Somalia and the birth place of Halanle can become the military headquarters.
The military should not take any action unless it has the mandate of all three bodies hosted by three different cities. We live in a modern world, where everything can be broadcasted and transmitted in seconds, so we can have teleconference and live broadcasts of the Villa, Court and Parliament.
Our people will feel inclusive and fair this way so every decision is not made in one place and the others are alienated.
When it comes to the three administrations we can make the town of Sheikh the capital for the North administration, Galkayo can serve as the capital for the central region and finally Kismayo as the capital for the southern administration.
If we propose this model which is simple, fair and addresses the need of all Somalis; we might be able to distinguish between pent-up hatreds and shrewd political manipulation by small groups. The true Somali will be told from the opportunists.
The world does not revolve around the United States; Obama must revisit his so called dual track before it proves more disastrous than it is now.
Meanwhile real Somalis must show love and compassion to all their fellow Somalis from the beaches of Zeila to the sandy coastline of Ras Kamboni and must stop the attacks and stereotypes that only divide us.
I am from Hargeisa and I know the interest of the Somali people is unity but equality must be revisited and former systems must be changed. The real problem is not centralised government but rather nepotism, clan identities, corruption, inequality and inclusive decision-making mechanisms at the top level. These problems are aided by security forces that are poorly trained, unaccountable, and unable to uphold law and order. Government ministers treat law enforcement bodies as their own private entourage.
The federalism that Farole and his cabinet in Garowe advocate will only Jerusalemite major Somali towns with mixed populations. Federalism based on clan identity and tribal boundaries is more dangerous than Somaliland’s secessionism because it will ignite new feuds. The town of Galkayo for example is bitterly contested by Puntland, West Puntland State and Galmudug. Beledweyne like many others is another hotspot and is rivaled by Jubba Valley administration, Ahlu Sunna and Hiiraanland. It is a disastrous system not designed for a tribal society.
Somalis must look beyond the short-term gains of few and look collectively at how the country can move forward by addressing the real problems. Dual track policy only addresses the U.S. security strategy in the region not the Somali problems.
Finally past human right abusers must be tried in a criminal court so the real healing can begin for all Somalis.
By Abdisamad Mooge