Somalia adopted a UN-drafted Provisional Constitution, formed a new national parliament representing the entire population of the country and elected a national leadership for ending 12 years of a chaotic transition period and established a permanent, representative and accountable government eligible for substantial Official Development Assistance (ODA). Majority of Somalis believed that the international community would treat the post-transition government as a sovereign authority primarily representative of and accountable to its people. That belief was encouraged by the communiqué the Secretary General of the United Nations issued after the conclusion of the mini-summit on Somalia held in New York on 26 September 2012, in which he said:
‘We reaffirmed our respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia and pledged our support to a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Somalia. We recognized that Somalia had entered a new political era and committed to forge a new partnership for peacebuilding and statebuilding, which should be based on principles of national ownership, mutual accountability and transparency.
‘We committed to a new Somali owned and led partnership, which will work towards a compact between the Somali authorities and the international community inspired by the principles outlined in the New Deal, agreed in Busan in November 2011.’
The New Deal for the International Engagement in the fragile and conflict affected countries (the ‘New Deal’) is an integral part of the outcome of the international efforts on Aid Effectiveness and Development led by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) under the High Level Forum (HLF) comprising developed and developing countries plus bilateral and multilateral institutions. Those efforts were supported by the International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) working with fragile and conflict affected countries called g7+, parliamentarians, regional organizations and civil society representatives. After series of meetings of the HLF and IDPS between 2003 and 2011, the fourth HLF meeting attended by IDPS group and held in Busan, Republic of (South) Korea, between November 29-December 1, 2011, adopted the basic document titled the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation which has endorsed the New Deal worked out by the IDPS. Somalia is one of the 17 countries of the g7+ chosen for the implementation of the New Deal.
As it is clear from the principles of national ownership of development interventions, mutual accountability and transparency mentioned in the communiqué, the New Deal builds on the vision of peacebuilding and statebuilding centered on the dual compacts between the state and its citizens on one side and between the state and the international community on the other side. The compact between the state and its citizens comes first. The leaders of the fragile states are entrusted with the responsibility to present a comprehensive owned plan which lays out the vision and policies that respond to the five goals of the New Deal: (1) political legitimacy and inclusivity, (2) security, (3) justice, (4) strong economic foundations, and (5) good management of resource and revenue.
There are other principles agreed for good international engagement in fragile states like (a) the consideration of the specific context in each country, (b) avoidance of the creation of new social divisions and worsening of corruption and abuses, (c) the use of aid recipient management systems (institutions) and (d) the need to act fast and to stay engaged to give success a chance.
In the light of the above, the first gesture expected from the international community was to allow and encourage the newly elected leaders of Somalia to set up their cabinet administration and define their own national development plan and to treat them with diplomatic deference. That expectation faded quickly and sense of frustration is emerging in the face of the unilateral and divisive actions of the international community on many critical issues. The commitments made in the New Deal and the message of the Secretary General have not been honoured and translated into practice. The principal-agent relationship between the international community and Somalia is in display. Unfortunately, the international community reneged on the implementation of the New Deal commitments in Somalia. Indeed, Mark Bowden, the outgoing humanitarian coordinator for Somalia said:
‘Skimping on aid now, particularly when recently developed institutions are new and delicate, could put fledgling political advancement at risk and cause a new surge of violence and upheaval.’
The job of the new Federal Government (FG) is overridden by the activities of regional bodies or international mechanisms that control functions and responsibilities invested constitutionally in the Somali government. Some of those mechanisms and bodies include Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) located in Nairobi, Kenya, which controls the aid to Somalia under the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), PricewaterhouseCoopers financial contract, the Joint Financial Management Board (JFMB), the role of the United Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) post-transition, UNDP Budget support project for the Somali Government, the continuation of the US dual track policy, the centrality of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD- Ethiopia and Kenya) in the internal politics of Somalia, the Kampala Accord, the resource competition between the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali national and local security forces, and the international aid policy based on geopolitical and security interests of the donors rather than on the peacebuilding and statebuilding priorities in Somalia.
It is instructive to note that the International Crisis Group (ICG) instead of encouraging other donors to follow and complement Turkey’s widely appreciated model of assistance in Somalia, which adheres to the New Deal, has suggested that Turkey should change its aid policy if it wants to play a major and sustained role in Somalia. This attempt is disadvantageous for Somalia. The focus on the global security imperatives produces humanitarian crisis and political instability.
Without doubt, Somalia has had a poor record of public financial management throughout its history. However, its political independence is dependent upon its independent and accountable management of its national resources for public interests as emphasized in the New Deal. The management of public finance is the cornerstone for building national authority with legitimacy and institutional capacity.
The federal parliament must open a debate on the issues limiting the progress towards statebuilding for collective understanding. The review of the scope of the JFMB in light of the provisional constitution and national interests is critical. For example, the creation of JFMB abolishes the role of the national institutions responsible for the management and oversight of the government operations as detailed in the provisional constitution. It would suppress public vigilance and criticism against government’s mismanagement. The former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has resisted the acceptance of the JFMB.
It is presumable that some donor countries will threaten to withhold their financial assistance unless their proposed mechanisms that will limit FG’s influence on the allocation, management and accountability of the resources provided are accepted. The main excuse for the donors’ demand will be the widespread corruption allegations against former TFG leaders, despite their complicity. Inevitably, the new FG must immediately put in place a new mechanism that will guarantee timely reporting, investigation, accountability and confidence in the management of public funds. It can also request experts and auditors working within the national institutions involved in the collection and expenditure of financial resources.
The election of Prof. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prof. Mohamed Sheikh Osman ‘Jawaari’ as president and speaker respectively and the subsequent appointment of the new Prime Minister Dr. Abdi Farah Shirdoon ‘Saa’id’ have sparked public revulsion against former TFG leaders for their incompetence and corrupt performance and raised the hope of the Somali people for a better future. The public is waiting to know what the FG has inherited from the TFG in terms of resources, assets, institutional capability, public records and pending commitments. The ICG’s characterization of the legacy of the TFG as troubled transition to tarnished transition must ring a warning bell for the new FG leadership.
In addition to their advanced educational qualifications, the trio has in combination a good track record in public administration and politics, direct involvement in the search for peace, national reconciliation and political solution to the tragic situation of Somalia, good knowledge of the causes behind the collapse of the Somali state and of the failures of their preceding leaders as well as the aspirations of the Somali people. Nevertheless, the reality is that the new FG leaders face formidable challenges that will test their vision, sense of patriotism, personal leadership skills, endurance and dexterity in confronting the internal as well as the external political crisis and traps. FG must take account of the reluctance of the international community to embrace the New Deal commitments and plan for such predicament. The future forebodes more pessimism and treachery than optimism and trustworthiness.
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* Mohamud M Uluso can be reached via [email protected]