The London Conference and Prospects for Peace and Stability in Somalia
The 11 May 2017 London Conference on Somalia will discuss boosting humanitarian aid and security reforms that will increase the army’s numbers to 18,000. But the government must tackle corruption and restart national reconciliation if it wants to build effectively on recent progress toward ending the 25-year conflict.
(The Crisis Group.org) –The 11 May London Conference on Somalia comes at a time when prospects for peace and stability have substantially improved, even as the threat of famine looms. The meeting aims for a surge in humanitarian aid, a recommitment of international political support and to review a Somali National Security Plan that could increase the army’s numbers to 18,000 troops, reform the chain of command, and set a budget. But overall progress towards ending the country’s 25 years of conflict will require the new President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo and his government to display resolve in promoting better governance, tackling corruption, restarting the stalled national reconciliation process, facilitating dialogue among federal states to tackle territorial- and resource-driven conflicts and conduct a constitutional review.
Farmajo, elected amid a surge of hope in February, inherits a corrupt and dysfunctional state, riven by deep clan and factional divisions, and hemmed in by Al-Shabaab, a ten-year-old violent Islamist insurgency that is still the greatest threat to the country. Farmajo is therefore subject to the same pathologies that have undone previous administrations. But his situation is not entirely bleak. His predecessors established rudimentary institutional structures of a viable state and his administration comes into office with high public approval ratings. It is more diverse and relatively inclusive, with several effective specialised army units and significant progress in the federalisation project.
National and sub-national state-building cannot occur without a comprehensive political settlement and reconciliation. True, every government since 2000 has paid lip service to reconciliation, but all have balked at crucial implementation stages. National reconciliation shouldn’t be about restoring a romanticised, organic relationship among clans. Rather, it is about fostering peaceful resolution of conflicts, rebuilding cohesion and mutual solidarity, encouraging inclusive local governance, addressing disputes over resource and, where possible, seeking creative ways to address past crimes. To achieve this, the federal and state governments should be co-facilitators of a bottom-up reconciliation process, providing resources, security, strategic guidelines and oversight, even as it steers clear of controlling the process.