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A word on reconciliation after the London Conference

A word on the London Conference and reconciliation

By Joakim Gundel, Director of KATUNI Consult, June 16, 2017

On occasion of the recent forum on national reconciliation, I have written up a few commentaries and analysis in regards to reconciliation in Somalia. These are based on our independent observations on the Somalia process, and reflects what we find is necessary to do in regards to achieving peace and stability in Somalia. This article will be the first a short series on the subject, on how Somalia finally can achieve reconciliation and peace.

Although the introduction to the Communique of the 2017 London Conference on Somalia states that “We emphasise the importance of maintaining the momentum towards positive change and reconciliation in the country…”, the Communique does not highlight reconciliation as the key priority throughout the document. Rather, reconciliation only appears as secondary or tertiary minor elements to support other issues highlighted as more important, even though reconciliation may be a pre-condition to solve these other issues satisfactorily.

Reconciliation is only mentioned in three places in the document: 1) In section 12 related to counter-terrorism it states “We agreed to support counter-terrorism, reconciliation and economic recovery efforts to develop better alternatives and address conditions which may be conducive to terrorism and violent extremism”; 2) In section 13, reconciliation is reduced to a local inter-communal element as part of building local governance, and is not prioritized as a key national requirement and precondition for a new strong constitution of Somalia as it states “We welcome the commitment of the Federal Government and the Federal Member States to collaborate on the Wadajir National Framework for Local Governance to support community recovery and grassroots reconciliation processes”; 3) Finally, reconciliation is mentioned in section 26 as a supporting activity in relation to improving human rights, as it states that “Enhancing the legal framework, human rights protection systems, and the capacity and legitimacy of institutions is essential to help combat impunity and improve accountability for human rights violations and encourage reconciliation”.

However, only through prioritizing national reconciliation from the bottom-up will it be possible to achieve the Somali citizens general buy-in to the state building and stabilization efforts, and thus achieve popular support for, and identification with the constitutional process required, and for establishing all the other top priorities mentioned in the document: Particularly achieving a new strong constitution, building a national army and security forces capable of defeating terrorism and counter-insurgencies, establishing the checks-and-balances necessary to improve human rights and political and financial management accountability, and basic national resource and finance sharing agreements to enable the federal state system to work with reduced risks of violent conflict.

The New Partnership agreement, that also came out of the London Conference, is somewhat different than the communiqué, although not much clearer in terms of prioritizing reconciliation. Similarly, the first and only mention of reconciliation is in relation to political settlement with Somaliland. The partnership document states: “Acceleration of structured reconciliation and constructive engagement between the FGS and Somaliland on all issues of mutual concern”. This is not really reconciliation. Rather, it is a statement, which is more about reaching or brokering a political deal between Somaliland and Somalia than reconciling differences between the people.

This reflects the general attitudes of these international documents coming out of the “Somalia Conferences” – that people tend to be taken as givens – represented by the political leaders, who however hardly represents the Somali populace as they have not been given political mandates (not just mandate to rule as a person, but 0content of what the policy of the ruler should be) or programs that would enable them to be fully representatives of the Somalis in terms of reconciling positions.

People need to be much more directly involved, and far more involved than what was the case in the recent so-called elections in Somalia, which were better characterized as a farce of elite manipulation of a small selected electorate of some 12000 individuals, who hardly had been chosen by the perhaps up to 10 million Somalis, of which at least 3-4 million should voting rights. Abdihakim Ainte, in Somalia: Another Paradigm Shift?, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, May 11 2017: “the process itself was flawed and shrouded in secrecy, electoral fraud, political bickering, manipulation and intimidation by the federal government and regional administrations. In the days leading up to the presidential election, several parliamentary candidates were allegedly intimidated and even attacked by rivals trying to get them to withdraw. In some cases, contenders pulled out leaving just one remaining candidate.”

Furthermore, the partnership document does not recognize or mention reconciliation in context of any of the other priorities mentioned, such as security, Rule of Law and Human Rights, Women’s and Youth rights and participation, financial management, economic development or even regarding inclusion in political process. The impression, therefore, is that reconciliation is not seen as an important priority at the national level, or even at the local level. This is confounding if a key objective of the international partnership is to achieve stabilization and building a strong Somali state, for which reconciliation would be a foundation!

Instead, it is as if the Somali political elite together with their international donor partners, takes it for a given that the Somalis has reconciled, and somehow simply – and suddenly – has put the past behind them and are moving forward. As wonderful as that would be, the problem is that the realities on the ground far from confirms this apparent reconciled “state of affairs”. Although, you can find many Somalis stating that “we are all Somalis”, “we are not different from each other”, “Somalis are inter-married across clans”, Somalis are tired of war and conflict” all may have elements of truth – the other – and hence suppressed reality – remains that the Somalis are far from having reconciled or having healed the wounds and grievances between them, dating back to the beginnings of the 1990-1993 civil war.

Hence, the problem with the set agenda in the partnership document – between the international community and the government of Somalia – is that, this tends to set the agenda in an inflexible manner, in which the donors allocate funds accordingly and do not have the ability to flexibly redefine their pledges. While the governments tend to follow the money and if possible misappropriate funds for own and political purposes.

The London Conference agreed upon a security pact. However, reconciliation only appears as a tool or remedy that can be applied to achieve better security. Section 11 states: “Conflict resolution and reconciliation mechanisms, along with strengthening the rule of law and extending state authority are also necessary to enable effective security.” This is the only mention of reconciliation in the 17-page document, and there are no further elaborations on applying reconciliation to improve security.

All this stand in contrast to a statement by a number of peacebuilding organizations statement to the London Conference (Diakonia, Finn Church Aid (FCA), International Alert, Puntland Non-state Actors’ Association (PUNSAA), Saferworld, Somalia South-Central Non-State Actors (SOSCENSA), Somali Women Solidarity Organisation (SWSO)):

“Meaningful reconciliation requires truth and justice. If gains in democratization, governance and stability are to be entrenched, the federal government must prioritize truth, justice and reconciliation. It must also build structures and frameworks for undertaking truth justice and reconciliation initiatives that are consistent across the country as well as mechanisms to enforce the decisions that come from such efforts.

Whilst there have been significant efforts at reconciliation in recent years, including the Wadajir framework developed by the federal government, these efforts are inadequate for meaningful national reconciliation.

To date, reconciliation has been conducted through a lens of high-level political accommodation at the expense of localized social reconciliation needs. Identifying mechanisms for truth, justice and reconciliation will take substantial effort and political will. … The conference should recognize meaningful reconciliation as a necessary accompaniment to political reform and governance if lasting peace and stability is to be achieved. “

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