By Joakim Gundel
In February 2018, I was invited to participate in an expert colloquium on peace and reconciliation in Somalia, organized by the UN and funded by Norway, held in Mogadishu. The purpose was part of a process in which the UNSRSG has asked a range of experts to write papers on related subjects to peace, conflict and al-Shabaab in Somalia, to discuss and suggest recommendations to the Somali Ministry of Interior and Reconciliation on the way forward. I took on the task, although being disillusioned about the political developments in Somalia that I have witnessed through my work and travels throughout Somalia since 1998. Hence, I found this to be an opportunity to write up my final thoughts on what I believe ideally could, and should, be done to bring peace and development to Somalia, before “retiring” from the Horn of Africa, as both donors and myself have come to a point where I no longer have anything more to contribute. However, in spite of the nature of things, and contrary to what many think, I am optimistic that peace can happen, provided Somalia engages in a profound reconciliation process. I have been blamed for being negative and divisive, whenever I point out the counter-productiveness of corruption, centralisation and my believe in reconciliation.
Since I was involved in the first Joint Needs Assessmnet exercise in 2005, following the Embagathi process, I have witnessed how reconciliation effectively was replaced by power-sharing arrangements, and how reconciliation committees was deliberately made powerless and reduced to deal with the odd concept of “social reconciliation”. Somalia has never really had a chance to engage in reconciliation. Instead, since the powersharing arrangement made in Djibouti 2009, the international and Somali political efforts decisively placed the cart in front of the horse, and the political dispensation that came out of that, based on first transitional and then provisional constitutions, never really worked. They were defunct on birth, because they were, and are, not founded on sufficiently wide and popular processes that enabled the people – the citizens of Somalia – to identify with the constitution and hence the foundation of the State, and thus the Government(s) of Somalia. In consquence, the institutions will hardly function due to this heritage.
Interestingly, at the Colloquium, a few Somali advisors did share my sentiments, and they too emphasised that reconciliation in Somalia must be driven by the Somalis, and equally important, be funded by themselves – if nothing else – for the simple reason that they cannot be taken serious if they do not. I couldn’t agree more. However, these advisors wisdom tends to drown in the internal and political interests of government ministers, PM, President, MPs, and external interests that tend to divide the rent-seeking Somali politicians. Without mentioning names, Ministers of the present government has directly voiced to me that reconciliation in the context of Somalia will not work, and would be too complex to deal with, and is a no-go mantra. There is no interest. Others say that the Somalis has already reconciled. Complex, obviously yes! If it was not complex, there would hardly be a problem. But, the continuation of conflict, and that – as many experts suggested at the colloquium – the persistence of Al Shabaab may be rooted in the very fact that it is not just a problem of separate extremism, but a phenomenon that is integrated with the basic Somali conflict, and hence cannot be resolved without adressing this complex. I believe that a profound reconciliation process could solve this, place the horse back in front of the cart, and lead to a foundation for a future stronger Somali State.
You can find my argumentation for why reconciliation still needs to take place, and how it could be done in the attached publication. It will formally be published by Hurst in a book in October 2018, but given repeated requests from Somali academics, I do not think I can hold up publishing my article any longer. So here it is. Enjoy. Perhaps someone will pick up on my ideas. Otherwise feel free to blame me for once again being divisive.