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Somalia Needs a 'Reconciliation Readiness' Program - Daily News Egypt

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Somalia Needs a 'Reconciliation Readiness' Program

Somalia’s decision to delay yet again the National Reconciliation Congress comes as no surprise. The Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) latest attempt at reconciliation was foiled long before the first session of congress began. While many fingers point to Mogadishu’s boycotting majority, the Hawiye clan, whose demands were not met prior to the start of congress, …


Somalia’s decision to delay yet again the National Reconciliation Congress comes as no surprise. The Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) latest attempt at reconciliation was foiled long before the first session of congress began. While many fingers point to Mogadishu’s boycotting majority, the Hawiye clan, whose demands were not met prior to the start of congress, the problems go deeper. Despite the International Contact Group on Somalia’s endorsement of the congress and funding promises from United States special envoy John Yates, Mogadishu is not ready for reconciliation. What it needs is a reconciliation readiness plan.

Reconciliation readiness involves two major components: 1) the foundation laid prior to the reconciliation conference, and 2) the actual conference. In the case of Somalia, neither phase was properly attended to by the TFG, Ethiopia or the US.

In the first phase, leading up to the cancelled June 14th Congress, security in Mogadishu remained elusive, neutral peacekeeping forces had yet to replace TFG-favored Ethiopian troops, opposition groups were devoid of protection from TFG harassment, and freedom of speech was near non-existent. In the second phase, i.e. events scheduled for the day of June 14, the National Reconciliation Congress still barred involvement of many key Somali stakeholders.

Both components above must be addressed immediately to ensure that July’s attempt at a reconciliation process is more successful than June’s.

Readiness in phase one means quelling Mogadishu’s extraordinary violence, currently a security detail’s nightmare. Unfortunately, both Ugandan peacekeeping forces, largely perceived as complicit in the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia, and Ethiopian-TFG troops in Mogadishu are ill-equipped to manage the country’s security, let alone the capital. Why, because they’re perceived as occupiers by a majority of the population.

Until Ethiopia leaves and neutral peacekeepers are redeployed, Somalis will continue to resist.

Phase one readiness also means protecting the rights and freedoms of opposition groups and the general populace. Interestingly, Mogadishu is less free now than under the Islamic Courts Union who ruled the capital in 2006. With Ethiopia’s assistance, the TFG, eager to maintain their control of the population, is violently harassing opposition parties, framing resisters as Al-Qaeda operatives, and shutting down radio stations that broadcast dissenting voices. Silencing the opposition is a lost cause. A smarter approach would be to include them in the political process and hold them accountable to the Somali people.

Readiness in phase two means that the reconciliation process is organized and facilitated by an impartial, neutral third party. While the Congress chairman and the members of the appointed committee enjoy the respect of many Somalis, their appointment by the TFG compromises their neutrality. It is possible to correct this perception by adding to the committee others independently selected by the civil society, religious and business groups. By doing this, the reconciliation conference will be viewed as a Somali-owned, jointly-designed process that considers the views and concerns of all stakeholders. That is the only way it will be taken seriously by the Somali people.

Phase two readiness also means that all stakeholders participate in the National Reconciliation Congress, free of fear and intimidation. At present, the TFG assumes that its reliance on Ethiopian force and US support will sustain TFG rule indefinitely. As a result, the TFG does not reach out to opposition groups or take the necessary measures to ensure popular support. This tack will backfire even before Ethiopian forces exit. The opposition must be given opportunities to express their grievances. Blocking leaders who represent public opinion and ignoring their interests will dangerously tip the scales further from the TFG. Furthermore, the TFG and the US remain disinclined to involve many of Somali’s religious leaders. This is a mistake. There are sensible and rational Islamic leaders throughout Somalia that must be engaged. Persistent isolation of the religious leaders risks eventually radicalizing and fanaticizing them.

While reconciliation in Somalia is desperately needed, it cannot be rushed and will face a quick and inevitable demise if the necessary groundwork has not first been laid. Reconciliation readiness means that the security needs of the first phase and the stakeholder needs of the second are appropriately accounted for. Unless these issues are addressed, the National Reconciliation Congress will be perceived by most as little more than a farce.

Michael Shankis a PhD student at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Khadija O. Ali, former member of the Somali Transitional National Parliament and a Minister of State at the Transitional National Government from 2000 to 2002, is also a Ph.D. student at the Institute.

Topics: Wael Ghonim

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https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2007/06/26/somalia-needs-a-reconciliation-readiness-program/
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