Somalia’s Window of Opportunity for Peace
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Somalia in December 2011 was the first by a UN chief in almost two decades.
Meeting in Mogadishu with the leaders of the country’s transitional institutions, the Secretary-General said Somalia had reached a critical juncture. Its leaders should “seize the moment” while it lasts.
The visit capped a year that brought devastating famine, taking tens of thousands of lives and leaving millions still at risk. Delivering assistance has been complicated by insurgent groups refusing to allow aid agencies into some of the hardest hit areas.
Yet even as humanitarian tragedy gripped Somalia once again, a measure of progress - however fragile - has emerged in overcoming decades of political dysfunction. Advances in the peace process, combined with major security improvements, are producing hope despite the suffering that Somalia may finally be moving along a path to peace and stability.
Roadmap on the Political Transition
Somalis have known mostly lawlessness and factional confrontation since the collapse of the country’s central government in the 1990s.
The United Nations has sought to promote political reconciliation and compromise. Its efforts are led by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), a political mission overseen by the Department of Political Affairs. The mission is headed currently by Augustine P. Mahiga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia.
Stepping up the UN’s political support to the Somali transition, UNPOS relocated to Mogadishu from its current base in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2012. The relocation demonstrates the strong commitment of the UN to work alongside the Somali people and their leaders to build peace, political stability and a hopeful future.
A key breakthrough on the political front occurred in June 2011. The President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan signed the Kampala Accord in meetings hosted by the Ugandan government and supported by UNPOS and other international partners. The agreement ended a damaging political stalemate between the executive and the legislature and established a detailed political roadmap for the way ahead.
The Roadmap charts a clear course forward, including elections, to end the transitional period in August 2012. It sets out four priority tasks for ending the transition — security, constitution-making, reconciliation and good governance — and is based on the concept of transparency, inclusiveness and Somali ownership of the process. The document also establishes compliance mechanisms and makes clear that future international assistance is based on the Somalis following through on their commitments. In his meetings in the war-scarred Somali capital, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drove home the importance of meeting these benchmarks, stressing that a further extension of the Roadmap was “untenable”.
In early September 2011, a Consultative Meeting on Ending the Transition in Somalia convened successfully in Mogadishu. The meeting, which would have been unthinkable just a few months before due to the security situation, brought together high-level representatives of the Transitional Federal Institutions, the regional States of Puntland and Galmudug, the government-allied group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, as well as most of the major international partners.
Having all main parties sign the Roadmap in Mogadishu was a bright moment in the Somali peace process, however there should be no illusions that implementation will be easy. An ambitious plan with such a challenging timetable will require strong support from the donor community. All sides must work together to ensure progress on the key deliverables. Maintaining political will is critical to future success. Leaders reconfirmed their commitments in a constitutional conference held in December in Garowe, Puntland.
The key security breakthrough came in August, when the militant organization Al-Shabaab effectively withdrew from Mogadishu following an offensive by African Union peacekeepers. United Nations financial and logistical support to the AU mission, known as AMISOM, is an important part of the UN’s strategy in Somalia.
Later, Kenya and Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia, joining in the effort to defeat Al-Shabaab. At year’s end, Kenya had announced it would be joining AMISOM, and the United Nations was looking for ways to expand its package of support to the mission.
Exploiting the withdrawal of the insurgents from Mogadishu presents AMISOM with a new set of challenges. While the Mission has achieved some remarkable successes, additional resources including personnel, logistics, intelligence and aviation will be required to face these new threats.
Somalia remains one of the most challenging issues on the international community’s agenda. Its maritime piracy problem has heightened the concerns.
In his historic visit to Mogadishu, the Secretary-General reiterated his personal commitment to work for sustainable peace. Somalis have waited long enough to realize the dream of a safe, secure, prosperous and democratic country at peace with itself and its neighbours.
Website of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS)