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Essay: State Building in Somalia: From Fashion to Function

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  • Published: 13 November 2015*
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  • Words: 2,102 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 9 (approx)

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Executive Summary
The multiplicity of actors involved in state-building and the divergence of the international and local actors’ interests have resulted in the formation of a flawed state in Somalia. The country is characterized by the absence of real reconciliation and restorative justice as well as resource distribution. This state of affairs has led to the disintegration of the security forces due to poor salaries, when compared to salaries of private security companies and private enterprises. This paper argues that to make the state functional, the institutional building has to be supported by grassroots reconciliation and restorative justice. Since the underlying causes of conflict are the competition for power and resources, the state-building process also has to focus on building confidence and trust among the stakeholders.
State-building, the creation of new governmental institutions and the strengthening of existing ones, is a crucial issue for the global community today. However, the international community faces challenges in building strong public institutions in developing countries. Local elites, in collaboration with a range of international actors concerned with regional stability, maintain control of the state. This approach to state-building is also inherently unstable because the state rests on international support and elite compromise, lacking local legitimacy in many cases. It is also prone to limitation brought about by lack of coordination and consensus amongst its international supporters, and a lack of their materialized support to its range of programmes and initiatives.
The best approach to state building with a federal form of governance is to find and maintain a proper balance between the federal entity and the states or between the union and autonomous entities. In this regards, many Somali politicians have expressed concerns about the attainment of the balance that can entertain both the centre and its peripheral states. The role of state-building rests on international expertise and capital that makes it externally dependent. The failure of state building has been the result of this externalized approach, based on blueprints determined by decontextualized and politicized agendas for the state which provide security, political rights and institutions and market access but little in the way of political emancipation.
As a result, the international community has failed in designing the state-building project in Somalia. Peace and state building have to be locally driven but internationally supported. This provides the raw agents, legitimacy, consensus and capacity, which make them aggregate into state norms, laws, government and governance. The inability of state building to engage with deep rooted indigenous causes of conflict may jeopardize the process.
Somali Context Analysis
Since the collapse of the Saeed Barre regime in 1991, Somalia has been without a central government for a couple of decades and suffered from civil war. Repetitive efforts of the international community and neighboring states to build a state in Somalia became elusive as a result of clan politics and religious extremism as well as divergent regional and international interests. The global practice of state-building where the government monopolizes the use of force has failed in Somalia. Mistrust and distrust among the elites and their respective clans and competition for scarce resources and power are attributable to the failure of rebuilding the state. This provided the leeway for war and conflict entrepreneurs to fight for personal gains and advantages.
Repetitive transitions in 2000, 2004, 2009, and 2012 were not able to build an effective and independent government that provides public services to its citizens. The formation of federal states using the bottom-up approach has experienced considerable challenges thereby creating weak central governments and strong peripheries. Currently, the international community including the west and the Somalia Federal Government (SFG) pursue the bottom-up approach to state building. According to the Provisional Constitution of Somalia, the formation of the federal state through the integration of two or more regions. Currently, the Government includes the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, the Interim Jubbaland Administration [IJA], the Interim South West Administration [ISWA] and the upcoming two federal states expected to be established within the coming six months . Reconciliation that has taken place during the process focuses on power sharing between the elites with the consultation of the Somali clan leaders. The real reconciliation among the conflicting parties has to be supported by restorative justice so as to build an effective state machinery in Somalia. Trust-building among the parties and over the institutions are also vital in building an effective state that provides security and other public services to the community.
The Somalia National Army is organized on clan basis. The training and logistical support delivered from the regional and international communities have resulted in challenges in the process of creating a cohesive security force. The Army uses different uniforms received from different countries. The army works for private companies other than the government. Even though the number of soldiers in the national army is estimated at 22,000, according to the payroll, it is only about 4000 that are active in the force.
Criticizing Policy Options
Western models to build the Somali state have repeatedly failed. Multiple internationally supported transitional governments have been unable to exercise full control over the country’s territory; and repeated foreign interventions have done little to provide stability. For many Somalis, the state power is an instrument of accumulation and domination, enriching and empowering those who control it, while exploiting and harassing the rest of the population. Meanwhile, the local stability of clan and sub-clan structures in Somalia has made top-down implementation of western-style governance excessively difficult. This is largely due to the bottom-up approach of state building that derives its legitimacy from local clan elders and the local ownership of civil institutions, including stable economic, political, security and social welfare institutions. Both the bottom-up and top-down approaches do not fit the situation. These approaches, promoted by two extreme views, notably the unionists and federalists, need to create a balance between autonomy and unity in Somalia. An approach that balances the two extremes is imperative.
The National Security and Stabilization Plan launched in 2011 to build a state and state institutions through bringing state and non-state actors together in fighting al-Shaba’ab and integration of the armed groups has also been incorporated in the Somali New Deal approved in 2013. However, such initiatives have not brought any change on the ground. The security institutions still remain weak and flawed. The relationship between the center and the peripheries changed over time due to the approaches the local and international actors pursue to build the state. The international actors involved in the Somali peace and state-building process are not free from any bias and national interests. Consequently, the unintended consequences have been a string of problems in peace and state building processes.
The international community has appreciated the introduction of the Somalia New Deal Compact focusing on the state and peace building goals and international financial support. It aimed at building effective state institutions and with five goals that all require the special attention of national and international actors. The first three goals of the Somalia New Deal focus on inclusive politics, security and justice respectively through Somali-led and ‘owned, as well as internationally supported. The local elites and international community are unable to perform as indicated above. The international community has not made available funds it pledged for the implementation of the New Deal, while the national elites are involved in serious corruption and clan politics. It is unrealizable to bring institutions in a highly divided society without going down to the local level. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) has not undertaken important democratic process such as the Constitutional Review, the establishment of a National Independent Electoral Commission, the delimitation of Boundaries, and establishing the Federation Commission for the 2016 elections.
SFG and the international community have reiterated their commitment to conduct legitimate and inclusive national elections in 2016, national reconciliation, and political dialogue across Somalia, including the participation of the diaspora, women, youth and minority groups, in shaping Somalia’s political future. Security and stabilization of the country are essential prerequisites to enduring peace. It is also important to bring governance and security in the newly liberated areas. Failure to do so risks reversing the hard won political and security victories. However, the SFG is criticized for its inability to promptly establish institutions in liberated areas as well as for excluding and marginalizing some groups from the peace and state building processes. A case in point is the Sunni moderate religious group, ASWJ . During the state formation process, the group felt excluded from the process and started launching attacks against the central and regional administration, which ultimately led to the outbreak of fighting in the first week of December, 2014.
The Somalia context has compelled the international community and the local politicians to think out of the box. Lack of coordination has resulted in fragmentation of the security forces and challenges of the local communities to identify the forces of the government. They provide training and logistical support that undermines the integrity and unity of the armed forces. The state-building process focuses on power sharing and elite reconciliation that does not address the underlying causes of conflict at the community level.
One of the pillars in building an effective state is the institutional development and reintegration of security forces in a clear chain of command and control. The system is flawed and considered as political rather than technical. Despite the agreement between the Government, Ras Kamboni Brigade and ASWJ in 2011 and 2012, these groups have been unable to integrate their forces into the Somalia National Army. It is also a problem for the national and international communities with regard to the implementation of integration of local armed forces and the SNA development as well as the professionalization of the Somali Police Force. The security structures are not inclusive and are organized based on clan lines. They also serve, despite their membership in the Somalia National Army or other security forces, either private companies or individuals in securing the environment.
There is talk about the elections taking place in 2016but the reconciliation process among the Somali society has not yet taken place. It has also become a challenge for both actors in building the capacity of the Somali security forces despite actions taken to provide training equipping and better conditions to retain the security forces. The focus of this paper has been to examine to what extent the intervention and measures taken by the international and national actors have contributed towards durable peace in Somalia.
Political instability within Somalia and the actions of the international community are intertwined. The issue of state-building in Somalia seems to be one of the most intractable problems facing the international community in recent times. Despite many conferences designed to restore stability to the country, there is no apparent progress. State-building should arise through dialogue rather than imposition. Institution-building has to take place through consensus-building at all levels.
‘ Reconciliation and restorative justice should be the heart of state building processes. Without building trust and confidence among the citizens and in national institutions, it will be difficult to establish a sustainable government. State building has to include reconciliation and restorative justice.
‘ The effective distribution of resources is a key issue that would help to ensure cohesiveness in the state-building process.
‘ The state building initiative has to be Somali-led and owned. This means the local community, not the elites and clan leaders alone, has to come together to decide their own fate. This may not be easy to implement without taking into consideration the divergent interests of the international and regional actors.
‘ The security forces should be inclusive, professional and mixed so as to create cohesion. Similarly, the training and logistical support of the international community should be based on the priorities of the government as well as owned and led by the Somali government. The Somali security forces should become less dependent on external forces and sources.
The state building initiatives have not been able to build the institutions and deliver public goods as well as services to the local community. Despite its pledge, the international community has suffered from divergent interest that compromises their efforts. Lack of coordination has also resulted in divisions based on clan. The resource disintegrates the security institution and politicians. The local elites tried to establish flawed and invisible structures that impair the process due to commercialization of violence and politics to their benefit. Efforts focusing on state-building based on power-sharing rather than reconciliation and restorative justice at local levels, are bound to fail. Hence, the state building process has to complement reconciliation, restorative justice and resource distribution among the parties and groups so as to build sustainable peace and strong state institutions.

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