Somalia: From statehood to city states

Posted on 14/06/2010

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Mogadishu (Somalia) – As Somalia continues to bleed from the merciless carnage of Ethiopian forces backing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the equally brutal forces of the opposition, the world is slowly and strategically moving away from maintaining Somalia’s current status quo.  

Hiiraan Online (Somalia) | Thursday, 28 August 2008

While the UN sponsored talks in Djibouti linger, some political analysts are considering alternative solutions to the endless and pitiful quagmire. They are insidiously hypothesizing dividing up Somalia into smaller primordial enclaves.

As the ineptness of clan inspired leadership leads to more internal disputes and warring factions, and as many reconciliation conferences fail for lack of principled leadership due in part to the shifting political actors and clan interests, the international community has been searching for a new strategy to finally resolve the prolonged Somali conflict. Of course there are no shortages of ideas in the international community and the one school of thought that has been gaining traction lately is the so called “Building Block’s Approach”.  The architects of this ominous model appear to have taken lessons from the Berlin conference of 1884 when African countries were partitioned by European powers without regard to ethnic boundaries, grazing lands, languages and cultural affiliations. This neo-colonial strategy if implemented would vindicate the xenophobic claims made in the Berlin conference and will eventually take Somalia back to prehistoric ethnic enclaves.

The gist of the argument in the Building Blocks Approach is that a Somali state with a unitary central government can not be reconstituted and sustained through a top down approach as is currently pursued by the UN and the international community and must be replaced with a bottom-up approach focusing solely on grassroots community development. Developing social and governance structures at the grassroots level, they argue, will in the end help the reconstitution of the Somali state. Furthermore the protagonists of the model began an all out offensive to sell their untested idea in the corridors of power where the international community convenes and in the international media. They argue that the international community must give up imposing on the Somali people an untenable national government, parliament and charter. These institutions, they believe, disregard critical local and regional clan structures and therefore lack necessary grassroots support. The bottom up approach, the argument goes, will strengthen local governance mechanisms, maintain communal law and order, and establish strong regional leadership that in the long run will muster the necessary energy to reconstitute the Somali State!

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to untangle the imprecise logic of the proponents of this model in that, if thirty percent of the Somali people today (those twenty years of age and younger) do not know the value and importance of a Somali state and could care the least about its reconstitution today, why would they want a Somali state decades later when they become the majority and their numbers reach eighty percent or more!

The building block’s approach as is currently proposed will in effect pick the baton from where the Berlin conference left it off and will callously divide Somalia into several Bantustans lacking sovereignty and territorial integrity necessary to establish a full fledged state.

At a time when the global community is coming much closer and Europe is coming together as a single entity with one currency, why propose a small nation such as Somalia to be subdivided into smaller entities ostensibly modeled after the oil rich United Arab Emirates. The Emirates, they seem to forget, were never a unitary state in the first place and the natural wealth from the oil fields continues to be the glue that keeps their country together. What worked for oil rich UAE will not work for poor and multiethnic Somalia!

I is no secret that the plight of the Somali people is worsening on a daily basis and the current conditions prevailing there are unacceptable and insufficient for human survival. It is also a fact that current Somali leadership both in government and opposition do not show the will nor the capacity to envision a peaceful unitary Somali state.

The response to these realities, however, is not to hastily break up Somalia into pieces.

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Posted in: African papers