Somalia Partnership Forum in Brussels: Business as Usual

With the endless political crisis and the scathing resolution by the EU Parliament that portrayed Somali leadership as autocratic, one would think the Somalia Partnership Forum in Brussels would bring about good luck for the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). While many analysts thought that the Brussels Forum would give the Somali leadership some much-needed political makeover, it rather has served the opposite.

The forum was intended to showcase for Somalia’s progress in areas of security, finance, economic development, reconciliation and inclusive politics and was projected to be a platform to garner more support from the International community and partners. The FGS entourage was large enough to include officials of various public and private sectors, namely the Chamber of Commerce, key ministers, and leaders of the Federal Member States (FMS), to make for a total of more than a hundred delegations.

When compared with previous international conferences for Somalia – where head of states and high-level representatives from intergovernmental entities attended – this Somalia Partnership Forum was co-chaired by Marjeta Jager, Deputy Director General for EU International Cooperation and Development. In politics, perception is a reality and for that, the low-level participation of International Partners in this conference was another tell tail sign. According to one participant who declined to share his name, the conference presentations from Somalia “were too poor, disorganized and clueless on the subject.”

Firstly, the communique is written as part of a checklist rather than as a document which sets out progress or agreement. Though the communique vaguely identified some progress, it admitted that no progress were made on the actual benchmarks agreed at the London Conference on May 2017. In fact, it outlined new enhanced and complicated timetables of the benchmarks and milestones of London Conference, but this time recommends a full cooperation between the FGS and FMS on its implementation without separation of responsibilities.

With respect to the Comprehensive Approach to Security (CAS) particularly on the National Security Architecture, the communique fully undermined the FGS by endorsing a parallel national army to be established at the regional level, contrary to article 54 (B) of the Provisional Constitution. Under our current context, this will only result for a dysfunctional command and control of the army and lack of coordination. In other words, it is the perfect recipe for renewed political conflict between the FGS and FMS.

With respect to the proposed condition-based transition plan for AMISOM handover of security responsibilities to Somali forces, the communique again expresses the ambiguity on the transition plan as it failed to be very explicit with benchmarks and achievable milestones. However, the review on the Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) by the AU clearly pointed out that the Somali National Army is not yet ready to takeover responsibility from AMISOM. In fact, the scheduled takeover of Mogadishu stadium initially slated for July 2017 was deferred to February 2019. And what does that say about the AMISOM exit strategy is at anyone’s guess.

On the economic development, the Communique neglected completely the existence of the National Development Plan (NDP) and rather called for a new plan – again a clear illustration that the country has no clear economic development strategy. On the finance front, the International Financial Institutions endorsed the continuation of the staff monitoring program (SMP) a prerequisite for debt relief without putting a clear indicative donor plan on funding the needed local currency to print or debt relief.

In addition, the Mutual Accountability Framework usually outline that both parties, the FGS and the Donor, share the responsibility and accountability. However, the communique states that only the FGS is held responsible and accounted for all.

In conclusion, by rating the overall conference, HOL editorial gives the FGS “C” as the conference stirred more political cleavage and disagreement between the FGS and FMS. Consequently, Mr. Abdiweli M. Ali “Gas” and Mr. Ahmed M. Islam “Madobe” both presidents of Puntland and Jubaland respectively held their own private meetings with Federica Mogherini, Vice President of the European Commission, knowing well the political and financial clout the EU has over Somali leadership, whereas AMISOM scored big as the winner with an “A” on the Brussels conference as it secured 114.2 Million Euro from the EU for the next five months. As for the other 200 Million Euros allocated for Somalia, it will certainly go to different trust funds of the UN, World Bank, regional and international agencies. At the end, FGS is set to fail.

HOL Editorial Board

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