Since the collapse of the Somali government in the 1990s, the international community has not been able to put the state back on its feet. Even a number of attempts to make the comeback possible has failed. The first attempt was the American led military operation which started in earnest in 1993. It collapsed after few years.
The formation of the transitional federal government which was inaugurated in Kenya was yet another bid towards restoring a central government in Somalia in 2004. The trend went on and on until in 2007 when the United Nations authorized an African Union peacekeeping mission, 12 years and oblivious of the billions of dollars spent, a lot has not been achieved.
When the current President Mohamed Abdullahi was elected in February 2017, one of his pledges was to dismantle the Al-shabab group within two years. This never happened. In fact, the group ability to sow terror into Mogadishu has revived over the past two years, begging the question, what
There are two ways to bring to an end to the long standing chaos which has dwarfed the Horn of Africa
country. It is either through the military or negotiations that the much needed stability will be achieved. The military option has failed and it is evident that a victor has not emerged in Somalia since the collapse of the central government.
That is why the President and even the Prime Minister can throw their weight behind negotiations by exhausting all possible avenues. While there are no known established communication channels between the government and Al-shabab, the president can still manage to bring the group to the negotiating table.
“All war is a symptom
of man’s failure as
a thinking animal.”
― John Steinbeck
President Abdullahi and even his predecessors were categorical in saying that they are willing to talk with opposing faction saying that this is an avenue that they are open to. But experts lament that the Somali government needs to go beyond just saying “we are open for talks” and swing into action by putting forward a serious plan to engage the group.
“An eye for an eye will only make the
whole world blind.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
The Somali government should organize forums for Somalis of all walks of life including intellectuals, academicians, elders and civil society to formulate a plan and ways of engaging the group, the particular group blueprint can be used in engaging the group. This will also give legitimacy to the talks.
According to Hussein Sheikh- Ali, the chairman of the Hiraal Institute, a Mogadishu-based think tank who also worked as a national security adviser and counter-terrorism adviser to the Somalia government (at one time), believes dialogue is the way.
In an opinion published by UK based Guardian newspaper, he admitted to having spearheaded the creation of Somalia’s high-level al-Shabaab defector’s program. While the government has to some extent succeeded with defector’s program it is time to focus on dialogue.
Somalia is one of the unique countries in the world, with it is people sharing language, religion and heritage, talking between them is achievable. It is paramount, though, that the talks need facilitators, which can either, be the United States of America or any other friendly country to Somalia like Qatar. Clan elders too can play an important role.
“In the animal
A country like United States’ willingness being part of the negotiations with Al-shabab will give the talks the needed international support as a country like Qatar can host the talks –Qatar is a close ally of Somalia, the country is considered to be one of the few countries that can bring both Al-shabab and the Somali government to the negation table.
Al-shabab demands are well known. They are mainly focusing on achieving two things. Firstly, they are pushing for a government based on Islamic value. For this one, with a majority of the population being Muslims is easy to compromise; beside Somalia has already adopted the group first demands during Somalia’s transitional government. Secondly, they are also demanding the withdrawal of foreign force; this is realistic, with thousands of Somali troops trained gradual withdrawal of foreign forces will not harm the security.
The Taliban and US Forces engagement is a prime example of how at times dialogue, rather than force, can help quell animosities from a group like that. After close to 17 years in Afghanistan, US forces may now be leaving after engaging in talks with the Taliban. The military could not achieve such a
milestone. Dialogue has brought some relative calm thus allowing warring factions to see the need to dialogue.
If you are in doubts, look at the Colombian government underPresident Juan Manuel Santos where a peace process with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army was negotiated, a move that would put to an end 52 years of war.
In 1988, the Spanish government negotiated with the ETA which is a separatist few months after the group carried a deadly attack, with secrets negotiations going the parliament in 2005 passed a motion supporting “dialogue between the competent authority within the state and whoever decides to give up violence.” The vote was 192-147, with the government winning in its quest for dialogue.
The fighting in Somalia is predominately between the Somali government on one end and Al-shabab on the other end, the two group share a general ideology, which is Islam, this being the case, the Somali government and the Somali people in general should recognise that the other faction is not an outsider but people of Somali origin thereby work on dialogue by opening communication channels using every available avenues. That is the only way, though, that Somalia will have a head start towards achieving peace and stability. If other countries have done it, then, of course, Somalia can do the same.