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Shinn Elliott School of International Affairs George Washington University In addressing the seven members of parliament, I explained that I had recently returned from the 9th Horn of Africa Conference with a focus on Somalia organized by the Somalia International Rehabilitation Centre in Lund, Sweden, on 4-6 June. I wanted to share some of the thoughts relevant to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that came out of that meeting attended by Somalis from the diaspora, from Somalia and representatives of the international community. I explained that I would speak frankly but as a friend of Somalia. I urged that they consider my remarks as constructive criticism. I emphasized that my views are my own; I am no longer a representative of the U.S. government. While the TFG is today the only political organization that the international community will support, patience with lack of progress in resolving Somalia’s problems is wearing thin. It is not clear how long this international support will last. The TFG needs to become more representative and credible. It is essential that it end the internal political squabbling among its leaders and that it implement the alliance it has signed with Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’a. Although it is inconceivable that the United States will ever support al-Shabaab, it is not inconceivable that it will lose interest in the TFG. There was a widespread belief among Somali members of the diaspora at the meeting in Lund that the TFG is already a failure. There was also a broadly held perception that corruption is rampant within the TFG. If serious corruption continues, it will end what is left of diaspora and international support for the TFG. Even if these reports are exaggerated, the TFG must get control of the corruption issue. The TFG needs a clear program and message to present to Somalis. Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have such a message even if most Somalis don’t like it. The TFG has no central message. Several participants at the conference in Lund emphasized that the TFG can only defeat al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam with a better idea. I fully agree. The TFG faces a huge challenge in restoring democracy to Somalia. Somalis are capable of doing this. You only have to look at Somalia’s record in the 1960s under President Aden Abdullah Osman. That was a golden era for Somali democracy. There is no obvious successor in Somalia today who can carry on this democratic beginning, but finding such a leader should be the goal as Somalia transitions from the TFG to a permanent government. I realize the country needs stability first. This is the one area where al-Shabaab has had some success that is welcomed by Somalis. Unfortunately, alShabaab also brings repression and the end of any hope for democracy.
2 The TFG must press forward soon with the development of a constitution even if it only covers the main issues and offers an outline of the future that most Somalis can accept. You can deal with the details later. This must be a Somali product drafted by people like you around this table. It should not be a foreign import. Once there is agreement on a constitution, it will be much easier to present a coherent message to the Somali people. The kinds of issues the constitution should consider are: • • • • Do Somalis want to adopt a federal, confederal or highly centralized system of government? Does Somalia want to pursue a presidential or parliamentary form of government? Do Somalis want to continue with the controversial 4.5 power sharing formula based on clans or abandon it? Do Somalis want to hold a plebiscite on the constitution? Is it even possible to have a plebiscite in view of the existing security situation?
The TFG should tackle another sensitive issue. It agreed that sharia is the law of the land but did not interpret or implement it. Implementation will be impossible until it controls most of the country. But the TFG can at least define its understanding of sharia. There are many different versions of sharia in the Islamic world. Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have made clear what it means to them. While I believe the overwhelming majority of Somalis oppose these interpretations, the TFG has failed to make clear how it intends to interpret sharia. Most interpretations of Sharia come into conflict with certain well accepted democratic principles. How will the TFG resolve the differences between these principles and its implementation of sharia? The TFG security forces must be paid regularly at a wage competitive with alShabaab forces. Corruption in the payment of security personnel must end. There are many credible accounts that this is a problem. If it continues, the TFG can not succeed and the international community will end its funding for training, equipping and paying the salaries of TFG security forces. That would effectively end the TFG. It is important to say a few words about the role of the Somali diaspora. According to one informed estimate, this community may be as large as 2.8 million Somalis in Europe, North America, the Gulf States, Africa, Australia and elsewhere. If the estimate is accurate, it constitutes about one-quarter of all Somalis. According to the World Bank, the Somali diaspora each year transfers about $1 billion in remittances to Somalia and another half billion dollars to Somaliland. This is far more than all foreign assistance to Somalia and Somaliland. While most of the remittances go to family members, the diaspora is responsible for creating, funding and staffing nearly a dozen small universities in Somalia and Somaliland. This is an incredible achievement even if some of the schools are forced to shut down from time to time because of civil conflict. In addition, many members of the TFG are from the diaspora. The role of the diaspora for Somalia may be more important proportionally than that of any other diaspora in the world. It is essential that the TFG keep its diaspora informed and pay attention to its concerns. The international community understands that Somalia needs virtually everything. It has done much so far to support the TFG. I realize that the international community has made some promises that it has not kept. Part of the problem is a concern that the TFG is not committed to overcoming the challenges that it faces. Nothing succeeds like success.
3 If the TFG makes significant progress, I am certain, based on my discussions with representatives of a number of governments, that significantly increased assistance and support will be forthcoming. I have raised tough questions and offered frank comments. If the TFG can not resolve these issues soon, it will surely fail. Some American experts on Somalia have already concluded that the TFG can not succeed. I have not yet reached that point, but the TFG must reverse its current downward slide if it is to keep friends like me from joining this group.