Who should take the lead in institutions building in Somalia?

By Dereje Seyoum*

On November 19 and 20, 2014 the international community witnessed another donor conference for Somalia under the banner of the Ministerial High level Partnership Forum, in Copenhagen. One of the key agendas was to evaluate the international pledge made at Brussels on September, 2013and to pave the roadmap for the successful implementation of vision 2016.

In the past two decades, International conferences for Somalia have not been considered as unique events. However, the peculiarity of the most recent conference was underpinned by a vision to be implemented before the year 2016. The vision depicts three fundamental issues to be achieved by the current government of Somalia with the support of the donor community.   The 2016 vision works towards the creation and formulation of regional and Federal States, adoption of a constitution and the organisation of national elections before the end of 2016. The vision thus strengthens the efforts made by the government Somalia to create institutions in the country.

The creation of viable institutions   in Somalia should be the vision and initiative of the Somali people as whole rather than the donor community assignment to the political elites. Institutional building should entirely be owned by the Somalis. What is so far witnessed by the international community’s approach to bring a lasting peace and state building   in Somalia is more or less the same approach and expecting a different result .Time and again, the international community take institutions and nation building in a ‘projectize’ manner by attaching a time frame on any initiative and by putting high expectations on deliveries. As a norm, this can be seen in    different forums and initiatives promised for Somalia in the past (Menkhaus, 2014).

Equally, the donor community overlooked the local ownership by working closely with the political elites. The international community also made of state building a lucrative business for the elites who engaged with the international community, as the latter brings aid for institutional and nation building. This trend in the past also   resulted in reducing   accountability in Somalia’s nation building efforts. So far, the approach taken by the international community at the national level has not taken into account consensual agreement needed in the Somali case. As the country is trying to emerge from a protracted civil war where everybody’s aggregated views are crucial in incorporating in a plan or in a vision that is being formulated for a plan or vision to promote sustainable peace and development (ibid).

However, the international community can be credited due to the fact that it operates in   a political setting where most of the political elites are not willing to create a viable and strong institution in the country. As state and institutions will bring accountability and heavy regulations, this will erode their personal political ambitions which is entirely built around warlordism , powerful business interests.   For highly corrupted government officials and groups which survive in exploiting fear and insecurity of the people of Somalia, state fragility, state failure or the absence of institutions are a preferred working environment rather than a challenge to be solved. This can be clearly seen in years to come as it was already exhibited in the recent power struggle in the Somali parliament. Moreover, as Al- Shabab withers away from the political landscape of Somalia the division of the Somali political elites over corruption and struggle for power will be visible (Hagmann, T., and M. Hoehne, 2009).

It is high time for the international community to consider a paradigm shift by involving and supporting local ownership in the process of institutions building as it is witnessed in Somaliland. Unless, institutional building is based on the desire and will of the people of Somalia, a pile of aid will not bring a lasting impact. However, it will create another fashionable tagline for another donor conference somewhere in the West and an aid bonanza for the spoilers of the Somalia’s   nation building.

*Dereje Seyoum (dereje.s@ipss-addis.org) is a Research Officer at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact research@ipss-addis.org

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Signs of Changing Times

By Gift Mwonzora*

Africa continues to grapple with emergent conflict situations such as the recent CAR, South Sudan conflict, Lesotho (August 30, 2014 botched coup) and Mali crisis. The situation raises the question of Africa’s capability and commitment to solve its own problems. How long should Africa continue to outsource solutions? Why can’t African countries find specific home grown solutions within the realm of their borders, without necessarily going across borders to shop for solutions? Why do we rely on large foreign military contingencies in our African conflicts, case of the overshadowing presence of the French military in Mali can attest.

In recent years there seems to be a marked shift amongst the African political leadership from the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil–syndrome (Welch, 1991: 538) towards active military intervention and involvement of various states. Do the regional and continental interventions of institutions such as SADC, ECOWAS (regionalization of international security) (Williams, 2007:254) and the AU, reflect Africanness in solving African solutions? It is also mind boggling why African states are seemingly moving towards the adoption of what Alexander Wendt has termed a Kantian culture of anarchy (Williams, ibid), whereby states view each other as allies or friends and will then work in unison in seeking to address common security challenges especially by resorting to military action. A case of Zimbabwe’s unjustified intervention in the DRC crisis is a clear case example.

Re – thinking Military Interventions in Africa

Perhaps it is also convenient to ask whether another African state’s military intervention to help another state in conflict warrants the tag of being labelled an African solution. A clear misuse and arbitrary abuse of names of regional groupings such as SADC in unjustified military interventions in member states is so apparent in South Africa’s (1998) intervention in Lesotho under the guise of promoting and preserving ‘democracy and stability’. Whether Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia (fighting Al Shabab) is constitutive of an African solution or the solution will come from the Somalis themselves, is yet to be seen. One can recall when Zimbabwe had a protracted political conflict in the period 2007 to 2009, the former South African president Thabo Mbeki made it categorically clear that a solution on the Zimbabwean crisis was supposed to come from Zimbabweans themselves. In the words of scholar Richard Joseph (2013:2), ‘ex­ternal forces cannot rebuild nations in the absence of do­mestic forces able to cohere to pursue such an objective’.

One might ponder on whether the external military intervention in the (1998) DRC crisis created a better, truer and free society, judging from how the Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda‘s military adventure(s) in the DRC has become shrouded in conspiracy theories over the motivations of such. The question in the offing is whether such solidarity was an African way of solving a crisis. This introspection is more plausible given the various geo – political and economic interests (resource plunder and looting) which seem to have overshadowed the will to pursue the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Did this military adventure help in solving an African problem through African solidarity or rather inflamed it?

African Heads of State Military Adventurism in Troubled Spots

Undeniably, most African heads of states have spoken with double tongues when it comes to proffering solutions for African related problems. Here in lies a paradox. Most African leaders engage in irrational personal choices rather than in collective citizen choices in pursuing a mix of both military domestic and foreign policy.

Africa therefore needs to go beyond the rhetoric and narrative about African brotherhood and candidly look each other straight in the eye. With sound critical leadership the ‘crises’ in South Sudan and that which obtained in Zimbabwe would have been averted. Oftentimes, Africa is replete with a problem of African leaders treating way ward leaders with kid gloves under the banner of African solidarity and respect. Yet, millions will be dying and suffering from man – made crisis. African leaders like Museveni has been blamed for military adventurism in countries such as Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Somalia, and South Sudan (Opalo, 2014). Given the split of opinion and interests amongst IGAD member states in the context of the stalled negotiations between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar on the South Sudan political impasse the sincerity of African leadership’s actions in solving African conflicts is questionable.

Maybe the time for African-led solutions to African problems is not yet ripe.


Joseph, R (2013) Discordant Development and Insecurity in Africa: Foresight in Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2013, Africa Growth Initiative.

Welch, C.  Jr., (1991) ‘The Organisation of African Unity and the promotion of human rights’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 29(4).

Williams, P. D. (2007) From non-intervention to non-indifference: the origins and development of the African Union’s security culture. African Affairs, 106 (423), pp.253-279.

* Gift Mwonzora (giftmwonzora@gmail.com) is a PhD Candidate specialising in Political Sociology at Rhodes University in South Africa. His main areas of interests include political parties, party systems, conflict and peace building, transitional justice mechanisms, elections, democracy and democratisation and development especially in Africa. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact research@ipss-addis.org.

Re-elections and Unlimited Presidential Terms: Trigger of Socio-political Instabilities and Threat to Peace and Security in Africa

By Albert Mbiatem*
Additional or unlimited presidential terms and their actual and potential consequences are still rampant in Africa. With reference to the recent socio-political instabilities in Tunisia, Egypt, and Burkina Faso, there is enough evidence to presume other risks of conflict escalation across the continent when popular demands are undermined by some regimes. The recurrent prevalence of personal interests over national interests is to a large extent portrayed by the attitudes of presidents amending or seeking to amend the constitution in favour of their eligibility for supplementary or unlimited mandates. Thus, I argue that personalised leadership seeking eligibility for additional mandates by barring the way to an opened political emergence is a trigger of socio-political instabilities and an imminent threat to peace and security in Africa. In order to ascertain such eligibility and subsequently twig to power, incumbent presidents with the support of their self-interested collaborators manipulate popular perceptions via referenda or parliamentary votes.
Unpopular political acts and the adoption of paradoxical laws have been at the centre of socio-political instabilities in many African states. Findings reveal that, a considerable number of the post 1990s developing democracies are increasingly taking the shape of de facto monarchies as presidents tend to create smooth platforms for their sons or relatives to take over presidency after their retirement or death. In Gabon for instance, Ali Bongo was elected after the death of his father and in Togo Faure Gnassingbe also took over in similar circumstances. Despite the serious popular contestations, some incumbents succeeded in manipulating their constitutions to become re-elected unlimitedly or for more than two mandates. Some examples of such constitutional amendments are found in Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Togo, Algeria and Gambia. Still some serving Heads of state with questionable eligibility for extra mandate(s) are showing interests in prolonging their time in government. There are simmering interests to that effect in countries like Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and to some extent Rwanda. The act of prioritising personalisation of power to the detriment of institutionalisation thereby emerges as a reversal to sustainable peace and security in Africa.
The amendments or the processes of amending the constitution for additional mandates have triggered popular and violent protestations in some African societies. Burkina Faso is the most recent example where popular manifestations in October 2014 led to the downfall of Blaise Compaoré who was determined to maintain himself in power after 27 years of rule. In Senegal, there were also serious popular contestations condemning the eligibility of President Abdoulaye Wade for a third mandate with regard to the 2012 presidential elections. African rulers who are interested in undermining democratic alternation often do that under the pretext of having received support from the people. President Museveni of Uganda recently said on a radio interview: “Well, I don’t think Ugandans are as obsessed with my retirement…because when I go to ask them at the elections, five million say don’t go, you stay.” In Cameroon, manipulated motions of support from within the ruling party, academic institutions, ethnic groups and some segments of the civil society were enough justification for President Paul Biya to seek unlimited re-elections. The Cameroon constitution was revised in November 2008, barely few months after a popular strike against lack of primary commodities and unprecedented inflation in March 2008. Would people willingly express their support to a government whereby asymmetric distribution of resources is rampant? It is paradoxical to assume that incumbents, whose states are constantly classified as heavily indebted and poor, receive popular supports for unlimited re-elections. Moreover, these states that are generally made up of high youth population are unable to create employment opportunities for the younger generations. The highly unemployed youth would for no reason want to maintain a regime that has repeatedly failed to empower them.
Re-election on the basis of unlimited presidential terms remains a serious blow to the democratisation process and a potential trigger of conflicts. Although some partisans may express their supports of maintaining a specific individual in power, the larger part of the population is manipulated and as a result has little or no say in the process. The genuine prevention of conflicts in Africa can only begin with the establishment and implementation of laws reflecting the needs and wants of the society. To this effect, re-election beyond two democratic mandates should be addressed critically as the increasing disenchantment of populations is underpinned by loss of trust in their governments. This loss of trust which has in the past generated conflicts in many African countries remains a potential conflict trigger. Therefore, African solutions to African problems can be realised with an inclusive leadership that takes into account the needs of all societal strata for the purpose of achieving collective goals.
* Albert Mbiatem (albertmbiatem@yahoo.com) is an African Leadership Center Fellow attached at the African Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact research@ipss-addis.org.

Are we Africans afraid of the unknown? 1,166,239,000 reasons why we should not be!

By Mercy Fekadu Mulugeta*

Several African countries have faced tragic situations and painful incidents because of dictatorial military governments and unjust systems. However, many have decided to live quietly while few objected. Many Africans face dire poverty, demonstrated by prevalence of undernourishment in 20% (UNECA) of the population while the continent losses US$60 billion (UNECA) because of trade mispricing. In addition to such corruption, the poor are further threatened by the growing gap between them and the rich. Seventy per cent of them live in rural areas, where clean water, health care, transportation and access to education are limited (rural poverty portal). Many of us face maltreatment in offices by bureaucrats, supposedly there to ‘serve’ us. We have to bribe security and traffic police officers, supposedly there to ‘protect’ us. In trying to explain this, I strongly realize that small yet significant incidents in our day-to-day life explain our situation more than statistical facts by international organizations do. We witness the fruits of bad governance and discrimination because of ethnic origin, gender or belief in various occasions.

So why are we quiet? it is either of two things. Either because we have not directly been victimized (and therefore are ignorant) or because we are afraid of the unknown than we are annoyed of today. The belief that ‘there are worse things in life’ often paralyzes our thoughts and actions. As the African proverb goes, “Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.” It is true that fear of the unknown is the most generic of all fears to all human beings. Therefore, the answer to our question is: Yes. Africans are afraid of the unknown but so are all the people of the world. However, when as a society we are paralyzed by this fear, it is not because we are ignorant but because we have been misinformed.

More than any time Africans should be aware of their strength as the citizenry. I came across an interesting article on the Economist that stated that in democracies ‘the few (the political elite) are at the mercy of the many’. But how about in dictatorships? This is where we have been misinformed. Even in dictatorships, the few are at the mercy of the many. If only the many knew their strength.

One of the foundations of the OAU/AU is the recognition that the African people possess “inalienable right … to control their own destiny” (OAU Charter). Africans are not passive victims and recipients of national and global mishaps.The Charter recognizes the African people as the driving force to change, sustainable peace and development. For example, the African Union Peace and Security Council recognized the uprising in Burkina Faso that disposed a 27-year dictatorship a demonstration of “the right of people to rise up peacefully against oppressive political systems” (PSC/PR/COMM.(CDLXVIII)). The African Union is now differentiating the nature of coups (unconstitutional change of government, democratic uprising or civil war) before making decisions, as it is cultivating what Alex de Waal called a “Principled Stand”.

In September 2014, the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) conducted an expert workshop to define ‘African-centred Solutions” (AfSol). The experts discussed three principles of AfSol: ownership, commitment and shared values. One of the most important findings of the workshop was that these principles can and should be reflected in the actions of African institutions, states AND African citizenry. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of the African citizenry in finding African-centred Solutions to peace and security challenges of the continent.

The African citizenry, by accident or design, reinforces traditions and systems that work against the benefit of the people. It is time to realize that our voice counts, therefore we count.

In fact, according to population pyramid we are 1,166,239,000.

* Mercy Fekadu (mercy.f@ipss-addis.org) is a Research Officer at the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact research@ipss-addis.org