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

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