The current debate about Somalia’s future and its relationship with foreign donors is split between two schools of thought – those who advocate ‘hybrid systems of governance’ and those who continue to see state-building as the necessary first step towards stability and prosperity.
The Kenyan government’s brutal human rights violations against the Somali community in Kenya as well as its its unlawful military and diplomatic actions in the Jubba regions of Somalia have gone largely uncommented upon. Despite the troubling silence of African, Islamic, and Western leaders, a glimmer of hope emerged in April. Two Nordic diplomats have ignited a renewed a focus on peacebuilding and state-building in Somalia, challenging donor powers to end the indirect rule, occupation and containment, and seriously support state-building in Somalia. The current transgressive interactions between neighboring and other foreign countries and Somali leaders – including presidents and mayors of both clan enclaves and cities – flout Somalia’s sovereignty, independence, and unity and undermine the state-building objective central to Somalia’s peaceful existence and prosperity.
H. E. Pekka Havvisto, minister of international development of Finland and co-chairperson of the forum for International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and State-building (IDPS), and Jens Mjaugedal, special envoy of Norway for Somalia, have called on donor powers to effectively honor their commitments to state-building in Somalia, as mandated by United Nations (UN) Security Council. Immediately, in dissension, Ken Menkhaus – professor of political science at Davidson College in North Carolina, USA, Horn of Africa specialist and an affiliate of Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden – came out forcefully against the wisdom and viability of state-building in Somalia. Thus, the glimmer of hope for state-building is under attack.
On April 10, at a roundtable discussion on peacebuilding and state-building in the Horn of Africa, held at Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., Pekka Havvisto has articulated the critical need to implement the goals and principles of the New Deal for Engagement in Conflict Affected and Fragile States agreed upon in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2011. The five goals of the New Deal for state-building – namely political legitimacy and inclusivity, people’s security, system of justice, economic foundations, revenue and fair delivery services – have been developed through collaborative consultations between international donors, the g7+ countries (19 conflict affected and fragile states), the international Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF) and civil society secretariats under the leadership of IDPS Forum. Furthermore, the New Deal incorporates the five principles of aid effectiveness – ownership, alignment, harmonization, results, and mutual accountability – on the basis of normative relations between donors and recipients.
Minister Pekka reiterated the fundamental principles of the New Deal which require the governments and citizens of g7+ nations to – through a self-owned and self-led process – adopt a social contract (constitution) which binds the citizens and state. This ownership should be manifestly respected and supported by donor powers.
Particularly for Somalia, where the foundations of governance are completely absent, Minister Pekka contended that the strong interests of neighboring countries in Somalia as well as and the international community’s limited interest in security served to undercut the takeoff of the New Deal. To preempt any possible suggestion that either the informal and formal institutions should have primacy, he asserted that both institutions exist side by side in the Horn of Africa countries. In summary, his message was to promote the understanding and adoption of the New Deal for fragile states.
On April 17, in conversation with Peter Fabricious, foreign editor of Independent Newspapers in South Africa, Norway Special Envoy for Somalia Jens Mjaugedal repeated the views expressed by the Minister of Finland. He was particularly disturbed by how donor powers were far from grasping the reality of Somalia and wasted precious time discussing issues peripheral to state-building in a warzone. He unambiguously suggested that donor powers need to conduct internal triage before embarking on state-building. He pointed out that the funding of UN programmes is not contributing to the vital, overall aim of establishing the capacity, credibility and relevance of the Somali government.
For example, he cited the fact that that the Somali government is unable to pay salaries to eight thousand civil servants because donor powers did not disburse one dollar of the $2.3 billion pledged at the Brussels Conference in September 2013. It is also hard not to despair in the face of the level of suffering subjected upon the Somali National Army, which carries the burden of the war against Al Shabab. Somali Soldiers do not get the one twelfth (1/12) of the stipend regularly paid to each African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier. At the same time they are deprived of basic care, even in the case of casualty.
Jens Mjaugedal did not advocate the release of large sums of money, suggesting only the release of less than 5% of the $2.3 billion. He stated that ‘Somalia is the one of the most privatised countries in the world’, which means Somalia is without state authority. Similarly, Professor Michael J Boyle said that Somalia’s conflict has been globalised. Thus, state-building in Somalia is an urgent matter for the purpose of international peace and security. History will remember the Nordic diplomats for their bold actions, bringing the true reality of Somalia to the everyone’s attention. Somali leaders failed to reflect and act upon the reality, needs, and aspirations of their people and country.
With regards to the endemic corruption alleged against Somali leaders, the anti-state-building strategy pursued by powerful, foreign actors involved in the internal politics of Somalia can be identified as the cause. Today, the majority of the Somali people believe that they have lost the control, ownership, and freedom to determine their own future to outside forces. This feeling could produce a disastrous backlash for all.
Before presenting and commenting on the dissenting argument of Professor Ken Menkhaus, I would like to mention three instructive points which the general secretary of the g7+, Helder da Costa, made in a letter published in The Guardian newspaper in April 2014, under the title ‘New Deal for fragile states needs time and political commitment to flourish’.
• The New Deal demands fundamental changes in the modus operandi of donor powers and the way they work in fragile countries. It details principles, commitments, and actions. The practice of risky taking, speedy actions, flexibility, persistence, and creativity are proviso in it
• The "better angels" working in the development agencies know the positive effects of the New Deal, but they remain stuck to their institutional culture stubbornly resistant to changes
• Genuine state-building demands great investment of time, resources and political will
On 29 April, Professor Ken Menkhaus published his dissenting policy note, probably intended to delight the security-concerned US Administration. The media briefing of May 3 on Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, indicates the US Administration’s ambiguity on state-building in Somalia. While the US Administration accorded diplomatic recognition to the federal government of Somalia, it also allowed regional actors to dishevel Somalia and undermine state-building goals. This could fuel new political and social tensions, if not conflicts.
The title of the dissenting policy note, which first reinterprets and then dismisses the views expressed by the two Nordic diplomats, is ‘If Mayors ruled Somalia-Beyond state-building impasse’. Professor Ken Menkhaus’ attempt seems to be part of a larger effort to kill the agenda of the New Deal after the crisis and abysmal performance of Somalia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, Somalia - the classic example of a failed states – has also become quickly an example for state-building failure.
Professor Ken has consistently argued against the restoration of the Somali State which collapsed in January 1991, on the basis of a set of selective, embellished, and recycled narratives which have never been subjected to rigorous academic and empirical research and analysis. He confidently predicts that ‘with or without the $2.3 billion in New Deal assistance, Somalia’s government will remain weak and fragile for years to come’. His intense promotion of ‘hybrid governance in Somalia’ is shaped by the following findings against South Central Somalia:
• Somali political elites in Mogadishu embraced state-building as a lucrative project, but not as an objective. In addition, Somali leaders lack not only capacity but political will too
• The culture of corruption and the deep-rooted problems of spoilers among the political and business elites in Mogadishu is endemic
• The serious problem of insecurity and access in South Central Somalia makes the principles of inclusivity and local ownership out of reach for government
• The weak legitimacy of any government due to divisions caused by representation, clan, political Islam, and federalism are insurmountable
• The realisation of a social contract between the state and its citizens in South Central Somalia is unrealistic in the short term
• Finding a solution to ‘Somalia’s wicked problem’ remains almost impossible. Therefore, Somalis and foreign donors have to accept flawed, contested municipality governments of dubious legitimacy.
On 8 August 2012, a few days after the approval of the provisional constitution which ended the transition period and established a permanent government, Professor Ken Menkhaus published a paper entitled, ‘Somalia’s 20-Year Experiment in Hybrid Governance’. In this paper he argues that the Somali State cannot be reconstituted in the foreseeable future, going on to list the arguments put forward by four different schools of thought regarding the relevance of informal governance systems (hybrid governance) in Somalia. In defining the term ‘hybrid governance’, he settles on ‘municipality governance (city-state)’ ruled by Mayors. It is not clear if the concepts of secession and separation of communities form part of this idea of hybrid governance which considers the discussion of a national constitution premature subject.
The conception of municipality governance as the location of multiple clans, best governance for law and order and basic service delivery defies reality, economics, demography, legitimacy, security, and political sense, and is far from an empirical truth. In addition, the claim that accountability is stronger in most municipalities due to their proximity to citizens is also demonstrably weak.
However, it is possible that under certain circumstances, cities and towns are less encumbered by clan disputes simply because one sub sub clan dominates in each city. But it is hard to see how external assistance, denied to a national government, could be channeled to municipal administrations, given the rules governing foreign aid. It is equally difficult to see how NGO assistance will improve the livelihoods of the citizens of this war devastated and fragmented country.
It is academically dishonest to argue that donor powers have ever seriously attempted to peacebuild and state-build in Somalia. In fact, Dr. Michael J. Boyle noted that ‘Somalia has played the part – both in political practice and political myth – of a testing ground in which states play out their fantasies out of political order. The consequence is that Somalia, as a real place with real people, has rarely been seen on its own terms’. Therefore, the foreign driven political initiatives in the last 12 years have been far more lucrative for donor agencies and their bureaucrats than for to Somali Elites.
Following a workshop organised by the London School of Economics and Political Science in collaboration with the University of Antwerp on Hybrid Governance, Professors Kate Meagher, Tom De Herdt, and Kristof Titeca have published a briefing article titled, ‘Hybrid governance in Africa: Buzzword or paradigm shift?’, on the African Argument website. The article presents a long list of yet to be answered questions about this new concept being sold as ‘practical and legitimate governance that works’. The questions include the role of academics as promoters or investigators of the new concept, the nature of the powers that create the hybrid governance structures when good governance norms have been disregarded, and if hybrid governance enhances the performance and legitimacy of the state or erodes it. The professors cautioned against the assumption that all informal institutions are by definition locally legitimate as a misreading of local realities.
Another unanswered question is that of how hybrid governance deals with public accountability and citizenship rights. The participants of the workshop noted the growing evidence that hybrid governance does not always represent a good synergistic arrangement between weak (fragile) states and local institutions. The scholars who attended the workshop advised the academics promoting hybrid governance to exercise prudence so as not to get hand deep in the dirty. The consensus on addressing the problems of fragile states is well spelled out in the New Deal partnership for effective international development cooperation between donor powers and fragile states.
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