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Is the authority of the UN and regional bodies divine, such that it cannot be challenged by the Somali people? The only ‘crime’ the Somali democratic movement has committed is to dare dream of freedom in the land of its birth.

On May 1, 2012, the UN Special Representative (SR), the African Union Special Representative (AUSR) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Facilitator (IGADF) for Somalia distributed a press release threatening those they call “spoilers” of the Somali political process with sanctions. Here is how they articulated the threats to those who might interfere with the process, including sanctions and other unspecified measures:

“… the United Nations, the African Union [AU">, and IGAD are jointly issuing this unambiguous warning to all potential spoilers: Non-compliance with or active obstruction of the Road Map for Ending the Transition in Somalia will be referred to the IGADF Council of Ministers with our recommendation for immediate imposition of specific measures and restrictions. Moreover, requests for further sanctions against spoilers may simultaneously be referred to the United Nations Monitoring on Somalia and Eritrea in order to open an investigation under the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 1844 (2008).”

What is the Road Map for Ending the Transition in Somalia? Does the RM have any legitimacy among Somali people? Who are the “spoilers”? Is the authority of the SR, AUSR and IGADF divine, such that it cannot be challenged by the Somali people whose political fate is to be determined by the RM if the SR has his way? This essay probes these questions.


The engine driving the Road Map is an agreement in Kampala made between the president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the former speaker of the TFG Parliament and a former prime minister in the summer of 2011. These three individuals were brought to Kampala under the auspices of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda with the SR’s participation.

The purported purpose of the meeting was to reconcile the conflict between the three Somalis over the nature of the transitional period and distribution of political power among these three during the remaining days of the transition, which was supposed to end in August 2011.

Somalia’s transitional charter, which governs the transition, has been set aside by the SR in order for his group to have their way in determining Somalia’s future. Without any consultation with the Somali Parliament or the Somali people, the hosts forced the three TFG personalities to agree in Kampala. Since then the Kampala Accord has become the force behind the Road Map.

For all practical purposes the Kampala Accord has empowered its three major players and several of their self-selected participants to determine the way out of the transition. The SR, AUSR and IGADF and their Somali clients manage this process, completely shutting out the Somali people and the TFG Parliament.

The Road Map is currently structured to allow the TFG president, the former prime minister and the former speaker of Parliament (the latter is still considered by the SR, IGADF and the AU as speaker although Parliament removed him from that post several months ago) to pick the traditional leaders who are slated to select members of the post-transition parliament, and the congress that will approve the UN-drafted post-transition constitution. In other words, the SR, AUSR and IGADF wish to enable the very TFG president, former speaker and the former prime minister, who failed to deliver any results during their tenure, to determine the future of the country as well as allowing them to reappoint themselves to power.

Given that there has been no open and sustained public debate and discussion about the terms of the Road Map, the UN and a small group among the TFG are its sole owners. Reflecting the famous American liberation motto “no taxation without representation,” the Somali democratic movement’s response to the UN Road Map is “no legitimacy without autonomous Somali ownership and input.”


Who are the spoilers? Nelson Mandela was a “spoiler and a terrorist” in the eyes of Apartheid governments and their allies. So were Gandhi and Ben Bella. In Somalia, the likes of Mandela were the members of the Somali Youth League (SYL) and Somali National League (SNL) during the Italian and British colonial eras.

In a style reminiscent of colonial times, the SR, AUSR and IGADF consider the democratic movement, the new political parties and the independent Muslim ulema — who are all engaged in peaceful political activities — to be “spoilers.” These groups have carefully studied the UNDP-drafted constitution and found it to be opposed to basic Somali and Islamic values. They have openly rejected the UN-drafted constitution without resorting to violence and have begin to mobilize the population.

Not only do these civilian groups find the constitution anti-Somali; but they view the entire Road Map, which is supposed to lead to the post-transition political order, as utterly illegitimate. Somalia’s democratic and peace movements are challenging the authoritarian operation of the UN, AU and IGADF. It is this non-violent and unarmed movement that the UN and its partners dub as “spoilers” and threaten to punish. Apparently, the UN, AU and IGADF consider good Somalis to be either childlike figures on whose behalf they can act politically, or terrorists and spoilers who should be sanctioned and punished using AU/ IGADF and UN instruments.

The history of liberation movements in Africa and elsewhere provides ample examples of democratic movements and liberation leaders who were vilified and persecuted by colonial and imperial powers. But the determination of the African people and their pursuit of justice and democracy ultimately prevailed.

It is ironic that the UN and AU, who supported the liberation movements in those years, are now acting as instruments of Somali subjugation. Further, the UN has been vocal about the rights of people in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab World; however, the UN considers the rights of the Somali people to peacefully mobilize themselves in order to determine their destiny a criminal affair that must be sanctioned and punished.

The use of threats by the SR, AUSR and IGADF demonstrates how these institutions are used for undemocratic and unjust political ends. Such behavior reinforces the established idea that the three groups do not have the Somali people’s interests at heart and that the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea is a partisan organization set to subjugate independent Somalis who dare to stand up for their rights and their sovereignty.


The SR and his African counterparts at the AU and IGADF have presided over a political project in Somalia that has delivered nothing but failure and misery over the last decade-and-a-half.

About three years ago, a UN-led international coalition concocted another TFG for Somalia which has now been accepted by all parties to be frighteningly corrupt and incompetent. Most recently, the SR, AUSR and IGADF were caught sleeping at the switch as tens of thousands of Somalis starved to death and millions were devastated by the recent famine; meanwhile the monitoring group has been implicated in worsening the famine.

Given this record, it is reasonable to conclude that the SR, AUSR and IGADF think of Somalia as their colony rather than as belonging to Somalis. Their latest effort to cower the Somali civic movement into submission is set to install another incompetent and illegitimate political order that does not respect the dignity of the people and the integrity of the nation. This agenda is as audacious as any former colonial scheme and will destroy the Somali Republic if it is not stopped.

Finally, the only “crime” the Somali democratic movement has committed is to dare dream of freedom in the land of its birth. By demonizing the Somali democratic movement as spoilers who must be punished, the UN and the AU are behaving like the very autocrats in the Arab world which the Arab Uprising has been trying to flush out of political power. They can try to impose an apartheid-like political order on the Somali people because the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is not accountable to the population and is funded by the United States and Europe, controls Mogadishu.

The hope was that AMISOM, as African brothers, would defeat al-Shabaab and give the Somali people a chance to rebuild their country, but that hope has been dashed as the UN and the AU try to suffocate Somalis’ democratic aspirations. Fortunately the Somali democratic movement will endure the latest humiliation and shall prevail sooner or later as they seek freedom, justice and democracy in their own home.


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* Abdi Ismail Samatar is a professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a research fellow at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
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