Somalia Analysis Part III: Consensus at the UN, the way to the future

Category: Nature & Science Views: 1072

The focus of the UN's attention in Somalia is now clearly on the North, in the regional governments and thriving civil societies of Somaliland and Puntland. In these "recovery zones," international aid agencies have also recognized the greatest promise for Somalia's future. A recent issue of the prestigious African Confidential newsletter (Vol. 40, Number 19, Somalia: Building Blocks) puts it succinctly: "Local administrations can offer internal peace, relative economic success and an incentive for others to follow, as in the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland and in Puntland in the North ... There is money to be made in other parts of Somalia but no one puts it into houses or hotels, as they do in Hargeisa and Bossaso."

Nonetheless, the recent UN Secretary General's report on Somalia describes the stability of the North as "fragile." Ironically, the very mechanisms of UN-based assistance are heavily biased against the political experiments of both Somaliland and Puntland. The problem is complex. Somaliland, as a self-declared breakaway state has no recognized status as a nation at the UN. Furthermore, its cessation is disputed by the majority of Somalis. This means that certain kinds of badly needed international support are ruled out. The principal behind this resistance is international rejection of unilateral separatism and the creation of new countries overnight. Puntland, meanwhile, has resisted the temptation to declare independence from Somalia out of respect for the same UN policy.

In the end, however, neither region can receive crucial support from UN bodies, because the central government of the nation of Somalia itself is not functioning. The Secretary General's proposal is simple and crucial to the future of the north: Lift official UN rules about how the UN may take action in a region that is not a nation and help where help is needed now, relaxing if not rewriting the rules governing UN's international assistance to the "recovering zones" in disastrous situations like that of Somalia. This would end the "fragility" of the current hope for Somalia and would bring this homegrown initiative to fruition.

Secretary General Annan offers specific suggestions for a new UN role in Somalia. To quote the report:

Consideration might be given to whether, in advance of political agreements on the formation of a national government, action could be taken by the international community to assist Somalia to recover its sovereignty in certain limited fields, for example the protection of offshore natural resources. Efforts could also be made to limit the introduction of illegal arms and weapons into the country ... It would be a challenge to the ingenuity of the international community to establish mechanisms which would allow financial assistance to flow into Somalia even before a formal central government and other institutions were re-established. I urge international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the European Development Fund, in administering the Lomé IV Convention, to exercise flexibility in this regard, re-examining as necessary their legal and financial arrangements to take this unique case into account.

Finally, it is remarkable that a consensus on Somalia is forming not merely in the central administration of the UN but amongst the OAU, Arab League, Organization of Islamic States and regional organizations like IGAD, many of whom rarely agree so readily. Speaking in support of the latest Northern initiatives, the president of the 54th session of the General Assembly in September, 1999, Theo-Ben Guirab of Namibia, declared: "Out of the ashes of despair, Africa and the UN should help to reconstruct Somalia and give its brave people another chance to rebuild their shattered lives."

The latest words of support belong to H.E. Ismail Omar Cuelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, who spoke at the same General Assembly:

It is ... important to report that not all parts of (Somalia) are the same. Not all are in anarchy. Indeed it is evolving into a country of stark contrasts between the troubled central and southern regions and the relatively stable and peaceful north, namely the self-declared "Somaliland" and the Puntland region. These two regions were fortunate enough to escape most of the conflict that ravaged other parts of the country during the 90s ...The reality is that in the context of Somalia, cities, regions and communities are defining their own future. This move toward decentralization or self-administration by many parts and communities of the country is fueled by the need to survive. The international community, therefore, needs to support economically these regions or communities that have achieved relative peace, security and development. We must reward those who have made serious efforts to restore security and peace to protect human rights and to provide basic services to their people, including institutional framework and de-mining.

These, then, are the "building blocks" for the future of Somalia, to use the current language of hope and reconstruction at the UN. The task is to help consolidate and spread Northern achievements, more concretely to protect peaceful areas from foreign wars (arms control vis a vis the Ethio/Eritrean War), clean up the refuse of old wars (de-mining), to guard Somalia's essential Marine Resources from foreign profiteers, and to free up funding channels to areas of prosperity. The world once again hopes to restore peace and prosperity to a tragically fractured country. This time, though, they can count on a solid base of support and political organization constructed on Somali terms by Somalis. There can be no greater chance for survival and true prosperity.

  Category: Nature & Science
Views: 1072
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