Will Istanbul Conference engender a common vision for Somalia?
The succor of Turkish government to the people of Somalia has caused different reactions. First, it has uplifted the hope and spirit of the Somali people afflicted by the combination of civil war, famine, brutal rule of Al-Shabab, the abuses of corrupted Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the dividing and disempowering policies of the international community. Second, it has irritated the regional power –Ethiopia for potential break-up of its uncontested dominance on Somalia. And third, it has heightened the suspicion of United States of America and Europe on Turkey’s intention towards Somalia. The US government expressed its exasperation about what it has described as a biased Somali exceptional gratitude to Turkey for its late and still less support compare to the US Government’s massive assistance to Somalia in funding the African Union military operation (AMISOM) and UN humanitarian operations for Somalia.
The involvement of Turkey in Somalia has concentrated on the humanitarian situation and social development. As I have discussed in one of my articles on the London Conference on Somalia Somalia’s expectation for self-governance disregarded, several conflicting strategies are contemporaneously operating in Somalia without regard to the aspirations, interests, rights and respect of the Somali people. The expansion of the role of Turkey in the fields of politics, security, public administration and economics for Somalia’s revival is very important but it would be another disaster for Somalia if Turkey goes along with the current political strategy designed to deepen the political chaos in Somalia.
In 2011, possibly as a preemptive move, the British Government announced the February 2012 London Conference, the outcome of which has been seen as a promotion of foreign agenda beyond the comprehension of Somalis. Mary Harper and Sally Healy, British experts on Somalia, explained the uncertain impact of the conference in their respective post conference assessments: Will the world help or hinder Somalia?, and Somalia: After London Conference.
The Istanbul II conference is linked to the Istanbul I conference of May 2010 organized to support the 2008 Djibouti Agreement, the ill-conceived initiative of former UN Secretary General Ahmedou Ould Abdalla. Majority of Somalis have forgotten the substance and contribution of the Istanbul I declaration which has reiterated the usual international expressions on Somalia. The Conference didn’t improve the Somali political process for reconciliation, unity, stability and recovery. As of today, Somalia is a place for countries interested in showing their participation in the international cooperation for counter-terrorism and piracy and not for state building.
The title of the Istanbul II conference- preparing Somalia’s future: Goals for 2015- carries inspiring and appealing vision. What is not clear is if the Istanbul II conference will engender a common vision for a new direction or will recycle the deliberate destructive fragmented international strategies/policies towards Somalia. The London Conference, the Addis Ababa consultative meeting of the roadmap signatories, the upcoming conference of the International Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia in the United Arab Emirates to be followed in July 2012 by the meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia in Italy have produced or will surely produce convoluted international policy for ending the transition and developing another transition roadmap in Somalia.
There are positive signs from the Istanbul II conference on Somalia. A paper drafted on 3rd May 2012 outlines briefly the multi-dimensional and comprehensive strategy of the Government of Turkey towards Somalia. The ultimate goal of the strategy is to lift Somalia out of the present crisis and to make it a respectable, sovereign and unified country with strong real national identity. The paper states that “the continued instability and insecurity of Somalia, as well as the deficiency of the state, apart from constituting a risk for the Horn of Africa and the whole continent, represents a disgrace for the international community in the 21st century and is thus unacceptable. No similar example of such a state exists in the world.” This is a powerful call for the international community.
Positive views expressed in documents related to the preparation of Istanbul II conference indicate: (a) the importance of Somali ownership in the ongoing peace process, (b) the need for a genuine and comprehensive reconciliation among Somalis as a fundamental requirement for common vision on how to build a viable Somali state that can deliver sustainable peace and security in Somalia, (c) the reaffirmation of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia, (d) the conversion of AMISOM mission into UN Mission in 2013 for allowing the participation of forces from Muslim countries in the Somali peacekeeping operation, (e) the lifting of the arms embargo on the TFG for a loyal and professional security forces with strong and unified command control structure for maintaining national security and as an exit strategy for AMISOM forces ( no mention about the exit of Ethiopia forces), (e) the establishment of an international fund for the restructuring of the Somali Security Sector to cover various expenditures, including regular payment of stipends/salaries, (f) the public and private partnership for political progress and economic investment, (g) the assignment of Turkey team of advisers for public administration as well as for military and police training to Somalia, (h) issuance of new UN resolution that supports post transition state building.
On the other hand, there are dangerous views and positions that conflict with the positive ones. They are (1) the commitment of Turkey to Kampala Agreement, the roadmap, the Garowe I and II principles, the Galkaio agreement, the Addis Ababa Communiqué between roadmap signatories, and the ratification of the new constitution, (2) the rejection of financial pledges in Istanbul conference, (3) the consensus on united actions against so called “spoilers” as UN,AU and IGAD representatives defined and requested for support, (4) the adherence to TFG stabilization strategy, IGAD strategy, Stability Principles agreed in London, and the Stability fund for international coordination, (5) the support for the current TFG leaders, (6) the establishment of the Joint Financial Management Board. None of these strategies have been formulated, discussed and debated within competent and legitimate Somali national institutions.
Former Speaker of the now dissolved Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan and unnamed representative of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama met with the Government of Turkey for the clarification of the final outcome of the conference and the adherence to the convoluted process for ending the transition. On May 29, 2012, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey confirmed the support of Turkey among others to the Addis Ababa agreement-Statement of the spokesman of the MoFA of Turkey in response to a question. Support of Addis Ababa communiqué is a fundamental violation of the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter, the Somali interests and its political integrity for legitimate and credible governance.
In breach of the line of governmental responsibility, the Minister of Constitution, Federalism and Reconciliation issued accusatory press release questioning the motives of the Government of Turkey for extending invitation to members of the civil society and politicians opposed to the TFG. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Presidents of regional states of Puntland and GalMudug announced their objection to the Istanbul II Conference. Finally, the US Government has declared in the past that it follows the lead of its African partners for helping Somalia. All these maneuvers and positions are directed to limit the role of Turkey in Somalia and make Istanbul II Conference another failure.
Will Turkey stand up tall and challenge the counterproductive strategies and maneuvers for Somalia’s survival? Two facts will clarify the route for peace and stability in Somalia. First, it is the substance and clarity of the final communiqué of Istanbul II conference. Second, it is the political actions that will take place in Somalia after the conclusion of Istanbul II conference.