Reflections on Southwestern Somalia agreement in Mogadishu.

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

On June 23rd, 2014, a ceremony took place in Somalia’s Presidential Palace in Mogadishu.

The ceremony was attended by the country’s three top leaders and members of international community, such as IGAD, East African body in which Somalia is a member of, United Nations and European Union.

Dignitaries met to witness an agreement signed by two parties named, according to the agreement, the idea ofthree Southwest regions, Sw3, and the idea of six Southwest regions, Sw6.

Parties were formed after some local notables got together, early this year, in Baydhabo, Bay region, located in Southwestern part of Somalia, and formed a regional state for either three regions, Sw3, or six regions, Sw6.

The new comer is immediately struck by the informality of the state building process in Somalia: number of people coming together and determining administrative structures for millions, some of them under Shebab rule.

Why not ask the people who live there what they want, through mass voting, respecting the wishes of the majority and protecting rights of the minorities ? Why not wait until conditions are conducive to such fair acts?

Let us go back to the analysis for now?

The person who signed the agreement for Sw6 was Abdifatah Mohamed Ibrahim Geesay.

The agreement stated that the parties agreed to form a regional administration consisting of three regions. In essence endorsing the position of Sw3. US special representative calls this three region solution.

When the agreement was signed a letter was published in, In the same day if not before, bearing the insignia of Sw6 regional administration, especially the office of its president, claiming Mr Geesay, then the interior minister of Sw6 regional administration, was removed from his office and thus does not repressent them.

In the same day the chair of traditional elders council of the Sw6 and the head of its air and land transportation and communications department stated in a press conference held in Baydhabo, Bay region, that Mr Geesay and another official who was with him did not represent them and they see the agreement in Mogadishu as an obstacle designed to undermine their administration.

In march, this year, huge demonstrations took place in Baydhabo, Bay region, supporting Sw6 party.

Paying attention to pictures and video clips posted online about these demonstrations in support of Sw6, one comes to the conclusion that Sw6 has more support than Sw3.

This author, despite substantive efforts to see demonstrations in support of Sw3, have not seen even one.

On the basis of the popular support shown to Sw6, I have concluded that Sw6 has more popular support than Sw3.

Scholars of the area support a weaker argument of the Sw6 on the basis of clan distribution in relevant regions.

For instance, if Sw6 accepts three region state, which Sw3 advocates for pragmatic reasons, as it claims, then it has to forgo members of its clan In Gedo region.

Rahanwayn clans, who dominate Bay, Bakool, and some parts of Lower Shabelle region also live on the lands east of Jubba river in Gedo [1].

Also some May speakers, the main dialect spoken by Rahanwayn clans, which is not readily intelligible with Maxaa dialect, the main dialect spoken by the rest of the Somalis, live in middle Jubba region, a region currently recognized under interim administration of Jubba [2].

Thus, Sw6 can claim with some grounds to form an administration for more than 3 regions, certainly portions of Gedo and perhaps parts of Middle Jubba. This also appears to be the main reason of its popular appeal among Rahanwayn clans.

A more viable solution this author have suggested after some thinking and research was to allow overlapping administrations to exist until such time as federal border commission resolves the matter; this is not a new matter: we have an overlapping administration for Mudug region, central Somalia, where both Galmudug and Puntland administrations govern the same region, in fact the same major city, Galka’yo. Clans in that region chose which regional administration to support. It was an organic process, which was largely peaceful.

However, this is not what was done In the south.

More alarming fact was the reaction of some members of the international community, such as IGAD, European Union, United Nations, African Union and United States: they have supported the agreement and claimed it was a step forward, without slightest consideration to the popular party that withdrew from the agreement.

This was seen by Sw6, and other well wishers, as an imposition of international will against their own will, something to oppose to the last.

Going against what appears to be a popular will have security implications beyond Somalia’s borders, and I shall support this.

Before I do that, let me state another complexity that arose In the same day the agreement was signed in Mogadishu.

The elders of Hawiye clan, one of the largest clans in Somalia, had supported Shebelle state, a state consisting two regions, one of which happens to be one of the regions both Sw6 and Sw3 agree to be one of their own. This region is Lower Shabelle. The agreement recognizes this region as one of the regions that will come under the rule of the parties who have signed the agreement.

Thus, Haiwiye Elders have understood the agreement as a way to give away a region that they constitute its majority, as they claim. I was not able to secure scholarly view on the subject, but Hawiye people live in the region, to what extent I do not know.

They immediately met after the agreement was signed and the tone of their talk was passionate, accusing the international community of fueling the conflict in Somalia, rather than contributing to its termination.

The elders have asked members of the government from Hawiye clan, which also dominates be capital city and it’s surroundings, to stay away from the government until further notice.

The interior minister who happens to be from this clan said the agreement was illegal and his ministry did not know it. Other ministries, he said, speaking to BBC Somali Service, have cooked it. His opposition to the agreement was not decisive.

Afterwards, numerous parliamentarians and notables have opposed the agreement.

Despite this, an extra ordinary session was held by the council of ministers, chaired by the Prime Minister, and the agreement was passed, after some deliberations.

The President attended ceremonies, afterwards, and acted as if nothing has happened, giving ample time for another storm to gather strength.

Now, let us talk about the security implications of this administration building exercise In southern Somalia, in the absence of consensus on the way forward.

During one of the demonstrations that took place in Baydhabo, Bay region, an elder have used himself as blockage against armored vehicle, suspected of trying to stop the demonstrations against Sw3. Another young boy was killed during these demonstrations and small monument was built for him in Baidhabo, Bay.

I have also noticed energy and passion hitherto lacked by the opponents of Shebab.

Opponents of Shebab appear to be sapped of energy needed to perform decisive action that some moments call for.

Finally, I said to myself, there we have an ideology that will mobilize the masses to eliminate the threat of Shebab once for all.

Shebab, to remind you, was defeated as a military force a while ago. It no longer exists as a conventional force, able to engage in conventional warfare. It is able, however, to strike, and, generally, carry out its guerrilla activities, hit and run.

It is able to do this because people lack motivation to deny them an opportunity to do so. That is why it is necessary to support policies and people who are popular with the people and harmonize opposing popular policies. As discussed this is doable. This, as stated, will energize people to run their affairs smoothly. This is good for Somalia and good for others too.

[ 1] ] Catherin Besteman and Lee V. Cassanelli, ed., The Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War, page 74 (London, HAAN Publishing, 1996).
[2] Catherin Besteman and Lee V. Cassanelli, ed., The Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War, page 31 (London, HAAN Publishing, 1996).