Close-Door Briefing on Somali

On the 14 April 2014, Action Support Centre attended a close-door briefing by the Norwegian Special Envoy for Somalia, Mr Jens Mjaugedal, at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria Office in South Africa.

Mr Mjaugedal returned from Somalia, where he met with various actors and stakeholders of Somailia’s crisis. He observed that Somalia still faces various challenges, including federalism and the growing threat of Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The Norwegian Special Envoy insisted on a more co-ordinated approach by the African Union (AU) and international actors in the Somali conflict. He argued that the regional economic community must play an active role in the resolution of this conflict. While he acknowledged that some progress has been made, he believes that the Somalia federal government needs more support from the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU). However, he said the international community approach to the Somali conflict is not adapted to the reality on the ground, due to its complexity. He questioned the will of the international community on ending the Somali conflict, as he stated that US$ 50 billion was spent on fighting piracy, and much was also invested in the social and economic development of Somalia, as well as the strengthening of the administrative and security apparatus.

From his analysis, all actors in the conflict must be involved in the peace process, including Al-Shabaab, other civil society organisations and armed groups. For some groups and individuals the federal government lacks national legitimacy, and it is only the international community that recognises the federal government. Therefore, the Somali federal government’s authority is challenged.

Some prerequisites such as security, state institutions, inclusion, national consensus and capacity-building, as well as civic service are to be met before Somalia becomes more stable. He raised concerns on the weakness and failures of the federal government with regards to the issues of constitution, elections in 2016, tribes, citizenship, Somaliland, Jubaland and political discrimination and security. Also, the Norwegian Special Envoy raised the issue of Somali’s Oil. He emphasised that, without being pessimistic, the current challenges that Somalia experiences, it is to be expected that oil will be more a curse than a blessing for Somalia.

Moreover, he mentioned that African countries must be aware that the threat of Al-Shabaab is borderless, and that this matter should be handled with a more diplomatic approach. Instead of isolating Al-Shabaab, it would be more instrumental to stability and state-building in Somalia and the region, to invite this organisation to the negotiation tables.

Mr Mjaugedal said that people and other actors should not see Norwegian support to Somalia as way to dictate to the Somali federal government what to do, but as a contribution to the stabilisation of the country.

After 20 years of political disintegration, Somalia still struggles to rebuild itself. This deliberately calls on policy and decision makers to revisit the strategies for conflict resolution in Somali. Involving Somali people more will be crucial to ending the lasting conflict, the spill over of which is felt in Kenya and elsewhere in the region. For the stability, development and integration of the continent, the African Union should develop a more people-driven resolution to end this conflict. Ignoring people’s voice on the ground would further disintegrate this country that has the potential to economically move Africa forward. Therefore, a national dialogue must be initiated in favour of peace and national cohesion.