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Message From Istanbul II Conference to the Citizens of Somalia – By Mohamud M. Uluso

The Conference on Somalia which ended in Istanbul, Turkey on June 1st, 2012 has clearly demarcated thepathway to Somalia’s rebirth on the assumption that the Citizens of Somalia are willing and determined to unite and fulfill the first precondition of acomprehensive five (5) points planfor rebuilding the failed state of Somalia.

The first precondition point of the plan is thecreation of national unitywhich will facilitate the implementation of the second point which is theestablishment of a new political systemfor re-erecting state, government and public institutions throughout Somalia. The other three elements of the plan are acomprehensive economic reconstruction, therebuilding of the Somali national security forces, and thelifting the isolation of Somalia.

The gist of the message from Istanbul II Conference to the Citizens of Somalia isthe creation of national unity and political visionas soon as possible. Otherwise, the assertion of PM Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia that the problem of Somalia is lack of sense of nationalism and oversupply of sub-sub-clannish attitude will finally be accepted as a national trait of Somalia.[1]Somalis should be able to manage their clan problem in the face of national identity.

On its part, Turkey has declared and demonstrated its commitment as a credible international partner. The theme chosen for the Istanbul II Conference was: “Preparing Somalia’s future: Goals for 2015”.It is also a hopeful sign the very late recognition by the International Community that the multi-source insecurity in Somalia is fueled and intensified by the absence of legitimate functional state structures and institutions in the country.

Turkey has sponsored the establishment of a new “Rebuilding and restructuring Fund for the Somali Security Sector”in supplement with multi-year donors stabilization and developmental funds for an interconnected state institutional structures. This opportunity is an alternative to the “web of obstruction” perpetuated by external forces with the help of opportunist, selfish Somalis.

The Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), Prof. Abdiweli M. Ali wholeheartedly said that “Turkey has changed the landscape in Somalia… They (Turkish) are the sponsor we have been looking for the last 20 years. They are the Holy Grail for Somalia.” These are sincere translation of the sentiments of the majority of the Somali people.

The organization, participation and objective of the Istanbul II Conference on Somalia have been rated high. The Conference was organized into three phases.

The first phase was allotted to a well-structured Somali Civil Society dialogue participated by over 350 participants from all walks of the Somali Society- intellectuals, traditional and religious leaders, politicians, business community, Diaspora and women representatives. The focus of this inter Somali dialogue, at last free from external influence, was on how to builda sovereign, united, just, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Somalia.

Former statesman PM Abdirizak Haji Hussein has enlightened and inspired the debate. The participants debated on the issues of security, economic reconstruction, social development, transitional justice and reconciliation, constitution, and the ending of the TFG transition.

After frank and intense deliberations, they agreed on the urgency for the creation of Somali National Security forces under a civilian national defense commission, the lifting the arms embargo as soon as an inclusive and disciplined army is established, the changing of the clan power sharing formula from 4.5 to 5 clans, the establishment of truth and reconciliation commission, and the increase of the number of members of the next parliament from 225 to 275. They also welcomed the end of TFG term on August 20, 2012.

On the constitution issue, despite the majority saw “federalism” principle unfeasible presently in Somalia, the participants failed to reach a general consensus on the issue, and recommended for a broad national debate and discussion as follow-up. Concomitantly, they objected the provisional approval of a new constitution in haste, blind-folded, under cloud of suspicion or in contention and before the long term consequences of major constitutional principles are deeply examined, debated and understood well. The dialogue between North and South of Somalia is fundamental for the beginning of a constitution making process in Somalia.

The Second phase was allocated to Somali-International community partnership forums on economic issues: (1) Resilience, (2) water, (3) roads and (4) Energy. The communiqué on this phase has re-affirmed the total inadequacy of national infrastructures like the road network, water and energy supply, and the vulnerability of the Somali population to recurring draughts and violence. The Government of Turkey agreed to play a leading role in the development of institutional structures in the field of energy and natural resources as well as in the resilience and poverty alleviation programs.

The third and final phase was allocated to the plenary session of the international community, comprising 57 countries and 11 international and regional organizations. As protocol, Somalia was represented by the president of the TFG. The final communique of this phase, called,Istanbul II Declaration on Somalia, summarizes the general consensus of the International actors on whole host of issues. The catch 22 imbedded in the Istanbul II declaration is the reconciliation between the tainted and incredible process for ending the transition period of TFG and the expectation for the emergence of new democratic, functional, accountable, and legitimate political dispensation. The leaders accused of pilfering 130 million dollars in two years are in charge of setting up the new democratic political dispensation.

The Ethiopian delegation speaking on behalf of Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) vehemently opposed the suggestion of new ideas that fall outside the scope of the “disreputable” agreements-Kampala Accord and the Roadmap- and the mechanism Ethiopia controls through IGAD. Also, the delegation saw premature and unacceptable the discussion on any post transition plan. However, the Istanbul II declarationemphasized that“August 2012 is the beginning of a new phase of peace building in which all Somalis would contribute to peace and have their voices heard,” and “the new political dispensation in Somalia must begin with a new program aimed at re-establishing of the state and local institutions and administrative structures based on and complementary to the current roadmap including the new recovered areas.”

President Abdirahman M Farole of Puntland delivered a fiery Speech in which he disapproved the role of Turkey in Somalia and strongly supported the Ethiopian position. He rejected the main recommendations of the Somali Civil Society and down played the prospect for Somali reconciliation, harmony and national unity in the near future.[2] Some of the concerns of Puntland President have been later allayed.

The absence of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or her Undersecretary for Policy, of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi and of the President of Somaliland from the Istanbul Conference could be seen as a drawback. In addition, as of today, no mention in the Website of the State Department of the outcome of Istanbul II Conference except the travel of Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs to Istanbul, while there is a strong worded support for the baffling Communiqué issued on behalf of the signatories of the Roadmap. The Addis Ababa Communiqué formally abolished the Transitional Federal Parliament without legitimate process. It appears that the policy of President Obama Administration towards Somalia tends to encourage anti-democratic culture, corruption, political marginalization and fragmentation.

The expectation is that the meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) to be held in Rome on 2-3 July will adopt the Istanbul II declaration and inaugurate the beginning of new era for Somalia. Somali citizens have the choice to mobilize, unite and act on the message of Istanbul II Conference before July ICG meeting so that Somalia embarks on the pathway to peace, freedom, prosperity, and national dignity.

Mohamud M Uluso

Email: mohamuduluso@gmail.com


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