KIRUKU: Cheers to a new Somalia…made in London
The just-concluded London Somalia Conference 2017 hosted by the United Kingdom brought to the fore the grim reality of the humanitarian catastrophe plaguing Somalia.
After the collapse of the country’s central government led by Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, the Somali people have never known peace. Most of the infrastructure, the economy and all legitimate institutions have been destroyed, making Somalia one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 43 per cent of its population of over 12.3 million lives in extreme poverty. Somali’s Gross Domestic Product per capita of $284 is the fifth lowest in the world.
The conference, meant to accelerate progress on security reforms being undertaken in Somalia as well as create global awareness of the ongoing drought and humanitarian crisis, brought together heads of state and government from across East Africa and other key partners from international organisations.
It is saddening that 4.7 million Somalis depend on humanitarian aid. More than 300,000 children under the age of five years are acutely malnourished, with 1.7 million out of school.
The situation was made worse by the devastating famine of 2011, which claimed the lives of 258,000 people – a half of them children under the age of five years. More than 1.1 million people are internally displaced, mostly due to insecurity and drought. There are more than one million Somali refugees in neighbouring countries.
It is unfortunate that continued efforts by the Somalis and international supporters to bring peace have been frustrated by frequent attacks by the al-Shabaab extremist group, corruption, and regional and clan disputes. Efforts by the weak Somali government in Mogadishu to stabilise the country and hold elections have been consistently frustrated.
Indeed, Somalia is chronically unstable, with a large part of the country under the control of the al Shabab militia. In 2011 alone, piracy along the Indian Ocean cost the global trade $7 billion. In the same year, famine cost the lives of 250,000 Somalis. Currently, more than half of the Somali population are without a reliable source of food as drought and famine ravage the country.
It is these grim realities that brought the international community to the first London Somalia Conference in 2012 to help build a peaceful and prosperous Somalia.
It is commendable that out of the London Somalia Conference, a transitional federal government was established in 2012 and the roadmap to a federal government has begun to take shape. The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which forms part of the peacekeeping mission forces has managed to push al Shabab out of key cities. A number of Islamic extremist groups that had travelled to Somalia have also began to fall.
The number of sea attacks has considerably decreased, thanks to international naval forces and an increased focus on addressing the drivers of piracy. A development agreement between Somalia and the international community has enabled the delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of the most vulnerable persons in Somalia.
But even as we celebrate the milestones made, we must acknowledge that more efforts are needed to prevent the country from returning to open conflict and to ensure political and economic development.
It is crucial for Somalia and its partners to work on improving security by ensuring the Somali National Army is empowered to enable it to counter terrorism and to protect human rights.
To help build a more inclusive, federal and democratic state, Somalia and its international partners must commit to political reforms and governance. Leaders of the East African Community have a key role to play in helping Somalia to conduct constitutional reforms.
The EAC has a duty to support Somalia’s economic recovery, enabling it to build a vibrant economy that creates jobs and generates domestic revenue. To achieve these aims, international donors and Somalia’s private sector must work together to deliver a workable economic recovery roadmap for the coming years.
Both regional powers and the international community must commit themselves to prevent widespread famine in Somalia, ensuring we continue building on the milestones achieved since 2012.
As the London Somalia conference works on a New Partnership for Somalia (NPS) between the international community and the country, EAC leaders must be proactive in ensuring the new partnership holds. The NPS seeks to work together to meet Somalia’s most pressing political, security and economic needs and aspirations.
Somalia’s transition to a more peaceful and prosperous country by 2020 is for the common good of the Somali people and the region as a whole. Supporting refugee host countries in the region is also key to ensuring regional commitment to the peace process.