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Matt Baugh

Ambassador to Somalia

Part of UK in Somalia

20th November 2012 Nairobi, Kenya

Politics, partnership and patience.

SoS Justine Greening and Minister for Africa meet President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on a recent visit to Mogadishu.
SoS Justine Greening and Minister for Africa meet President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on a recent visit to Mogadishu.

So the final piece of the post-Transition jigsaw has finally fallen into place. Prime Minister Abdi Farah  Shirdon’s 10-person Council of Minister is now approved – overwhelmingly – by Parliament and with it, the final act of a two-month process to find Somalia’s new leaders.

Put before Parliament last week, their near-unanimous approval of the nominated Council was a further sign that both the Parliament and the new Executive are both committed to forging a new path. The new Council of Ministers is a mixture of old faces and a few new ones; a mixture of political experience and expertise drawn from further afield.

It shows that this new leadership is both sensitive of their own identity and sees the need for a delicate balance of political constituencies. The new cabinet has a number of unique and welcome features, not least its size and the universally-welcomed appointment of two women to senior positions, including Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and Social Services Development.

Like others, I have watched with considerable interest as the process has unfolded. I have been struck by a number of things.

Firstly, the time taken to get it right. This has been a lengthy process of negotiation and dialogue; an attempt to make sure that there is some balance of Somalia’s plethora of political interests in the appointments.

Secondly, the commitment to break with the past. A cabinet of only ten members is a brave and welcome innovation: giving greater focus to key priorities; and a greater sense of collective responsibility. And it is as a team that they should work.

Yet, I’m also aware that the challenges they face are daunting: a fragile set of institutions; a depleted and insufficient bureaucracy; where a significant proportion of Somalia’s human resources are outside the country; continued insecurity and instability; incentives that drive corruption and misappropriation. When set against the almost sky-high levels of expectations, the challenges are even more acute.

Tackling the continued threat posed by Al Shabaab remains key. Having lost Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayo in the past twelve months or so, Al Shabaab is down. They no longer hold as much territory or represent the same political force they once did. But it would be a mistake to count them out.

Insurgency-style tactics, from IEDs to suicide attacks, are evidence of Al Shabaab’s changing strategy, but also their increasing disregard for the safety and security that Somalis so passionately desire.

At the same time, it will be vital that the new government is able to show it can enable changes to ordinary people’s lives – making the streets safer for women and children, ensuring children are immunised against disease, getting girls into school, generating jobs for young people. None of this can be done without expanding safety, security and political leadership and reconciliation.

This inevitably means making sure AMISOM has the tools to do its job effectively, while Somalia takes ever-greater ownership of its own security: this means supporting the Somali National Security Forces; the Police; it also means strengthening the judiciary.

The President has, rightly, made this his top priority. At the same time, he has also said that it will be necessary in due course to engage all those who are alienated from the political process or marginalized politically.

Against these challenges, some say – surely this is a Council destined to fail? I don’t think so.

The President has told me he is adamant that the new government will reclaim Somalia’s sovereignty and that state will hold increasing legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of the Somali people. He and the Prime Minister are clear that it should be they who lead for the Somali people. But they also recognise that they cannot do this on their own.

The President has made it clear that he expects to see what he calls a ‘paradigm shift’ in how the international community and the Somali authorities engage with each other. At the heart of this are two constants – a long-term commitment and a more direct partnership with Somalia

It is with this spirit of commitment and partnership that the UK is now working with the new leadership. In the last few weeks, we have had a number of senior visitors to Mogadishu – most notably, the first visit by the new UK Development Secretary, Justine Greening MP and the new UK Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds MP; but also the Head of the British Army, General Sir Peter Wall; and the UK’s Deputy National Security Adviser, Oliver Robbins.

During each visit we have listened to the President and the Speaker set out their priorities; we have seen first-hand the security challenges facing the Somali National Security Forces and AMISOM; we have heard how the judiciary and police need to be supported; and we have listened to the demand to combat corruption and strengthen the government’s management of its own financial resources.

As a result, we have already announced nearly £50 million of assistance designed to help Somalia’s new authorities.

So as the new cabinet settles in, the UK is clear that the opportunities afforded Somalia by the end of the Transition and her new political leadership should be seized. As President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud says, Somalia has already lost several generations and too much time.

While this next phase of Somalia’s transition to greater stability will be difficult for many Somalis, one thing is clear – the UK will be standing with them. Challenges remain, but by working in partnership and for the long-term, we’re determined to help Somalis overcome them.

5 comments on “Politics, partnership and patience.

  1. Ambassador Matt Baugh,

    You couldn’t have said it better in your last assessment of Somalia. Somalia has many challenges but the most important of all Somalia needs an ally, a friend within the UN Security Council and Great Britain perfectly fits the bill. The last few months the UN Security Council has been divided over Somalia arms embargo whether it should be lifted or remained under arms embargo! The later of that argument is more ambiguous as the situation in Somalia has changed considerably since 1992 when the arms embargo was established. We have today a more legitimate political leadership than ever before and it is high time to support this change of leadership and direction with lifting of the arms embargo. Somalia needs a credible army one that can take full control of its territories both Land and Sea hence this should be considered with urgency as Somalia can no longer continue to rely on foreign troops specially when one of the larger contributor of those troops to AMISOM in the last month held Somalia hostage as they have recently threatened to withdraw their troops from Somalia after a UN report alleging they support to M23 rebels in DRC. It seems other countries use trump card to threaten the stability and the fragile situation in Somalia and that is because the world as whole including the UN Security Council have outsourced Somalia security to AU AMISOM troops. While I understand the logic and the requirement of AMISOM troops for the short-term and also acknowledge the fact that they brought fruits and sacrificed a great deal to bring stability across the whole country including Mogadishu; I believe it is equally important now to lay the foundations and to invest in long-term strategy with same amount efforts including money and resources in a Somali National Force. Today AMISOM cost hundreds of Millions of Pound to maintain and run yet it is not a long term strategy whilst fraction of that amount could be invested in Somali National Force which will bring a lasting peace and security in the horn of Africa. I am sure the later option is more rewarding and strategically makes sense hence the lifting of arms embargo is extremely important and the rewards are obvious. Therefore Britain can lead and support Somalia in establishing all of it security apparatus but most importantly Somalia needs a friend in the UN Security Council where big decisions are made on its behalf.

  2. All somali’s will be grateful all the assistance given
    to this government, what we are looking forward
    Is how you can assist of solving the lower juba
    Problem.

  3. Thank you So much.On Behalf Of Somali People I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation To the British Government and Its People for Its Generous Support To the Somali Government and Its War weary People.
    The People of Somalia Deserve and Demand To live in security and Peace Where they Can Prosper under the Authority Of the Federal Republic Of somalia.

  4. It is true that things are changing …. but for the scars the war left behind it will take generations to heal …… Alshabab it consist almost all of somalis and some tribes as well .. not only there was but still is the internal tribal fighting and all the hatred that goes with it, is in fact a tricky dilemma and it must be handle carefully by the current gov’t in Somali… that is way the President made only 10 Ministries and it is based on Somalia tribal system of sharing power … so far so good ….. all of these accomplishment could easy be destroyed or wasted if not for the presence of AMISOM and the backing of Somalia friends !!! .. I just hope that one day things will be better … though I am a Somalilander but I do feel for the Somali ppl ..

    Bye
    Abdiqani

  5. In BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents last night Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent, spent time with “Tarzan”, the Mayor of Mogadishu. Tarzan came over as the man for the job, to the obvious distress of his wife. Chilling at the end when Harding left the Mayor’s convoy just before the last vehicle was blown up (by Al Shabaab?) and six killed.

    Keep up the good work. But it is not over yet.

Comments are closed.

About Matt Baugh

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3 small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May…

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London
specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3
small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May 2010, when he was appointed the UK’s Senior Representative and Head of the UK’s
Somalia Office. On 2 February 2012 he was accredited as the first
British Ambassador to Somalia for 21 years. Since taking up his Somalia
appointment, he has been able to travel to Mogadishu, Hargeisa and
Garowe, and has been deeply touched by the warmth of the welcome he has received, but also the scale of the challenges that Somali people face
every day.
Matt is a career civil servant and is currently on secondment to the
Foreign Office from the UK Department for International Development. Now 37, he has spent much of his career to date dealing with conflict,
security and humanitarian issues. Since 1999 he has worked in Iraq,
Sudan, Afghanistan and the Balkans, as well as a number of major relief
operations and protracted emergencies. He also helped to set up and lead
the UK’s Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit, now the UK Stabilisation
Unit. Matt is a graduate of the UK Joint Services Command and Staff
College’s Higher Command and Staff Course (2010) and was previously
Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for International
Development (2008-9).
Away from work, Matt is an avid England rugby fan (although he
refuses to admit his own playing days are long over). He is also a keen
mountaineer and skier and, together with Caroline, was part of a team
that raced to the Magnetic North Pole in 2005. These days he is more
likely to be found teaching his children how to swim and build
sandcastles.

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