9th January 2013 Nairobi, Kenya
Somalia: A New Year’s Resolution – Together into 2013
A year ago, few predicted that Somalia would see such significant changes; yet 2012 saw some real progress in Somalia – including the end of the Transition; a new Parliament (with a significant number of new MPs); the election of a new, reform-minded Speaker and President and a desire for a different type of politics. Al Shabaab has been weakened, having lost the strategic locations of Baidoa and Kismayo, to add to the loss of Mogadishu in 2011. It has also seen renewed international support – from Somalia’s neighbours, the AU and, via the London and Istanbul conferences, the wider international community.
As we look forward, these changes offer better prospects for enhanced stability in Somalia than those seen in two decades. Somalia’s President has identified his preliminary priorities, which we support. Delivering on these will need strong Somali leadership and sustained international commitment. It’s not just about rebuilding Somalia’s state institutions, reversing the massive displacement or arresting the changing nature of Al Shabaab’s insurgency. It’s also about helping the government extend its authority; re-building trust; integrating militia into the national forces; and creating the right incentives for a national political process. This means supporting the new government to make progress in newly-recovered areas, to facilitate political reconciliation and foster greater collaboration with its neighbours; to transparently manage its own finances. At the heart of this agenda is showing that life can be – is – better now than previously or under Al Shabaab.
All this can be done – but it won’t be quick, nor can it be internationally-driven. As 2013 dawns, there are some clear priorities that – together – we can start to address.
Firstly, security. Al Shabaab is weakening, piracy currently in decline. To consolidate the territorial gains being made, AMISOM needs sustained support to deliver their mission; together with the Somali security forces, AMISOM now covers a significant proportion of the country. But, longer-term, AMISOM is unsustainable. Somalia needs its own security forces – credible, capable and accountable forces (army, police, coastguard), supporting a more effective judicial system in which Somalis have greater confidence.
Secondly, supporting the government to extend its reach and authority. It has a clear idea of what it wants to do: directing local stabilisation, facilitating political outreach, integrating militia, demonstrating to its people that they are better and more credible than the alternative. By demonstrating their commitment to financial transparency, the government can access support and assistance to control corruption, improve accountability, enhance its legitimacy and credibility – accessing financial assistance from major donors.
At the same, it’s clear that continued international support will be required. Recommendations on both the UN and AU missions will be presented and discussed in the next few weeks. We need to make sure the opportunities afforded by these two timely reviews are seized. Coordinated and coherent international leadership are vital to reinforce and assist Somalia’s own leadership. Both organisations have been at the forefront of international assistance over many years; as we move into this next, vital phase, we should make sure both help the new government deliver progress on the issues that matter.
This will inevitably mean greater prioritisation – on issues like security, justice, governance and public financial management. This, in turn, means greater collaboration and coordination among donors. We need to demonstrate we are prepared to make the shift that the President and our Somali partners are calling for – a greater presence; more direct engagement. The re-establishment of the British Embassy in Mogadishu in 2013 will be a tangible sign of the UK’s commitment.
Finally, we shouldn’t forget Somalia remains one of the world’s most challenging humanitarian contexts, both in terms of access and, most importantly, need. Over 2 million Somalis are acutely vulnerable; there are now three generations of Somalis in refugee camps outside the country. Improving the prospect for ordinary Somalis – basic assistance, the ability to return home, should they want – needs to be a yardstick by which we measure success.
As 2013 begins, many challenges exist; but so do the opportunities for a more stable future. Partnership, commitment, leadership; with the right resolve, the ambitions of all Somalis for a more peaceful, stable Somalia – one which the UK fully shares – could be within reach.
As ever, I’d welcome your thoughts. Once again, a very Happy New Year.