Understanding Arta Factor


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In theory, Arta was expected to stand for a movement that was born from the Djibouti sponsored Somali National Peace Conference (SNPC) held in mid 2000. Although this definition may seem mockery for Arta’s opponents, the principal guidance of the peace proposal included a ‘Convoy of Peace’ (Geeddi Socodka Nabadda), which was to involve a process to transform the Somali conflict into peace by sending the traditional leaders to all Somali regions. This approach was not only searching for a solution but hopefully a process within the society affected by conflict, with the aim of empowering actors within the affected society. Convoy of peace describes the progression of the process to peace movement.

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Understanding Arta Factor

  1. 1. Abdisalam M. Issa-Salwe UNDERSTANDIN G ARTA FACTOR December 2001Since the year 2000 the Arta Outcome has been a major factor in the Somali politics.Some saw this as destabliser and the return of the old clique of the former dictatorialregime (thus Arta Group), whilst others saw it as the route to the revival of the Somalistate. Although both views are based on emotional assumptions, they demonstrate howlittle is known about Arta influence to the current Somali politics. To understand the Artafactor we should look how the Arta is pronged to two determinants: the ideals of thepeace initiatives and how the outcome contradicted the current Somali socio-politicalreality.1. The IdealsIn theory, Arta was expected to stand for a movement that was born from the Djiboutisponsored Somali National Peace Conference (SNPC) held in mid 2000. Although thisdefinition may seem mockery for Arta s opponents, the principal guidance of the peaceproposal included a Convoy of Peace (Geeddi Socodka Nabadda), which was to involvea process to transform the Somali conflict into peace by sending the traditional leaders toall Somali regions. This approach was not only searching for a solution but hopefully aprocess within the society affected by conflict, with the aim of empowering actors withinthe affected society. Convoy of peace describes the progression of the process to peacemovement. President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti who proposed the initiative at the 54thGeneral Assembly of the United Nations on 23 September 1999 triggered the proceedingsof the SNPC. This novel proposal that was meant to open a new dawn and solution to theSomali crisis stimulated two factors. First the peace talks were to be shifted to the civilsociety. In other words, the victims of the civil war were to lead the peace process.Secondly, in reaction to the first factor, a popular interest by the Somali society wasgenerated. The period marked the tenth year since the central authority collapsed following thebreakdown of the state institutions. The civil strife was reaching at the stage of abatingand war fatigue. The poplar support for the solution to the Somali problem was expectedto receive a positive response. Despite that the objectives of the initiatives of the peaceprocess were directed towards a noble end and many of its participants were honest, whatthe outcome damaged was the approach of the resolutions. This has laid the ground for atypical leadership. What has sealed the outcome, if I can borrow Professor Abdi IsmailSamatar s expression, is the poverty of leadership s imagination (Samatar, 1992), and it 1
  2. 2. is dubbed as the Arta Group, was as soon as the SNPC had finished, the leading actorsbegan to compete for its manipulation.1.1. Setting the Stage for the Civil Society Generally, a common understanding of civil society is a partnership between the familyand the state, which exists to pursue collective goals. This is usually taken to includecivic, professional, trade union and other voluntary organisations. Civil society is alsooften referred as a third sector alongside the state and the market. This definitionperceives civil society as a form of organised individuals that strive to achieve an end forthe good of the community. In this case the civil society should be organised to makesense of their aim and concern. When any part of civil society coalesces around a sharedconcern, the individuals involved start with voluntary action.To function and probably grow, civil society needs an environment of relative peace todevelop. For example, during the peace building stage, one of the elements required to berevived. Here peace building refers to the post-conflict social construction in a period ofsustainable peace. It is during this period that restoration of civil society takes place. Italso aims at reviving a country s economy, establishing participatory system ofgovernance and accountable administrations (Heinrich, 1997). Other importantcharacteristics during this stage include disarmament and demobilisation of militia, andtheir sustainable social, psychological and economic rehabilitation.Undertaking such as shifting from the warlords, it was theorised that the civil society is totake a major role. Setting the stage for the civil society at the theoretical platform seemedworking well until the stage of implementation had arrived. In previous peace talks, thewarlords were the leading figures of the peace talks that were to blame for spoiling theSomali peace attempts.1.2 The Question of RepresentationThe controversy over the civil society case opened again another important front, that ofthe representation. In previously held peace-meetings the faction leaders dominated theconference and as soon as they were concluded, they were prone to failure, as many ofthese leaders were not really representative of any constituents.The SNPC was proceeded by two symposiums: the Technical Consultative Somali PeaceProcess Symposium attended by Somali intellectuals and the Traditional PeaceSymposium attended by Somali traditional elders. The first symposium was to advise onthe technical side of the proposed conference, while the latter was to decide onrepresentation.Since this question had been of the most contentious issue in Somalia, the Djiboutiauthority was very cautious about this matter. This is carefully expounded in Annex IV of Somalia National Peace Conference: An Action Plan for the Peace Process, [1999] as it 2
  3. 3. uses extremely guarded words about the matter. At the heart of the representation standsthe issue of legitimacy and who represents whom. It explains it as follows, In a such situation as the massive population displacement and the occupation of landsby force there is no easy answer to what may or may not constitute legitimaterepresentation in a country such as Somalia, that has undergone a drastic breakdownand where basic information on population is lacking, and where major populationdisplacement as well as movement has occurred (Annex IV, 2000). In spite of the contrary advice the Traditional Peace Symposium decided thatrepresentation was to be based on clan. The plan took a sharp twist when the delegates ofPuntland elders went back to Garowe, the capital of Puntland, and rejected theproceeding of the Traditional Peace Symposium. For fear that the proceeding conferencewas about to collapse, the plan was changed and delegates were asked to represent theirown locals. The action of asking people to represent themselves called for consultationwas a complete infringement of the logic of representation. The resolution also ignoredthe developments, which had taken place during the previous ten years as a mood ofcentralisation of Somalia was shaped. 2. The OutcomeInitially, the scheme of Convoy of Peace (Geeddi Socodka Nabadda) was to advocate andlead to a peace process and not just one event, e.g. peace conference. Process defines ameans to an end and not an end in itself. However, the initial plan had been diverted to beused as an end. The conference just concentrated on one of the thorniest issues whichmade the previous conference fail: a vision for rebuilding the Somali state from therubble of the shattered statehood and country, before considering the rehabilitation ofsocial fabrics. This also contradicted UNESCO s approach to civil war solutions is first torebuild the society. Rehabilitation of the state was supposed to be seen as a project, whichneeded to lay down first suitable foundations.The approach of considering the state prior to the civil rehabilitation made the SNPC gladto see things evolve with the motto: a bad government is better than no government .At Arta, after six months the SNPC ended up with the formation of a TransitionalNational Government (TNG) and a Transitional Constitution.Similarly, the principle of conference was supposed to be based on lessons learned fromprevious peace failures. The idea of giving priority to the formation of the centralauthority without first creates its essential components advocates a top-down approach.This perspective may also contradict the natural trend into which Somali regions havebeen moving since the collapse. The task of recreating the Somali state leads to the needto establish a body, which could represent the central authority of the Somali nation. Thelogical conclusion is that such a body could stem out from the sum of its parts. Instead,the SNPC has agreed to form an externally driven body without parts or limbs. Thisbubble body depicted as the central government is at odds with itself, let alonefunctioning with its would-be-component (the regions). 3
  4. 4. The Djibouti initiative was set at a time when the Somali regions and towns wherepassing through a different organisational level after a decade of lack of nationalgovernment. Since the outbreak of the civil war, Somali regions developed apart indifferent directions. Some parts have made considerable progress towards institutionbuilding and provision of basic services to their communities. This situation let Somaliabe distinguished by three different zones: recovery zones, transitional zones and crisiszones. Similarly, Mr Kofi Anan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, also usesthe same classification. In his report to the Security Council of 16 August 1999, Mr Ananurged that this classification be considered for assistance in humanitarian andrehabilitation strategic aid (see S/1999/882, 16 August 1999). The Secretary-General sconcluding recommendations ranged from emphasis on providing basic and life-savingservice in the zones of crisis, to the provision of the technical support for goodgovernance and capacity building in the recovery zones.From Mr Anan s observations, the most realistic approach for the Somali peace processin Djibouti was to agree on a means or mechanism which could bring each of the threezones to a stage of effective local governance. This mechanism could stand as a nationalcommittee or a national operational body. For instance, this mechanism could help thoseregions in the crisis zones to move into the recovery stage. So each may develop its ownunique institutions according to local need, within the overall framework of a federalSomali state.2.1 Approaches to ReconciliationMany have doubted the viability of the Arta Outcome, particularly the formation of thecentral authority (TNG), which by now was to stand for the bubble body. What theyhoped from at most, however, was that the spirit of Arta could open new paths towardsthe reconciliation process. However, what few could not anticipate was that the fate ofthe future reconciliation was sealed by the very outcome. For the TNG, the end of theprocess of the formation of the central authority has been reached. This principle seen asthe solution to the Somali problem could be non-negotiable because as they see it, itwould put in jeopardy the existence of the very state . According to them, what remainedwas to invite its rivals to be in a position of either on board or die out .A policy of assimilation was set, and as a proof of its success , this was measured by theabsorption of a few waning Mogadishu warlords. Its failure disguised as scapegoat, iswhat made the former TNG Premier Ali Khalif Galeyr a victim. This policy is whatmakes the Arta Outcome - now dubbed as Arta Group - unable to be seen as thesolution, but as an obstacle to the very principles, which was supposed to stand for. Asone of the main purposes of the Arta spirit , the national reconciliation became amockery of the peace process.The dead-end policy opened another important issue: Legitimacy and social mistrust,which is seen as central to the failure of the state. For the TNG this option became a wayto gain legitimacy by force and money. To this end it began to build the national army(which is made of only one militia group) and import arms and ammunition on an 4
  5. 5. unprecedented scale. Looking from the Arta perspective, while the TNG contravenes itsown enchanted Arta spirit, the prospect of its policy looks bleak as its initial actionsignals that the myth of militarism is yet to die in Somali politics.This policy also ran alongside another priority by the TNG which was to gaininternational recognition rather than getting the confidence of its people. Whilst thismove has to do a lot with globalisation, it is also aimed at the resuscitation of anexternally driven state structure where the local people s involvement is rarely sought.Similar approaches have been applied many times since the breakdown of the Somalistate in early 1991. Not only were they all unsuccessful but they were also counter-productive.3. ConclusionShifting the focus of the peace process to the victims of the civil war is a greatachievement, which should help any future talks.Although the SNPC has failed to come up with a resolution to a viable Somali centralauthority, many hoped that its outcome (Arta Outcome) would pave the way for a phasedreconciliation process. This did not materialise, as the outcome itself sealed the fate of thefuture reconciliation to a dead-end. This in turn has determined that the Arta Outcome isnot the solution to Somali problem. However, at best what the outcome could be is alesson of a failed peace opportunity to the future peace talks.This, however, should be realised before Arta group degenerates into what one observerdescribed as mindi aan daab lahayn (a loose gun). Whatever a group or clan takes itover may use it as means to any end. This way may usher the Somali nation to anotherera of warlordism.5. ReferencesHeinrich, Wolfgang, Building the Peace: Experience of Collaborative Peacebuilding in Somalia 1993-1996, Uppsala: Life & Peace Institute, November 1997.Report of the UN Secretary-General on the situation in Somalia, S/1999/882, 16 August1999.Samatar, Abdi Ismail, Social Decay and Public Institutions: the Road to Reconstruction in Somalia in Beyond Conflict in the Horn, Eds. Martin Doorbnos, Lionel Cliff, Abdel Ghaffar M. Ahmed, Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, in association with James Gurrey, London, 1992.Somalia National Peace Conference: An Action Plan for the Peace Process, [1999]. 5