IHS Analysis - Somalia's Jubbaland Conundrum


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Three states in southern Somalia are keen to become an autonomous region known as Jubbaland. IHS examines why the central Somali government opposes these plans, despite initially backing the idea.

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IHS Analysis - Somalia's Jubbaland Conundrum

  1. 1. IntroductionA centre of trade, commerce, agriculture and rich inmarine resources, Kismayo and the surroundingJubbaland area is of great economic importance toSomalia. The region also has the potential to hold thebalance of power in the country, meaning all importantactors – indigenous or foreign – want to control it.Strategically located at the southern tip of Somalia on theIndian Ocean coast, it has the biggest working sea port inSomalia and two airports. Kismayo and the surroundingregion has been fought over by warlords, radical Islamistsin the Shabab and clan militias (mainly from the Darodclan) since the start of civil war in 1991, in the processdisplacing approximately 500,000 refugees to camps inKenya.Since the emergence of the United Islamic Courts (UIC) in2006, Kismayo has changed hands between variousgroups including the Transitional Federal Government(TFG), Hizbul Islam (HI), the Muaskar Ras Kamboni (MRK)and the Shabab. The Shabab’s capture of Kismayo in2008 began the longest period of control by one groupsince 2006. This prompted the TFG to formulate a‘liberation strategy’ that ultimately sought to mobilise thedominant clans in the Jubba regions against the Shababby promising to support the creation of a ‘Jubbaland’autonomous region – akin to those already existing inPuntland, Galmudug, and Khatumo – once the area wasliberated.An alliance of the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF), the MRKled by Ahmed Mohamed Islam (alias Ahmed Madobe),and TFG forces ousted the Shabab from Kismayo in late2012. However, the newly created Somali FederalGovernment, under new President Hassan SheikhMohamud, reversed its earlier position and now opposesthe establishment of Jubbaland. This decision hascreated new political tensions and allegations of bias fromIHSAnalysis:Somalia’s JubbalandConundrum© 2013 IHS 1 www.ihs.com/jmsaIHS Jane’s Military & Security AssessmentsMay 2013
  2. 2. IHS Analysis: Somalia’s Jubbaland Conundrumclans and figures in Jubbaland as the government hasendorsed the establishment of an autonomous regionalauthority in Hiiraan.As Somalia begins the long-delayed process of state-building, this potential dispute could pose a threat to thecountry’s current – and almost unprecedented – sense ofstability and optimism. Arguments about federalism couldalso affect the future political shape and stability ofSomalia as a whole.The ‘Jubbaland’ processThe process of establishing a Jubbaland regional stateconsisting of Gedo, Middle Jubba and Lower Jubbaregions is not new. It has been under consideration since2009, when then-president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmedaffirmed the TFG’s commitment to the process as hesought to mobilise the regions’ political elites against theShabab, which was then in control of much of region.The plan then was led by then-minister of defence,Mohamed Abdi Gandi, who is from the Jubba region andis Ogaden by clan. At the time, Gandi toured the regionwith the aim of developing a Kenyan offer to train morethan 2,000 TFG soldiers hailing from the Jubbalandregions into an opportunity to also train would-be civilservants to administer a potential Jubbaland regionalauthority. Following this, a conference brought togetherrespective clan elders in Kenya in March 2011 and theAzania regional state came into being under Gandi’sleadership. Ethiopia and other Somali actors opposed thecreation of Azania, viewing it as an Ogadeni-dominatedKenyan project. This opposition quickly brought about thedemise of Azania, sending the process of southernregional autonomy back to the drawing board.Kenya maintained the momentum behind the processwhen in June 2012 it proposed the formation of atechnical committee to study the feasibility of creating anautonomous Jubbaland region. It invitedIntergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)member states, including Ethiopia; the TFG; delegatesfrom the wider international community; Ahlu Sunna WalJama (Marehan clan-based); the MRK (Ogaden clan-© 2013 IHS 2 www.ihs.com/jmsa
  3. 3. IHS Analysis: Somalia’s Jubbaland Conundrumbased); and representatives from the doomed multi-clanAzania project.Together with delegates from the Harti, Hawiye, andBantu clans, a committee was formed to draft aJubbaland constitution and convene an inclusive regionalstate-building conference. With the capture of Kismayofrom the Shabab in September 2012 by Kenyan forcesand the MRK, the technical committee finalised its draft ofthe new constitution and relocated from the Kenyancapital Nairobi to Kismayo.However, tensions and an absence of consensusbetween the Somali government and the TransitionalAdministration of Jubbaland (TAJ) had led to thepostponement of the proposed conference several timesbefore it eventually opened at Kismayo University on 28February with the participation of clan elders and otherkey civil society members, including women from thethree regions, as well as representatives from the Somaligovernment. However, substantive talks failed to producean agreement.Since then, a conference of 870 delegates in Kismayo inApril approved a draft constitution and flag for Jubbalandregional state and is already beginning the process ofselecting members of the regional parliament, who will inturn elect the region’s president. The central governmentregards these decisions as illegal and has refused torecognise the outcome of the conference, leading to awidening rift between the government and delegatesbacking the idea of an autonomous Jubbaland.Tensions and strategiesSince it was established in September 2012, thegovernment has been opposed to the Jubbaland process,even though it was endorsed by the preceding TFG andIGAD’s 2012 Grand stabilising plan for south centralSomali regions. It has instead adopted policies that allindicate a tendency towards centralisation and thecreation of a unitary state authority rather than support forthe system of the constitutional federalism that helpedbring it to power. However, as Somali politics is notinstitutionalised and remains based on clan and clan-family interests, the tensions between Jubbaland and thegovernment are multi-faceted and can quickly change asthe political interests of clans and the political conditionsin Somalia change.As a result, this shift in policy has led to an escalation intensions between the government and alreadyestablished or proposed regional states. These tensionshave clan, political and economic dimensions, but arealso rooted in suspicion and mistrust about whetherfederalism will be enshrined in the new Somaliconstitution or whether the government will attempt touse a policy of centralisation as part of efforts to wininternational recognition and legitimacy.If this is the government’s aim, it appears to be creatingas many problems as it is designed to resolve. The© 2013 IHS 3 www.ihs.com/jmsa
  4. 4. IHS Analysis: Somalia’s Jubbaland Conundrumgovernment has failed to persuade IGAD members toaccept its diktats on the Jubbaland region and hasoperated a divide-and-rule approach towards local clansin the three regions. It went as far as to convene a parallelJubbaland conference in Mogadishu in February, termingthe Kismayo process exclusionary and announcing theimpossibility of establishing Jubbaland in the near futurebecause some of its districts remain under the control ofthe Shabab.Finally, as part of a new strategy seemingly aimed atengaging with local actors, Somali Prime Minster AbdiFarah Shirdon and several ministers arrived in Kismayoon 26 March. However, the delegation insisted that theJubbaland regional state-building conference beconverted into a reconciliatory conference and that agovernor be appointed. The conference rejected this, andnegotiations ended in deadlock and a further escalationof tensions. The situation worsened when Shirdon thenwent to Gedo, where he appointed a local governor whileits regional clan elders and political representatives wereaway participating in the Kismayo conference. As aconsequence, despite its inclusive rhetoric, governmentcritics have accused it of bias and deliberately working todo away with federalism by appointing governors toregions rather than federating the country along linesalready established by Puntland and Galmudug.For the government, the central assumption for itshardline position is the fact that it is internationallyrecognised, has the support of powerful internationalactors, and has an army. However, these assumptionsare not based on a sound social policy that is timely andcommensurate with its strengths. More importantly, thegovernment is overlooking the clan fault lines that startedthe civil war and state collapse in Somalia and whichremain prevalent social and political factors in thecountry. Deep mistrust still exists between Somali clanfamilies because the majority of the Somali national armycomes from the Hawiye clan. Puntland and Khatumohave suggested that all Somali regions and clans shouldbe represented in the national army on a quota basis.The importance of clan rivalry in Somalia is not so muchhow much power each clan has, but rather how muchpower it has in relation to its clan rivals. As aconsequence, confidence-building and reform ofimportant state institutions to reflect differing claninterests should be a major priority for the government.However, although the government has said it would dothis, instead of focusing on priority issues such as landand property restitution, national reconciliation, creating arepresentative national army, and liberating remainingareas still controlled by the Shabab, the government hasbeen drawn into a political dispute over the veryfederalism that has helped bring it to power.Federalism or centralisationThe government argues that centralism is the solution toSomalia’s intricate problems. However, centralism hasbeen and continues to be one of the major causes of the© 2013 IHS 4 www.ihs.com/jmsa
  5. 5. IHS Analysis: Somalia’s Jubbaland Conundrumprevailing problems in Somalia. Somali society, albeithomogenous, has always been organised in adecentralised manner. Moreover, even at the times whenit had a centralised form of state, a system ofdecentralised governance existed in parallel.After the collapse of the Somali state in the 1990s, theclan elders and imams became the most importantsources of governance. Clan elders also took a larger rolein security provision as refugees attempted to flee to theirhome clan areas in order to escape general insecurity.Clan leaders have been instrumental in establishing theinstitutional structures that exist in Somalia today (be itSomaliland, Puntland, Khatumo, Galmudug, and even thegovernment itself), reflecting the decentralised andautonomous nature of Somali society. Indeed, the failureof numerous centralising state-building approaches sincethe state collapse in the 1990s led to the adoption offederalism and the bottom-up peace process that haseventually led to the gradual progress of recreating theSomali state.Although this reality and the fact that a centralised unitarystate may well help minimise fragmentation in the future,its feasibility, constitutionality, and practicality at themoment is questionable. Indeed, many Somalis areincreasingly asking why the government is seeminglyprioritising this issue above all others.Centralism in a clan-based society such as Somalia willalmost inevitably lead to suspicions that one clan is tryingto dominate the others. The previous leader of the TFGand the current president are both from the Hawiye clan,while the newly emerging Jubbaland elite are from theDarod clan. This has revived the power struggle betweenthe two clans, affecting the mood of optimism in Somaliaand exacerbating wider clanism trends in the country.Neighbouring statesDjibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya have all becomeembroiled in the Somali conflicts in various contradictoryways, driven by national security and other geostrategicprerequisites. However, the apparent change of policyseems to be rooted in a geostrategic shift within thetraditional alliance between Somalis and Ethiopians thatled to the marginalisation the Ogaden clan in theJubbaland regions in the past.Since 2012, Ethiopia appears to have adopted a morepragmatic approach to resolving the conflict in its ownSomalia regional state waged by the Ogaden NationalLiberation Front (ONLF), in the process reinvigoratingpeace negotiations mediated by Kenya. This, togetherwith the 2013 Somalia-Turkey military co-operationagreement providing training and assistance, has allowedthe Ethiopian army to withdraw from the town of Hudur inBakool region.Kenya is playing an increasingly important role, becauseby safeguarding its own tourist industry it is helping tocreate the stability that has allowed Ethiopia to withdrawfrom Somalia and the plans for Jubbaland to advance as© 2013 IHS 5 www.ihs.com/jmsa
  6. 6. IHS Analysis: Somalia’s Jubbaland Conundrumfar as they have. These considerations have led Ethiopiato lessen its opposition to the establishment of a southernregional autonomous region in which Ogadenis are likelyto play a leading role.Nevertheless, the military agreement between the Somaligovernment and Turkey has alarmed Kenya and Ethiopiaas it realigns interests in the Horn of Africa by allyingDjibouti, Turkey, and Egypt with the government,potentially against Kenya and Ethiopia, who both supportthe concept of federalism in Somalia. Moreover, whileUganda and other contributor nations to the AfricanUnion Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) may currently appearsympathetic to the Somali government, they are likely towalk away with Kenya and Ethiopia should clan rivalriesand conflict again break out in Somalia.ConclusionA change of the presidency, a new parliament with a newleader that excluded former warlords, and a newconstitution all brought a new hope for a more stablefuture in Somalia. However, the current government,despite the goodwill and ambivalent public mood, isstruggling to retain that optimism and gain widespreadsupport from the population, especially in parts of thecountry dominated by non-Hawiye clans.Indeed, the issue of establishing Jubbaland is now a testof federalism in Somalia, and the government may needto reconsider its current centralising strategy to avoid therisk of fuelling the prevailing feelings of disenchantmentamong non-Hawiye clans and those supporting anautonomous Jubbaland. However, federalism is not theanswer to all of the country’s problems.Mogadishu’s relationships with neighbouring states couldagain threaten the stability of the Horn in the longer-termwhile at the short-term imperilling the state-buildingproject in Somalia.Finally, the failure of the government on issues of landand properties restitution, national reconciliation, and therepresentation of all Somali clans in national intuitions(including the army and security apparatus) will continueto lead to persistent instability and hold up the defeat ofthe Shabab.This analysis is abridged. The full analysis is availablewithin IHS Jane’s Military & Security AssessmentsIntelligence Centre, part of IHS security, economics andcountry risk analysis capability.Share thisConnect with IHS© 2013 IHS 6 www.ihs.com/jmsa
  7. 7. IHS Analysis: Somalia’s Jubbaland ConundrumAbout IHSIHS (NYSE: IHS) is a leading source of information andinsight in pivotal areas that shape today’s businesslandscape: energy, economics, geopolitical risk,sustainability and supply chain management.Businesses and governments around the globe rely onthe comprehensive content, expert independent analysisand flexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impactdecisions and develop strategies with speed andconfidence.IHS has been in business since 1959 and became apublicly traded company on the New York StockExchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood,Colorado, USA, IHS employs more than 6,000 people inmore than 31 countries around the world.ihs.comAbout IHS Defence & SecurityWith over 100 years of history as Jane’s, IHS is the mosttrusted and respected public source of defence andsecurity information in the world.With a reputation built on products such as IHS Jane’sFighting Ships, IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft and IHSJane’s Defence Weekly, IHS delivers comprehensive,credible and reliable news, insight and analysis across allkey defence and security subject areas, and in support ofcritical military and security processes.IHS defence and security products and servicesrepresent invaluable open-source news, information andintelligence assets for businesses, defence organisationsand armed forces.© 2013 IHS 7 www.ihs.com/jmsa