Somali leaders enter second day of talks at National Security Conference
The 7th National Security Conference on Somalia between the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States and security personnel met for the second day in Baidoa, the capital in the southwestern Bay region. The high-level meeting was chaired by President Farmajo and Prime Minister Khaire.
On the agenda for the conference is national security, preparations for the proposed ‘one-man-one-vote’ general election ins 2020, the health of the economy and the adopting of a new federal constitution.
Somalia has been conducting a series of military operations throughout the country to weed at Al-Shabaab militants with the help from international partners who train Somalia’s security and direct military assistance from U.S. Special Forces. In the past week, two separate U.S. airstrikes killed a total of 39 suspected Al-Shabaab fighters. According to the U.S. Africa Command, it is the 15th and 16th airstrikes this year against the Al-Qaeda-linked militants. In the last six months of 2017, there were 34 U.S. airstrikes in Somalia
Although the Pentagon assessed that there were no civilian casualties in the latest airstrikes, the U.S. government in the past been accused by Somali elders of killing innocent civilians in their joint U.S. – Somali operations against Al-Shabaab.
Since taking office last January, U.S. President Donal Trump drastically reduced the rules of engagement for the U.S. military. His decision has led to the largest American involvement in Somalia since clan militias downed two U.S. Black Hawks in 1993.
Government officials and international donors have conceded that universal suffrage will be next to impossible to achieve if Al-Shabaab continues to be as potent as they are currently. Although their operational capacity has been reduced dramatically over the years, the group continues to hold large swathes of land in central and southern Somalia. They have been able to launch military raids of SNA and AMISOM bases with varying degrees of success and are capable of conducting massive bombing campaigns as illustrated in the infamous ‘October 14’ bombing that killed 587 people and wounded another 316.
Security forces are also growing increasingly alarmed about ISIS-affiliated groups gaining a foothold in Somalia. The group – led by former Al-Shabaab commander Abdulkadir Mumin – primarily operated in Puntland’s mountainous regions but recent assassinations targeting intelligence officers in Mogadishu has worried officials who fear ISIS fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq may end up in Somalia.
AMISOM is expected to gradually withdraw it’s nearly 22,000 troops and begin to hand over national security responsibility to Somali security forces by December 2020, but leaders from the main troop-contributing countries – including Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Burundi and Ethiopia – have all warned that a premature withdrawal would undermine gains made over the past eleven years.
In order to combat these security issues, Somalia’s federal and regional leaders will be discussing plans to establish well-trained soldiers in a national integrated army in place of the largely ineffective collection of clan militias. They will also discuss establishing regional police forces who will be armed and funded by the federal government. The government plans to have a technical committee to meet every 3 weeks to monitor the developments.
Somalia’s federal government and her regional member states have been at loggerheads at times. Many analysts have opined that the ongoing ‘Gulf crisis’ next door to Somalia has spilled into Somalia and has restoked the flames regional rivalries. Although the federal government has officially maintained a position of neutrality in the conflict, the UAE and many regional Presidents believe that Farmajo is firmly in the Qatar/Turkey camp. The Somali government has accused the Emirati’s of intentionally exacerbating the situation by funding regional leaders and opposition figures to destabilize the country and undermine his authority.
Farmajo’s detractors have accused him of acting as an authoritarian leader after the homes of two political critics were raided earlier this year.
Political cooperation between the federal government and regional member states is said to be high on the agenda for Tuesday’s talks.
The leaders will also be discussing the constitutional review process which has been a bone of contention with at least one regional member state. Jubaland decided to skip the National Constitutional Convention last month. Shortly after announcing their absence from the convention, Jubaland’s Ministry of Justice and Constitutional & Religious Affairs said via Twitter that legitimate stakeholders and authorities can’t be dressed up as a superficial display.
Last October, two pivotal bodies that are responsible for the review and implementation of Somalia’s constitution boycotted a planned conference scheduled in Mogadishu, citing an overreaching Ministry of Constitutional Affairs of sabotaging the talks. The Somali government was forced to cancel the entire conference due to “technical reasons”, without citing any specific details.
Finally, the group of leaders are expected to discuss Somalia’s economy and the division of natural resources between the federal government and regional member states. The leaders hope to finalize an agreement that would create a fisheries authority to regulate the industry. The resource sharing deal would ensure all member states have a slice of Somalia’s marine resources.
President Farmajo is reported to have met with Galmudug Chief Minister Mohamed Shakir Ali Hassan at the sidelines for the National Security Conference to discuss the fragile political stalemate that has gripped Galmudug.
The crisis was sparked by a disagreement over a power-sharing deal that was signed by the Galmudug administration and Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a (ASWJ). Their historic merger in mid-January was in part brokered by President Farmajo. In exchange for ceasing hostilities, the two sides decided that they would unify their assemblies.
A joint communique is expected to be released after the conference.