On Wednesday December 15, the United States Senate passed House Resolution 4350, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, by a vote of 88-11. Title LXIV, Section 6472 of this Act pertains to the “Strategy and reporting related to United States engagement in Somalia.” Effectively this provision requires the United States State Department and Department of Defense to formulate a new policy and approach as it relates to United States engagement in Somalia.
In addition, the NDAA requires that within ninety (90) days, the United States Secretary of State and the United States Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, shall develop and submit this plan and it shall include a “strategy for advancing United States diplomatic, humanitarian, development, counterterrorism, and regional security priorities in Somalia” as well as a “detailed outline of United States national security interests and policy objectives in Somalia.”
However, US Senator James Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently introduced an amendment to the NDAA to establish a security and defense partnership between the United States and Somaliland, a clear violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and a political power play to try and lessen Somalia’s authority in the region, ultimately to the detriment of both the United States and to democracies around the world.
In the last ten years or so, efforts by international organizations (like, the United Nations, the African Union and the United States) to address the political uncertainty and instability within the Horn of Africa region have been, at best, uncoordinated and, at worst, disjointed and illogical. If the NDAA (including the amendment proposed by Senator Risch) successfully passes through Congress, the pattern of imprudence will continue, as superpowers like Russia and China will look to take advantage of the division created in Somalia as a result of the NDAA blunders.
The battle for geographic dominance in the Horn of Africa continues to fuel instability in an already volatile region. It has once again thrust Somalia into the geopolitical spotlight as a focal point of strategic and political importance. And, because of its geographic positioning, the stability of this region is dependent upon the stability of Somalia.
And stability won’t come easy as world powers continue to deliberately and aggressively assert themselves in the area. China has built one of its largest military bases abroad in Djibouti. Russia is establishing itself as one of the region’s largest arms dealers and is looking at building a base on the Red Sea in order to realize its aspirations in the Middle East.
The fact is that the passage of the NDAA as proposed will almost certainly result in just another failed attempt at diplomatic policy engagement (and a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money) unless it includes provisions to address the real problems facing Somalia. And, of course, the United States continues to pitch itself as a positive alternative, but while the words of the United States seem to indicate a vested interest in strengthening democratic institutions, improving stability and security, and delivering services for the Somali people, the actions (like those of Senator James Risch) unfortunately, do not.
Any strategic policy plan must include initiatives to repair the fractured political relationship Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States (FMS), including the implementation of a national security strategy in order to help stabilize and strengthen national security institutions. If the NDAA passes as-is, Somalia will have no other option but to partner with Russia and China in order to maintain economic relevance. This Act must assure that no foreign influence persuades policy development and legislative progress in Somalia.
In addition, attention must be paid to the ongoing issues of political injustice, impunity, and corruption by instituting measures designed to hold those involved in political exploitation and human rights abuses accountable for actions that undermine state and international institutions. Including, but certainly not limited to, the illegal financial assistance and financial contributions to Somali officials and institutions from the state of Qatar.
Let’s be perfectly clear. The United States has a record of intervening in Somalia political matters with a decidedly appalling impact, siding with former NISA head Fahad Yasin and President Farmajo over Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble which effectively ended the investigation into kidnapping and murder of National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) agent Ikran Tahlil Farah. This cannot be allowed to happen again, so we must assure that the NDAA closes the gaps that allow unfair and corrupt governmental actions in Somalia. And, of course, the NDAA must reject any provisions that result in a weakening of Somalia autonomy and influence in the region.
It’s time to get on the right side of history. It’s time the people know what is going on. It’s time, once and for all, to develop a long term political and economic strategy that favors the people over the corrupt politicians.
Ismail D. Osman: Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org @osmando