Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support

July 19, 2011, 4:32 p.m.

The International Crisis Group published a report on Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support. The current government structure in Somalia is heavily centralized which has worked counter to implementing good governance.  A more logical approach would be to focus on decentralization; however the power structures in place have been unwilling to share power.  Donors should focus more resouces on supporting local governments and organizations that are working to provide stabilization and order.  Corruption levels have increased and the paper states that the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is the most corrupt since it was formed in 2000.  There is a need for the TFG to work closely with various clan bases, but they have not taken steps to maintain relationships. The Somali army is ineffectual and the TFG relies on the support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to stay in power.  The report is broken down into the following structures:  structural and other factors of instability, the failures of Sheikh Sharif’s government, inadequate security sector reform, AMISOM: winning the battle, losing the war”, a way forward, and is finished by providing 13 recommendations. 

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has squandered the goodwill and support it received and achieved little of significance in the two years it has been in office. It is inept, increasingly corrupt and hobbled by President Sharif’s weak leadership. So far, every effort to make the administration modestly functional has come unstuck. The new leaner cabinet looks impressive on paper but, given divisive politics and the short timeframe, is unlikely to deliver significant progress on key transitional objectives, such as stabilising Somalia and delivering a permanent constitution before August 2011, when the TFG’s official mandate ends. Although the Transitional Federal Parliament unilaterally has awarded itself a further three-year-extension, urgent attention needs to be given to the government’s structural flaws that stymie peacebuilding in central and south Somalia. If the TFG does not make serious progress on correcting its deficiencies by August, the international community should concentrate its support on the more effective local entities, until a more appropriate and effective national government is negotiated.

Some parts of Somalia, most notably Somaliland and Puntland in the north, are relatively stable, and as the ill-fated Union of Islamic Courts demonstrated in 2006, it is possible to rapidly reestablish peace and stability in central and south Somalia if the right conditions exist. Contrary to what is often assumed, there is little anarchy in the country. Local authorities administer most areas and maintain a modicum of law and order. Somalis and humanitarian agencies and NGOs on the ground know who is in charge and what the rules are and get on with their work. The way forward needs to be a more devolved political and security structure and far greater international support for local administrations. Furthermore, if by August, the TFG has not made meaningful progress in coping with its internal problems and shown itself genuinely willing to work and share power with these local authorities, the international community should shift all its aid to them.

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