A statement issued by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry last night says that the presence of the president, the prime minister and the speaker of parliament for talks in Addis Ababa for all of a week indicates there has yet been little progress in resolving the dispute. While it still may not be possible to say when their discussions will end, there is no doubt they are at a critical point. The bottom line is that the peace process in Somalia can have no future unless the president, the prime minister and the speaker can work together.
The peace process in Somalia continues to face serious complications from developments which are causing friends of Somalia serious unhappiness, almost to the point of losing hope. The latest difficulties relate to misunderstandings within the TFG [Transitional Federal Government], particularly between the president and the prime minister.
Regrettably, this is taking place at a time when, from all indications, there were reasons for optimism. First of all, the Djibouti [peace] process has continued to move forward. Following the Djibouti Agreement of 9 June , a meeting took place last weekend in Djibouti and the Joint Security and High-Level Committees called for under the agreement held their first sessions.
Real possibilities for genuine reconciliation between the two sides associated with the Djibouti process from the beginning have been apparent. What was achieved in Djibouti last weekend was a confirmation of this positive trend within the peace process. The meeting between the representatives of the TFG and the ARS [opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia] concluded with the formal signing of the agreement reached on 9 June, and with the issue of a communique which laid out the terms of reference for the High Level and Joint Security Committees. Both sides expressed optimism over the meeting which largely dealt with practical details, including the delivery of humanitarian assistance for which both sides agreed to do everything possible to ensure there should be no interference.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday [19 August], the UN Security Council authorized a further six months extension for the activities of AMISOM [African Mission in Somalia] in Somalia. In a unanimous resolution, the Security Council also asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work with the AU to strengthen UN logistical, political and technical support to help bring AMISOM up to UN standards. It also stated a willingness to consider at an appropriate time « a peacekeeping operation to take over from AMISOM, subject to progress in the political process and improvement in the security situation on the ground ».
Upsurge of unnecessary problems
Paradoxically, therefore, what has been happening over the last week or so has been significant progress in the peace process on the one hand, in Djibouti, while on the other, there has been an upsurge of unnecessary problems between the president and prime minister. Inevitably, the rift between the two top officials of the TFG has had an impact on the general situation in Somalia.
Indeed, as Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum told the Financial Times this week it is the biggest obstacle to peace. Minister Seyoum said it was « an inter-government crisis that is preventing them from focusing on the tasks they need to get done. There has been a lack of vigour, and if I may say so, a lack of commitment ». Minister Seyoum added that for the president and prime minister to create a durable peace, they needed to implement the plans to create regional administrations that would give a greater stake in government and potentially help to reconcile the warring clans. In fact, there is no doubt that the rift between the president and the prime minister, together with the anger displayed by the Asmara-based opposition group over the progress of the Djibouti Agreement and the peace process, has had unfortunate repercussions on the general situation on the ground. Underlining this have been three serious confrontations this week between Al-Shabab and TFG forces.
Little progress in resolving dispute
President, premier trying to remove each other
While the people of Somalia, for sure, are losing, the only people who benefit from their disagreements are Al-Shabab or the Asmara-based opposition. Indeed, progress within the time remaining for completion of the peace process and of the charter is only possible if the president and the prime minister stop trying to remove each other. Neither can do so. They have a symbiotic relationship. However, one has to ask if the top officials cannot work together, how can they effectively undertake negotiations with an opposition with whom they have far greater philosophical and ideological differences than with each other.