So did the UN give Sheikh Sharif and the ARS-Djibouti faction 275 seats on account of enjoying some support in Jowhar and Beletwein?
More than five months of United Nations-sponsored Somali peace talks ended last week with the signing of a "power-sharing agreement" between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). Unfortunately, to say the least, key leaders within the TFG and the ARS have already rejected the power-sharing agreement, which calls for the dissolution of the TFG and the establishment of a two-year ‘Unity Government.’ Naturally, ‘unity’ comes at a very high price: 275 seats will go the ARS and smaller interest groups, undoubtedly with links to the ARS machinery.
Alas, we can say with firm conviction that all the violence and destruction was a struggle for political power. All the ill-equipped young boys who were sent to face off against the Ethiopian military machine and massacred in towns between Baidoa and Mogadishu, between Galkayo and Beletwein, and on Mogadishu’s gritty streets for two years, and all the mothers’ tears – it was all for power. It was about staying at fancy hotels in Djibouti City, Khartoum and Nairobi, and demanding from Somalia and the international community impossible things or threatening war. And without warning, it was a dramatic shift from ‘only Islamic law’ to ‘275 parliament seats.’
But who will give the ARS-Djibouti 275 parliament seats? Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has rejected the power-sharing deal, further dividing the TFG into rival camps with Prime Minister Nur Adde endorsing the agreement. ARS-Eritrea group, which includes prominent Islamic Courts Union (ICU) officials, much like ARS-Djibouti – has stuck to its principle of not negotiating until Ethiopian troops withdraw. Al Shabaab guerrillas, who control key towns in southern Somalia, have vowed to continue fighting regardless of Ethiopian pullout until the ultimate goal of Islamic rule is attained.
It took two years (2002-2004) to establish the current 275-seat TFG Parliament, with parliamentary seats divided delicately along clan lines (4.5 Formula). With the stroke of a pen, TFG and ARS factions in Djibouti hope to create an entire new government, with a new 550-seat parliament, a new Speaker and a new President by January 2009. There is no mention of workable such a huge parliament is; aside from the obvious logistical problems, the undeniable fact remains that ARS leaders will appoint the 275 additional seats allocated to the group. In Somalia, there is also the undeniable fact that the ARS leaders – and the ICU leadership, generally – are dominated by members of a particular clan-group (Hawiye). Not surprising, both the TFG and the ARS delegations were led by Hawiye politicians, who signed the deal before smiling for the cameras. Yesterday’s enemies, today’s dear and beloved.
In geographic terms, where is the ARS constituency in Somalia? Well, the separatist republic of Somaliland and the Puntland regional autonomy are excluded – so that effectively eliminates half the country. In the south (south of Galkayo), the ARS-Djibouti enjoys tentative support as demonstrated by ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s brief trip in October to Jowhar and Beletwein – two towns under ICU control. Because Sheikh Sharif did not visit Kismayo, under the control of al Shabaab, the ARS-Djibouti has no constituency in the Jubba regions to bring to the bargaining table. The TFG has a strong presence in Baidoa and is counter-force to Islamist influences in Bay and Bakool regions.
So did the UN give Sheikh Sharif and the ARS-Djibouti faction 275 seats on account of enjoying some support in Jowhar and Beletwein? It is a diplomatic embarrassment for the world body to be associated with an unreasonable, unrealistic and unworkable power-sharing agreement that is not recognized by anyone outside the circle who signed it.