This is an historic time for the war ravaged country of Somalia. The comparatively smooth transition to a new government headed by ex-peace activist and educational campaigner turned president – the 57 year old Hasan Sheikh Mohamad – has generated a new wave of optimism for the region’s future. This buoyant mood builds upon the rapid progress being made in the fight against radical Islamic group Al Shabaab, who until late last year, held much of southern Somalia under its sway. Now, thanks to unprecedented regional military cooperation bringing together Ugandan, Burundian, Kenyan forces, with Ethiopian troops, Somalia’s iconic capital of Mogadishu has been reclaimed, and the prized southern port city of Kismayo has all but been recaptured. Al Shabaab are well and truly on the back foot, and their future looks bleak.
And Somalis are seizing the moment for themselves. Members of the diaspora are flooding back to the country from as far afield as Australia, Norway and the United States, bringing with them a spirited entrepreneurialism and cash. Capitalising on the growing stability, new enterprises are springing up across the battle scarred streets of Mogadishu. Freshly painted coffee shops, newly constructed hotels, and electronics stores laden with the newest appliances from Dubai all are materialising from the rubble that has defined the past 20 years.
Of course, much remains to be done to ensure this brief moment in time heralds a sustained recovery from a history bleached by entrenched conflict, crippling corruption, and oppressive regimes. Somalia has often been described as ‘the world’s most failed state’, a label which rightly angers many Somali’s nowdays. Yet there is no denying that the region remains dangerously fragile. The biggest risk is that this volatile time of political transition sparks more fracturing rather than unification, incites new conflict rather than peaceful settlement over timeworn issues.
The balance hangs in the hands of the Somalis themselves. Yet the regional powers have a critical role to play in ensuring their support is not driven by self-interest at the expense of wider stability. And the international community, in Somalia’s case a growing range of actors with increasingly diverse interests, must remain consistent and coherent in its support of the country’s rebirth.
My role as Senior Stabilisation Adviser for the British Office for Somalia, sees me heading a team at the sharp end of the international community’s assistance to the region. We are charged with working in areas newly ‘liberated’ by military forces, helping to restore stability, and create the conditions for longer term recovery. It is certainly no easy task, yet the early signs of progress are appearing – we are supporting Somalis to establish local administrations, implement community security programmes and rebuild basic infrastructure like roads and markets.
Yet one-off stabilisation projects will only go part way to solve the problem. The real challenge in such a fragmented, fractured landscape, to Somalis and internationals alike, is to find new ways of forging concerted action. Action that brings together the Somali businessman from London keen to invest in his old neighbourhood, with the newly appointed District Governor, with a group of young unemployed men, with the women from the local market, with the head of the African Union military unit, alongside the police commissioner… to decide for themselves what the real problems are, and how they are going to solve them together.
Crack that, and the rubble of Somalia’s history may just be swept aside once and for all.
Hamish Wilsonhttps://www.wasafirihub.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Wasafiri-LOGO-1.pngHamish Wilson2012-08-11 07:45:332012-08-11 07:45:33An historic time for Somalia