By Abukar Arman
I cannot think of any Somali national issue that was debated in the public domain as vigorously, and as intelligently, as the London Conference on Somalia. This is the third of such conferences hosted by the United Kingdom ― a role that made her the Big Dog and secured her the most influential position within the international community.
Despite its unflattering colonial record, history of shady deals that is still causing bloodshed in the Horn, the velocity in which it appeared in the Somali political scene and swiftly cultivated political clout, many Somali analysts — this one included — have remained optimistic. Assessing the outcome of the first one, I wrote: “it is fair to say that the outcome of the conference is a mixed bag of positives and negatives, though the former outweighs the latter.”
Ever since then, what transpired was that UK was far from being an honest broker, and it was the principle facilitator of a clandestine economic butchery and security dependency.
The Soma Oil and Gas Model
The earlier London Conferences have secured the deal of the century for Soma Oil & Gas — a politically connected shady British company that was registered in the Caribbean only a few days earlier. A company that neither had the expertise in oil exploration nor had any assets.
In that company’s possession a carte blanche signed in a dark room, spoils that make it virtually the sole owner of Somalia’s oil and gas. Soma Oil & Gas is believed being the source of the ghost funding, or the millions of dollars distributed to buy votes during the parliamentary and presidential elections. Interestingly, Somalia’s current Prime Minister, who also had a special relationship with the previous administration, was Soma Oil & Gas’ Executive Director until he was named for the nation’s top executive position.
UK Driving Motives
On March 15th, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson went to Mogadishu to personally convince the new President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo to endorse the British framed conference agenda and attend the conference. He made the same appeal to each of the Federal State “Presidents”.
UK is anxiously readying herself for an immanent economic hurricane following Brexit and the Conservative Party lead by Theresa May is eager to duplicate David Cameron’s legacy and zero-sum triumph. The successful delivery of Soma Oil & Gas had international predatory capitalists salivating and marching to the orders of the gatekeeper of the chamber of exploitation.
Second, UK is adamant to sideline Turkey and torpedo its relational and strategic progress in Somalia, mainly by proxy and soft disinformation.
Third, UK is conducting geopolitical brokering camouflaged with Gulf dollars. UAE secured military bases with commercial façade in Berbera seaport in the unilaterally seceded (but unrecognized Somaliland. It also secured a deal in Puntland and is negotiating for more. All independent of the Somali federal government.
An Incredible Architecture
By deliberate design, ignorance or default, the plan unveiled by the so-called National Security Architecture seems nothing more than scheme to keep Somalia dependent on foreign security, if it does not sow the seed of perpetual enmity between clans. There could never be a sovereign Somali state so long as it cannot protect its territories.
As the provisional constitution, clan-based federalism and other existentially propositions designed to undermine genuine progress in Somalia, the Security Architecture is a foreign designed with indigenous façade.
The Federal Parliament Committee on Security asserted its opposition to limiting the Somali national army to 18,000 and its police force to 32,000 due to its unconstitutionality. Dividing the 18,000 equally between six clan-based Federal States strips the central government its exclusive authority to build the national defense, not to mention being tantamount to funding clan militias without integration, national objective or central command.
This will make Somalia the testing ground for the feasibility of the clan-ite model that could be applied on many African nations in the near future. Failed or fragile states could be divided into fiefdoms ruled by alpha clans that are too weak to defend themselves, except when fighting each other. From the exploiters’ perspective, there is no better model.
Opting Out Of All Options
Under internal and external pressures, the new president succumbed to what is known as the path of the least resistance. President Farmaajo had three options: Either to request a moratorium to give the new government time to form and assess its priorities and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the agenda, timing, venue, representation, method of implementation, and allocation of resources. Or insisting on hosting the conference in Somalia and involving all appropriate institutions before overhauling the so-called Security Architecture and the rest of the agenda to suit Somalia’s needs. Or boycotting the whole London Conference and all similar powwows that make the new Somali government look like a carbon copy of the one before it. Meanwhile, investing all political capital and traditional, religious, and intellectual resources on a genuine Somali-owned national reconciliation.
Once the internal political tension is somewhat defused, the new government would’ve had a legitimate authority to represent Somalia’s interest with a unified voice and engage each nation individually based on Somalia’s national interest. It is the only viable means to get Somalis to sit behind the steering wheel and drive their nation’s strategic interests.
Inflammatory rhetoric such as “we are in an all-out war against Shabaab” may perpetuate the failed global war on terrorism but it is a self-destructive approach for a new government standing on political quicksand.
Of course the London Conference is not without a luring carrot. According to the official statement the Conference is set to “agree a New Partnership Agreement between the international community and Somalia” to replace the infamous EU-led New Deal for Somalia.
Unfortunately, as in the New Deal, the New Partnership Agreement would be coming with strings attached. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be extravagantly contracted out to the same usual suspects and their cliques. Sadly, it would not be that difficult to bypass the current government since no Independent Anti-corruption Commission is yet established, no official definition for corruption is offered, and no related policy is yet instituted. And in the next couple of months or so, Transparency International would have its report on corruption out and the rest, as they say, is history.
Despite the prevalence of fake news to build false narratives, the age-old relationship between false premises and false conclusions has never been stronger. The former still result the latter.
So, if your assumption per the London Conference on Somalia is one that is altruistically-driven or that UK is chasing terrorists such as the White Widow who was last seen fleeing to Somalia on a camel, you are in for a memorable entertainment- a ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ magic show.
Against that backdrop, there is only one thing left for President Farmaajo to salvage his nation and his presidency; to do the unthinkable by getting on the stage and kicking up some political dust. All he would need for a speech is a poster with these dozen words: Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.
A former diplomat who writes about the two issues pushing the world to the edge- foreign policy & religion.
Abukar Arman is a writer, a former diplomat and an activist whose work on foreign policy, geopolitics and faith is widely published. He also blogs at Foreign Policy Association