Hope amid challenges in Somalia
Somalia is on a path towards democracy. After years of civil war and state collapse a new President, Government and Parliament was elected in 2012. In the same process a draft constitution was written, which stated that elections for the public will be held in 2016. There is a growing sense of optimism about Somalia’s future. However, emerging from 20 years ofcivil war will be a long and bumpy road. The attacks on parliament members highlight how precious the progress is.
The militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the killings. The group was driven out of Mogadishu three years ago and has since lost control over several important towns and villages to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and government soldiers. In a response to their defeats al-Shabaab has increased their attacks on political institutions inside Mogadishu. The militants were especially active during Ramadan. Not only lawmakers have been targeted, also the presidential palace, known as Villa Somalia, and the parliament building have both been attacked twice this year. Moreover, al-Shabaab has launched assaults in neighboring countries who are contributing to the AMISOM forces.
Due to the horrible attacks al-Shabaab is losing support among the people in Somalia. In order to further marginalize the group it is important that the legitimacy of the federal Government increases in the eyes of ordinary Somalis. Democratic mechanism will help political institutions to gain that legitimacy and encourage widespread participation in the peace building process. To strengthen the Somali ownership of political decision making is the only way forward for a lasting peace in the country.
Furthermore, the power vacuum that occurs in captured territories needs to be addressed. It is urgent that the Government replaces the old al-Shabaab administration with its own. The access to the areas are made difficult by road blockages set up by the militants. Moreover, political institutions lack in resources and capacity. It is important that international actors supports the Somali government in their task to provide a legitimate alternative to the populations in the liberated areas.
Security threats is not the only challenge facing the people of Somalia. At the moment a humanitarian crisis is developing rapidly. A combination of drought, poor harvest, years of armed conflict and absence of state services is leading to increasing malnutrition levels and food shortages in several areas of the country, including Mogadishu. Aid organizations have trouble accessing affected areas because of the security situation. Early warning indicate that this hunger crisis could develop into a famine as severe as the one in 2011, which took the lives of 250 000 people. Another famine would have devastating consequences for the population in Somalia. The United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini, has said that a famine can be prevented if donors increase their funding. He urged the international community to contribute with another 60 million dollars. It is important that the world acts on these warnings in order to avoid this looming catastrophe.
Emergency relief is of vital importance, but it has to be combined with more stable solutions which targets the root causes to the crisis. The development of democratic governance would increase the chances for peace and stability to prevail in the long term, which in turn would help prevent hunger crises. As the economist Amartya Sen said, famines don’t happen in democracies.
There is a historic opportunity in Somalia to build a true democracy. The opportunity is created by men and women from Somali communities who have made the brave decision to work towards a peaceful and democratic future for their country, even if that means they have to live with threats and attacks. It is vital that international actors support the country on its bumpy road towards democracy. The Oslo Center has unique understanding of the country and is one among few international organizations on the ground in Mogadishu, where they provide important support to the executive and legislative bodies. The vision is a peaceful and democratic Somalia, where the Somali’s themselves can decide over their future