International Crisis Group on Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government

One of Somalia’s many interlocking problems is the future of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), whose mandate will expire this August. In the wake of the Transitional Federal Parliament’s controversial decision to extend its term for three years, observers around the world have criticized the Somali government and contemplated new political arrangements for the country. In a new report, International Crisis Group condemns the model underlying the TFG and recommends political decentralization:

To blame the TFG or [President] Sharif solely for the continued catastrophe would be unfair. At the core of Somalia’s governance crisis is a deeply-flawed centralising state model. The international community has not yet learned the lesson that re-establishing a European-style centralised state, based in Mogadishu, is almost certain to fail. For most Somalis, their only experience with the central government is that of predation. Since independence, one clan, or group of clans, has always used its control of the centre to take most of the resources and deny them to rival clans. Thus, whenever a new transitional government is created, Somalis are naturally wary and give it limited, or no, support, fearing it will only be used to dominate and marginalise them.

The logical alternative is a more decentralised system of governance, but despite serious attempts, since 2004, to push transitional governments to devolve power away from Mogadishu, the political class – and much of the international community – has remained instinctively wedded to re-establishing a strong central government. The current TFG is even less willing to share power than previous transitional administrations, which explains the recurrent tensions between it and self-governing enclaves like Puntland, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb and local grassroots movements like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ). Not surprisingly, many are going their own way. Indeed, Somalia today is experiencing a multi-faceted, chaotic, clan-driven and virtually countrywide revolt against the centre.

If you read the full report, come back and let us know your thoughts on it.

3 thoughts on “International Crisis Group on Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government

  1. This is an offshoot of Afghanistan’s national or local debate. While I agree with some recommendations, centralized and decentralized strategies both comes with their own sets of problems in Somalia. The state proper may need a centralized system to fit into a regional construct. In the case of decentralization, the central government must somehow grant authority while also maintaining authority at the local level. Beyond whether Somalia’s government can accomplish this feat, the country is unlikely to stabilize through an ad hoc system of power – that’s basically what Somalia has now. Somaliland and Puntland are particularly problematic as hostilities on their border continue to spill over. These territories cannot be incorporated into a regional solution until they settle their own economic and clan disputes. The international community should start there.

    But at the end of the day, the international community lacks the means and determination to implement nation-building in Somalia, which is what the ICG ultimately recommends. And neither a centralized or decentralized approach will work until that changes.

    I personally advocate Recommendation 9: “Do not attempt a major offensive unless an appropriate accompanying political strategy has been developed.”

    • Well argued. I agree that “the international community lacks the means and determination to implement nation-building in Somalia.” I guess we’ll see continued stalemate then – what do you think?

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