The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea is due to release its 2012 report soon, but the report has already been widely leaked. It is available, for example, at the website Somalia Report. Journalists have already begun to analyze it, and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali have already responded to it. Leaks of such reports, one contact told me, have become relatively common. Members of monitoring groups and panels of experts are sometimes thought to leak reports out of a desire to forestall the possibility that members of the UN Security Council, or governments criticized in reports, will try to censor or block publication of damaging findings. Whatever the case may be, the political storm around the report has started.
The report’s findings are particularly sensitive (though some findings are not necessarily surprising) given that Somalia is currently in the midst of a transition set to culminate with presidential elections in August. This transition has already fallen behind schedule. Critics charge that the transition is hollow: it will produce a government similar in personnel and design to the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG), critics say, and will not solve core political questions regarding corruption, federalism, inclusiveness, and legitimacy.
The BBC highlights ten critical takeaways from the UN report. To my mind, three findings outrank the others in importance. First, the scale of corruption in the TFG, which apparently cannot account for upwards of 70% of its funds. Second, the abuse of diplomatic passports, including passports given to senior pirates. Third, the potential for the rebel movement al Shabab, which is steadily losing territory, to shift its center of gravity to the northeastern region of Puntland. All of the findings the BBC mentions, as well as the report itself, are worth reading.
Below are some excerpts from Sharif and Ali’s responses to the leaked report. In his response, the President attacked the Coordinator of the UN Monitoring Group, Matthew Bryden, whom he accused of being a supporter of Somaliland and of partitioning Somalia. Sharif further accused the Monitoring Group of disrupting efforts toward peace in Somalia. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, focused on rebutting accusations that mentioned him and his office, addressing his criticisms to the media as well as to the report itself. (I am indebted to a reader for passing on these links.)
President Sharif spent half of his one-hour speech to discuss the recently leaked report by the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, and he launched a clear attack against Monitoring Group Coordinator Matt Bryden.
“Matt Bryden is not ashamed to support the division of Somalia into two countries. Matt Bryden has a track record of being against the restoration of peace in Somalia,” said President Sharif to the crowd’s applause.
Responding to Monitoring Group allegations of corruption, President Sharif said: “This government is ready for transparency. If any money is missing, I am ready to resign and to be taken to Guantanamo Bay,” President Sharif joked.
The TFG president expressed his disappointment that the Monitoring Group report was leaked at such a time when Somalia is ending the transitional period for the first time since 2000.
“This Monitoring Group report was timed to coincide with the end of transition period in order to discredit the TFG,” said President Sharif.
The Prime Minister:
The Office of the Prime Minister of Somalia (OPM) condemns allegations contained in news reports appearing in some of the media on a “leaked Monitoring Group’s report” linking The Office of the Prime Minister to alleged corruption and misconduct.
The Office of The Prime Minister maintains that the allegations are absolutely and demonstrably false. This deliberate misinformation is intended to tarnish the good name and integrity of the Prime Minister and also constitutes defamation and libel intended to maliciously harm the hard earned reputation of the Prime Minister.
H.E Abdiweli Ali Gaas reassures the Somali People and development partners of his personal commitment in ensuring transparent and accountable utilization of donor funds especially at this critical time in the history of Somalia.
Parsing these statements helps show what accusations sting Somali leaders the most (corruption, lack of transparency), but my guess (and it is only a guess) is that the denials and refutations will not substantially diminish the widespread sense of pessimism regarding Somalia’s political trajectory that the report seems bound to reinforce. Of course, some of the TFG’s most powerful backers appear to regard it as the most viable political framework for Somalia, whatever the Government’s flaws, and will continue to back its successor government on that basis, at least for a time. But the combination of the report’s damning conclusions and the missed deadlines in the current transition make the outlook for political stabilization in Somalia (despite recent military successes by the TFG and its allies) look quite grim.