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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
16 January 2006

SOMALIA: Year in Review 2005: Still waiting for change

NAIROBI, 16 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Politically and socially, little changed in 2005 for Somalia, a nation of approximately 7 million.

Having suffered a 14-year civil war, most of its citizens were optimistic that the year following the creation of a transitional federal government (TFG) would herald substantive change.

Continued bickering within the TFG, however, dashed the hopes of many Somalis that the years of anarchy and chaos were coming to an end.

In October 2005, one year after the establishment of the TFG, Interim President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed stressed the importance of moving beyond the political wrangling that had prevented the fledgling government from moving forward.

"We don't need to waste any more time over small differences," he said during a BBC interview.

The policy divide

The only high point for the TFG in 2005, some argue, was a parliamentary debate in Nairobi, Kenya, in March, months before the government relocated to Somalia.

While the debate over the thorny issue of the deployment of peacekeepers from neighbouring countries, degenerated into brawling, many observers felt the fact that members of parliament had not just rubber-stamped government proposals, was in itself a major achievement.

The TFG relocated to Somalia in June with the promise that it would establish its authority across the country. Instead, the move brought to the fore simmering divisions within the transitional institutions, which could not even agree upon where to locate the seat of government.

The president, Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi and their supporters set up base in Jowhar, 90 km north of Mogadishu, citing insecurity in the capital.

Some 100 members of the 275-strong parliament - led by Speaker Sharif Hassan Shaykh Aden - opted for Mogadishu, and said they would try to restore stability to the war-scarred city.

The physical distance between the factions only served to highlight the policy divide, and the issue of the deployment of peacekeepers continued to plague the fledgling administration.

Yusuf and his supporters backed the measure proposed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which would have seen Ethiopia and Kenya send peacekeepers to Somalia. Aden and his group categorically rejected any involvement of neighbouring states, which they accused of being interested parties.

The divisions within the TFG reinforced the general feeling amongst Somalis and the international community that nothing had changed, and that 2005 was indeed a wasted year.

"The central problems are the apparent determination of the wing led by the interim president and prime minister to monopolise the government at the expense of other groups, as well as the intransigence of some of their rivals," said Matt Bryden, the director of the International Crisis Group's (ICG) Horn of Africa Project.

Bryden partly blamed those who called for the lifting of a 1992 United Nations Security Council arms embargo and the deployment of peacekeepers from neighbouring countries.

“Regional powers sent the message that the reunification of transitional institutions and restoration of a functioning parliament was unnecessary, and that force is a legitimate alternative to dialogue," he said.

The divisions within the transitional government led to an escalation of violations of the arms embargo by both sides, according to the UN's monitoring group. Weapons were entering Somalia from a number of sources, it said.

Clashes continued

While the divisions in the transitional government dominated news reports on Somalia in 2005, sporadic clashes and violence continued in various parts of the country.

In April, interclan fighting in the central region of Galgadud, resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. Fighting over land, which began in late 2004, continued through 2005 and claimed the lives of at least 200 people. At least 300 others were injured.

In May, at least 15 people died in Mogadishu from an explosion at a football stadium. The blast occurred during a public rally in which Gedi was one of the speakers. It was his first visit to the capital since becoming prime minister.

In June, as the government relocated to Somalia, at least 30 people were killed in interclan fighting in Beletweyne, south-central Somalia. Hundreds of families were displaced.

In July, 40 people were killed in fighting over control of the town of El-Waaq, in southwestern Somalia's Gedo region. The clashes led to the displacement of about 17,000 people. At one point, the town - an important trading post between Somalia and Kenya - was totally deserted.

The violence continued in November as nine people were killed and dozens of others injured when a convoy of vehicles carrying Gedi was ambushed in a Mogadishu suburb.

Humanitarian situation

The Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 inflicted considerable damage to livelihoods and shelter in Somalia. A February 2005 Inter-Agency Assessment Mission reported that most of the damage was around the northeastern coastal belt.

Food security deteriorated in 2005, with one million people in need of food aid, according to the UN's Food Security Assessment Unit's second Seasonal Food and Livelihood Assessment Report in September. Somalia's southern and central regions, where an estimated 370,000-400,000 internally displaced persons live, were most affected.

Food security forecasts during 2005 looked grim, with the failure of the main gu rainy season (April to June) in most areas of south-central Somalia. Livestock deteriorated as a result of the underperformance of the short deyr rains (October to December), worsening terms of trade for pastoralists and further threatening already high malnutrition and morbidity rates in Lower and Middle Juba and Gedo regions, according to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Outlook for 2006

Despite numerous attempts to end the divisions within the government, the two sides were no closer to reconciliation at the end of the year.

In June, Yusuf and Aden met in Yemen, at the invitation of the Yemeni government, to try and resolve the disagreements that had split Somalia's fledgling government. The meeting failed to achieve progress.

In November, the Mogadishu-based wing of the transitional government resolved to hold face-to-face meetings without preconditions with their Jowhar-based colleagues, a move the Jowhar-based wing welcomed.

The two sides have yet to meet, however, and the TFG remains deeply divided, a situation made worse by the fact that the parliament has not met since March 2005. Moreover, military preparations have continued on all sides.

Beyond hindering progress on fundamental transitional tasks, the political paralysis of the TFG also threatens to lead the country back into civil war.

Analysts said that the key to resolving the impasse and getting the peace process back on track is the reconvening of the transitional parliament as soon as possible in 2006.

"It is the most inclusive institution in the government and the one that enjoys the greatest legitimacy," Bryden said.

Much of the TFG's political programme cannot be implemented in the absence of relevant legislation, he added.

If the parliament meets in the near future, there is the possibility that differences could be overcome and the government could finally begin to function. "If not, then 2006 will almost certainly witness the unravelling of both the peace process and the TFG," Bryden warned.

[ENDS]

 

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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