By Buri M. Hamza
Sunday, July 28, 2013
In March 2010 – then a Minister in the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia – I was chosen by the Prime Minister to present to the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council in New York the Somali Government’s reaction to the report of the UN Somalia Monitoring Group (SMG), which was released in 2010.
Likewise, in July 2012, I was a member of the Somali delegation that was dispatched to New York to present a rebuttal to the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council on the report of Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), released in 2012. Matt Bryden was then the Coordinator of the SEMG. His successor, Jarat Chopra, was a member of Bryden’s team. And prior to his nomination as the new Coordinator for the SEMG, he was an advisor for the Somalia and Eritrea Country Programmes of the World Bank.
In New York, in 2010 and 2012, during our meetings with the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, our initial reaction to the allegations of the SEMG reports included, inter alia, the following:
1. The 2010 and 2012 reports were disclosed prematurely to the media and recklessly released to the different Somali internet websites prior to their presentation to the UN Security Council and to the Somali authorities. This had undermined the overall credibility and integrity of the process. This deliberate act by the SEMG had been designed to create havoc and deviate the attention of the Somali people from the challenges of the Political Roadmap for ending transition. The idea was to jeopardize the progress that the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions were making and impede the noble tasks of the Somali Traditional Elders related to the adoption of the constitution and the selection of the new Federal Parliament of Somalia.
2. The release of the 2012 SEMG report had occured only a few weeks before the end of the transition and when the Political Roadmap was in its final conclusion. The intention was obvious: to disrupt the process and discredit the progress made in the Somali constitution-making process, in the selection process of the members of the new Somali Federal Parliament, and the election of the leadership for post-transition Somalia. Our contention was that the release of the report at that juncture was politically motivated. The objective of the SEMG report was to support the country to make further headway in its peace and stability. However, the accusations depicted in the report had unequivocally aimed to derail the Political Roadmap and impede the completion of the transition.
3. The Somali Armed Forces, alongside AMISOM, were engaged in earnest and critical efforts to bring about security in the country and eliminate the menaces posed by Al Shabaab and other terrorists associated to Al Qaeda. They had succeeded in liberating many areas that were previously controlled by Al Shabaab. Serious efforts were then being made in those areas to establish civilian administrations, launch major relief operations such as the building of schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructures, and help the IDPs return to their homes to restart their farming and rebuild their lives. We were concerned that the SEMG report would undermine those efforts by failing to give sufficient consideration to the tense and complex environment within which the Transitional Federal Institutions and their leadership were operating.
4. We were also concerned that the SEMG’s unsubstantiated allegations might have adversely impacted the peace dividends that had arisen following the defeat of Al Shabaab. Our determination to address our social ills in order to improve our security conditions and avert the re-occurrence of violence and the re-emergence of Al Shabaab could have also been seriously affected.
5. The 2010 report had claimed that there was no real structure to the Transitional Federal Government’s security sector. The reality was that there had been a clear policy and organization supported by strong political will and determined leadership, as well as by effective international technical assistance. The Government had spent a high proportion of its limited resources throughout the transitional period rebuilding the security sector in Somalia and had received praise from many quarters in the country for its efforts.
6. The 2010 report had also alleged that eighty percent of Transitional Federal Government personnel had defected to the extremists. This misguided and inflammatory claim was completely unsubstantiated and bore no correspondence to reality. It was deliberately designed to cause a reaction that would inevitably impede the significant progress made then by the Transitional Federal Government.
7. The 2010 report allegation that the extremists had obtained their arms from the Transitional Federal Government’s military forces by seizure and purchase was also exaggerated to such a degree that it had called into question the motives inspiring the UN Somalia Monitoring Group. While there might have been isolated incidents of this nature, there was no such pattern and no basis for this destructively provocative claim.
8. Allegations against some prominent business people in the 2010 report were refuted by the World Food Programme because the said allegations were based recklessly on unverifiable sources. And following the release of the 2010 Monitoring Group report, the level of humanitarian assistance to Somalia had significantly decreased. And according to a study commissioned and funded by the FAO, over 258,000 people died in southern and central Somalia between October 2010 and April 2012, including 133,000 children under the age of five.
9. During our meeting with the Sanctions Committee, we had also expressed our concern over the neutrality of Matt Bryden whose political views on “Somaliland” and its ambition to secede are well doucmented. His insistence to tarnish the reputation of the leadership in the Transitional Federal Institutions and target all regions of Somalia with the exception of “Somaliland” is tantamount to his biases and his sheer predilection to the latter’s independence and its secession.
The Transitional Federal Government had previously established a High Level Independent Commission to investigate allegations made by the Monitoring Group in its report released in 2010. The Commission’s findings had confirmed that the report was “riddled with ambiguity, irrelevant and prejudicial information, inconsistency and untruth.” The Commission had also observed that the report “failed to provide any tangible or substantive evidence to back the allegations made against the Transitional Federal Government’s officials, Puntland authority, and prominent Somali businessmen. The report lacked credence and had little or no probative value.” The report released in 2012 was found to be less credible and had also fallen seriously short of any rudimentary standards of evidence.
A quick look into the 2013 SEMG Report, it appears that many of the allegations made are based on unverifiable sources. The methodology employed in the gathering of information is not any different from the one pursued by the former Coordinator and his team. It is literally based on hearsay and on bits and pieces collected from sources that are unreliable. The current Federal Government of Somalia has every right to raise questions as to the credibility of the report and the veracity of the information contained.
My Advice to the Federal Government of Somalia
The Federal Government should ask to be given ample time to review and evaluate the content of the report very meticulously. This can be carried out by an Independent Commission, which will independently and promptly review all the claims reflected in the 2013 report and provide appropriate response for them. Members of the Commission should include a balanced selection of independent professionals of high integrity who can render an objective evaluation of the real issues. The government should be committed to undertaking appropriate action against any officials, individuals or organizations found to be engaged in criminal misconduct or other acts discrediting the government and people of Somalia.
The issue relating the alleged illegal export of charcoal from Jubaland and from Barawe in Lower Shabelle should also be investigated by the Commission. The SEMG’s accusation of Kenyan soldiers in the AMISOM of facilitating illegal charcoal exports from the port city of Kismayo is gravely serious and must be given further investigation to determine its truthfulness.
The UN Security Council banned the export of charcoal from Somalia in February 2012. The reason was to cut off one of the main source of income for Al Shabaab and not necessarily to save the Somali trees and curb deforestation. Had the UN Security Council and the SEMG been more serious about the export of charcoal from Somalia, then they should have also warned the countries that import charcoal. The charcoal importing countries are not only violating the Security Council ban, they are also violating the provisions of the United Nations Multilateral Environmental Conventions, which prohibit the export and import of charcoal.
Moreover, the Federal Government of Somalia should endevaour to dispatch a high-level delegation to New York to meet with the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council in order to register its objections to the allegations and respectfully urge the Sanctions Committee to carefully review the findings of the SEMG report and test the reasonableness and accuracy of its findings.
If the Federal Government of Somalia and its different institutions opt to shrug off and silently reject and disregard the report’s findings, the unfounded allegations will certainly undermine the efforts and credibility of the nascent post-transition institutions and have a deleterious impact on the well-being of the people of Somalia.
The Government must officially request the Monitoring Group to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Somalia. Any attempts to micro-manage Somalia will certainly backfire and damage post-transition (re)construction and peace efforts. Notwithstanding, the leadership in the Federal Government of Somalia should reaffirm its determination to cooperate with the UN Security Council and its subordinate organs in a spirit of full transparency and mutual respect.
Hon. Buri M. Hamza is an MP in the House of the People of the Federal Republic of Somalia. He can be reached at email@example.com