Djibouti Consultative Meeting on Somalia-Somaliland ties: A search for broad based road map

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Somaliland capitalized on the summit and took the opportunity to advance its cause by making its case on legal, moral and historical grounds–president Bihi has long sought for an international stage to articulate the case of Somaliland. FGS was overambitious; they fixated more on a quick fix for a deeply entrenched historical, political and juridical conundrum rather than setting the stage for a long-term, process-oriented solution. An overview KEY REFLECTION POINTS The recently held Djibouti summit was attended by the second biggest delegations from Somalia and Somaliland, after London conference on Somalia in February 2012, evidencing the importance that both sides attached to the summit. Unlike previous rounds of the talks, Somaliland was represented by a team led by president Muse Bihi alongside the speaker of the upper House, while president Farmajo, the speaker of the House of the People and the prime minister from Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) represented Somalia. Both sides were also accompanied by a technical team comprising of ministers and former ministers.

Seeing as the talks are largely considered a domestic issue, the technical team is led by the interior minister from the FGS side. On the other hand, as an independent de facto state, the file of the Somalia-Somaliland talks has always remained under the care of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thus its technical team was represented by a team led by the foreign affairs minister.

JULY 2020 i s irins titute2018@gmail. com | +252 (0) 634796383 info@i s irthinktank.org | w w w.i s irthinktank.org

REFLECTION PAPER

There were missing significant international actors and long-term partners to the effort; the UK, the sponsor of the first Somalia-Somaliland dialogue, and Turkey, the single sponsor of most of the previous talks. 2 Evidence-based Research, Informed Public Debates & Independent Policy Analysis This summit following concerted efforts made by the USA, the EU and regional powers, and after several months of back channel diplomacy that followed the impromptu meeting between President Bihi and President Farmajo in February in Addis Ababa. As the first-ever direct face-toface meeting between the two leaders, it was brokered by the Ethiopian Prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed on the margins of the 33rd African Union summit. While unconfirmed reports indicate that an understanding has been made on major issues by the leaders, very little is known about the facts and the details of the meeting as the media and the public were kept in the dark, until a number of an unprecedented political overtures after the talks signaled the beginning of an understanding and detente period.

 First, upon his return to Mogadishu, President Farmajo made a public admission and proffered his apology over the atrocities and the crimes committed by the military government of Siyad Barre in the late eighties against the people of Somaliland. While Farmajo’s apology was publicly contested as an insincere expression of regret or remorse that failed to ask Somalilanders for forgiveness, the acceptance and the appreciation of the apology by President Bihi was striking. Theoretically, public apologies are considered as a powerful reconciliatory gesture and a political instrument of normalizing relations, thus Farmajo’s acknowledgement of historical responsibility over the crimes perpetrated by the military government was nonetheless a good beginning that could be translated into a concrete and progressive step towards reconciliation. Secondly, the approval of the proposed joint visit to Hargeisa by Farmajo and Abiy was telling and has raised suspicion over what could have transpired in Addis, although Somaliland eventually declined the visit.

However, the recent Addis meeting created high hopes in resolving the grinding political stalemate between the two sides and reaching a settlement from the FGS side while at the same time initiating a huge public debate on the status and the fate of Somaliland. It was against this backdrop that the Djibouti summit was organized. Unlike the previous talks that have been conducted through various offices, this round was mediated by President Ismail Omar Guelle.

The United States served as the catalyst for the two sides to convene, slightly pressuring Somaliland to participate in the summit. The United States also facilitated the talks alongside the European Union. The U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Mr. Donald Yamamoto and his team were reportedly the main drivers pushing the two sides to compromise and reach an understanding on the procedures and agenda of the talks. Mr. Yamamoto – a long serving career diplomat – has a lot of experience in the Horn of Africa and is highly esteemed in the US State Department. IGAD as a regional block was also part of the process, working toward striking a deal. Notably, there are significant international actors and regional forces who have been long term partners to the reconciliation efforts and whose inclusion would further promote cohesion or avoid any undermining friction.

The UK, the sponsor of the first Somalia-Somaliland dialogue; and Turkey, the sponsor of most of the previous talks and currently have a special envoy for the talks, were sidelined or left behind. Dr. Torum, the former Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, expressed his displeasure while pointing out that the initial communiqué from the summit had nothing new or different form the previous Turkish-sponsored talks. This indicates that a participation in the summit by the traditional actors such as Turkey and UK as well as other international and regional stakeholders would not only have promoted synergy and continuity of previous negotiations, but it would minimize the risk of competitive efforts and conflicting geopolitical interests that may undermine the process.

In July 2019, the president of Somalia nominated a negotiation committee tasked with planning and preparation for future talks with Somaliland. Much as the committee Deliberations at the Djibouti Summit Somaliland-Somalia Negotiation Teams 1. 1. 1 1May 21, 2020: In his latest periodic brief, the SRSC, James Swan told United Nations Security Council that “dialogue is ongoing at senior levels” of both sides Judith Renner (2016), ‘Poland Germany: balancing competing narratives through apology’. In Christopher Daase, et’al (eds.), Apology and International relations: The Importance of being sorry, Oxford: Routledge, pp. 51–71 2 2 conducted successful consultative meetings, its composition came under fierce criticism by Somalis as some of its members were allegedly linked with wanton destruction and atrocities committed in Somaliland in the 1980s.

 Consequently, just the day before the departure date to the Djibouti summit, the negotiations committee was disbanded and replaced with a hastily handpicked team of ministers, a member of parliament and the attorney general. Thus, as credible sources privy to the summit disclosed, the negotiation team from FGS was illprepared as they even lacked proper background information on the previous agreements made by the two sides. On the other hand, the Somaliland team seemed well prepared. The fact that the committee consisted of four foreign ministers equipped the Somaliland team with the necessary continuity and a competitive edge.

Dr. Sa’ad Ali Shire, the current minister of finance who served as the foreign minister during the previous rounds, and Yasin Faraton, the incumbent minister of foreign affairs, have played a leading role throughout the process. Moreover, Dr. Adna Aden, former foreign minister, has remained as the special envoy for the Somalia-Somaliland talks since July 2017, which is enough time to thoroughly prepare and present the case. There are other key personalities that have been involved in the background, notably such as Mohamed Bihi Yonis, former foreign minister, Dr. Mohamed Fadal and Dr. Hussein Bulhan, who have also been instrumental in the previous talks. Somaliland has always prevented Somaliland politicians based in Mogadishu from participating in any dialogue between the two sides. Therefore, Somalia’s decision to sideline the existing committee was meant the FGS was resigned to the preconditions set forth by Somaliland as some of the committee members hailed from Somaliland.

This matter has always been a contentious issue that led to the previous talks’ collapse in 2015. With no pre-agreed agenda for the summit, the two teams came to Djibouti with different expectations. Perhaps motivated by the Addis Ababa meeting, the FGS team was overambitious; they fixated more on a quick fix for a deeply entrenched historical, political and juridical conundrum rather than setting the stage for a long-term process-oriented solution, driven by confidence building measures. rush could have been spurred by the prevailing political climate in Mogadishu, resulting from the approaching expiry of the mandate of the incumbent FGS leadership.

To translate the outcome of the talks into electoral gains, the FGS team expected nothing less than a comprehensive discussion on the question of unity and hoped to strike a power-sharing deal or at least make critical headway towards an agreeable settlement. In this regard, a FGS delegate member, who chose to remain unanimous, indicated that the FGS has not taken the time to take stock and review the previous talks, agreements and impediments. Instead, they dove head-on into a fresh dialogue, attempting to address issues such as the question of unity or separation of the two governments.

However, they were denied any opportunity to advance such a discussion and present their arguments by the prevailing dynamics and the political atmosphere created by the Somaliland team. Meanwhile, Somaliland capitalized the summit as an opportunity to advance its cause by making its case on legal, moral and historical grounds–president Bihi has long sought for an international stage to articulate the case of Somaliland. For Somaliland, the implementation of previous agreements was a necessary prerequisite for the furtherance of the talks.

As a result, the meeting has reportedly reached its nadir from the outset, prompting the international actors to intervene. Finally, the prominent issues about which understanding has been reached in the Istanbul rounds, but not yet implemented, such as management of air traffic, humanitarian and international aid, formed the basis of the deliberated agenda in Djibouti. Evidence-based Research, Informed Public Debates & Independent Policy Analysis 3 1. 2. Agenda Setting: Conflicting Expectations 3 3 Some of the international partners, presumably Swedish, British and UN were less enthusiastic with the quick fix approach due to lack of strategic, coherent and systemic approach. Consequently, aid and development assistance have become such thorny issues that Somaliland has frequently accused Somalia of politicizing and weaponizing aid.

Now, as a result of the debt relief programme, Somalia has begun a full re-engagement with international financial institutions mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and its affiliate, International Development Association (IDA). This process presents ample opportunities from IDA investments and development and concessional financing for Somalia. It also entails a shift in aid governance of Somalia, a member state of Bretton Woods (IMF and the World Bank).

Thus, all international development assistance should come under the rubric and the facility of federal institutions of Somalia including the central bank. Enraged by Somalia’s unilateral decision to abandon the special arrangement for Somaliland and cognizant of the potential implication of the debt relief programme, Somaliland has raised concerns over what they call ‘international community’s exclusionary engagement’ with Somalia at the expense of Somaliland’s distinctive de facto character.

For Somaliland, aid and development assistance goes beyond considerations of who gets what and encompasses the how. In other words, the amount of aid and assistance Somaliland gets for its developmental needs is as important as how aid is managed for its political independence. In this regard, aid architecture and governance have become contentious issues in the Djibouti summit. While aid de-politicization has been agreed upon in principle, and given that a similar agreement was reached during the Istanbul talks, this time Somaliland was prepared to seek more than a mere political declaration, but rather a more elaborate framework for aid management, granting them the requisite independence of accessing international assistance.

The two sides have been at loggerheads over this issue and have failed to reach a conclusion. Hence a technical subcommittee was assigned to delve more into the matter and present their recommendations to the joint ministerial committee slated to take place in 45 days from 18th June 2020. The humanitarian and development aid technical subcommittee, alongside two other technical subcommittees on security and aviation/airspace management should convene within two weeks as well. Thus far, they are yet to convene after almost a month.

Depoliticizing Aid and Development: In previous conferences, rather than prioritizing issues pertaining to sovereignty, both parties focused on issues such as foreign aid, and the latest talks in Djibouti were no exception. The dispute was about “whether either government had to take lead in the process of accessing aid or whether both could equally access aid”.

Somaliland, in efforts to exercise its independence, ascertained that both sides could equally access aid, but the FGS countered that it is a constitutional prerogative to take lead in foreign relations, including aid. Foreign aid and development arrangements between Somaliland/Somalia and international partners have changed over time, keeping pace with the ongoing state building of federal institutions. When Somalia was under the transitional period, the Dual Track Policy was modus operandi for international engagement.

Recognizing the then divergent realities and developmental priorities prevalent in Somalia and Somaliland, the U.S Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, announced this Dual Track Policy. Track one of the Dual Track Policy was aimed at engaging and supporting the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), its security forces and peace keeping operations. Track two was meant to support other entities, notably Somaliland and Puntland, which required greater engagement as a peace dividend. However, since Somalia’s transitional period ended and its newly formed government attained formal recognition, its engagement with the international system have drastically changed. Somalia signed the Somali Compact right after the formation of the FGS in September 2013. Drawing upon the Busan New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, the Somali Compact served as the blueprint of state-building and peacebuilding in Somalia.

Under this arrangement, Somaliland was provided special arrangement, outside the Somali compact architecture, and its National Development Plan (NDP) provided the basis for its development assistance. However, once Somalia developed its NDP, Somaliland’s special arrangement was abandoned. At the behest of Puntland, Somalia’s Council of Interstate Cooperation (CIC) rejected Somaliland’s special arrangement. While Puntland is often known for its imitation of Somaliland, this time, the move is believed to have been orchestrated by the FGS’s Ministry of National Planning and Development.

Evidence-based Research, Informed Public Debates & Independent Policy Analysis 4 4 Renewal of the Somaliland Special Arrangement, WQM&HDQ/OM/063/2018 dated on 09 June 2018 4 In fact, the FGS had previously politicized international and local flights following its dispute with Jubbaland’s administration, by obligating that all flights to and from Kismayo should pass through Aden Adde Airport for further flight clearance. The movement between Hargeisa and Mogadishu by politicians has always been such a contentious issue, and it was unsurprisingly one of the stumbling blocks to the success of the summit. As the FGS made concessions on a number of issues, they vigorously pushed an agreement on “freedom of movement and expression”, as this would enhance integration between the two sides.

However, sensing that such a move may lead to Somaliland’s government being denied sovereignty and instead being integrated into Somalia’s government, the negotiating team from Somaliland acquiesced to only commercial and cultural exchanges between Hargeisa and Mogadishu. Although a bill of rights guaranteeing freedom of movement and right to expression is enshrined in the constitution of Somaliland, a resolution passed by Somaliland restricted such freedoms and rights in an attempt to curb any differing voices within its territories. Therefore, for Somalia, freedom of movement implies decriminalizing of movement between Mogadishu and Hargeisa by politicians particularly Mogadishu based politicians hailing from Somaliland.

With respect to the United Nations guidance for effective mediation, the integrity of the mediation process is a vital element in cultivating the consent of the parties throughout the process. However, after the initial meeting attended by leaders of the two states, the Foreign Ministry of Djibouti issued a communique referring to Somaliland and Somalia as two countries, necessitating a later rectification by Djibouti. In the same vein, in his closing remarks, the foreign minister of Djibouti underscored that his country would respect the sovereignty of Somaliland and Somalia which sparked divergent responses in Somalia and Somaliland. Despite the fact that President Guelle is well versed with Somalia’s political dynamics, the incident tells more about Djibouti’s shortcomings either to foresee or ignore the level of competition between the two delegates to accrue political capital in the face of their people.

B. Airspace Management: During the Istanbul rounds, the two sides reached an agreement on the air traffic management. As the air traffic services were then provided by the United Nations, the two sides agreed to repossess air traffic management from the United Nations and decided to establish a joint [air traffic] control body based in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

This has never materialized and Somaliland has put the blame of this failure on Somalia. However, during the stalemate period (2015-2019), Somalia took over the air traffic management from the UN.

During the Djibouti consultative summit, Somaliland demanded the implementation of the Istanbul agreement on this matter. Somaliland approaches this matter from technical and revenue generation perspectives while the incumbent FGS sees it as an expression of sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. The phrasing of the stalemate during the Djibouti Summit may further compound the matter more as the phrase “airspace management” is more political and juridical as opposed to “air traffic management”, as per the Istanbul agreement, which entails more of technical services provision.

As per the Convention of International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), the responsibility of the provision of air traffic services can be delegated to another state whereas the national sovereignty remains non-delegable. Worse yet, the other statement in the Djibouti communique that reads “co-management of Somaliland airspace” is also legally ambiguous.

The question of ‘whose airspace’ has long been contested. Should the ownership question be resolved in Djibouti as the statement implies a recognition of “Somaliland airspace”, this consequently raises the question; why should it then be co-managed? As far as air traffic and aviation management are concerned, article 41 of a recently passed civil aviation act stipulates that the ‘Federal Republic of Somalia will have a single gateway for international flights’, meaning that Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, recognized as the only international airport in the country by FGS, will serve as the only port of both entry and departure for all international flights.

Enforcing such provisions in the legislation will have implication on Somaliland’s direct linkage with other countries, and place Somaliland at the mercy of Somalia’s civil aviation authority. Evidence-based Research, Informed Public Debates & Independent Policy Analysis 5 C. Freedom of Movement and Expression: Diplomatic Gaffe: 5 The Somaliland-Somalia Talks in 2012-2015: A Critical Appraisal Ibid United Nations (2012), Guidance for Effective Mediation, www.peacemaker.un.org 6 5 6 7 7 For the Somaliland government, the initial communique boosted its status to appear as a sovereign country.

In other words, the host country, Djibouti, emerged as a favorable venue for Somaliland. Interested in maintaining the status quo, if not siding with Somaliland, perhaps because of its anger at Farmajo’s moves in the region – Horn of Africa tripartite deal, particularly his newly found bromance with Afewerki of Eritrea, Djibouti has proved to be Somaliland delegation’s firewall from diplomatic armtwisting by international and regional hegemonies. With the ambivalent leadership of Ismail Omar Guelle at the helm of the negotiation, Somaliland has particularly escaped from what could have been Abiy’s ambitious stances to drive the talks towards the enforcement of a hastily drafted agreement, had the negotiations taken place in Addis Ababa.

The Djibouti consultative summit ended with little substantive outcome, but it provided yet another opportunity to embark on a process of finding an amicable and permanent settlement for the thirty-year old dispute between Somaliland and Somalia. Attempts to solve this matter have been ongoing, albeit intermittently, for almost a decade. One distinctive lesson that can be learned from the previous endeavors is that the Somaliland-Somalia talks have been conducted haphazardly and devoid of structured process. This last consultative summit was not an exception; thus, it was not surprising that it produced such an underwhelming outcome. The only exception was that the process went from good office to mediation. In light of this, ISIR recommends that following policy considerations if the talks are to yield results in future.

The Somaliland – Somalia talks are largely hampered by a lack of mutually agreed-upon roadmap. It is thus vital for the two sides to devise and agree on an elaborate roadmap that outlines a multi-stage program leading to a final and comprehensive settlement of the Somalia-Somaliland dispute by a specific date. The roadmap should set out the principles and values that the two sides should observe during the process. Other lessons concern the way in which the talks are structured, in particular, the risk of trying to resolve the issues in one sitting. The process should be anchored on an incremental and structured approach.

6 Evidence-based Research, Informed Public Debates & Independent Policy Analysis Conclusion Policy Considerations: Towards an Institutionalized and Structured Approach 2. To avoid unnecessary fragmentations and to foster continuity and sustainability, institutionalization of the negotiation process is vital.

Both sides should establish a permanent commission for the talks and should assemble a permanent, inclusive and credible team of negotiators. Somalia should particularly look into this. 3. Thirty years of sustained mutual antipathy between the two sides exacerbated by a lack of implementation of the previous agreements demands great efforts of confidence building. Thus, confidence building measures should form a critical part of the roadmap; to instill a great leap of faith among the parties, external guarantors are key to the implementation of negotiated outcomes.

The two negotiation parties should avoid using the outcome of the talks as political capital or a bridge to advance the short-term political interests of certain political groups or elites. 4. An examination of past attempts also clearly shows that the involvement of the international actors who can exert influence on the two parties is a necessary condition to the achievement of any real success. Key regional actors include Djibouti, Ethiopia, IGAD and the AU.

There is also a plethora of international actors that have vested geopolitical interest in the region and could influence the success or failure of the talks if not properly engaged. Among key international actors are the U.S, the UK, Turkey and the EU. However, the roles and responsibilities of the involved actors, both regional and international, should be clearly defined and differentiated in the proposed roadmap. Divided international attention can seriously hamper the process while concerted and sustained international pressure could drive the process of negotiation toward a final and comprehensive settlement.

About ISIR The Institute for Strategic Insights and Research (ISIR) is an independent not-for-profit think tank dedicated to contributing to the building of democratic, pluralistic societies and effective public institutions in the Horn of Africa through research and policy analysis. It is based in Hargeisa and has presence in the respective countries.

 ISIR/Think Tank

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