Thursday, February 14, 2013

Somalia: International Donors Cut Aid and Inflate the Somali Federal Government

By Dr. Michael A. Weinstein,

A closed source, who cannot be further identified, confirms the judgment that the "donor"-powers/U.N. are in the process of scaling back their financial commitment to "Somalia," and reports that the power distribution among the major Somali domestic political actors has altered in response to the "donor"-powers' tilt toward the Somali Federal Government (S.F.G.) and away from Somaliland and Puntland, with the latter most adversely affected.

According to the source, funding for the programs and projects in "Somalia" is being initially cut by twenty-five percent . At the same time, relocation of agencies to Mogadishu is eating into the remaining funds, and the S.F.G. is "demanding" from the "donor"-powers a greater share of the shrinking aid pie, and getting it. The S.F.G.'s bigger slice is at the expense of N.G.O.s, especially Somali agencies and civil-society organizations.

Amidst their financial drawback, the source reports, the "donor"-powers are engaged in a fierce competition for influence with the S.F.G., which is why they are meeting its "demand." Turkey, which has committed itself foursquare to the S.F.G., has goaded the European Union and the Western "donor"-powers into a competition for the S.F.G.'s favor. Great Britain is leading the charge, having been handed the lead "donor"-power role in Somalia by the United States.

The tilt towards the S.F.G. has gone so far, says the source, that ninety-eight percent of security funding and ninety percent of governance funding are going to it. At the same time, says the source, the S.F.G. remains weak, not even in control of districts in Mogadishu, much less the areas beyond the capital.

The present weakness of the S.F.G., coupled with the largesse being heaped upon it and the increasing probability that it will be further rewarded by the "donor"-powers moving to have the United Nations arms embargo against it lifted, has stimulated opposition to the tilt and to the S.F.G. by domestic actors that feel they have been shortchanged and left out. According to the source, Puntland, the nascent Jubbaland state, and the Haber Gedir sub-clan of the Hawiye, which resists dominance in the S.F.G. by the Hawiye-Abgal, have attempted to reverse the tilt without success. Somaliland also stands to lose, but the source reports that the "donor"-powers are reluctant to abandon it at present.

Looking ahead, the source says that Somaliland and Puntland will receive their normal funding through 2013, but that 2014 is a question mark, given that the "donor"-powers plan at that time to make the World Bank the lead funding agency for "Somalia." According to the source, the World Bank has held meetings with Somaliland and the S.F.G., and with no other entities our authorities.

The source expects the World Bank to put the S.F.G. on a performance test to determine the level of funding it deserves. Somaliland and Puntland have until 2014 to show that they deserve their own funding. Regional states (Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya) , the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM), and the regional cooperation organization (I.G.A.D.) will be kept in place and continue to receive funds.


A description of the structured political dynamics in which the international and domestic (Somali) actors function can be drawn from the source's report.

At the center of the picture is the S.F.G., which is characterized simultaneously by a deficit of political power and a surfeit of international ("donor"-power) favor. It has been the beneficiary of competition between Turkey and the E.U. countries for influence over the S.F.G., now that they have created it as something they can fight over by giving it legitimacy.

The problem (for the "donor"-powers ) of their inflation of the S.F.G. is that the S.F.G. is politically weak on the ground, so weak that it will need substantial support from the "donor"-powers to gain de facto control over its de jure territory. Yet the "donor"-powers are cutting their aid to "Somalia" substantially. That the S.F.G. will govern even south-central Somalia is unlikely. Yet it will be expected by the "donor"-powers to "deliver." The S.F.G. is getting enough pie to make other domestic actors envious and resentful, but not enough pie to hand out to potential opponents and prevail on the ground.

It is unclear whether lifting the U.N. arms embargo against the S.F.G. would strengthen the latter sufficiently to change the picture of political weakness coupled with international favor. The S.F.G.'s domestic opponents believe that it would change the distribution of power to their disadvantage. On February 6, the British Telegraph newspaper reported that the U.S. is pushing the U.N. Security Council to lift the embargo. The Telegraph's diplomatic source says that the move would be done to give a "political lift" rather than a military advantage to the S.F.G. by signaling that it is considered to be a sovereign government rather than a trusteeship entity. The revocation of the embargo would, says the diplomatic source, involve easing imports of weapons while maintaining "a strict monitoring mechanism." The U.S. is reportedly being resisted by Great Britain and France, because the latter fear that arms might get into the hands of factions loyal to (ex-) warlords. As it stands, the S.F.G. is an empty shell with a glittering fa├žade and, as the source put it, all the other actors are being drawn "into its orbit."

The underside of the highly unstable condition of a weak actor being favored externally is the mobilization of opposition to the S.F.G. taking on a clan-conflict cast. Characterizing the S.F.G. as a government dominated by Hawiye-Abgal, the opposition unites on a clan basis against the perceived threat of clannist domination. If that is the political dynamic into which the Somali political actors are entering, its final moment is civil war. One must ask whether or not the "donor"-powers have factored the possibility of civil war into the calculations that lead them to favor the S.F.G. How much clan-based opposition to the S.F.G. will there be in south-central Somalia? How will the authorities and quasi-authorities through shouth-central Somalia react to the perceived Hawiye-Abgal dominance? How can clan-based conflict be averted?

The above is not to say that the civil-war scenario has a high probability of eventuating, but that its possibility has emerged. In the short term, the factions in the south-central regions need time to organize authorities and sort out local disputes before they are ready to challenge overtly the S.F.G. Somaliland is likely to harden its independence stand, especially with the "donor"-powers seeming to be willing to deal with it directly; and Puntland, which is hurt the most by "donor"-power favor towards the S.F.G., will be forced to reassess its strategies and options. Puntland's president, Abdirahman Farole, is witnessing one of his negative scenarios coming true: the re-emergence of Mogadishu as a "city-state" dominating Somalia. The S.F.G.'s inflation threatens to alienate Puntland from the "Somalia" project.

Puntland is the other actor, beside the S.F.G., that deserves closer consideration; it has been left on the other side of the tilt. Puntland's grand strategy from its inception has been to gain the benefits of association with a Somali central government ("donor"-power access, legal standing) and the substance of self-rule by declaring autonomy until a satisfactory form of political rule was instituted in south-central Somalia. At that time it would enter a weak federation in which its previous autonomy was in all significant respects preserved.

That strategy now appears to be failing as Puntland undergoes a period of political change to a multi-party democracy. What will be Puntland's next move? Will it opt for independence? Will it join forces with the variegated opposition to the S.F.G. in south-central Somalia? Will it knuckle under and be folded into the S.F.G.? Somaliland has avoided the day of reckoning temporarily. Puntland is there. Its leverage, more than ever, depends on the political form that the southern region takes, whether it follows Puntland or the more centralized form being forwarded by the S.F.G. A separate source reports that the S.F.G. is backing the ex-warlord Barre Hirale against the factions trying to form the Jubbaland state, with Puntland supporting those factions. It is a proxy conflict opening up within Somalia, initiated by Somali actors. One can expect more such confrontations, particularly if clan rivalry becomes the basis for conflict among Somali factions.


The underlying dynamics of the "donor"-power tilt toward the S.F.G. has been to inflate the S.F.G. without having given it the power to back that up, and to deflate Puntland. This new balance creates an unstable situation in which the S.F.G. would be tempted to cross what, for Puntland, would be a red line. The two are already competing through proxies in the south. The point of an overt split and open hostility between the two has not yet been reached.

Meanwhile, the more the opposition to the S.F.G. takes on a clan-conflict cast, the more difficult it will be to resolve disputes, such as bringing Puntland and the S.F.G. into accord.

A third source, on the ground in south-central Somalia, says that the "donor"-powers prefer to deal with a small close group of Somali officials, if for nothing else than convenience and expediency. If that is the case, then one can understand why they do not take the power positions of Somali actors into their calculations, particularly the consequences of a redistribution of power.

Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago
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