It is no secret that for the past two decades; dozens of regional administrations – many overlapping their virtual regional borders – have sporadically emerged. Notwithstanding that majority were driven by the recent US Policy change in employing the US dual-track approach; it seems that the external actors continue to spur this process fully knowing its impracticability when applied to a nation ripe with clan carved fiefdoms. The US optimistically claims its dual-track policy will expand its capacity to engage with the interim Somali government and sub-state political stakeholders in order to promote peace and stability.
Not too long ago, an IGAD/AU-backed conference was held in Nairobi with the primary aim of establishing a regional state known as Jubbaland. The conference was attended by political stakeholders who incidentally do not share the same let alone similar political outlook for the proposed region apart from the common denominator of eliminating the al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab rebel movement. The local participants represented various groups, all professing to be the main stakeholders of the regional authority in Jubbaland. They are: the venal TFG, the paper-state Azania; the Ethiopian-backed Ahlu Sunnah Waljama’a; the Kenyan-backed Ras Kamboni and finally a pro-government militia better known as Gedo Defence Forces.
Jubbaland is an area comprising the three most southern regions of Somalia, namely: Gedo, Lower Juba and Middle Juba. A name initially coined by the British a century ago to describe the perennial Juba river; it is often described as Somalia’s breadbasket for its considerable potential of irrigation development. This inter-riverine area has been bedevilled for the past two decades by factional fightings; man-made famine; prolonged droughts and general interminable instability. Presently, al-Shabab holds sway over much of the region.
What differentiates this southern area from the adjacent regions and farther up north in Somalia is its unique heterogeneous clan-composition. It is an area where pastoral, agricultural, and coastal traditions meet. It is often dubbed as ‘Little Somalia’ for its inhomogeneous tribal make-up and the mere fact that those three regions, given its vast size, can harmoniously host the entire populace of Somalia.
A communique was released detailing the proposed foundation of this wildly contested region. The points agreed seem to be ticking all the right boxes of a prototypical sub-state that could serve as an exemplar save one pivotal point: the deliberate omission of all-inclusiveness.
The source of my distrust towards this sham ‘inclusive’ conference is that the local participants all hail from a single umbrella clan, purposely leaving out the rest of the clan confederations inhabiting ‘Little Somalia’. At a time when Somalia is supposed to come together given the current momentum in Mogadishu; it seems that the external powers continue to exploit the same existing factor (i.e. exclusiveness) in order to protract the current turmoil in that particular region. Neglecting the latent breadbasket and the millions of Somalis it could serve and feed once given her due right of stability; the contending factions seem to only envision the prospective exploitation of revenues that awaits them once al-Shabab leaves the scene.
It is therefore important, nay, crucial and equally imperative that if Somalia in the foreseeable future does decide to adopt a federal constitution, that the clan complexity existing in that particular region is not exploited or at worst imbalanced.
To IGAD/AU and its external backer: the US; any solution that hopes to achieve positive outcomes must be indigenous, coming from within Somali society itself.