EDITORIAL: Somalia is safer in IGAD, whatever the challenges
EDITORIAL | Somalia reacted angrily this week to a report by Djibouti envoys working under the auspices of the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. [IGAD].
For Mogadishu, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry that there was no evidence to support Somalia’s accusations of Kenyan interference were biased, one-sided and undermined the credibility of the regional organization.
Somali federal government officials continued to smear the Commission and threatened to quit the Intergovernmental Authority on Development unless the document was withdrawn with an apology.
But that may not solve the problem. It was clear from the outset that Somalia had lodged complaints with the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government to reprimand Nairobi for bullying. But filing a complaint does not necessarily mean that you are telling the truth or that you have proven the facts. It was Somalia’s duty to ensure that evidence was filed to support its claim.
When the Commission visited Mogadishu on the weekend of January 7, only the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Balal Osman, was on hand to receive them. The team wrote in its report that it had spoken with officials led by Mr. Osman before meeting with representatives of the UN and the African Union Mission in Somalia.
The team did not visit Gedo, the epicenter of fighting between the Somali National Army and regional Jubbaland forces under Security Minister Abdirashid Janan, whom Mogadishu considered a fugitive but accuses Kenya of ‘arm. If the team had visited Gedo, maybe it would have given them a chance to see other facts.
But the Commission said they were not facilitated. Somalia, on the other hand, said the team refused, a highly unlikely scenario. In accordance with the provisions of IGAD, each country was supposed to facilitate the Commission in matters of information, site travel and security.
Somalia’s foreign ministry said the country will continue to exercise great restraint, called on IGAD to quash the frivolous report and commission a multinational fact-finding mission.
Kenya appears to have taken the Commission more seriously, given the level of officials encountered by the team; Head of the Defense Forces, Secretary of the Defense Cabinet and Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Cabinet.
For having assumed the work of the Commission and refused to facilitate, Somalia may have just handed victory to Nairobi. Dismissing the Commission’s result and calling it professional seems like a sore loser.
Still, it wasn’t a matter of losing or winning. According to the Djibouti government, IGAD sought to help partners end their feud by verifying the complaints. This does not mean that Somalia is not sincere about the accusations against Kenya. On the contrary, it means that a different solution is needed.
This is why leaving a regional bloc like IGAD seems unwise. IGAD, in more than three decades of existence, is not a perfect organization. He’s not even strong and has been subjected to strongman checks by bigger, more stable limbs in the past.
But if there is something to be proud of, it is the fact that every member state has been treated equally yesterday and today, keeping a tradition where leaders do not point fingers but accept to use available organs to solve problems.
Somalia has been a beneficiary of IGAD on numerous occasions before, from the peace negotiations that helped create the Transitional Federal Government to the status talks for North Western of Somaliaand Somalia.
IGAD as a regional bloc may not have the war chest or the ability to urgently resolve quarrels among members, but its centuries-old tradition of dialogue and mediation has worked in other places like Sudan. South and Sudan.
Somalia’s complaints against Kenya will appear vendetta if Mogadishu ends a regional bloc that had offered to solve the problems. In fact, the African Union and the UN have endorsed a local solution sought by IGAD.
The solution may not come as quickly as politicians want it to be, but severing ties with this bloc could simply play Kenya’s game and reverse the rhetoric to show Somalia as an abandoned, not offended party.