The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) out in the field in during the "Operation Linda Nchi" against the Somalia militia Al-Shabaab. Photo/FILE
By RASHID ABDI email@example.com
Posted Sunday, August 12 2012 at 23:30
Influential Somali political actors from the Jubba and Gedo regions of southern Somalia have been engaged in discreet talks in Nairobi in the last two months aimed at cobbling together a broad-based cross-clan interim administration to take charge of the region once the port city of Kismayu is liberated.
Somali sources close to the Karen talks, sponsored by Kenya and attended by officials from Ethiopia and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, admit the negotiations have been “difficult”, but add modest progress has been achieved, without going into details.
Journalists have been locked out of the talks and delegates are believed to be under strict instructions not talk to the media. A group of disgruntled delegates were threatened with expulsion last month after their grievances were aired on Somali radio stations.
The veil of official secrecy surrounding the talks is feeding the rumour mills and making it difficult to independently verify the claims of progress, but there are indications Kenya’s efforts to stabilise the Jubba Valley may be finally disarming the sceptics and paying dividends.
A Western diplomatic source in Nairobi said “a positive momentum has built up, likely to improve the chances of success”.
This may not be a ringing endorsement, but certainly indicates a subtle positive shift in the international community’s attitudes towards Kenya’s attempts to influence the post-Shabaab politics of the Jubba Valley.
This is diplomatically significant and Kenya does now appear to be getting a few things right.
However, to earn greater trust, but above all to succeed, it must proceed with caution and resist the temptation to impose a solution.
1. Greater inclusivity: Much of the past opposition to the Kenyan-backed political initiative to create a regional government in Somalia’s Jubba Valley rested on the perception it was not adequately inclusive. After much debate and extensive consultations the Kenyans have realised the process was not sufficiently representative.
Since the beginning of the year, Kenyan officials have been busy reaching out to some of the aggrieved clans like the Harti Darod and Bantu Wagosha communities.
While it is not yet clear if the fears and reservations voiced by these clans have been sufficiently addressed, the mere fact representatives from these clans are now engaged in the talks to create a more inclusive administration is in itself positive.
This in effect reopens the political process and complicates the Azania leadership’s timetable and plans to relocate to the liberated territories, but it is the right way to go. A stable and well-governed Jubba that affords Kenya a measure of security is only feasible when a more inclusive administration is created.
However long or difficult the process to create such an administration, that must be the goal. Anything else will be a quick fix unlikely to serve Kenya’s national interest;
2. Keeping Ethiopia and Somalia on side: Ethiopia is now involved in the Jubbaland talks and appears to be working closely with Kenya to encourage Somali clans to reach a political settlement on a post-Shabaab administration.
This is a positive step that may in time ease the recent tensions, rebuild trust and mitigate against the risks of destructive rivalry and competition in Somalia. The presence of Somali officials at the talks is also crucial and must be maintained to ensure wider Somali buy-in and ownership;
3. Amisom and stabilisation: By joining Amisom Kenya has undertaken to work towards the stabilisation of the whole of Somalia and not just one part of Somalia. The initiative to stabilise Jubba and the broader stabilisation plan for Somalia are not mutually exclusive.
It may sound obvious, but nonetheless it is worth repeating: Kenya’s chances of securing its national security interests in Somalia are best served through multilateral action and by working with the rest to achieve wider stabilisation. It is not possible to stabilise one part of Somalia when the rest of the country is engulfed in war and conflict.
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