EDITORIAL: Somalia is safer in IGAD, no matter the challenges
EDITORIAL | Somalia this week reacted angrily to a report by Djiboutian envoys working under the auspices of the East African regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD].
For Mogadishu, the findings by the Fact-Finding Commission that there was no evidence to back Somalia’s accusations of Kenya’s interference was biased, one-sided, and compromised the credibility of the regional organization.
Officials in the Federal Government of Somalia have gone on to besmirch the Commission and threatened to quit the Intergovernmental Authority on Development unless the document is withdrawn with an apology.
But that may not solve the problem. It was clear from the start that Somalia tabled complaints before the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Governments so as to have Nairobi reprimanded for bullying. But tabling a complaint doesn’t necessarily mean one is saying the truth or has proven the facts. It was Somalia’s duty to ensure evidence is tabled to support their complaint.
When the Commission visited Mogadishu on the weekend of January 7, only the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Balal Osman, was on hand to receive them. The team wrote in their report that they spoke 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 the fighting between Somalia National Army and the Jubbaland regional forces under security minister Abdirashid Janan, whom Mogadishu considered fugitive but whom it accuses Kenya of arming. Had the team visited Gedo, perhaps it would have given them a chance to see any more facts.
But the Commission said they were not facilitated. Somalia on the other hand said the team refused, a highly unlikely scenario. As per the arrangements of the IGAD, each country was supposed to facilitate the Commission with information, travel to sites, and security.
Somalia's foreign affairs ministry said the country will continue to exercise considerable restraint, call on IGAD to rescind this frivolous report and to commission a multinational fact-finding mission.
It appears Kenya took the Commission more seriously, given the level of officials the team met; Chief of Defence Forces, Defence Cabinet Secretary, and Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary.
For assuming the work of the Commission and refusing to facilitate, Somalia may have just handed over victory to Nairobi. Rejecting the outcome of the Commission and labeling it as professional sounds like a sour loser.
Yet this wasn’t a matter of losing or win. According to the Djiboutian government, IGAD was seeking to help partners end their feud by verifying the complaints. This does not mean Somalia is not genuine about accusations against Kenya. On the contrary, it means a different solution is needed.
This is why quitting a regional bloc like IGAD sounds unwise. IGAD, in its more than three decades of existence, is not a perfect organization. It is not even strong and has been a victim to strongman controls by the bigger, more stable members in the past.
But if there is something to be proud of is the fact that each member state has been treated equally then and now, keeping a tradition where leaders don’t point fingers at each other but agree to use available organs to resolve issues.
Somalia has been a beneficiary of IGAD many times before, right from the peace negotiations that helped create the transitional federal government to talks about the status of Somaliland and Somalia.
IGAD as a regional bloc may lack the war chest or capacity to urgently resolve wrangles between members, but its age-old tradition of dialogue and mediation has worked in other places like South Sudan and Sudan.
Somalia’s complaints against Kenya will seem vendetta if Mogadishu pulls a plug on a regional bloc that had offered to resolve the issues. In fact, both the African Union and the UN have endorsed a local solution being searched by IGAD.
The solution may not come as fast as politicians want, but to cut off ties to this bloc could just play into the hands of Kenya and turn around the narrative to show Somalia as a jilted party, not the offended one.