«PEACEMAKING IN THE MIDST OF WAR : AN ASSESSMENT OF IGAD’S CONTRIBUTION TO REGIONAL SECURITY Sally Healy Royal Institute of International Affairs ...»
IGAD and the Somali Peace Process The conflict in Somalia was very different to the conflict in Sudan and stemmed from the comprehensive collapse of state institutions. When Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, fighting erupted over control of the capital and degenerated into conflict among multiple clanbased factions. As in Sudan, Somalia’s IGAD neighbours were key stakeholders in the conflict. The emergence of Islamism as a political force in Somalia gave the conflict a regional dimension with implications for Ethiopia and Kenya, which both have sizeable Somali communities within their borders. It also excited the interest of the US and other Western powers concerned about the threat of international terrorism.
Without a government, Somalia was unable to exercise its membership of IGAD, or indeed any other international forum, and IGAD had difficulty confronting the problem of state breakdown. In 1993 the OAU had assigned Ethiopia the lead role in supporting peace and reconciliation in Somalia, but at that stage peace and security in Somalia was firmly on the UN agenda. The country was then in the throes of significant international interventions (UNITAF, UNOSOMs I and II) designed to create a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations and restore political order. But these had ended in failure in 1995.
Ethiopia’s desire to see the re-establishment of a government in Somalia stemmed from concerns about the activities of a radical Islamist group that had surfaced in various parts of the country after the downfall of Siad Barre. Al Itihad al Islamia encouraged its followers to put aside the clan divisions that were destroying the country and embrace Islam as their political goal. They sought the reestablishment of Somalia as an Islamic state governed by 8 Sharia law. Their vision was one that potentially embraced all the Somali peoples of the Horn of Africa, including the Somali communities in Ethiopia and Kenya. Ethiopia therefore had domestic as well as regional interests in a settlement in Somalia.
Within IGAD, Ethiopia enjoyed unchallenged diplomatic leadership on Somalia. During 1996/7 Ethiopia followed a twin-track policy. Firstly, they took military action to destroy Al Itihad camps in the Gedo region of Somalia, claiming that these housed Arab and Afghan mujahidin and terrorists linked to Al Qaeda (Tadesse 2002). The operations attracted no adverse comment from IGAD, the OAU or the international community at large and Ethiopian forces remained in control of Somali border towns at Luq and Dolo for much of
1997. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi nonetheless warned UN officials that ‘Somalia was becoming a major source of instability, with extremists and terrorists operating from there, the scope of which transcended the region’ (UNSC 1997: para 26 S/1997/915).
On the political track, Ethiopia organised a major reconciliation for Somali factions in the Ethiopian town of Sodere. In January 1997, this produced a 41-member National Salvation Council, headed by Abdulahi Yusuf with five co-chairmen and an 11-member National Executive Committee. Their task was to convene a 465-member national reconciliation conference later that year. The Aideed faction that controlled most of Mogadishu had boycotted the Sodere process. This opened the door for a competing initiative. In March 1998, Egypt and the Arab League jointly hosted Somali reconciliation talks with Aideed and others leading to the Cairo Agreement. This effectively undermined the Sodere peace process. The IGAD summit of March 1998 called for an end to ‘the proliferation of competing initiatives’ (a reference to Egypt’s activities) that served to undermine the peace process in Somalia (IGAD 1998).
The outbreak of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea in May 1998 spelt the end of IGAD’s consensual approach to Somali reconciliation. Eritrea was soon reported to be arming the Aideed faction while Ethiopia stepped up assistance to its own allies in Somalia. The Ethiopia-Eritrea war thus contributed to worsening conflict within Somalia, as the two sides sought out proxy partners. As the Ethio-Eritrea war reached its climax in early 2000, Djibouti’s new president, Ismail Omah Guelleh, launched his own Somali reconciliation process. The Somali National Peace Conference was held within the framework of IGAD, but included funding and support from external powers including Egypt, Libya and the Gulf states. Guelleh sought a new approach involving traditional and civil Somali leaders rather than the cast of warlords and faction leaders who had dominated previous Somali reconciliation meetings (Interpeace 2009). The Arta peace process concluded in August 2000 with the creation of a Transitional National Government (TNG) headed by Abdulqasim Salat Hassan. It had support from Islamists and much of the business community in Mogadishu and close ties with the Djibouti government. IGAD, the OAU and the UN recognised the TNG as the government of Somalia.
Within Somalia support for the TNG was patchier. Neither the Somaliland authorities in the North West nor Abdulahi Yusuf in Puntland recognised the authority of Abdulqasim. Several of the major Somali warlords were equally disaffected. After a peace agreement was signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea in December 2000, Ethiopia turned its attention once more to Somalia. Ethiopian opposition to the TNG hinged on suspicions of its Islamist leanings, its support from the Arab world and the exclusion of many of its own long term allies among the warlords. By March 2001 the opponents of the TNG had formed a new organisation, the 9 Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC). It was headed by Abdulahi Yusuf and worked with Ethiopian support to undermine the TNG.
Until 2001 IGAD had played no institutional role in Somali reconciliation beyond endorsing Ethiopian and Djiboutian initiatives. In the aftermath of the Arta process IGAD faced the uncomfortable prospect of two member states, Ethiopia and Djibouti, which were technically on good terms with each other, supporting opposite factions in Somalia. In January 2002, the IGAD Summit commissioned President Moi of Kenya to start a joint initiative with Ethiopia and Djibouti to bring the warlords of the SRRC into negotiations with the TNG. Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia formed a frontline states technical committee in which Djibouti backed the TNG, Ethiopia backed the SSRC and Kenya had the role of mediator. Thus began IGAD’s Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, a Kenyan-led negotiation conducted with the financial support of European development funds. Unlike IGAD’s Sudan peace process, which was going on in parallel, neither the US nor other Western powers were actively involved in the mediation process. Some saw the apparent absence of outside pressures as a hopeful sign, and thought the IGAD mediation process likely to yield positive results because of the enormous amount of time the Somali faction leaders spent bargaining with each other (Nyuot Yoh 2003).
The negotiations began in October 2002 in the Kenyan town of Eldoret and quickly reached an agreement on cessation of hostilities. Progress thereafter was exceedingly slow, particularly over nomination rights to a large parliament to agree on a transitional charter and elect a president. Whether by accident or design, no progress had been made by the time the formal mandate of the TNG expired in August 2003. Thereafter Abdulqasim was treated like any other faction leader. Djibouti was sufficiently annoyed by this turn of events to leave the facilitation committee in September 2003, but agreed to return when Uganda and Eritrea joined it. Eventually, a parliament was appointed on the basis of clan representation and assembled in Kenya. In October 2004, it elected Abdulahi Yusuf as president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). After two more months and considerable wrangling within parliament, a government was formed, led by Prime Minister Gedi.
It was not immediately apparent that the TFG would be unable to establish its authority inside Somalia. From an IGAD perspective, therefore, the end of the negotiation and the creation of a government of Somalia under a new transitional charter appeared to be another successful venture in mediation. As in the Sudan process, Kenya rather than IGAD had fulfilled the secretariat function and conducted most of the mediation. IGAD’s distinctive contribution to the Somali peace process occurred in the aftermath of the mediation process when it became apparent that Abdulahi Yusuf’s government did not command sufficient support to enable it to function. IGAD therefore had to contend with conflicting interests among its member states as they tried to determine how to support the Somali government they had created. The issue at the centre of the controversy was the use of an IGAD intervention force.
The Effectiveness of IGAD’s Contribution to Peace and Security The signing of the Sudan and Somali peace agreements in quick succession in late 2004 and early 2005 created an impression that IGAD was proving unusually adept at performing its new conflict-resolution role (Francis 2006). Two IGAD settlements within three months appeared a remarkable accomplishment, especially when taking into consideration that both addressed long and complex conflicts that had defied previous attempts to secure peaceful settlement. However, a closer examination of the circumstances in which the agreements were achieved points to a more nuanced judgment about IGAD’s institutional role.
10 In origin, the IGAD peace initiatives in Sudan and Somalia were political initiatives, conceived and largely executed by one or more member states. The lead regional mediators were also interested parties (Khadiagala 2007). They did not entrust the mediation to the IGAD Secretariat, which had neither the capacity nor the authority to lead and manage the peace processes that were carried out in its name. Indeed, at the point when the Sudan process began in 1993 the organisation had no remit to work on peace and security issues and had yet to develop its conflict resolution mandate.7 Once underway, the peace talks required an organisational and logistical effort that was beyond the capacity of IGAD’s modest secretariat in Djibouti. The Sudan and Somalia peace processes both relied heavily on Kenyan diplomatic capacity. Kenya supplied the chief negotiator in each case: General Sumbeiwyo as mediator in the Sudan process and Ambassador Bethwell Kiplagat for the Somali process. The importance of Kenya to the success of the peace processes was not confined to its provision of diplomatic and organisational capacity. Its ability to maintain political neutrality was vital. Without Kenya’s neutrality after 1995 IGAD’s Sudan process might not have survived. Kenya went on to play a key role in securing government agreement on the Declaration of Principles when Khartoum was under maximum pressure. Similarly Kenya provided a neutral venue in 2002 for the different Somali parties backed by Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Notwithstanding its institutional weakness and lack of authority over member states, the IGAD Secretariat successfully institutionalised donor support through the IPF. The willingness of external donors to carry the financial burden of the peace process was both a blessing and a burden. The extent of their involvement generated frictions over the ownership of the process and the imposition of spurious deadlines (‘deadline diplomacy’) tied to financing (IGAD 2007a). This was especially apparent in the Sudan negotiations (Sumbeiywo 2006). The strong involvement of the Troika (US, UK, Norway) has also been blamed for maintaining an exclusionary top-down process approach to the Sudanese peace process (Young 2005). In the Somali case, US involvement was much less apparent and there was less clarity over what the Western donors expected from the process even though they were willing to foot the bill.
As well as drawing in support from the West, IGAD’s nominal ownership of the peace
processes helped to secure the exclusion of secondary actors from outside the region:
principally Egypt, Libya and Yemen. All of these countries have clearly identifiable interests in the Horn of Africa but IGAD’s collective intent was to establish a monopoly over the peace processes in the region. It is noteworthy that new initiatives invariably arose in the Arab world whenever IGAD peace processes stalled. IGAD’s peace-making activities helped to secure legitimacy for the organisation and build wider international acceptance of IGAD as the only appropriate forum for tackling conflict in the Horn (Francis 2006). In order to maintain this primacy, IGAD has needed to secure one of two things: either actual success in conflict resolution (as in Sudan); or the ability to align its peacemaking activity with the interests of powerful external actors (as in Somalia and the global war on terrorism).
Looked at in the context of the overall regional conflict environment it is clear that IGAD is far from providing an institutional basis for regional security in the Horn of Africa. The region continues to experience exceptionally high levels of violent conflict. The relatively successful mediations in Sudan and Somalia in 2004 and 2005 stand alongside IGAD’s 7 IGAD leaders again exceeded the organisation’s mandate in January 2005 with a summit decision to authorise deployment of a Peace Support Mission in Somalia to provide security support to the TFG.
11 inability to prevent or resolve the Ethiopia-Eritrea war of 1998-2000 or to deal with violent conflict in Darfur and rumbling conflicts in Northern Uganda and Eastern Ethiopia. Even during the Sudanese and Somali peace processes IGAD member states demonstrated their willingness to prepare for and engage in war at the same time as organising for peace.