Kenya suffers major setback over new State

Jubaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam (C) VP Abdullahi Ismail Faraag (R) and Abdi Gani Jama  addressing  the media. [Photo: Mbugua Kibera/Standard]

By Malkhadir M Muhumed

Jubaland: Kenya’s hope to have a staunch ally rule regions bordering its northern territories has suffered a setback.

This was after the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) decided to back the position of Somalia’s government that vehemently opposes the newly formed Jubaland administration.

The move was however, swiftly rejected by the new administration in Kismayu, terming any effort to re-start the process “unacceptable,” and threatening to cut ties with Mogadishu if it fails to recognise the Kismayo-based administration.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Kismayu on Sunday to protest what they say is interference in their affairs from Mogadishu and to express support for the Jubaland State, said Abdinasir Serar, spokesman for the Jubaland State administration.

Igad urged Mogadishu to “timely convene and lead reconciliation conferences” to chart out a way to set up an interim administration in regions recently liberated by Kenyan and allied forces.

Friday’s decision was reached after the bloc received a report from a confidence building team it sent last week to Mogadishu and Kismayu to sound out the various stakeholders on Jubaland State formation.

New president

Clan delegations elected Ahmed Mohamed Islam, best known as Ahmed Madobe, as the President of the regional State of Jubaland on May 15, a development that spurred other individuals, most notably warlord Barre Aden Shire, to also claim the leadership.

Kenya Defence Forces Spokesman Cyrus Oguna said the security situation remained bullish.

“I cannot predict what may happen. But I’m optimistic the stabilisation process will go on and eventually we will have peace in Kismayu and Jubaland region and the entire Somalia,” he told The Standard.

In its statement, Igad said: “The Federal Government of Somalia should timely convene and lead reconciliation conference with the support of Igad while consulting key stakeholders in Juba with a view to chart out a road map on the establishment of interim administration and formation of a permanent regional administration in accordance with the provisional constitution with Igad playing a supporting role.”

Igad expressed its concern over the security situation in Kismayu, urging all parties to focus their fight on Al Shabaab and avoid any actions that may threaten peace and stability in the region.

Igad’s decision is a setback for both Kenya’s and Ethiopia’s push for an administration that is not hostile to their respective interests.

However, it is at the same time too early to say it is a definite victory for the Somali government as many locals in Juba oppose government’s efforts to name someone from Mogadishu.

Analysts believe the real test will now be how to reconcile Mogadishu’s bottom-up process with the top-down approach buttressed by Jubaland State advocates.

Kenya criticised

“It is good news for the government,” said Abdi Farah Dirie, a professor of economics and management at Mogadishu University.

“The Jubaland issue was not always a legal problem, but a political problem,” said Dirie.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s speech to Igad’s heads of state on Friday in Addis Ababa, indirectly criticised the Kenya Defence Forces for mistreating a delegation sent by the Somalia government to Kismayu.

“We recently sent a committee from the Cabinet and Parliament to Kismayu on May 15, to initiate dialogue with local stakeholders. However, contingents of Amisom soldiers in the area mistreated the committee,” he said.

Col Oguna said he could not comment on the allegation since the President did not elaborate on the way committee members were treated.

President Mohamud said his government was “ready and committed” to holding a genuine reconciliation conference for key stakeholders in the Jubba” in order to devise program and plans to establish interim administrations.

“I regret to inform you that Kismayu process unilaterally made declarations which created a dispute of the outcome and insecurity in Kismayu. Our people cannot afford another conflict,” said Mohamud in his speech. Oguna said Igad’s decision was based on its desire to have peace prevail in Jubaland.

“I can’t speak for them but I can imagine whatever they decide will be in the best interest of the region as far as peace is concerned,” he said.

Although Oguna said last week that Ahmed Madobe’s election was “worth applauding,” he refuted on Saturday, claims that Kenya supports anyone for the leadership of Kismayu, saying the Kenyan Defence Forces are non-partisan, impartial and neutral.

Report recommendations

 Igad’s Executive Secretary, Mahboub Maalim, led a delegation composed of ambassadors from member states to Mogadishu and Kismayu with the aim of assessing the security situation in Kismayu and submitting a report to the bloc’s summit on the sidelines of the AU summit in Addis Ababa.

The team’s mission on May 16-19, focused on five points: Whether or not Jubaland’s process was inclusive; whether or not the process was accomplished in such a way that it helps the joint effort to combat Al-Shabaab; whether or not IGAD was playing a supportive role; whether or not the process was led by the Federal Government of Somalia; whether or not the process was being done in the spirit of the provisional constitution of the Federal Government of Somalia.

In Mogadishu, the team met President Mohamud, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon “Saaid” and other government officials, including the Minister for Interior and National Security as well as the Justice and Federal Constitution minister. It also met with clan elders, civil society and officials from AU peacekeepers in the capital.

According to a copy of the 6-page report seen by The Standard, Somalia’s government insisted the process in Kismayu was “not done in the spirit of the constitution,” that its role was “missing” and that the process’s inclusiveness was “questionable.”

In Kismayu, it also met with commanders from the African Union mission in Somalia (sector II), the newly elected president of the region, Ahmed Mohamed Islam, and other individuals who declared themselves president of the Jubaland State - Barre Hiirale, Abdiballe Defale, Omar Burale, Iftin Hassan.

It also met with clan elders, civil society groups, the business community, commanders of both Somali National Army and Ras Kamboni Brigade as well as a delegation of the federal government in Kismayu.

Ahmed Madobe and his team as well as signatories and Jubaland technical committee argued that the process was “in line” with the constitution, that it was “inclusive” and, contrary to government claims, “significantly contributed in the fight against Al Shabab.”

But rivals of Ahmed Madobe in Kismayu have echoed government’s position, according to the report.

The team recommended that Somalia “expedite enactment of the necessary laws that govern the establishment of regional administration.”

“The Federal Government and various stakeholders in Kismayu are in agreement on the need to follow the provisional constitution in the establishment of the regional administration,” said the team in its report.

However, the ambassadorial team observed that there is a difference in interpretation of the provisional constitution between the Federal Government and various stakeholders in Kismayu.

Amisom Sector II

The team said it found “the inclusivity of the Kismayu process contestable, especially among the minority,” recommending that Somalia’s government should “timely convene and lead a reconciliation conference with support of Igad while consulting key Stakeholders in Kismayu.”

In the interim though, it called upon stakeholders in Kismayu “to go to Mogadishu and dialogue with the Federal Government regarding the interim regional administration.”

“There is no turning back. A president has been elected and we now expect to form Parliament and to continue the process. To start it a fresh is unacceptable,” said Serar. “We urge the government to respect the wishes of the people in Jubaland. But if it fails to recognise us we will not cooperate with the government.”

“In principle, all have agreed the government needs to take leadership of the process,” said the report. “The Federal government and stakeholders in Kismayu however, have expressed strong reasons and explanations as to why the process was not led by the government.”

 The team observed that all stakeholders in Kismayu and Mogadishu accept Igad’s role.

It called on Igad’s secretariat “to provide technical support to the federal government as and when requested” and that the bloc also “expedites support to the Federal Government in its priorities including the formation of a regional Administration.”

 The Kenya Defence Forces or the Amisom Sector II, “should be provided with a political support unit to help in dealing with the political aspect of the disputes in Kismayu and to facilitate co-operation between the sector and the Somalia Federal Government,” the report says.