By Deeq S Yusuf
September 14, 2023
Over the last month or so, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (HSM) has been leading the fight against Al-Shabab from the frontlines as the first-round offensive against the terrorists is nearing its completion. With the second-round offensive that will shift the battle to the southern regions of Jubaland and South-West State now on the horizon, attention is turning to the stabilization of large swathes of liberated territories across the central regions. While the gallant Somali National Army (SNA) recently suffered reversible setbacks attributed to tactical errors that the President himself acknowledged, HSM’s resolve in his total war against the Al-Qaeda aligned terror group remains firm and unrelenting. Victory is within sight, and it won’t be long before the terrorists are totally annihilated and uprooted from Somali soil.
Security analysts in Somalia and beyond state that stabilization in the recovered areas should begin in earnest even while the Somali forces and allied civilian fighters continue to downgrade and obliterate the insurgents. Christian Dennys, a conflict analyst, defines the concept of stabilization as “the requirement to meet basic humanitarian and development needs of communities in order to hold onto territories gained through military action. ” David Keen and Larry Attree argue that stabilization efforts involving both civilian and military actors are the “necessary prerequisites for successful social and economic rebuilding of war-torn countries .” On the other hand, Sultan Barakat observes that effective stabilization requires a clear mandate to “undertake operations in close consultation with national, regional and local decision-making bodies. Stabilisation interventions should be targeted at isolated areas, with the resources and the will to succeed in these contexts” adding that this should be “part of a broader vision for the reconstruction of the country .”
Duncan Hiscock, a conflict prevention analyst notes that stabilization in highly fragile situations occurs in three possible scenarios– where there is a high risk of violent conflict, conflict is ongoing or is just coming to an end . Somalia typifies the latter two scenarios as stabilization efforts can commence in liberated areas while the Somali National Army (SNA) continues with its military operations to reclaim the remaining regions held by the insurgents. The primary aim of stabilization is to ensure a basic level of stability that provides a platform for longer-term development and security building. As Hiscock further states, stabilization measures may employ a strong military component. This is particularly true in Somalia where SNA is expected to stamp its authority in newly secured areas so as to be in a position to facilitate the flow of yet to be deployed international aid and development assistance to affected communities.
It is widely held that stabilization entails a combination of military, humanitarian, political and economic measures to control, contain and manage liberated areas affected by armed conflict and complex emergencies. Stabilization is one of the surest ways of helping local populations forge pathways out of fragility and conflict and toward lasting peace and security. Overall, stabilization efforts are aimed at minimizing the risk of conflict recurrence while restoring confidence in social, political and economic institutions.
Somalia faces an uphill task in its efforts to stabilize its liberated areas. While substantial progress has been made on the security front, cash-strapped Mogadishu lacks the financial muscle to restore basic services including health, education, water, shelter and other government capacities such as the creation of employment opportunities and micro-economic management, control over the illicit economy and containing threats to peace. In addition to provision of basic services, stabilization in Somalia should include social reconstruction such as the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In the realm of the rule of law, stabilization requires the establishment of just legal frameworks, public order, accountability to the law and access to justice. Ideally, stabilization efforts should be gender and youth inclusive and must allow for civic participation and grassroots engagement.
In any given context, stabilization can be challenging, costly and daunting meaning international response would be critical in the post-conflict recovery of a war-ravaged country. While Somalia is expected to take the lead, the international community must play a fundamental role in the stabilization of liberated areas. Somalia’s international partners should swiftly respond to HSM’s calls for stabilization support. To prevent potential relapse into renewed conflict in liberated areas, stabilization in Somalia would require a concerted international response and the deployment of resources matching the challenge.
According to the IMF, countries impacted by war and fragility need strong global partners and resources, noting that supporting such countries in an age of compounded crises is essential for global security. The lack of stabilization programme on the ground threatens Somalia’s smooth transition to peace. International support for stabilization matters because evidence has shown that no case without any substantial external support has avoided conflict recurrence.
Experience from Iraq demonstrates that effective stabilization requires the involvement of multiple actors, both local and international. For example, at the request of the Iraqi government in mid2015, and with the support of the Global Coalition Against Daesh, UNDP Iraq established the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) to carry out stabilization activities in areas affected by the ISIS conflict. Through FFS, UNDP Iraq mobilized roughly US $2 billion from 30 international partners.
According to the UNDP, the Funding Facility for Stabilization in Iraq has three main objectives – to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, to lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery and to safeguard communities against the resurgence of violence and extremism. Covering 31 locations across the five liberated governorates – Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah AlDin, the programme continues to support nine major sectors – electricity, health, water, education, sewerage, livelihoods, municipalities, roads and bridges, and social cohesion. ” It also includes “activities to support all levels of governments build peaceful and cohesive communities and building their capacity to deliver essential services to Iraqi communities.
The programme also administered cash grants, allowing people to restart their lives. Additionally, 1ocals were provided with vocational skilling, equipping them to enter the job market, shops and markets were rebuilt, boosting local businesses while 68 roads and bridges were rebuilt, linking workers to jobs, goods to markets, and people to essential services and 179 municipality-owned buildings were restored, allowing officials to resume functions.6
An Iraqi-style, internationally-funded, stabilization programme is what Somalia badly needs. The international community must provide stabilization support to local governments, civil society and communities previously under the control of Al-Shabaab. Like UNDP Iraq, UNDP Somalia must set up a Somalia-focused Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) and mobilize global support for such a programme.
To consolidate security gains, USAID notes it is assisting with stabilization in Southern Somalia. But this level of support by USAID, UNDP and other global actors pales in comparison to international stabilization efforts in the Middle East and Central Asia. Somalia’s international partners need to ramp up stabilization on a much larger scale. There is an urgent need for a wellfunded international stabilization programme for Somalia that can effectively extend the presence of state authority in newly recovered areas; strengthen reconciliation initiatives, bolster security and political gains; and productively engage at-risk youth to deter recruitment by violent extremists.
To stabilize Somalia, the international community should apply the same global standards it has applied elsewhere. Lack of stabilization will provide a fertile ground for the resurgence of violent extremism in recovered areas. International actors should see stabilization in Somalia as part of a spectrum that also includes both conflict prevention and longer-term peacebuilding and reconciliation. As HSM steers Somalia towards a terror-free zone, global partners must act fast to consolidate Somalia’s security gains, stabilize liberated areas by supporting local partners that can re-establish the rule of law, manage conflict, and restore basic services.
Deeq S Yusuf [email protected]