High-level United States and United Kingdom envoys made a surprise visit to Mogadishu on Sunday. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and the UK’s envoy to Somalia, Mark Bott, met with President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali at the presidential palace. Even though there is no comprehensive report on the issues discussed at the meeting, there are indications that it centred on the end of the transition period in August this year and the allegations of corruption within the transitional government.
Allegations of massive corruption in the transitional government emerged during the Istanbul conference as a result of a World Bank report circulated on its sidelines. Among other things the report alleges high levels of corruption within the Transitional Federal Government, to the extent of US$ 130 million. It specifically discusses the misuse of some US$ 80 million from 2009 donor funding and US$ 50 million from the 2010 financial year. The findings have raised considerable concern within the international community and highlighted the economic dimension of the Somali crisis. This development can be regarded as a blessing in disguise in the sense that even though many actors have been suspicious of the war’s economic dimension and the activities of those profiting from the peace process, there have not been any robust efforts to address the issues. The timing of the report provides an opportunity for those involved in the on-going peace process in the run-up to August to work towards the formation of a new government whose integrity will be above reproach.
Another important issue that emerged from the envoys’ visit is the renewal of the US government’s readiness to make use of sanctions against saboteurs of the peace process. This emerged in a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya after the visit to Somalia. According to Carson, targeted sanctions in the form of travel bans, asset freezes and visa sanctions will be used. The choice of targeted sanctions is laudable since it will target those with influence on the on-going process. This is a welcomed approach, rather than one of imposing general sanctions, which in many cases affect the people more than those the sanctions are meant to restrict.
These developments, however, follow the recent US offer of a US$ 33 million bounty on the heads of seven Al-Shabaab leaders, including Ahmed Abdi Godane. While Al-Shabaab has cynically responded by offering a bounty of 10 camel heads for the US president and 20 chickens for the US Secretary of State, the fact is that Al-Shabaab is increasingly getting isolated as a stakeholder in the Somali crisis. The bounty also raises questions about such choices in dealing with groups whose mainstay for recruitment is martyrdom. However, in the case of Somalia and the critical role of money in the entire crisis, the suspicion of betrayal may lead to further divisions in Al-Shabaab. This in turn could lead to fracturing within the structure of the Al-Shabaab forces.
Compiled by the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division