Today world leaders met in London for a conference addressing the ongoing crisis in Somalia. The one-day event included deliberations on the failed state’s governance (or lack thereof), piracy, terrorism, famine, and the African Union’s Mission in Somalia. Considering these problems have wracked Somalia for two decades, the notion that any progress will be made in a few hours is dubious.
The conference is further burdened by the feckless actors that claim to represent Somalia, otherwise known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Days before the conference, equipped with a sense of entitlement and a begging bowl, Somalia’s interim prime minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, stated, “Somalia expects a lot from this conference. We expect the establishment of a trust fund for Somalia. We expect a complete reconstruction plan for Somalia. We expect a Marshall Plan for Somalia.”
Considering that the TFG has stolen 96 percent of bilateral assistance to Somalia, Ali is in no position to request, let alone demand, more money.
As long as the international community continues to recognize the TFG as a legitimate governmental body, the longer the crisis will continue. A bottom-up approach to governance—whereby politicians are elected by Somalis—is ideal, but such a structure is a pipedream unless the international community ceases to recognize the TFG.
J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council sums up the TFG’s participation in the conference aptly: “The only result this has produced is to incentivize the rent-seeking behavior and corruption of so-called officials incapable of restoring a modicum of security and governance.… What is needed is a ‘bottom-up’ approach.”
Despite these challenges, such attempts by British Prime Minister David Cameron to address Somalia are laudable as was Foreign Secretary William Hague’s recent travel to Mogadishu. For too long world leaders, including the Obama Administration, have viewed Somalia as a poor investment, one that would take too much time and resources away from a stretched foreign policy agenda.
However, the U.S. can no longer afford to be a spectator to terrorism and piracy. Though the London conference is not likely to produce any meaningful results, it’s a step in the right direction and one the Obama Administration can learn from as it continues to develop its policy for the region.