By Zareem Iqbal
Somalilandsun-Since October 2010, the US and the larger international community have actually shifted their focus to supporting more localized efforts at governance, in what is referred to as the ‘dual-track’ strategy, which involves engaging local administrations and the TFG simultaneously. The change in approach was prompted by the fact that the TFG no longer adequately reflected the realities on the ground, nor truly represented their ‘constituents,’ who in many cases were forced to move forward with establishing their own systems of civil administration–based upon traditional clan alliances and rivalries but also reflective of new threats and divisions.
Seemingly the Obama Administration has sought to avoid policy mistakes made by the preceding Bush Administration, which actually did apply a localized approach but one that only emboldened warlords and other corrupt entities (the reason being that the Bush Administration was chiefly concerned with countering the Islamist/Al Qaeda threat; its political policies therefore were mostly misguided).
The Obama Administration’s focus on bolstering functioning local governance structures developed in part from the apparent success of small, newly-emerged regional administrations that had been created over the course of the past few years; the most prominent being the Galmadug administration, which actually operates separately from the Puntland government and has succeeded in unifying several clans and establishing a functioning level of governance within the area it operates.
The Obama Administration’s change in strategy, which basically represented the ‘bottom-up’ approach that many Somali experts had for so long advocated for and seemed to really reflect Somalia’s cultural practices and tendencies, unfortunately had somewhat negative but predictable consequences that once again presented new political challenges. When the various clan and warlords and their groups learned of the Administration’s new initiative to support local and regional administrations , they immediately began forming ad hoc administrations , believing that if they failed to do so, they would not be included in the political process. As a result, over 20 or so mostly cosmetic administrations have now emerged, which has prompted some to criticize the dual track.
The most common criticism of the dual track is that it risks further entrenching warlord and clan-based systems of governance which includes clan alliances and rivalries. Those seeking real democratic governance in Somalia naturally oppose such strategies as they do not advance unity and collaboration amongst the various clans; they essentially do nothing to ascend the harmful practices of collectivism. However, in defense of the dual track, it must be emphasized that democratic ideals are not inherent within Somalia and therefore, as past experience has so plainly shown, are not easily instilled within the local population–which is predominantly deprived of any educational and civil systems and institutions: places where people could learn and practice such ideals.
This is where the dual track approach and the subsequent emergence of local administrations may actually have some positive effects: by laying the groundwork and infrastructure needed for transferring and instilling more democratic ideals and practices. If the US and the international community were to only reward and bolster those ‘local administrations ‘ that actually succeeded in implementing functioning levels of governance and social services and organized security mechanisms (i.e. the Galmadug administration recenly requested assistance from the TFG to help train and professionalize its security forces), it may finally provide the incentive necessary for local populations to rally, organize and eventually democratize. Somalis have never been provided with real, tangible incentives for adopting any system of governance; localizing political/economic incentives may finally be the key.