June 04, 2012
Somali analysts and officials welcomed the results of the Istanbul Conference on Somalia after its conclusion Friday (June 1st) in Turkey.
Analysts said they hope the momentum of the conference would put Somalia on the right path for building a new future.
The conference, held under the theme "Preparing Somalia's Future: Goals for 2015", issued a statement emphasising the unity of Somalia and the importance of dialogue and transparency in the appointment of new members of government. Attendees called on the international community to provide funds and assistance in the post-transition period to rebuild Somalia's infrastructure.
Members of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and representatives from 57 countries and 11 international organisations attended the two-day conference.
The participants called on the international community to continue its support for building and adequately equipping the Somali security forces, including the national police force, navy, coast guard and intelligence agencies. The conference called on all Somalis to renounce violence and work together within a constitutional framework and to support the current political process, the Roadmap, the Somali reconciliation process and building the state.
The Somali government said in a statement on Saturday that it welcomed the results of the Istanbul Conference, highlighting its economic, security and political implications.
"By addressing the economic issues and chronic impoverishment, the Somali people will have new opportunities for jobs -- which could be alternatives to the violence -- especially for the youth," the statement said.
"The international community has an important role to play in Somalia, especially providing the necessary support to create professional army and police forces that will be responsible for maintaining the security of the country," the TFG said.
"Somali troops with support from the African Union Mission in Somalia have made significant changes on the security front, [and have] implemented most of the stabilisation plan for the country [which has] led to the liberation of more new grounds from the terrorist organisation al-Shabaab."
On the political front, the government reiterated its commitment to the timetable for ending the transition in August, as promised by stakeholders at the conference in Addis Ababa on May 23rd.
"The Somali people have seen major progress over the last eight months, including the longest period of peace in the capital which improved business and reconstruction efforts," the statement said, concluding that, "the government will continue its onslaught against the terrorists as it advances towards the remaining al-Qaeda enclaves in southern and central Somalia."
Political analyst Ahmed Abdirazaq told Sabahi that the Istanbul Conference was "a great opportunity for the government and people of Somalia".
"This conference came at the right time due to the stage that Somalia currently finds itself in," he said. "Preparations are under way for ending the transitional period in August, for the adoption of a new constitution, the formation of a new Somali parliament, the election of a new president and the formation of a new government."
Abdirazaq said he hopes the decisions made in Istanbul are implemented, "therefore providing a real and unprecedented opportunity for Somalia".
"The Istanbul Conference showed that the world is now ready to move forward in support of Somalia and to solve this issue that has been lagging behind for more than two decades," he said. "The conference also reconfirmed the international support for Somalia after enthusiasm had waned in this regard."
Writer and political activist Abdiwahab Ahmed Ali said international interest in the Somali issue is an indicator of how important Somalia's stability is for the region and the world.
"The conferences in London, Istanbul and Rome (meetings of the International Contact Group) all indicate that the world is interested in rebuilding Somalia as the Somali problem is not Somalia's problem alone," he told Sabahi. "Rather, it is a problem with regional and international dimensions that impacts regional and international peace and security because of the existence of terrorism and piracy in Somalia."
He called on Somali leaders to seize this opportunity, which might not come again. "I think this conference provides an historical opportunity to bring new hope to Somalia," he said.
Mohammed Abdullahi, a political analyst living in Mogadishu, said he hopes the Istanbul Conference represents "the beginning of the end of the Somali problem".
"After two more months, Somalia is expected to have a new constitution, the transitional period ends and a new government takes over the current transitional one," he said. "I am confident that developments in the next stage will set Somalia on the right path."
Abdullahi told Sabahi the results of the conference are "a big victory for the Somali people".
The final statement of the Istanbul Conference stressed that ending the Somali crisis rests with Somalis themselves and that the international community can only play a supportive role for what Somalis decide.
Hassan al-Bisri Sheikh Abdulqadir, head of the East Africa Studies and Media Centre in Mogadishu, said Turkey has recently taken a series of political and humanitarian initiatives to help lift Somalia out of the current crisis it faces.
"Turkey is quickly becoming a strong and active ally in the Somali issue and was the first major country to offer humanitarian assistance to reduce the impact of drought and famine that struck Somalia last year," he told Sabahi.
Abdulqadir said Turkey is playing an important role in Somalia.
"When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accompanied by his wife and his key ministers, decided to visit Mogadishu last August, it reinforced the credibility of Turkish efforts towards Somalia in an unprecedented way," he said. "Turkey is implementing several development programmes to rebuild Somalia, including building roads and hospitals and opening new schools. Turkey has also provided hundreds of university scholarships for Somali students to study in Turkey."
University professor Mukhtar Hussein said Turkey's role is unique and comes "at a time when an Islamic and Arabic role in confronting the Somali crisis is almost negligible".
"Ankara is currently spearheading targeted initiatives to create a unified vision shared by the international community towards Somalia to rebuild the country and allow Somalis to be self-reliant," he said. "Turkey has also played a role in bringing closer the differing views of Somali factions."
After the failure of their Mogadishu conference, tribal leaders were flown to Istanbul last month by the Turkish government for conflict-resolution sessions.
Hasan Ozturk, one of the prominent Africa experts from the Ankara-based think-tank Bilgesam, said Turkey's role in Somalia is political, but not limitless.
"Elders from Somali clans are in search for a broker who will convince other elders to abide by an eventual accord and who will not take any sides," he said. "The current crisis of confidence being encountered in Somalia can only be overcome by the presence of a third party such as Turkey who has already established the basis of such a confidence."
Ozturk said, however, that Turkey cannot resolve Somalia's problems alone.
"In the final communiqué of the Somalia conference, it was said that international community should push the parties to agree on a consensus. However, the communiqué underlines that appropriate action should be taken against those blocking progress. At this point, one should ask a key question: If it is apparent that one party is blocking progress, what can Turkey do? Unfortunately, not so much," he said, adding that Turkey should help design the future of Somalia, but not take on so much responsibility.
"[Turkey] should endeavour to produce fair results, but Turkey should not remain the main decisive actor," he said. "This issue requires international co-operation."
Menekse Tokyay contributed reporting from Istanbul.
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