The outcome of the first phase of the Jubbaland Reconciliation Conference held in Mogadishu this week was widely hailed as a success for the Somali federal government and the federalism process.
More than 200 delegates representing the federal government, the Interim Jubba Administration (IJA) led by Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe, rival leaders including Barre Adam Shire Hirale and Iftin Hassan Basto, and international allies, including the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), attended the conference November 3rd-6th.
At the conclusion of the conference, delegates called for peace and unity in the Jubbaland region, and agreed to end hostilities among stakeholders and work together to support the federalism process.
The participants also discussed peace-building, security issues and reconciliation, how to integrate local armed forces into the Somali National Army, and how to intensify the fight against al-Shabaab.
Agreement brings together rival factions
Twelve members representing the political sides of the Gedo and Jubba regions jointly signed the final communique of the agreement.
Of the 12 members, six represented the current interim administration led by Madobe, while the other six represented rivals to the Jubbaland presidency, including one member who signed the agreement on behalf of Hirale.
Hirale leads a militia that is stationed 10 kilometres from Kismayo and was Madobe's main rival when the IJA was established. Until now, he has not supported Madobe's administration and has been critical of the federal government.
Abdi Shire Warsame, who signed the agreement and on behalf of Hirale, said Hirale was happy with the outcome of the conference, even though he could not attend due to personal reasons.
"On our part, we are committed to finding peace for the people who live there, but it is necessary for the current [Jubba] administration to also assume responsibility for the issue," he told Sabahi.
He said the agreement could lead to peace, but it needs to be implemented through action.
Hirale will attend the second phase of the conference that will take place in Kismayo, Warsame said. A date has not yet been set for the Kismayo meeting.
Abdulqadir Haji Lugadhere, one of the signatories to the agreement representing the Madobe camp, said the IJA also was happy with the agreements reached in this round of negotiations.
He praised the federal government for its role in leading what he termed a "fruitful" conference and for supporting the IJA.
Lugadhere said the Madobe administration would ensure all peoples of the Gedo and Jubba regions would be included in policy making. "No one will be alienated, everyone will be equal," he told Sabahi.
In the next round of talks in Kismayo, he said, stakeholders will discuss how to best implement the items agreed to in Mogadishu.
Abdirahman Santur Moalim, one of the elders from Kismayo who attended the conference, said initially he was opposed to the Madobe administration, but now supports his leadership after the Mogadishu conference.
"The government views this as a solution and convinced us to support the administration," he told Sabahi. "That is how we came to support the agreement and we will work with the administration."
Moalim called on people who have opposed the administration thus far to support the peace agreement, as it promises to be inclusive.
"We spent 23 years in warfare. It is not good to oppose this agreement, so let us choose peace," he said.
Nonetheless, there are still some politicians and traditional elders who oppose the agreement and say it is exclusionary.
Mohamed Sayid Adam, a resident of Beled Hawo in Gedo region and a former lawmaker during the Transitional Federal Government, said the agreement was faulty and misleading.
"The agreement [that was signed in] Mogadishu is not a solution for the Jubbas and Gedo," he told Sabahi. Adam accused the government of trampling on the law and ignoring the correct system for creating federal states.
"We wanted the areas controlled by al-Shabaab in these regions to be freed first, and then the people could make decisions on their future," he said. "This has to be brought into accord with the constitution."
Hassan Hiloule Osman, a traditional elder from the Hawadle clan, told Sabahi that his clan was not invited to the conference and felt excluded.
"We are among the people who live in the Jubbas and we were not consulted on the conference," he said.
National interests above personal interests
During the closing ceremony of the conference, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called on the people of the Gedo and Jubba regions to support the agreement, saying that in the end they will be led by an administration that represents all communities in the region.
"It is an honour to take part in this important and historic meeting which requires our joint commitment for it to lead to a lasting reconciliation that promotes regional peace and progress," Mohamud said.
"The aim of this meeting was for people in the regions to talk about issues and resolve regional matters," he said. "It is crucial that the Interim Jubba Administration becomes one that is representative of the region and that all people are included in policies. For that reason, we must [go forth] with maturity, patience, tolerance and put national interest ahead of personal interests."
"Our long-term goal is to lead the country to a place where it can compete with countries in the world. We want Somalia to hold weight internationally, and that can be achieved if we are united and find a path for sustainable reconciliation," he said.
Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon called the agreement "a great achievement and huge opportunity" for the region.
"This agreement gives all the communities of Jubba the opportunity to move forward towards a peaceful and united region," he said in a statement after the conference.
"I want the IJA to be the stepping stone to a full-fledged Jubbaland federal state and the symbol of federal success in Somalia," Shirdon said. "This agreement gives Jubbaland and Somalia that opportunity."
The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia Mahamat Saleh Annadif also praised the outcome of the conference.
"I wish to re-affirm the readiness of the African Union and that of AMISOM in particular to supporting the implementation of the recommendations made during the conference," he said in a statement.
The final communique
According to a communique released after the conclusion of the conference, the parties agreed:
- That all parties accept the Addis Ababa Agreement in August 2013.
- That people of Jubba strive to build consensus, forgive each other, settle property issues, avoid provocations that could lead to conflict.
- That all stakeholders support the interim administration's inclusive structure to be completed in respect of minority rights, and the federal government of Somalia should take a lead role on this issue.
- That the final phase of the reconciliation conference be held in Kismayo.
- That the role of civil society in Jubba regions be strengthened.
The delegates also agreed to build and integrate the Jubba security forces including police, military and guards into a united national force. They also recommended that other employment opportunities to be created for those who are not ready to join the army.