The following are notes for a speech I gave last Friday at McGill’s Center for Developing Area Studies. It focuses on the major points of Canadian foreign policy issues towards Somalia:
Such a long-term, resumed “trusteeship” is required to return Somalia to good governance. That implies a new rule of law, whether under sharia or, preferably, under the mixed system that the transitional regime seems to support. It also requires jump-starting the country’s ruined economy, refurbishing its schools and almost non-existent health system, opening airports and harbours and building roads – while the same time nurturing greater political freedom. At some point a fully participatory meeting of clan elders and other leaders should be convened to chart and charter the political future of Somalia.
Robert Rotberg, Harvard, Financial Times, December 2006
Traditionally, Islamic finance has been widely thought to be against the use of interest-based transactions such as those provided by mainstream conventional banks. Rather, Islam seeks to promote the idea of partnership-type structures, where depositors provide money through a bank or other institution and borrowers use that money for investment purposes. Profit or loss from the investment is supposed to be shared between the provider and the borrower, with the bank charging a fee for managing the transaction.
Other obvious prohibitions include investments in anything considered a vice under Islamic law, such as pork, investments in hotels where alcohol is served and outlets for gambling, as well as businesses involved with the trade of arms.
Farhan Bokhari, Financial Times December 15, 2006
It is worth recalling that, in the spring and summer of 2005, a broad coalition of civic groups, clans, Islamists, women’s groups and businesspeople in Mogadishu briefly succeeded in eliminating militia roadblocks in the city, in what was described locally as a “people power” initiative to bring public safety to capital. Likewise, in the first half of 2006 Mogadishu-based clans broke with their “warlords” and supported the Islamists out of frustration with the criminality and lawlessness those militia leaders fomented. This suggests an intriguing pattern — namely, that leaders of whatever stripe whose policies produce insecurity for their constituencies are now quickly losing the support of the community. Business and real estate investments in Mogadishu have grown considerably in the past decade, and may be producing a strong preference on the part of investors to avoid instability and war.
In sum, the Mogadishu of 2007 is not the Mogadishu of 1993. If this evolution of interests “from warlord to landlord” continues to occur within Somalia’s commercial, political and traditional elite, and if potential external spoilers can be convinced to allow real political dialogue to proceed, Somalia may yet emerge from its long nightmare.
Ken Menkhaus www.harowo.com
I am very committed to Somalia, a place I have never visited. It is partly because of friendships. But it is also because of the need to recalibrate the foreign policy of democracies towards areas where international neglect and the selfishness of geostrategic realism has produced negative consequences. It is also opportunistic, because this is where Canada can do some good, adapting abstract principles of nation-building to the practical demands of solving complex social and political problems in the 21st Century.
The exercise of Iraq obscures the successes of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The issues that underlie all these areas are with us today. The challenge is one that is important because Somalia, as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kosovo, Darfur is intrinsically important, but also because it is a test of a new style of Canadian foreign policy, one which does not hide behind abstract and well-intended principles of internationalism, but one which seeks to deal with the problems of the world in a tough-minded manner.
There are three things that Canadians can do:
I learned from my father about the residue of European colonialism and the injustices done by making the battles of European proxies somehow the moral currency of international law. From Biafra, Bangladesh, Northern Cyprus, to Somalia, the Ogaden, Baluchistan, Kashmir and all the unresolved issues of the early 21st Century, the convenience of European powers produced a situation which produces complex challenges to practitioners of 21st Century foreign policy. The questions have become more intense since the extraordinarily ill-concocted (and semantically oxymoronic) War on Terror. What are the legitimate options available to a Tibetan nationalist or an Uzbek democrat or an Ogaden Somali or an Igbo nationalist in the new world order? What are the appropriate ground-rules for political mobilization? It is to the credit of the Harper government that the extraordinary rendition of a Uighur-speaking Canadian citizen from Uzbekistan to China is being challenged. The rest of our lives will be spent disentangling communities from the residue of the past and extricating individuals who civil rights have been abused as an historical convenience. For these reasons alone, the future of northeast Africa is paramount.
The vicissitudes of European history should not lead to a justification for the realpolitik of 2007. To foreign policy makers, the challenge is: what is an Ogaden Somali who made no consent to live in Ethiopia to do legally? What are the citizens of Somaliland or Puntland to do? How are the resources and heritages of this region to be organized in a manner that provides an opportunity for sustainable prosperity?
For Canadian foreign policy, these issues are of great moral relevance. The change from the Trudeau notion on Biafra that all states are frozen in some kind of amber regardless of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their formation, to the post-Bangladesh recognition of a realpolitik-driven redrawing of boundaries, to the statement of democratic principles embodied in the Clarity Act of 1997 in Canada shows the importance of Canada’s voice on these issues. Our first foreign policy duty is to articulate a Global Clarity Act which establishes the circumstances and processes under which communities can reorganize their post-colonial political circumstances. Without this, the 21st Century will be an endless replay of the attempts to reconstitute viable political entities from a world which colonial administrators in Brussels, Paris, London and Rome created.
The second task is to create a framework for regional economic integration. The only way that complex sovereignty functions in this multicultural planet is if we create new instruments for collaboration. It is not just a Marshall Plan we need for Africa. It is a Monnet plan. The Marshall Plan is about capital formation; the Monnet Plan is about efficient use of capital once formed. Economic integration is a prerequisite to democratic transformation. The complexity of the oil exploration of the Ogaden only makes this issue more urgent. The strategic objectives of economic integration and capital market formation meet the practicalities of globalization and the development of corporate vehicles to explore and commercialize oil resources. Malaysian and Swedish companies have to work with the Ethiopian government on Ogaden oil. The profits from these operations require that international investment banks and multilateral development agencies ensure that this commercialization produces benefits for the entire region. Without the establishment of some transnational vehicle for investing profits in economic development (a Horn pension trust), oil will be again a curse which exacerbates the post-colonial geographies of the region.
The third objective of Canadian foreign policy in the region is to create the preconditions for personal security and the right to search for prosperity. No one believes this will be easy. Few believe it is even possible. The experiences of rule of law construction elsewhere raise some questions which talented thoughtful political scientists of the next generation have to consider. One of the problems of conventional approaches to security is that the view which I will call Rumsfeldian (to discredit it) that the entire state has to be secured has come to dominate international thinking. Security strategies based on incubation and containment has much better longterm chances of success. I have advocated in a number of contexts that we must never allow democratic energies to be dissipated or democracies to be attacked. Nicholas Kristof made an eloquent pledge that constitutes a basis for a new kind of Monroe Doctrine:
We can do far more to train armies in Africa. The deal we offer African presidents should be along these lines: You run a country cleanly and tolerate dissent, and we’ll help ensure that no brutal force come out of the jungle to create chaos and overthrow you. (“Aid Workers with Guns”, New York Times, March 11, 2007).
In the real world, we have already accepted the notion of incubated democracies or peaceful fortresses. In countries like Pakistan, we accept that there is modern, globally-oriented elite which makes Lahore a potentially prosperous place to invest. The geopolitics of the 1980s and 1990s made the incubation and containment approach unrealistic post 2001, putting extraordinary strains on the Pakistani elite. In Somalia, there are geographical pockets where efficient capital markets and collaborative rule-of-law based decision-making might be incubated. One hopes that one moves out from there to create the potential for expanding the scale of this zone of prosperity. At minimum, it must not be contaminated by other kinds of activities.
The construction of peacekeeping forces which permit the development of prosperous zones of activities without resolving all external sources of conflict brings to mind the 60-year effort to create co-prosperity initiatives in Jewish and Arab Palestine, a challenge we are still trying to meet. Israel is, at one obvious level, evidence at what an incubated free market can accomplish in a region, which, if it became part of a Palestinian-Israeli zone of economic prosperity could serve as a significant economic development model. (The Peres Centre and the Aix Working Group are templates for this kind of vision).
The tasks of building functional arrangements between clans, tribes, organized interests around state operations remains one of the great challenges of contemporary political science and public policy. In Canada, we are still experimenting with models of coalition-building between regional interests. The controversies about globalization and economic modernization confused much public policy discussion in the 1990s. The controversies about global security and counterterrorism strategies have preoccupied public policy discussions in the early 21st Century. Somalia provides, not in some laboratory sense, but because of its unique history and potential role, an opportunity for a more strategic policy-making and institution-building than before. The international community has learned from successes in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, and the challenges in Afghanistan.
First, we need to disarm private militias which require a courage and a military discipline from peacekeeping forces. While the Nigerians and Ugandans have played a courageous and self-sacrificing role, there is no doubt that we need a permanent peacemaking capability to deal with situations like Somalia. Without policing, there can be no prosperity.
Second, we need to invent incentives for coalition-building. That is why models of economic integration are so important. Tigre-speaking northeast Africans and Amharic-speaking northeast Africans have to be incented to participate in projects. All forms of collaborative institution building are beneficial in this regard. An Ethiopia and Eritrea World Cup soccer team, a northeast African soccer league, a music label that built across linguistic groupings are all private sector and social entrepreneur backed concepts worth pursuing. But at the end of the day, the preconditions for sustainable prosperity rest or fall on a rule of law based legal system which agrees on the process by which disputes are resolved, and an efficiency-oriented capital market which gives all players an incentive to participate in economic growth activities. This will take a while, but the blueprints do exist.
The incentives for global security require that these activities take place as rapidly as possible, without creating distortions as individuals and small groups use the power of a post-colonial state to consolidate financial advantages and privileges. Economic growth is not simply a western or Chinese of Indian concept; it underlies human activities and the application of intellectual capital to commerce. By bringing together economic talent in northeast Africa in a single location, like an IMD to bring Swiss, German and French business minds together, Canadians could play a significant role in creating the preconditions for global prosperity. A business School, located in northeast Africa, modeled on IMD, inviting participants from all the cultures and clans of northeast Africa and designing a curriculum which not only linked talented young Somalis and Ethiopians to global leadership, but which was customized to the unique situations of northeast Africa and its specific requirements for institution-building is well worth the time spent designing it. Canadians have to focus our foreign international development activities on things we do well and can export. Concentrating our expertise in managing the global economy and in creating the preconditions for entrepreneurial growth is a worthwhile CIDA initiative, more focused and disciplined than much of our international development activity.
The 1970s produced a generation of academics who believed that statistical analysis was objective and removed the universities from the complex interaction of ideas, interests, strategies and coalitions which are the ingredients political change. I am greatly encouraged by my sampling of new thinking in academic life as I have started to read the work of people whose ideas were formed in the 1990s and 2000s. There are some extremely important themes that can only be addressed from universities and intellectual communities like the Centre of Developing Area Studies at McGill. The work I will call “Beyond Clans and Tribes: Citizenship and Social Capital in a Global Society” can only be done by a mix of thoughtful people, oriented towards issues like “nation-building” or “civic institution-building” in Somalia. Only then can we overcome the specialization and over-quantification of issues which has made most people outside the bubble of the university highly skeptical about the value of much of the “research” done in politics, economics and business. In looking to the future, Beyond Clans and Tribes requires that political scientists understand the incentives to cooperate in search of a greater good, growth patterns, integration into the global economy, the elimination of insect-born diseases, the construction of distribution systems for medical care. Task-oriented and result-oriented initiatives build functioning organizational systems. That is what we have to concentrate on. A customized curriculum at a NE African B-School would have a customized curriculum on From Clans to markets. The design of these case studies alone is an exciting project. From this project, we need to develop a new approach to building political institutions: one which creates incentives to build alliances beyond clans and tribes. Why do Slovakia and Slovenia work today despite all the dire predictions a decade ago? In significant part, it is because they built social capital , the community values which fostered democratic institutions. In addition, the excuse of blaming someone else for economic and social failures was removed. We need to approach institution-building in Shiva Iraq, in Somalia and throughout the world with a similar logic. Our first task is to build social capital and organizational systems that produce focused results. Somalia is a good place to start this process and Canada’s role in Somalia requires that we facilitate this.
The development of economic models that are appropriate to the region remains a test for strategic decision-makers looking at the Horn of Africa and NE Africa. It has taken half a century to develop models of economic integration in Europe which have produced business models for cross-border investment. But there is a way that a customized business school could facilitate economic integration and open markets. To arrive at this political destination, the international community has to develop a serious strategy for moving from clans to markets. This will require sustained infrastructure investment and the type of concerted policing activity called for in Robert Rotberg’s Financial Times piece (reproduced below). Without that commitment, there is no point of talking about economic integration and Ethiopian and Somali capital market structure innovations. The cost of even doing East Timor has proven to be a test of international resources. The permanent policing infrastructure required for Somalia requires the contribution of Canadian, NATO but also Indonesian, Malaysia, Chinese, Indian activities. The need for a global peacekeeping force was made apparent by events in Afghanistan before Darfur and before the events in Somalia.
I opened with three quotes from articles, Rotberg’s excellent analysis of the need for innovation in global peacekeeping, Bokhari’s perceptive Financial Times article on the need for an Islamic MBA and the role of the Gulf States in promoting such an exercise, and Menkhaus’ analysis of the current situation in Somalia from www.harowo.com . There is the ingredient here for a strategy. Capital formation will be easier to do in a stable Somalia than in an equivalently stable Afghanistan because of the role of the Somali diaspora in remitting cash from Italy or Canada or the UK. The challenge is to find ways to make remittances a more predictable source of investment capital, and in the case of a sharia law society, to do it in the manner of private equity or venture capital firms. These are starting points. Somalia is a challenge to the world conscience. It may be the 21st Century equivalent of Italy, integrated, but highly regionalized a century and a half after the Risorgimento. Somalia might end up like the German-speaking countries of Europe, with Somaliland as Austria, and Puntland as German-speaking Switzerland. Somalia may end up like Congo, but its geography makes it unlikely that western governments will accept that.
Ken Menkhaus’ February 13th analysis of the situation in Somalia has been extremely helpful to me in the formation of ideas for this speech.
See following for materials and commentaries on North East Africa:
An earlier essay on Somalia appeared on my website.
A critical view of the role of the Ethiopian leadership under President Meles by Paul Wachter appeared in the Nation.
On the complicated issues of the role of the Ogaden in North East African politics, the Ogaden website contains much information.