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In Somalia , the wonderful new image of President Hassan Sheikh’s recent government is beginning to suffer for the wrong reasons . Yes , there has been a series of Shebab bombings in Mogadiscio , the last one killing a total of 43 people . Yes , a journalist was shot dead on April 21st , the fourth to die that way since the beginning of 2013 . And yes , the Shebab have not disappeared because they have lost control of the capital . These events are painful and they have to be deplored . But this is not where things are really grating . The real problem is much less violent and is not getting much news coverage : it is the failure of the planned Jubaland Conference . This conference was going to be the test case to define the new philosophical approach to the Somali problem . Since 1991 , Somalia has not been so much the victim of a civil war as that of a failed experiment in social analysis . Law and order cannot be restored , a believable government cannot take root , because the approach  to the Somali problem is basically to bark at the foot of the wrong tree . The demise of the TFG last November will not be regretted . But the enthusiasm at the birth of the SNG seems to be somewhat premature . Why ? Because the new government is persuaded that , through the support of the international community and a modicum of financial transparency , it has regained a legitimacy that enables it to dictate to the rest of society the way it should operate . And doing that in Somalia for a “central government” is the kiss of death .

In the clan-fragmented Somali society authority can only be produced out of consensual debates among actors who are linked by a number of commonalities . Trying to impose authority from the top down among actors on the lookout for their segmentary interests unavoidably ends up in disaggregation .Jubaland (indeed a hot potato , by any reasonable criteria) could have been a test case for a new approach . It did not work because the government , sure of its good faith , international support and legitimacy , approached the problem in forceful manner (which it did not even have the military strength to back) . The Shebab attacks are just a nasty form of opportunism because the Islamic extremists , who are largely discredited in ideological terms , remain deeply embedded in Somali social practice and use that “grounding” to thwart the TNG’s abstract westernized approach . The small clans , for example , see the Shebab as their defenders against the larger ones . They also see them as guarantors of regional autonomy (which they are not ; but never mind) and the expression of a genuine form of federalism . The TNG uses the word “Federalism” and everybody knows it means “centralism”. The gap between the discourse and the reality is too wide and the Jubaland Conference fell through it . Back to square one . Or perhaps 0.5 . Because money is coming into Somalia . Coming but not spreading . It stays in key locations , especially in the capital, and finds it difficult to flow in upcountry where things have not changed much