Prisée des touristes pour ses plages et ses safaris, la côte kényane subit depuis plusieurs mois une vague d’attentats meurtriers. Ces crimes, demeurés impunis, commencent à faire fuir investisseurs et agences de voyages. La recrudescence des violences serait due au terrorisme islamiste venu de la Somalie voisine. Mais cette explication, trop aisée, masque les fractures politiques et sociales qui déchirent le pays.
The May 2013 London Somalia conference was a somewhat muted remake of the triumphant February 2012 event . The new tinge of humility that permeated its background was unfortunately fully justified
. The reasons are simple : the Brits are standing up in the first row , clapping and cheering , putting about £190m in the pot . The Americans , who have learned over the years that cheering about Somalia tends to be a self-defeating business , were more restrained and thought $40m was all what the situation called for . The rest of the European Union was transparent and Uhuru Kenyatta was there mostly to try to stay out of jail in The Hague . Why this restraint ? Because in his first six months in power Hassan Sheikh has achieved precious little . Yes the Shebab have moved out of Mogadiscio – sort of . Once in while they blow up a building or kill a few people for no visible reason , something which does little for their popularity . But their military semi-defeat has been , 80 to 90% , the work of foreigners (Ethiopians , Kenyans , Ugandans and Burundians) .
The Somalia National Army is nowhere near capable of holding them off and as that old Somalia hand Matt Bryden recently said in an interview : “The security forces can operate effectively only where the government has earned local legitimacy” . Elegantly said . But the government is not earning any legitimacy anywhere because it is so sure that his foreign friends have put it way above the sweating clanic masses that it considers political loyalty a due .
But God knows political loyalty in Somalia is a product in short supply ! At the London conference Hassan Sheikh , when asked about the absence of a Somaliland delegation , answered that yes there was none , but it did not matter since “Somaliland’s ideas were present” . It was a little bit like boasting that the unions might not be present at a Conservative Party Conference , but , yes indeed , the working class’ philosophy was a fundamental element in the Tory world view . Amusing , to say the least .
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