Al-Shabaab continues with destructive hit-and-run operations, Economic security is a concern, and many other challenges remain. But Somalia is on the road to economic and political stability.
For over two decades, Somalia was known as a failed state- a state lacking effective government, controlled by warlords and terrorists and plagued by frequent phases of natural and man-inflicted disasters.
Nonetheless, Somalia is now constructing crucial public infrastructure and remains a work in progress. But, as the international community's main focus has moved onto other nations on the brink of collapse such as Syria, Libya and Yemen, Somalia's silent growth has made any return to lawlessness and disorder impossible. Today, the country once known for being one of the poorest is rebuilding its economy and re-establishing an effective government.
The foreign states who have established a strong presence in Mogadishu also provide a sense of hope and economic recovery to the capital. The arrival of international diplomats as well as the relocation of United Nations personnel from Nairobi to Mogadishu has reassured many foreign investors and this has had a positive impact on infrastructure development. Furthermore, the clear and strong presence of Turkish and UAE compounds provide much needed security for Villa Somalia and continue to provide reassurance for international and regional organisations to remain engaged with Somalia.
Another crucial but historic milestone on the road to economic and political recovery was achieved this year when the Obama administration filled a diplomatic void in Somalia, swearing in its first ambassador in 21 years. This strategic move continues to strengthen relations between the two states since formal bilateral relations were resumed 3 years ago.
However, the transition from a failed state is a work in progress and Somalia remains politically and economically fragile. Due to economic and security vulnerability, unexpected and unpredictable events can lead to economic shocks. Furthermore, the introduction of the MasterCard payments network has provided government agencies and international aid organisations with an efficient platform to send funds to Somalia via a formal, traceable network that complies with international security standards, excluding the dangers of transferring cash. Despite such signs of economic progress, after 21 years of conflict, the reconstruction of Somalia will require sustained aid that moves the government to assume increasing responsibility for their own economic growth and security.
The current government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has made significant security gains by cooperating with the African Union Mission in Somalia and Military Advisers from a few non- African states. The Somali government has considerably pushed the militant group al-Shabaab to the state's geographic margins. Thanks to greater stability and productive cooperation with the regions of Somaliland and Puntland, there has also been a significant decline in Red Sea piracy.
While al-Shabaab continues with destructive hit-and-run operations, the government has increased security in urban areas and far-reaching swaths of the country, helping rebuild state institutions and the economy. The government has now restored full power and control over Mogadishu's port, a profitable source of revenue gained through taxation, while the Turkish government has renovated and expanded the Aden Adde airport in Mogadishu.
Some government services have been restored due to the improved fiscal situation. Hospitals, clinics and educational institutions have been revived in many urban regions. In partnership with the Somali Government, UNICEF is now helping to ensure 1 million children across Somalia go to school, for their own future and the future of their country.
This year, Somalis will head to the polls to elect a new government. Though this could possibly put Somalia on the road to stability, many worry that this narrow model of electioneering only benefits an elite political class, widening an already existing rift between clans and sub-clans. The model among other concerns empowers tranditional leaders further to nominate their parliamentary (lower and upperhouse) representatives.
Overcoming obstacles to sustainable development and good governance
It is necessary for government institutions to address social, economic and security reforms to avoid falling back to the challenges the previous governments faced. Organised and structured government bodies must continue to put pressure on the government to take responsibility of their own state building.
Ultimately, the challenges Somalia faces can only be addressed through the restoration of stable, legitimate and functional government. It is crucial that a successful counter-terrorism programme needs more engagement with broader society, and helping Somalia to establish democratic and inclusive government. Nonetheless, the immediate solution for improving the security conditions on the ground still largely depends on strengthening both the Somalia security forces and AMISOM peacekeeping mission.
The government has introduced some measures to improve governance in Somalia. For instance, the 30 per cent quota that guarantees seats for women in parliament is a step in the right direction. However, Somalia still faces unique challenges and it is imperative to ensure that the electoral process is fair and inclusive and this will restore the public's confidence in the Somali government.
Past governments failed to tackle corruption due to lack of cooperation and accountability. The current system of selecting Somali parliamentarians is undemocratic as there are unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and also intimidation by clan elders. For instance, some have been allowed to auction off their seats in parliament and others continue to nominate uneducated and objectionable individuals as well as members of their own family. Such undemocratic and unconstitutional practices must be filtered out of the system to uphold good governance.
Somalia is on the road to stability and those in power should ensure that the anarchical past doesn't return. With increasing progress in the economic and security sector, Somalia is now offering a glimmer of optimism for other states that are collapsing due to the their own factional, sectarian and violent extremism.