Ken Menkhaus asks why intensive diplomatic interventions have failed to end the Somali crisis. His critique of six Somali peace conferences identifies lack of political will, misdiagnosis of the crisis, confusion between statebuilding and reconciliation and poor mediation skills as factors that have contributed to failure. It concludes with some constructive lessons, above all the need to ensure greater Somali ‘ownership’ of the peace process.
Diplomatic initiatives have varied in approach, but all have met with failure. Collectively, they have been the subject of intense debate about what has gone wrong and what lessons can be drawn from them.
Read full article
Failed diplomatic initiatives
Somalia is the longest-running instance of complete state collapse in the post-colonial era. It has also been the site of some of the world’s most intensive mediation efforts, designed to bring the country’s twenty-year crisis to a close.
Ten challenges for external mediation
For a variety of reasons, the Somali crisis has been an especially challenging case for external mediators.
Mediation in Somalia since 1991
Although it is frequently stated that over a dozen national reconciliation conferences have been convened on Somalia since 1991, a closer look reveals that only six were fully fledged national peace conferences.
In addition to the six conferences outlined above, a number of other national peace processes were held by external actors but are more appropriately described as peace ‘deals’ – attempts to forge a narrow ruling coalition without wide consultation across Somali society.
Assessing external mediation in Somalia
Many of the problems encountered in Somali national reconciliation processes have been a reflection of obstacles to peace over which external mediators have had little control. This fact is often forgotten in the rush to criticise international diplomats working to resolve the Somali crisis.
Despite the multiple setbacks suffered in external mediation since 1991, a number of important positive lessons have been learnt.