Many Somalis expect the London Conference on 23 February to lead to peace and stability, while others have questioned what a five-hour meeting can achieve. IRIN spoke to a cross-section about their expectations and whether or not it would help to stabilize the country after more than two decades of civil war:
Abdullahi Shirwa, head of the National Disaster Management Agency in Mogadishu:
“I have hopes and fears for the outcome of the London Conference; my hope is that there will be a coordinated intervention plan from the international community and we will not have the current haphazard intervention.
“Secondly, I hope whatever is decided [ensures] that the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will be safeguarded and respected. I would also like to see clear commitment from the international community to help Somalia, not only in humanitarian terms, but politically and economically.
“I would also like to see that help inside Somalia. It does not matter what city or region. You cannot help Somalia from Nairobi, Geneva or New York; it has to be inside [the country] to have any tangible effect.
“My fear is of an outcome that legitimizes a parallel intervention whereby the African Union is doing its own thing, the UN something else; IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] operating on its own and the EU is doing something and the US doing its own thing. That would be a disaster not only for Somalis but for the international community.
“Somalis are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the London conference; I hope it will be one that leads to lasting peace and stability in the country.”
Maryan, a trader in Galkayo, south-central Somalia, who asked for his full name not to be published:
“I know whatever decisions that will come out of London have been decided. [For over 20 years] we have been unable to solve our problems. I don’t see anything wrong with the world being fed up with our problems, saying enough, this is what you are going to do.
“We have a saying [that] if you cannot decide for yourself someone else will do it for you; for Somalia, that time is now. In my opinion, the best option right now to reunite Somalia and end this nightmare is for the world to ask [Ahmed Mohamud] Silaanyo [president of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland] to be the next president of Somalia.
“He is the only Somali who was elected through the ballot box. People stood in line and voted for him. What so-called Somali leader can claim that? I hope that those powers who are making decisions for us will add to their calculations this fact.”
A Somali political observer in Nairobi, who requested anonymity:
“They [the organizers] bring together groups [of Somalis] that are not fighting but ignore the one group [Al-Shabab] that is engaging in war with the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] and the so-called international community.”
“They may be under military pressure at the moment but those who believe that it is the end of this fanatical group are either deluding themselves or are ignorant of the facts on the ground. I hate to say it, but Al-Shabab has to be engaged if we want a real solution,” adding that otherwise, Somalia’s humanitarian, political and security nightmare will continue.”
Abdishakur Mire Aden, an assistant minister in the government of the autonomous region of Puntland, based in the town of Garowe:
“The conference is different from past conferences on Somalia; it is the first time that a major power has shown interest in Somalia.
“The UK is not only hosting but has invited over 40 countries. That in itself is positive. It shows that western powers have finally turned their attention to us. I expect the conference to come up with a Somali government that is worthy of the Somali people and that will build on what has so far been achieved.
“Any government should be broad-based and inclusive. Whatever is discussed, the interests of the Somali people must be paramount.”
Omar Islaw Mohamed, a member of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament, in Mogadishu:
“I hope Somalis from all over will have the chance to talk and come to a unified agreement; it is very important for Somalis to have space to have a dialogue.”
In addition, he hoped the conference would lead to a unified Somalia that would put in place strong institutions that give priority to security and a strong judiciary.
Mohamed Said Kashawiito, a civil society activist, based in Bossaso, Puntland:
“I am not sure what a five-hour conference will accomplish unless decisions have already been made and the outcome is predetermined. I am hopeful that a strong Somalia will emerge from the conference but I am suspicious that since we Somalis have failed to decide our future the world is deciding for us and that we will be back to trusteeship. That is my worst fear. If those attending agree to anything like that, history will not be kind to them.”
Hajiyo Anuni, a civil society activist, based in Mogadishu:
“I have no great expectations from London. Nothing good will come out of it because of the people who are representing Somalis. These are the same people who put us where we are today. They cannot and will not find any durable solution to our problem. They are the problem.
“The best outcome and the best present the world can give to the Somali people is to push them [these representatives] all out.”
Mohamedrashid Muhmud Farah, a Somaliland journalist:
“The only outcome I can see is Somalia ruled by foreigners.
“The best outcome would have been to give the Somalis some space and allow them to [conduct a] dialogue but that does not look like it is going to happen. Those Somalis who go to London will be told to sign an already prepared document and will have no input.”
Bashi Do’oley, a member of the Somali diaspora in Canada:
“My expectation for the London conference is that the outcome and the speeches have already been planned and scripted. Therefore the attendance of Somali participants does not change the outcome of the conference. It may result as in the Libyan conference held in London in 2011 that Britain will go to the UN with a claim that the representatives of the Somali people have requested a no-fly zone by a coalition of the willing (Britain, France, US and probably Qatar). This will result in more conflict for the suffering Somali population who went through a drought and famine a few months ago. The infamous quote from the Vietnam war comes to mind: ‘It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.’
“The real solution is in allowing the TFG to talk to Al-Shabab. If the US is openly talking to the Taliban why not allow [President] Sheikh Sharif to talk to his erstwhile allies? Such an outcome may take us forward.”