International donors have pledged €1.8 billion at a conference in Brussels as part of a “New Deal for Somalia”, even as many question the Somali government’s ability to deploy the funds. A bulk of the money is to come from the European Union (EU) which pledged € 650 million to aid the troubled nation.
Somalia has witnessed two decades of relentless conflict and remains divided among rival power centres in the north, south and centre, while the Al Shabaab Islamist militia remains active across the region. Nearly a third of the country has broken away to form the autonomous Republic of Somaliland, while the region of Puntland has repeatedly threatened to secede. A recent deal with Ahmed Madobe, the self-appointed leader of Jubaland, has broad measure of stability to the south.
While the Al Shabaab militia described the deal as “Belgian waffle. Sweet on the outside but really has not much substance” on their twitter account, Somali President Sheikh Hassan Mahmoud described the conference as a new chapter that would take Somalia from “emergency to recovery”.
The government of Somaliland boycotted the conference.
“This meeting was for Somalia, we have been an independent state and a sovereign nation for a long time,” said Somaliland’s Foreign Minister, Mohamed Behi Yonis in an interview in Addis Ababa, “Our development plan and the development status we are in is far ahead of Mogadishu so we certainly need a deal that is distinct and separate from Somalia.”
Mr. Yonis said EU had agreed to a separate arrangement with Somaliland within the New Deal for Somalia. “We are getting a piece of the pie,” he said, “We made it very clear to our brothers in Mogadishu that we do not want to be part of the Somalia federal system.”
“The EU and Somalia argue that now is a good time to adopt the New Deal,” said Mary Harper, a BBC analyst and author of Getting Somalia Wrong, on her website, “But it is possible that the Brussels meeting will simply be the latest in the long list of expensive conferences on Somalia that end with ambitious communiqués but have little or no impact on the development of the country.”