Ken Menkhaus addresses governance in liberated Kismayo in “Somalia’s Sarajevo” in Foreign Policy:
Since the onset of state collapse and civil war in 1991, Kismayo has been Somalia’s Sarajevo — a chronically contested city, at times half-emptied by armed conflict, at other times bloated with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. It has changed hands many times over the past two decades but has always been in the control of warlords or jihadists and has never enjoyed a day of good governance. Rival Somali clans in Jubbaland — the region of southern Somalia where Kismayo is located — have never been able to agree on how to share the city and have repeatedly fought over it. Even al-Shabab suffered an internal armed battle over control of the seaport in 2008. Thanks to years of political violence, Kismayo has a well-earned reputation as the most difficult and dangerous place for aid agencies to operate in all of Somalia.
This history of violence and instability is tragic, as the city has the potential to be one of the most commercially vibrant, cosmopolitan urban centers in Somalia. The city’s main value is as the site of an international airport and an all-weather seaport near the Kenyan border. Proximity to the large Kenyan market makes trade through Kismayo’s port very attractive; the seaport alone generates lucrative customs revenue for whoever controls it.
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Kenya, IGAD, Mohamud, and the local political players tapped to administer Kismayo should meet in Mogadishu and quickly negotiate the terms of a provisional administration over the city. This negotiation should acknowledge the sovereignty of the new government, recognize that the new government currently lacks the means to directly administer newly liberated space, and set clear timetables and limits on the authority of a city administration that will be explicitly provisional in nature. At a minimum, this will buy some time until the new Somali national government can form a complete cabinet and address the urgent question of how local or regional administrations are to be formed in newly liberated zones.
President Hassan addressed these issues while traveling within Somalia to visit the site of flooding in Beledweyne, as reported by Garowe Online:
Answering a question about the southern port of Kismayo, President Hassan said: “I share my congratulations with Somali National Forces, local forces and AMISOM forces who jointly took control of Kismayo. It is very important that Kismayo gets a civilian administration soon and we are working on this.”
Diplomatic sources in Nairobi told Garowe Online that President Hassan sent a letter to the Kenyan Government last month, urging Nairobi to steer clear of efforts to establish an administration for the Jubba regions of southern Somalia, where Kismayo is located.
One source added: “President Hassan is pushing the sovereignty card and telling Kenya to allow his government the lead in establishing a local administration. However, there is a difference between the type of administration, with President Hassan wanting to appoint a provincial administration similar to Bay and Hiran regions, while there is a consultative process underway in Kenya over the past year to establish a ‘Jubaland’ state administration, in line with Somalia’s federal constitution.”
Assistant Secretary of State Carson set out U.S. priorities and intentions on Somalia more generally in a Monday foreign press briefing:
Somalia is a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself. Over the past 12 months we have seen the completion of the transitional roadmap ending the TFG and creating a new Somali Government. For the first time in nearly two decades, Somalia has a new provisional constitution. It has a newly selected parliament which is half the size of the former parliament and comprises some 18 percent women and whose membership is comprised of some 60 percent university graduates. There’s been a new speaker selected and a new president elected. Great progress has been achieved in Somalia, and this is in large measure because of the combined efforts of IGAD, the African Union, the UN and the international community, and especially the United States.
At this meeting, we heard from Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and it was broadly agreed that the international community would support the new emphasis in priorities of the government.
For our part in Washington, we are determined to do three things. One is to help the new government put in place the infrastructure so that it can run effectively. This means helping to create effective government ministries, have those ministries staffed with effective civil servants and advisors so that they can carry out their government functions.
The second is to help to create a new Somali national army, an army that is subservient to civilian and constitutional control, an army that is able to work alongside of AMISOM and take on increasingly new responsibilities that are much broader than anything AMISOM has been equipped and manned to do. But creating a new strong Somali army, to eventually replace AMISOM is a second priority. And third priority is to provide assistance to the government so that it can deliver services to the people so that it can rebuild and refurbish and re-staff schools, hospitals, and medical clinics, provide assistance so that it can begin to deal with some of its smaller infrastructure issues, providing clean water to populations, helping to restore electrical power and also opening up markets. We also want to help in developing small enterprise and microcredit operations to help the government as well.
So we will be working there. As I said, Secretary Clinton was there. We think Somalia has made enormous progress. We also believe there has been significant military progress against al-Shabaab. AMISOM deserves an enormous amount of credit in driving al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and its environs and also moving against the city of Kismayo. Much credit for the operations in Kismayo go to the Kenyan forces who were a part of AMISOM, but we must praise the leadership of the Ugandan commanders who have led the AMISOM mission over the last four years. But Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya all deserve credit, and they will soon be joined by forces arriving literally today and tomorrow from Sierra Leone to help strengthen AMISOM. But the international community has been in unison with IGAD and the AU, and the U.S. has been a significant and major contributor to this effort.