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Is The JNA Poisonous Or Nutritional Pill?
About four (4) years ago I wrote a short article with the title, “what is in a name” in which I argued that international organizations irrespective of country of origin or orientation should be welcomed only if and when they deal with Somaliland (SL) as a separate political entity albeit unrecognized.
That was then; today I no longer hold that view. The controversy over the Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) initiative sponsored by the World Bank and the United Nations has revived the subject of how long and how far and under what circumstances Somaliland can tolerate being called Northwest by the international organizations and what pernicious effect that would have on her quest for political recognition. In light of this furor I revisited the subject and found myself on the same side of an administration that I despise strongly by advocating Somaliland’s share of the pie takes precedence over the stigma of a name.
Aware of that unholy alliance, I proffer my few cents worth about the political correctness or incorrectness of participating JNA by first briefly touching the relationship between the two organizations (Bank & the U.N), elucidating the process, examining the critic’s objection and finally stating the pros and cons and I must add hastily that my advocacy of cooperation isn’t an endorsement of the project itself which I belief was conducted in a haphazard manner
As you might be aware, the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and IMF and their sister regional financial development institutions like the African/Asian development Banks and the Economic Commissions such as the one for Africa are all the creatures of the United Nations and that is why simply those who aren’t members of the U.N. like SL can’t directly participate the multilateral loans or grants such institutions disburse. In another words, the World Bank takes its political cue from the U.N. and therefore doesn’t involve itself on which is a member State and which isn’t. As a result the only way Somaliland can benefit from the purse of such organizations is to claim its share on whatever is dispensed in the name of Somalia. Therefore, at its present political limbo, Somaliland has either to accept the status quo or else forego in fear.
The Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) is an economic dimension parallel to that of the political reconciliation, I think, which the international community has launched to restore Statehood after the debacle of Somalia. If the current political fiasco is anything to go-bye, the International effort on the political dimension has failed miserably and whether the economic endeavor would fair better or not is to be seen but that is not an excuse to block it. This is a poorly prepared project where the sponsors just assigned figures to what they call clusters and then would host a donor conference hoping the ceiling amount would be pledged. But whether the pledges would be honored is another matter and if Afghanistan or Iraq is any indication, one-third or one-half of the pledges might come through in which about 60 cents or less to a dollar of the amount collected would ultimately reach the people or the intended projects. That is the process.
The critics exclaim that cooperating with and participating the JNA initiative would prejudice Somaliland’s quest for political recognition but they gloss over the fact that SL was tolerating being labeled as a region in the eyes of the international organizations since inception. It is common knowledge that all aid bilateral or multilateral that comes to SL comes to her as a region and not as a sovereign country. For example, the U.N. (UNDP, UNICEF, WHO) as well as the European Union (EU) and other NGOs such as OXFAM were operating in Somaliland since the beginning and they all label Somaliland as a region in their literature. This classification as a region is nothing new. So, what is the brouhaha? It appears the critics are either unaware of this fact or discriminating on the size of the potential donation, which is expected to be much larger than what is currently available. Additionally, perhaps, the critics are also preying on the inconsistency and the inability of the Administration to articulate its change of heart.
The critics are also missing another important point. Somaliland is not signing under the dotted line of Somalia; it is accepting her share proudly in her own name. After all, the JNA is an economic assistance and humanitarian for that and hence no political strings attached as confirmed by the sponsors and would not prejudice Somaliland’s quest for recognition. Time and again, friends and foes alike SL has pleaded her case with the international community and even though it failed so far to convince anyone, more aid would not undermine her case. Her case is languishing not because of accepting international aid but because of the incompetence of this administration and that is a set back but a temporary one which SL would overcome.
To confuse it more, the critics have stated that the TNG would be managing such funds and the process would force SL to become subservient to Abdillahi Yusuf but that would never happen. Donors have come out of age and they alone manage their own funds and neither the TNG nor Somaliland would be entrusted with these funds irrespective of what Somaliland and Somalia claim; rather one of their surrogates such as the UNDP who is already on the ground would disburse the funds per the need assessment. Rest assured that Abdillahi Yusuf wouldn’t sign the check to Somaliland
Of course, SL has a choice but what would it benefit by rejecting the biggest slice of the pie that yet has to come her way while she is already indulging smaller slices from the same donors who are currently operating in SL. Is not that hypocrisy? If Somaliland is rejecting it on principle, why not oust all organizations that label her as a region in their literature as I advocated four years ago. Taking that route would only deprive financial opportunity many have as a result of employment by the thriving NGOs. Just think of the booming housing market where every landlord is betting to lease to an NGO. Think of it. Such a move would not be only costly but it would also be senseless.
Somaliland has over the years developed severe reaction to anything Italian except Pasta, a situation the critics have taken advantage and over dramatized the existing phobia. The fact infamous names Like Minister Jurile appeared on the documents a great deal also provided them food for rejecting it off hand. But in fairness Somaliland was Johnnie come late and that have created a perception that the JNA is a conspiracy engineered by Abdillahi Yusuf but peddled by the U.N. and the World Bank.
In case one wonders the motive for changing my heart four years after I advocated otherwise it is simple and more pragmatic. At the time asking such organizations to shape up or ship out was feasible because they were number wise few and size wise small and expelling them would have minimum economic impact but today they are the only industry in town and the hopes of many in terms of employment and other economic activity is pinned to the burgeoning international organizations and NGOs.
However, my change of heart is beyond the economic aspect: It is cooperation and not confrontation; it is participation and not isolation or alienation and more practically it would be politically inexpedient to throw the baby with the bath water. U.N. technocrats that head or represent international organizations are in a position to set and/or influence policies and alienating them would not advance Somaliland’s aspiration nor would accepting the hand-out in any way be interpreted as a sell out and a sympathy to the “Somaliweyn” concept. That concept is untenable and is as dead as a doornail for all practical purposes and it remains just a dream or a ghost in the minds of few. Frankly, it would be a miracle if the South comes out of this in one piece.
Hence, the fear is unfounded. Somaliland remains unrecognized politically, so is the South (Somalia). It is about time SL claim the bigger slice of any pie that has the name of Somalia but more importantly it is about time SL challenge Somaliweyn/South in the international arena. Wherever the South appears, SL should appear and that would eventually force the international community to wake up to the reality on the ground. My advice is take your lawful seat as an equal in the donor conference in Rome if invited and even if not invited crash the gate; look your nemesis on the eye and give them that LOOK. The chances are the South would look for the closest EXIT. Go and break a leg, the JNA isn’t a poisonous pill designed to condemn SL to the Unitarian State. In fact, it may prove to be nutritional, just what SL needs. Good Luck in Rome