Since February this year the Somali National Army, working alongside AMISOM forces, have liberated twelve major towns and district capitals from Al Shabaab. Following liberation, it is essential that local government structures take root so that the Somali state can begin to assert some authority and control in the newly recovered districts – both to mitigate the risks of a power vacuum and to begin the process by which basic services such as security and justice might be provided to the people of these districts.
The Somali Ministry of Interior and Federalism (MoIF) set out the process by which it envisaged district administrations would be created. The MoIF’s ‘Stabilisation Plan’ started with deployment of twelve-person Caretaker Administrations to each of the districts, and then set out a process of creating interim and then permanent administrations. Under the plan, this political work is to be complemented by projects aimed at improving government infrastructure and supporting community priorities in the districts.
But the first step was to train the individuals the MoIF had identified for deployment to the districts as Caretaker Administrators, to bring them together in Mogadishu and to prepare them for the daunting task that lay ahead: to be the first Somali government officials in districts that had long been under the control of Al Shabaab.
So it was in April this year that the Stability Fund, jointly with Sweden (which has since become a donor to the Fund), contracted the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy (EISA) to develop and deliver training to some 165 caretaker administrators. Working closely with the MoIF and other Stability Fund consultants, EISA designed a week-long training package covering issues ranging from the roles of the caretakers, through service delivery on to how to manage the process of establishing interim administrations. The course was run three times over consecutive weeks, ending with a graduation ceremony attended by President Hassan Sheikh.
While the graduation ceremony marked the end of the training, it was just the beginning of the historic task faced by the administrators who have since deployed out to 12 districts where they have started to lay the foundations for governance and development. The challenges faced by these individuals are immense – not least the hardships posed by insecurity, austere conditions and poor access, but also the difficulties of negotiating conflicting political agendas, advancing the local process of establishing interim administrations, and delivering some support to the local population to demonstrate the benefits governance can bring.
The caretaker administrator training course was also just the beginning of the Stability Fund’s work to help build effective governance and deliver tangible results to the population. The Fund is working in several of the newly recovered districts to support the administrators and implement the MoIF’s plan, and will continue to expand its presence as more and more districts become accessible.