Mary Harper @mary_harper - Africa Editor, BBC World Service
Rashid Abdi @RAbdiCG - Horn of Africa Project Director, International Crisis Group (via videoconference)
Michael Keating @SRSGKeating - Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, United Nations
Ken Menkhaus @kemenkhaus - Professor of Political Science, Davidson College (via videoconference)
Sara Pantuliano @SaraPantuliano - Managing Director, Overseas Development Institute
It’s been one year since the country emerged from a difficult election process, where the victory of President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ signalled a new era of hope for Somalia after decades of struggling with poverty, drought, famine, conflicts, armed violence and political insecurity. In December, the IMF commended the Somali authorities on their progress on policy reforms and its successful completion of the country’s first Staff Monitored Programme since the end of the civil war.
While it’s encouraging that the President has developed a commendable national agenda embracing reform across all sectors, the country’s peace and stability remain challenging.
Little suggests that al-Shabaab will be contained in the near future. The recent bombing in Mogadishu, the ongoing clan disputes, the weakness of the national security forces and the looming withdrawal of the African Union Mission (AMISOM) indicate that Somalia will continue to face significant challenges. Further, while Somalia managed to avert famine last year, food security needs are nearly double the five-year average with an estimated 5.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The risk of famine continues to loom after four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
Panelists address four key questions at this event on Somalia's future:
- How should we address the conflict drivers in Somalia?
- What should the Government of Somalia do to mitigate the risk of uncertainty with the pending withdrawal of Mission (AMISOM)?
- Should the African Union play a bigger role in containing and defusing conflicts caused by al-Shabaab?
- How can the international community support Somalia to foster peace and national reconciliation?
Mary Harper is the Africa Editor at the BBC World Service and author of 'Getting Somalia Wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State'. She's a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute and the Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies. Mary speaks regularly at conferences, literary festivals and other events.
Rashid Abdi is the International Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project Director based in Nairobi. Formerly, he was Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Senior Analyst specialising in security issues in the region. He previously served as a senior editor with the BBC Monitoring Service and Kenya’s Daily Nation. Rashid holds a Masters in Mass Communication and a PhD in Comparative Religion and Philosophy. He is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute, where he also teaches the annual Horn of Africa Course.
Michael Keating is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia. Mr Keating has an extensive experience in supporting political and peacebuilding transitions, as well as leading complex humanitarian and recovery programmes in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. Prior to this, he was the Associate Director at Chatham House, Senior Adviser to the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Syria and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan.
Kenneth Menkhaus is a political scientist and a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, where he has taught since 1991. Dr Menkhaus is a specialist on Somalia and the Horn of Africa, where he’s published more than 100 articles, book chapters, monographs, and reports, including Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism and ‘Somalia Conflict Analysis’. He was a Fulbright Scholar during his PhD research on Somalia and subsequently taught for two years at the American University in Cairo, between 1989 and 1991, and between 1993 and 1994 was a special political advisor for the UN Operation in Somalia.
Sara Pantuliano is a Managing Director at ODI, where she has led the humanitarian team for six years. She is a member of the Global Future Council on the Humanitarian System of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Managing Editor of Disasters Journal and a Trustee of IRIN news and SOS Sahel. She has recently been appointed as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Muslim Aid, and has served on a range of advisory boards, including Oxford University’s Refugees Studies Centre and the UN Association of the UK