Cablegate: Somalia - a/S Frazer Meeting with Ars Leaders

DE RUEHNR #2580/01 3180501
P 130501Z NOV 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - A/S Frazer Meeting with ARS Leaders

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On October 29, Assistant Secretary Frazer
discussed the importance of a political solution as the foundation
for increasing security and addressing Somalia's humanitarian crisis
with leaders of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia. ARS
Chairman Sheikh Sharif indicated his resolve to work with all
Somalis to find a resolution to the Somali problem, beginning with
the establishment of a unity government. The ARS leaders noted
progress in the Djibouti Process, citing the next step as a
parliament that adds an equal number of members of the ARS to the
existing organ. This new parliament would then elect new leaders to
guide Somalia through a transitional period of three to four years,
they said, to pave the way for elections. The ARS leaders asked for
U.S. assistance in deployment of an international peacekeeping
force, in drawing more attention to the humanitarian crisis, and in
generating political support for the peace process. End summary.

Committed to
A Common Solution

2. (U) On October 29, Assistant Secretary of State for African
Affairs Jendayi Frazer met with leaders of the Alliance for the
Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) on the margins of the
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Summit on Somalia
in Nairobi (to be reported septel). It was A/S Frazer's first
meeting with ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. Other ARS
representatives in attendance were Chairman of the Central Committee
Sharif Hassan Aden, and members of the ARS Central Committee Asha
Hagi Elmi, Fowzia Mohamed, and Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, all of whom
are also members of the High Level Committee implementing the
Djibouti Agreement. Also present at the meeting were Ambassador
Ranneberger, Special Envoy Yates, Special Assistant Dana Banks, and
PolOff Jessica Davis Ba (notetaker).

3. (SBU) ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif opened the discussion by
stating that the present humanitarian crisis; deterioration in the
security, especially the targeting of aid workers; piracy; and other
problems facing Somalia can all be attributed to political
differences. Sharif said, "We are resolved, as Somalis, to work
together to find a common solution to the Somalia problem to
eliminate the suffering of our people." To solve these problems, he
said, "We have joined the dialogue and have lived up to our
obligations and hope that you will also honor your promises."
Sharif concluded his opening remarks by underscoring their intent to
find a genuine and a lasting solution, beginning with urgent
attention to humanitarian issues.

4. (SBU) Chairman of the ARS Central Committee Sharif Hassan noted
ARS commitment to a solution to the long-standing issues that have
plagued Somalia. He said the ARS is not opposed to establishing
institutions and that a new governing structure is needed for the
interim transitional period. Hassan echoed Sharif's point that a
political solution must be at the root of any change and that unless
this is resolved, nothing positive can occur. Hassan said, "Somalis
are now mature and they are ready to support a peace settlement."
He appealed to the U.S. for help to forge a political solution.

Linking Political
Progress and Security

5. (SBU) A/S Frazer responded that we share the same objective and
have the same motivation - the Somali people. She noted the primary
U.S. concern as the humanitarian situation and securing access for
assistance. A/S Frazer agreed with the ARS analysis of the link
between political progress and improving security, commending the
leaders on the steps they have taken to find a political solution to
sustain the country. Frazer indicated a willingness to work
together, emphasizing that the U.S in not prescribing the process.
She noted the full support of the U.S. for the UN Special
Representative of the Secretary General for Somalia (SRSG) and for
the progress made through the Djibouti Agreement. She said that in
the short term, visible progress is needed on the ground and that
Sharif and Hassan are needed in Somalia.

6. (SBU) Sharif responded, "It is true that we want to go back to
our country and to sell the idea of peace, but there are certain
conditions that must first be met -- complete the shaping of a

NAIROBI 00002580 002 OF 004

political framework and establish a clear and viable schedule for
Ethiopian withdrawal." Sharif said there should be much more
clarity on these issues in the coming days, allowing them to move
forward to prepare for a mission into Somalia. Responding to A/S
Frazer's question on how the U.S. can help, Sharif said that as the
only superpower, a full and open U.S. commitment to the political
process will help create Somali support for "a viable government,
responsive to the needs of its people." In particular, Sharif asked
for U.S. leadership to deploy an international peacekeeping force,
and in drawing more attention to the humanitarian crisis, and in
generating political support for the peace process.

7. (SBU) Frazer responded that the U.S. is pushing the UN on a
peacekeeping force, stating that a clear statement in the communique
from the IGAD Summit should help move this forward. On the
humanitarian side, A/S Frazer said, we are prepared to do more and
have resources to do so, but are hampered by access. On the
political front, she asked for more specifics about "the Sharifs'"
vision for an interim organ, and for the views of Somalia's
neighbors on this approach.

Views on
Transitional Governance

8. (SBU) Sharif replied, "It is obvious the Transitional Federal
Government [TFG] has failed." Any vision for a framework for an
interim government must be based on equal opportunity for the TFG
and the ARS, he said. Sharif said that to begin, the number of MPs
in the transitional federal parliament should be increased by adding
275 representatives affiliated with the ARS to the current
275-member body as a solution to avoid any stakeholders being left
out. Hassan added that with only a few months left in the TFG's
term, it was obvious the TFG would be unable to fulfill the charter
and that the current government should not be allowed to continue.
Hassan added that the ARS - TFG agreement should be reflected in the
composition of parliament. He concluded that once a unified
administration was in place, there would be minimal interference by

9. (SBU) Ahmed Abdullahi, who is one of the Central Committee
leaders from the Islamic Courts contingent told A/S Frazer that ARS,
with the support from the international community, is more assertive
than the TFG and can show measurable progress on the ground. He
concluded that "we are making a concession to agree to work with
them, but the humanitarian situation requires us to take urgent
steps." Abdullahi said the ARS is ready to play its role in
facilitating the delivery of aid. Fowzia Mohamed added that the
interim administration they have agreed to join is only a temporary
structure to prepare the ground for elections. If it does not
succeed, she said, there will be no elections.

10. (SBU) Asha Hagi Elmi thanked the U.S. Government for its
nwavering support and A/S Frazer's personal commitment to
energizing the Djibouti peace process. The Djibouti process, she
said is the "only symbol of hope for Somalia today." She echoed the
sentiment of the other two leaders, stating, "The Somali crisis is
purely a political crisis that has given birth to the humanitarian
catastrophe and increasing security risks." Elmi asked for specific
and practical advice from us on how to move forward. Questioned by
A/S Frazer on the role of the charter in a new inclusive government,
Elmi replied that the charter would stay in place. A joint
administration was necessary to secure the transition, she said.

Governance Structure,
Timeframe and Support

11. (SBU) S/E Yates asked for more details about how the interim
administration would function, specifically whether the ARS/TFG High
Level Committee (HLC) within the Djibouti process would function as
the interim government structure. Sharif said that while the
concept is good, in practice this arrangement cannot serve the
purpose of providing a framework for governance. Any structure
would need to be within the Charter and while important, there is no
provision for the HLC in the Charter. Sharif continued that the
Somali problem is bigger than the HLC, and the HLC is not enough to
inspire the confidence of the people.

12. (SBU) Sheikh Sharif said he saw the interim structure operating

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for three to four years to pave the way for Somalis to freely cast
their votes. It would be created along the 4.5 formula for clan
representation, and could be done in two weeks, Sharif said. He
said that preliminary conversations with Somalia's neighbors about
this concept, including Yemen and Saudi Arabia, have been positive.

13. (SBU) Sherif Hassan believed that the bulk of Somalia's MPs will
support this idea of a unified interim governance structure. Thus
far, parliament has already agreed in principle to enlargement. The
ARS is prepared to rely on the 4.5 formula in expanding the
parliament. "To advance the prospects for peace, Somalis are ready
- we want parliament to be open to all Somalis." Hassan concluded.

Influence on the Ground

14. (SBU) A/S Frazer asked Sheikh Sharif pointedly whether he has
the ability to provide security on the ground, especially given
divisions within the ARS and the continued al-Shabaab threat.
Sharif replied, "I believe I can act against the lawlessness in the
country - people are fed up with al-Shabaab and with Asmara."
Somalis want to hear from those leading the Djibouti process and
want to see measurable progress on peace, justice, and humanitarian
assistance, he said. During the 2006 reign of the Islamic Courts
Union (ICU), he said, 90 percent of the population supported their
efforts. "Now, the challenges are greater but we can lead Somalia
in restoring peace."

15. (SBU) Hassan continued by noting that there are only a handful
of ARS Central Committee members on the ground in Asmara. These
individuals are not there because of deeply held ideologies, but to
support Eritrean interests and all Somalis know this, he said. On
al-Shabaab, Hassan said, "People are ready to take up arms; nobody
wants them."

We Have Changed

16. (SBU) Sharif Hassan sought to counter the impression that the
ICU was undemocratic. He said, "There is a change, we are willing
to represent the rights of women, trust us." Hassan continued by
using Elmi as an example of a women who has won numerous
international awards for her work on securing women's rights in
Somalia. Hassan said, "The two women [Elmi and Mohamed] who are
here with us today were MPs and ministers and now they are part of
the ARS leadership -- We are all interested in change," Hassan said.

17. (SBU) According to Hassan, the Ethiopians' stated intention to
withdraw has attracted much support from the Somali people. Hassan
stated categorically that the ARS harbors no animosity toward
Ethiopia. "We will remain as brothers and sisters in the region -
all of us will move toward securing the peace."


18. (SBU) The ARS leadership shares our vision of the inextricable
link between political progress and increased security and we
believe they are committed to being part of a long-term political
solution for Somalia. In the outcome of the IGAD Summit, however,
the TFG remains intact and the ARS will not have the immediate
opportunity to implement the sweeping reforms they want. While the
ARS leadership in this meeting offered a vision of change for
Somalia and within its own ranks, their presentation was short on
detail. It is doubtful that adding another 275 members to an
already ineffectual and combative parliamentary body will create a
credible foundation for good governance in Somalia. Given the
failure of the TFG to make any progress, there is little argument
that Somalia's transitional institutions are broken. However, the
ARS offered only general ideas on how to make progress on the
political, security, and humanitarian fronts. Despite their
assurances, it is unclear what influence the ARS leaders actually
wield in the country. The two-week timeframe to stand up a new
interim governance structure "to include all Somalis" is overly
ambitious, especially given that an agreed selection process does
not yet exist. However, the meeting demonstrated the improved
relationship between the U.S and the moderates leading the ARS, and
perhaps provides a fragile foundation on which to address the issues

NAIROBI 00002580 004 OF 004

at the core of the Somali crisis.

19. (SBU) Assistant Secretary Frazer has cleared this message.


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