The Horn Of Africa States: The Blunders Of Somalia – OpEd


Somalia never ceases to surprise me. They continue to blunder and commit the same mistakes repeatedly again and again. They are now pushing hard and putting the final touches to the negotiation process of joining the EAC, an East/Central African organization with which it shares very little, except for the Somali territories in Kenya, and the huge migrant Somali population that has flogged to that country, bringing with them unaccountable large funds. How does one explain Kenya becoming a home for all the senior officials of Somalia, including many ex-prime ministers and ministers, who currently own large properties in that country, and perhaps others?

The Historical Blunders

Historically Somalia erred in its choice of friends and relations many times and paid heavy prices in this regard. They joined the socialist camp of the last century only to be beaten and sold by the same pseudo-friends. How could they forget the Russian, Cuban, East German, and other so-called socialist countries that betrayed the country, in its hour of need in 1977? 

They also joined the Arab League when they are not actually Arabs. Somalis are Somalis and go back for thousands of years as Somalis, a part of the Cushitic peoples of the Horn of Africa, a people as ancient, if not more ancient than the Arab world. And what have they gained from joining the Arab League? I believe the great majority of Somalis would agree that this was a mistake and that the action of joining that organization was only prompted by greed to obtain a fistful of dollars. The irony is that it is stuck in that hopeless organization, for withdrawal would only cause it more headaches that it does not need in these uncertain times. It is a heavy price to pay for being trapped.

The Natural Region of Somalia

Somalia is a Horn of Africa State and naturally belongs to that region with which it shares plenty, including not only its geography but also history, sociocultural background, and people. It shares very little with East Africa, which is basically a Swahili world as opposed to the Cushitic world of the Horn of Africa. The fact that we argue that Somalia not joining the EAC is not related to anything more than pointing out an error in judgment on the part of Somalia. The Swahili world can have their organization, which can have decent relations with its neighboring Horn of Africa States region. But Somalia belongs to the Horn of Africa States and not the EAC as propounded and pushed by its greedy politicians who are driven by unreasonable motives, thus putting the Somali people, once again into another trap.

Why do we say Somalis are being pushed into a trap?

Somalia as a country is currently in a state of flux. The governance structure of the state is not complete and, indeed, the government does not control the country except perhaps for its presidential palace and the airport and seaport, which is heavily guarded by African forces, who have overstayed in the country. The government may also have control over other insignificant pockets of the country, for even its President, cannot travel to Hargeisa nor to Garowe or Kismayo. And even to go to Merka or Baidoa and even close by Afgoi, he would need a brigade of armed forces including ATMIS forces protecting him.

Somalia does not own a constitution and is run on an ad-hoc basis, which basically explains why everything goes back to the President of the country for final approval. No wonder one often finds the man traveling around alone with members of his family, in the place of his ministers to every conceivable venue and event across the globe.

Somalis have, therefore, not been asked whether they wish to join the EAC or not. It is being pushed by the greed of a few who do smuggling business across the Kenya-Somalia border. No wonder Somali businesses in Kenya are thriving as there appear to be no taxes or less taxes on those goods brought in through Somalia. It is perhaps why some Kenyan authorities are similarly pushing the process. They share bits of the pie.

An organization such as the EAC should be paying more attention to the countries they are bringing into their fold. Is Somalia qualified to join such an organization? We doubt any reasonable person would allow such a blunder in his/her organization. We accordingly urge all EAC state governments to disqualify Somalia from joining the EAC. Greed and corruption should not be allowed to thrive in the continent and region.

The governments of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan, and the DR Congo should vote against Somalia joining the EAC. They must ensure that their officials and leaders are not entrapped into an unworkable proposition. What could be offensive about asking such a simple request? We know Somalia is not ready for an EAC membership, not politically, not legally, and not historically and/or geographically.

Historical Facts About the EAC

The EAC started its economic integration process in January 2005 with the promulgation of a Customs Union protocol. This became fully operational by 2010. An EAC Common Market Protocol was effectively put in place in 2010. This allowed for the free movement of goods, services, labor, people, capital, and the right of establishment and residence. A Monetary Union Protocol was also signed in 2015, which allowed for a 10-year roadmap towards the establishment of a single currency. In 2016, the EAC adopted a confederation model to be gradually and incrementally adopted. The process is underway.

Why Somalia Should Not Join the EAC

Somalia is a fragile state. It is even touted as the ultimate failed state. It has no proper governance infrastructure, no systems, and no constitution. Indeed, it is just struggling to breathe. Its economy is in shatters, and it does not even have a currency. Some of its regions even print their own separate currencies. The central bank of the country is more of a treasury house for the government than a real central bank, collects foreign aid and limited taxes at Mogadishu’s airport and seaport, and dispersal thereof of the government’s expenses.

The country has no proper law enforcement mechanisms and most of the country is under the control of terror organizations that collect more taxes from the citizens and businesses than the government does. Should the EAC admit Somalia, these terror organizations would easily move into all the countries of the EAC and wreak havoc on these countries as they have done on Somalia, particularly when there is free movement of people, goods, services, etc. The current armed personnel of the state are not as organized as they were even two years ago and are being decimated by federal government actions and non-actions, starting with non-payment of their salaries, let alone other benefits for people exposed to danger every day of their lives.

Any colorful picture painted by the Federal government of Somalia can be disproved by the daily realities of that country. Somalia, indeed, cannot enter into contracts and deeds that have been organized and agreed upon earlier, which may contradict the country’s social infrastructure. The governments of the EAC members should be fully aware of the dangers and insecurities that they are inadvertently entering into through the admission of Somalia into their fold.

Somalia can only enter into an arrangement that is starting and where it can have its inputs into the foundation infrastructure such as the creation of a Horn of Africa States regional bloc. It should not join an existing organization and swallow the lock, stock, and barrel of whatever was agreed before, even if it does not conform to the socio-cultural infrastructure of the country.

There are no constitutional courts in the country or no independent judicial system to date, and indeed no constitution ratified by the citizens of the country. Contracts entered by present rulers can be denied and refuted by future leaders, which should then put the EAC into a dilemma when they refuse to implement collective arrangements of that group of countries. The equally corrupt Kenyan government is pushing Somalia to join the EAC, but the other EAC members should be wary and careful with this unworkable proposition of Somalia within the EAC. 

Somalia, which is barely able to stand on its own feet, is being told to lose its sovereignty before it recovers from the chaos of the past forty years. It is being asked to forgo its language and its socio-cultural infrastructure. This, indeed, is an unworkable proposition and would be refuted by the next leader as soon as he or she comes to replace the current one. Somalis despite their internal conflicts are fiercely independent people and would not allow the country’s sovereignty to be lost with ease. This would be the blunder of all blunders of Somalia’s governments since 1960.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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