Can Somalia’s Political Discontent Inspire Transformation? – OpEd
By Abukar Arman
Exhausted by prolonged anarchy, chronic dependency, cancerous corruption, and humiliating subjugation, the Somali people demanded change. Not just change of guards or principled actors, but a total overhaul of the political order of the day.
On September 10, 2012, the newly appointed parliament has heeded the call of its citizens and elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the President of post transition Somalia.
That historic date would be remembered as the one that underscored two significant realities: the resilience of the Somali people as they demonstrated their unwavering commitment to reclaim their nation, and how the will of the people enhanced with consolidated political objectives changed the course of national history.
The former would not have been possible without the persistence that motivates the Somali nomad to overcome adversities and to survive severe drought by migrating to greener pastures, and the hope that motivates the farmer to plow the field and sow the seed and have faith in the germination process that takes place beneath the earth. And the latter would not have been possible if it were not for the foresight, agency and negotiations of various grassroots political activists who were determined to pave a new political pathway against all odds.
How likely is that pathway to lead to transformation and to the salvation of the nation, or bedbaadinta Maandeeq?
The answer would depend on two critical factors. First, whether the following principal actors would work in cooperative cohesion or would carry on in a similar disarray and frustration that has lately been the norm in Somalia. Second, whether or not they would embrace these or similar priorities:
- Diligently asserting the Parliament’s legislative authority and never forgetting to differentiate the common good from all other political interests.
- Upholding the honor of the Parliament as the most important institution in the nation and preventing any revolving door scenario; hence, publicly censuring anyone who might try to jump ship and abandon his or her position after failing to achieve his or her myopic political objective.
- Completing the Provisional Constitution by immediately making all necessary amendments for that document to exclusively represent the common interest of Somalia and Somalis.
- Never forgetting that, other than God, it is being there with the people as an advocate and as a provider of direly needed services that made his ascendency and undisputable mandate possible, and that squandering such support is unfathomable.
- Becoming the catalyst for reconciliation and a Somali-centric political order in which Somalis handle their own domestic affairs in their own country while keeping in mind that no foreign interest groups in the form of an individual or a nation has more rights to Somalia than the citizen of that nation.
- Transparently making decisions based on “Is it ethical?” “Is it good for Somalia?” and “What are the long-term consequences?” And keeping in mind that neither security nor political stability could be sustained without sustained public support and gaining such support without transparency to help heal the cynicism of hearts and the minds of a traumatized nation is a hopeless endeavor.
New Prime Minister:
- Assembling a competent team of ministers with sense of enlightened nationalism; a team that is free of the obsolete ideals of irredentism or military claim of Somali-inhabited territories that are administered by foreign states.
- Crafting a viable strategy for governmental reform and institutional capacity-building with specific deadlines and accountability component, and appointing an independent ad hoc committee to oversee implementation process and progress.
- Appointing another team of Somali experts as Foreign Policy Advisory to help craft the government’s foreign relations priorities; also, on policies towards countries with shared strategic interests of economic, political, and social nature. Likewise, appointing a team of experts as Defense Policy Advisory to help craft the administration’s National Defense Strategy that is more comprehensive than the publicly circulated National Security and Stabilization Plan whose central focus was on the current threat posed by al-Shabaab without offering specific dates on when an adequate national army to replace AMISOM would be ready. And lastly, appointing a team of experts as Economic Policy Advisory to recommend national assets recovery strategy, investment attraction, job creation, etc.
The Somali People:
- Calibrating expectation as the current political, social, economic, and sectarian problems neither developed overnight nor could they be solved overnight and keeping in mind that every positive initiative or action might not yield clearly positive outcome in the immediate sense.
- Accepting the self-evident fact that Somalis, as individuals, clans, and regions are interdependent politically, economically, and socially for their collective survival.
- Assisting the government to cultivate a critical mass- a grassroots foot soldiers for positive societal transformation and doing away with all the failed models of the past two decades.
- Remembering the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching that a true person of faith is not bitten from the same snake hole twice, and that militant extremism leads to nowhere other than failure, destruction, and death.
- Trading violence and extremism with dialogue and reconciliation and keeping in mind that people are in dire need for service and that service-delivery is almost impossibility during wars.
- Realizing that as a nation we have already lost an entire generation to this senseless conflict, and that in Islam people are obligated to earnestly accept peace when extended to them, and even in just causes, armed struggle is justified only after all dialogue and diplomatic options were hopelessly exhausted.
- Decommissioning United Nations Political Office for Somalia as keeping such an office operating in Mogadishu clearly undermines the political and functional authority of the new government. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia is broadly seen as the “Colonial Governor” wielding unchecked power granted by an external source.
- Recognizing the “environmental ticking bomb” in the Somali coast by issuing tough resolutions banning the illegal hyper-fishing and dumping radio-active waste in the Somali waters.
- Third, lifting the arms embargo as it has lost its effectiveness. It has never prevented the illegal flow of arms into Somalia; it only prevented the government from getting even light arms through the legal means.
African Union & IGAD:
- Recognizing Somalia’s emergence out of the transitional period and how it is bent on handling its own affairs.
- Stopping the front-line states’ well documented fueling of the Somali fratricide by supporting one favorite group against another.
- Preventing the front-line states’ direct impositions and exploitation by maritime land grab.
Somali Civil Societies:
- Recognizing that the new President would be counted as one of the civil societies’ own and as such would share the positive and, God forbid, the negatives.
- Committing to neutrality for the sake of the people and the nation by assisting the new government when it is doing the right thing, correcting it when its wrong, and opposing it if it ever goes off track or astray.
- Promoting self-correction by exposing those among the civil societies who still have their heads stuck in clan-centric gutters or have established a pattern of playing the role of political arsonists.
Republic of Turkey:
- Expanding its successful humanitarian and development projects and creating jobs by partnering with local entrepreneurs, businesses, and service providing organizations.
- Utilizing the political and social capital to advance the reconciliation process, especially between the government and al-Shabaab.
- Assisting in the institutional-building process, including the security apparatus.
United States of America:
- Reexamining its counter-terrorism focused Dual-Track Policy toward Somalia.
- Formally reactivating its old bi-lateral relationship with Somalia which has been dormant for over two decades.
- Investing in this newly emerging market.
Though broad-based discontent, desire to seek a better alternative, steady flow of brain-gain and all other necessary elements for change are there, sustainable environment conducive for societal transformation still needs cultivation. And that, of course, would require the collective effort of more than one group.
So, until these aforementioned streams of influence confluence and their various troikas accept to pull the weight to the same direction saving Maandeeq (Somalia) would be extremely arduous if not impossible. Certainly brighter future is ahead for Somalia as with difficulties come ease. However, along the way, it would be utterly naïve to expect blue sky every day.
Abukar Arman is the Somalia Special Envoy to the United States. He is also a widely published political analyst. On Twitter: @AbukarArman