The Fall And Slow Rise Of Somalia As A Nation – OpEd


Many factors have contributed to the fall of Somalia. Indeed, the fall of the country started even before its birth, when many factors and unreconcilable issues were concocted to inherit the management of the nation to be born, noting that before this birth, Somalia was under the control of two different administrative systems, one Italian, a basically bureaucratic style of management where things appear to being done without anything ever happening and the other very British, aloof and expecting matters to be run through a strong civil service, an army to protect the borders of the country and a police to maintain domestic affairs. 

This was complicated by the very nature of Somalis which abhor governance, where everybody belongs to a clan, some claiming to be of higher status because of their numbers while others are looked down upon, simply because their numbers are small. It does not matter how the numbers were arrived at. Perhaps, the smaller clans became smaller because they were warriors some time in their past and their numbers were reduced through wars, while others may simply be small in numbers, for they may have had produced more girls than boys. Note the Somali society is a paternal society. Whatever, the reason, Somalis, a pastoral society, generally have respect for the clan than a government. Both the British and the Italians had difficulties in managing them during the nearly seventy or eighty years they were in the country.

The people of North Somalia who were under British rule were angry when they decided to join South Somalia, which was then under a UN Trust Administration under the management of Italians. They were mad at Britain which had given away part of Northen Somali clan territories to Ethiopia, breaking the agreements with which they had signed with Somali clan elders towards the end of the nineteenth century. They had no clue as to what they were getting into, when they made plans to join South Somalia in 1960. South Somalia was then emerging from a UN Trust Administration, and they were prepared for independence and running their own country, when Northern Somalis showed up. Northern Somalis did not even negotiate for they were told that the government infrastructure was already in place and many important seats in the governance infrastructure were already filled in. These positions included the Office of the President, The prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Interior and indeed all other important portfolios. It is one of the reasons that is often cited as one of the problems of the country. 

Three years before independence, the party chosen to run the government in South Somalia, the Somali Youth League, had also made changes to its operations and replaced many of its leaders. Many of those chosen to run the government were pro-Italian Somalis who wanted to preserve the Italian assets  for the Italians that were in the country then. These included banana plantations, a sugar plantation and factory, and many other assets including many properties both lands and buildings, and businesses. The leaders who fought and led South Somalia to independence from the middle of the Second World War, were replaced. They were more nationalistic and patriotic, it is reported.

Thus the state was in a flux when it was born, but the good thing there was, was that Somalis created its own borders different from those left by Colonial Europe, as opposed to many other countries of the African continent, which inherited their borders from the European colonizers. Indeed, Somalia was on a mission to bring back all Somalis under one Somali territory and one flag in the Horn of Africa for, indeed, the Horn of Africa, is the Somali Peninsula, which stretches from the northern border  of Djibouti to the estuary of River Tana in Kenya and from the Ras Asir in the very Horn of Africa to Moyale in South Ethiopia and Isiolo in East Kenya – a huge territory of about I.1 million square kilometers with a maritime exclusive zone of over 832,000 square kilometers. Somalia never officially ratified the borders inherited from the colonial masters. Only the Somali Government collapsed in 1991, and since then, the region generally remained peaceful without wars instigated by Somalis, yearning to bring Somali territories in the Horn of Africa space together.

Somalia’s ambitious venture to reunite Greater Somalia led it to become one of the strongest countries in the African continent economically, socially and militarily. It aligned itself with the Socialist-cum-Communist block and it became a major activity zone of the cold war antagonists of the time, which eventually led to its collapse, followed by a long civil war based on clan competition for power engineered from outside the country. It has remained, since then, a failed state, a fertile playing ground for hundreds of non-governmental organizations and UN bodies, and indeed, many mercenaries who sell their wares to the poor Somalis fighting among themselves and the terror groups introduced into the country from outside.

The country still remains in this perilous journey, unable to extricate itself from the quagmire it fell into, and the country continues to be run from a Green Zone near Mogadishu’s International Airport, which calls all the shots in the country. It is, indeed, the headquarters of all the foreign parties that are active in the country and is protected by a contingent of African forces named the African Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). This was earlier called the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Somalia had never seen a brutal force in the country, including the regime of General Mohamed Siad Barre that was toppled in 1991, as the people in the Green Zone. The people in the Green Zone organize and finance everything that happens in the country and actually represent the only authority the country. The So-called Somali authorities have no power and are called to the Green Zone as and when needed to do certain jobs. No Somali is allowed to go into that zone and even employment of Somalis in the Zone is reported to go through a stringent and heartbreaking process.

The lead person running the country is the UN Special Representative for Somalia and not the President of Somalia. He cannot report on the happenings of his country to the UN Security Council. It is the UN Special Representative that takes over this role, for he cannot be believed or trusted. It shows how far the country and its people have sunk in the eyes of the world.

The main activities discussed on the country remain security issues, women issues and hunger issues, both natural and man-made. No roads are built in the country, no bridges are built and no educational and/or health facilities are encouraged and/or built other than small clinics and MCHs. There are too many distressful pictures which are deployed, as in other African situations, when begging the world for assisting Somalia. Indeed, most of the monies collected never reach those for whom they were collected but are spent in the fat administrations of the non-governmental organizations and UN bodies.

Too many interventions from outside, including interventions from countries that do not wish Somalia well, United Nations bodies, bands of ruthless NGOs and terrorists have rendered the nation ungovernable. They have frightened off good people and leaders to come forward to reconstruct the country, thus preparing the ground for the most unqualified people to become leaders of the country.

 The country has survived through all these only through the tough Somali, who has been subjected to expulsion from his/her country through mass migration, exposed to diseases never before seen in the region and country, poverty, and recurring climatic shocks. The resilience of the Somali people is second to none and the country, which has fallen off the grid of nations is slowly coming back, despite the problems discussed. 

Many of the cities of the country are being slowly rebuilt not by the NGOS or the UN bodies but by Somalis through private ventures. Schools, hospitals and roads are being rebuilt without governmental interventions or foreign bodies. The country would be better off, if all the foreigners in the Green Zone and their armed escorts, the ATMIS, were removed. Initially, the country may get confused, but it would come back and would be better than many consider it at present – the hopeless, leaderless country. There would come forward the real leaders of the country, who are slowly rebuilding their communities and country. There would be no place for the NGO-inspired clerks, who pose as leaders that run the country now.

The Somali people is an old nation. They know they have fallen off the grid and that they face an incredibly brutal force. But they are resilient and are under no illusion of the challenges that await them. The successes of the nation are not, however, told as its failures or the odds stacked against it. This has not been helpful in the attempts of the Somali to heal and face the challenges head on. The nation is known for its ingenuity, moral courage, and indeed, resilience in the face of all the evil forces stacked against it over the past three to four decades.  The people are now working hard utilizing the nation’s natural resources, its livestock industry, where the camel husbandry is growing throughout the country, agriculture, and even the fishing industry, which most Somalis abhorred, in the past, is growing. 

The nation, despite its problems, is also one of the most advanced in new technologies to the extent that it is almost a cashless society, and its telecommunications are more advanced than those of many countries across the globe. Its banking and finance systems is also growing under capable Somali hands, and although probably making some mistakes in the management processes, the industry is fast growing. Many Africans see money when they see a Somali. While one might hear bullets in one area, one may also hear the hammer and construction going on in another part of the same city. In some of the northern parts of the country, no bullets are heard at all and schools, the pen and students dominate communities.

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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