Sept 30, 2012 –For quite some time, the narrative heralding Somali politics has been one wielded by few leaders arguably driven by the tendency of prioritizing personal interest over public interest. Now that narrative seems in its death throes, or so jubilant Somalis would like to tell us citing as substantiation new developments that has recently unfolded in the country.
Somali lawmakers have elected a new leader to the helm of the country’s headship. Although the new leader is described as being a political novice, he has managed to eke out a landslide victory over politicians believed to have possessed unequivocal domineering political leverage and unequaled assortments of networks.
Trying to make sense of the unpredicted ascendance of this new leader, pundits and ordinary Somalis postulate that the new president has come to the office not because of political accomplishments of his own, or influential acolytes with swathes of wealth to buy off MPs right and left; but largely won because he was perceived as the only man among the pack of candidates signaling change.
The fact that there is a new leadership now on the crown does not necessarily mean Somalia would turn into a place where everybody is happy and healthy (a utopian world so to speak). It does not also mean this new leader, by a sheer default would transmogrify to a savior who would save the land and soothe the nation; simply because change is spontaneous; justice and progress, on the other hand, call for moral conscience and intelligent design.
As the dust beings to settle and the euphoria the new developments created on the wane, a retrospection of what went wrong in Somalia is warranted. Thus, I am using this space to grapple with subjects regarding what went wrong, the implications that had and still has on Somalis, and what regimen to use to usher in a new model that may spur a healthy politico-social system.
I understand the fact that this write-up precludes a full exposé of the politico-social factors accounting for Somalia’s plights. Albeit, a cursory reflection could reveal a pattern; it could help one intellectualize the matter and construct workable framework. This is the subject-matter of this article.
What went wrong?
As Somalis, we are at transitional period. We are encountering taxing paradoxes and conflicts of historical eminence from within and outside all at once which makes the issue of paradigm shift in the heart of subjects concerning our fate deserving consideration. One thing that could illustrate a glimpse of our apprehension is that the political landscape of the country changes rapidly while Somali people are at the fringes; and most often, the change is antithetical to Somalia’s interest. In a sense, we are frustrated nation and we feel that our feet are not treading on a solid ground.
There are numerous factors out there people tend to claim to be the base rock of our incessant frustrations. Some people claim injustice to be the reason, others hold outside forces as the culprits, still others throw the blame at the heads of Somali people. All these analyses to me are correct; nevertheless, I find them broad and immeasurable. I am not suggesting, however, that human knowledge if not empirical merits negation.
Here I contend Somali’s never-ending misfortunes underpin on the upcoming four factors:
- Uninformed society whose only relation to government is confined within the dominion of deference, repugnance or indifference; a society only mobilized along clan sentiments and/or religious mantras; a society under the mercy of political elites whom their leaders behave as the whole country is extension and incarnation to their personas.
- Ineffective and ill referenced Somali intellectuals barren from ingenuity, encased in “Ivory-tower Pollyanna” to borrow a phrase from the late Steven Jay Gould.
- Lack of effective institutions geared toward promoting the rule of law, the mechanism of holding the ruler accountable to public scrutiny, and the principles built around righteousness, justice, tolerance, human dignity, and equal representation.
- A deadly apathy to the communal welfare of the community and a pervasive appetite for looting and pillaging of the nation’s common resources.
Reflections on what has happened
Somali Republic since conception has been a sickly nation, sickness which ostensibly led to the fall of the Somali central government in the year 1991: From the time something called Somali nation state has come into being, the country has been ruled by narrow elites that have mobilized society for their own political benefits at the expense of the vast masses. Political power has been concentrated in the hands of a few men and has been utilized to generate great wealth only for those who possess it. The $ 140 million fortune apparently accumulated by officials from the defunct Somali TFG is a small case in point. The losers have been the Somali people, as we only too well understand.
As result of corrupt and cronyism polities, the term, Somalia has become synonym for anarchy, chaos, and pandemonium; the adjectives like “the most dangerous place in the world”, “the most corrupted place in world”, and “the long failed state in modern history” have stuck to our country like a lint!
As Samuel Huntington has rightly remarked, nation states in the absence of effective political institutions are the venom in the house: writing in the year 1968, Huntington noted, the reason many contemporary developing countries has fallen in a “leviathan” like state, where in Hobbes’s phraseology, “war of all against all” carries the day once the colonial powers departed, is that the colonial powers erased traditional institutions and the pseudo modern elites who replaced them failed to generate effective institutions. The corollary is, a society lacking capable institutions that could satisfy the expectations of men and women living in the modern era are simply predestined to a civil discord. Public servants’ corruption” inflames the rising groups. “Conflict between oligarchy and masses erupts into civil strife”.
Huntington’s analysis of what went wrong in developing countries is a prescient diagnosis and far less misleading guide to what has taken place in Somalia than many things written yesterday.
What to be done?
Logic dictates to begin with a strong foundation if you want to erect a durable castle; by the same token, you should start with a strong institution if you are striving to form a long-lasting government. Anything indicating a strong institution has never been manifested in Somalia’s politics. A substantial demonstration of the country’s abysmal political institutions is “the fact that three of the top four candidates in the second round of the presidential vote came from a relatively small genealogical group that populates parts of the old capital” as Abdi Samatar nimbly observes.
Against this background, I believe four qualifications are needed to come in order:
- Informing the masses of their rights in which the idea behind it is encouraging representation, enabling citizenry making their voices heard in political process and holding their elected leaders accountable to the public. Society constitutes the building blocks of the civil society—an entity intended to limit the power of the state and advocate for the common interest; and as we well know, a healthy government prerequisites a robust civil society
- A strong institutions for institutions are less personal, more stable and more beneficial than other systems founded either upon tribalism or revolving around big man rule. It is universal truism that groupings built on tribalism tend to dissolve in fighting for various reasons; and associations based on big man ruler-ship tend to fall apart by the death of the leader
- Rekindling the candle of lost Somali civic values from its dormant status, because civic way of thinking is the only way to send sectarian mindset to the dustpan of history where it really belongs, and
- Recruiting intellectuals to aid the government in the area of constructing viable policies and educating the populace. Intellectuals, in the words of Noam Chomsky, are endowed with the gift of knowledge and are expected simultaneously to guide and “expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions”, to mobilize the masses for the common good, and to prepare tomorrow’s generation.
Somalia’s predicament can be fixed, but only if a coherent and a holistic plan based on morality and understanding is enacted. Let us all hope that the elected new man and his administration will eradicate the usurpation and the tribalism derailing our public and will heal the deep seated grudge polarizing our nation. Let us hope the beaming beacon of brotherhood and sisterhood will rise over our great homeland once again.