Foreign Policy Blogs

New Deal and the Curse of ‘Community Self-Governance’

 

new deal

On July 21, I tweeted the following reflection: “A society can govern itself with custom instead of modern law, tribal system instead of government; (however) it cannot ride both horses at the same time.” Reacting to that old tweet, a few days ago, I received a one-liner e-mail that read “We must be doing well riding both horses!” and an attachment of a beautiful picture from Brussels which captured the magnificent event recently organized by EU called the New Deal.

I hope I am wrong. I hope that latest conference and the pledged $2.4 billion would solve all of Somalia’s problems. I hope it would help pull together our nation’s disconnected pieces and convince its many exploiters that people can no longer be fooled to think that Balkanized clan-driven fiefdoms constitute community self-governance. And as I have argued before, uniformly, beneath the democratic and pluralistic veneer, each of these self-governing political entities is a clan-based power concentration and selectively enjoy all the privileges that come with it.

Can the New Deal Avoid the Failed Model?

The old model to channel aid funds is not only a failure; it is one of the main factors contributing to the rampancy of corruption in Somalia. Donor nations would pool their dollars through an international institution, which then would commission certain number of its agencies to carry out certain assignments. These agencies then contract foreign NGOs who, supposedly, have the means to deliver services. Triggering snow-balling effect of administrative costs, these NGOs subcontract other NGOs; each getting its cut without delivering any of the assigned services. On a recent interview, Mohamed Ahmed Nur (Tarzan) –the Mayor of Mogadishu—said, “If I request computers from the UN, they will take months and require a number of assessments. They will spend $50,000 to give me $7,000 of equipment. If I request computers from Turkey, they will show up next week.”

No scrutiny, no accountability, no shame! That is why there isn’t a single hospital, school, or a road that can be attributed to donations from the international community in Somalia.

A Different World

Somalia’s multifaceted tragic suffering that pushed that nation’s political and social structure to the lowest common denominator (clan) has coincided with a moment in history in which certain fragile and failed nation-states were placed on the proverbial conveyer belt for restructuring, and when capitalism has had successive failures. In various intellectual circles in the West, the viability of the nation-state concept is being questioned if not challenged. Not simply states’ sovereignty on matters pertaining to their internal affairs but how globalization and the new economic appetite demand fundamental restructuring of states.

‘As an obsolete political construct, the nation-state concept could (and in some cases such as Somalia, Iraq and Syria should) be structurally redefined’ so goes the argument.

Meanwhile, the fastest growing economic model is predatory capitalism that operates in the dark by avoiding the conventional method of dealing within state structured policies, licensing and regulations. Predatory capitalism is already colorfully operational in Somalia. As a Johnny-come-lately that managed to walk away with the most coveted deal. Soma Oil and Gas Exploration (SOGE) led by British Baron and Former Tory party leader Michael Howard might be the latest example. SOGE is a skeleton exploration company that has no assets, track record or expertise. Like most of these predators, it is technically registered in the Virgin Islands in order to avoid financial and ethical scrutiny as well as potential legal entanglements. Sadly, Somalia provides the right space and environment for domestic and foreign economic predators to operate and breed.

Symbol and Substance

Yes, symbolism does matter in politics- especially in diplomacy. However, at this critical juncture in its history, Somalia does not have the luxury to trade substantive issues for symbolic gestures. Before coming to accept the New Deal Compact, the Somali government was pressured to take care of, among other things, a political ticking bomb known then as Jubbaland. Against that backdrop and time pressure, Ethiopia has offered a formula for reconciliation express- an offer that neither the Somali government nor Jubbaland (Jubba) President who was promised an invitation to the conference could refuse. While this outcome has immediately received praises from the US, UN, EU, etc. any objective observer can see that this did not only undermine the importance of Somali reconciliation, it created another layer of hostility for the government. Feeling thrown under the bus by the government, an entire clan with its Parliament members and traditional elders has become hostile opposition to the government. They vowed to follow the footsteps of Jubbaland (Jubba Administration Initiative since the “peace agreement”). Already, government officials are barred from entering in territories that that clan considers its own. It should surprise no one if soon another reconciliation express is offered by Ethiopia or Kenya.

Continually Being Dual-Tracked

The US Dual-track policy (adopted by the international community, save Turkey) continues being the most potent enabler to myopic political actors who are keen to keep Somalia divided and seem to be addicted to the title “President”. Three Somali leaders with such title have been invited to the New Deal conference as Somaliland’s has opted out.

That said, it was very encouraging to read this particular sentence in the US State Department’s latest statement on Somalia “We are committed to working with the Somali people and the Federal Government of Somalia to improve the lives of everyday Somalis, and enhancing our diplomatic and development relationships.” Decrypting political double-speak still remains a serious challenge. Though this may not ascertain a policy change, it does indeed lend certain level of hope.

If everything in politics was always exactly as they seem, then the name would’ve in fact been a misnomer. Somalia can bounce back only when domestic revenues and international aid monies used to provide direct services; when local contractors and service providers with good standing are empowered, and when leadership accepts that genuine reconciliation is the missing link. So long as Somalis remain divided, they (in their fiefdoms) would keep attracting the most ferocious predators.

 
Add a comment

Comments (16)

  1. Abdia Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    "So long as Somalis remain divided, they (in their fiefdoms) would keep attracting the most ferocious predators" Bro. Arman, as always, thanks for an insightful article. Abdia
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Thank you for the kind words Sr. Abdia.
  2. Ahmed Tinai Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    Dear Abukar, Thanks for your good thinking and interesting article. Let me add one important point after international community announced "New Deal" every clan purchased Scientific calculator and prepared business plan and his own budget. The concept of Federalism is not yet digested by leaders, they translated to ownership of land and people. Dividing people & lands will be much deeper in the coming months. Ahmed
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Dear Ahmed, thank you for the feedback and kind words. You are right: "The concept of Federalism is not yet digested by leaders, they translated to ownership of land and people." That's why the most vociferous advocate for "federalism" in every de facto fiefdom is the alpha clan of the region!
  3. Sadiq A. Abdirahman Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    Salaam Br. Abukar, As expected another well done piece. I wonder if an exemplary leadership is applied to our situation can it over come clan segmentations, expropriation of our natural resources by foreign interest and end the current dual power structures of north vs south? I am hopeful if the leadership takes a more active role and becomes a more solution oriented where it resolves issues within our territory and without any foreign interferences it can earn the respect of the entire country. One major problem hindering its ability to dispatch government responsibilities is the existence of major redundancies and overlapping in all sectors caused by a lack of clear role and responsibilities in delegating important tasks. The country needs to invest its human capital and allow selection based on merit over the disastrous 4.5 formula. It's hard to argue against clannish/ regionalism when the whole system is based on this terrible formula! "Hal boli ah, nirig xalal ah ma dhasho"
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Wa alaikum as-salam. Thank Sadiq for the feedback and kind words. I agree with the points that you raised. Yes, "The country needs to invest its human capital and allow selection based on merit over the disastrous 4.5 formula. It's hard to argue against clannish/ regionalism when the whole system is based on this terrible formula!"
  4. Mohamed Maie Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    Masha Allah....always wise words, indeed. Br Abukar you have god given mind..I wish International Community, Somali Diasporas and Federal Government leaders try to understand your underline concerns about ongoing Dual track failure policy..Ask me that I had opportunity to witness the process and finally escort to Brussels ( it's political showcase of EU to the world...nothing to do the complex and dynamics of Somali Reconciliation and peace-building in post conflict of Somalia). I always say Time will Tell !!!! Please stay in peace and take care... I salute you
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Br. Maie, thank you for the kind words. Very humbling. Down the road, you might consider sharing your experience...
  5. Makaraan Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    Thanks Brother for your tireless en-lighting articles. You put it well by writing " If everything in politics was always exactly as they seem, then the name would’ve in fact been a misnomer. Somalia can bounce back only when domestic revenues and international aid monies used to provide direct services; when local contractors and service providers with good standing are empowered, and when leadership accepts that genuine reconciliation is the missing link. So long as Somalis remain divided, they (in their fiefdoms) would keep attracting the most ferocious predators"
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Sunday - 22 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Thank you, Br Makaraan, for the feedback and kind words.
  6. NotAnIdealist Monday - 23 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    Abukar, Many comments are acknowledging your gift for lucidly pointing out Somalia's failures, corruption and ongoing affliction of bad international foreign policy. I won't add to those comments. I want to say that it is sad and a shame that you continue to chose to stand on the sidelines and point rather than engage. Somalia needs less pundits and more doers. Where is the movement that is trying to make a change and a difference for the average Somali? I have read the one or two articles you state that the solution lies in genuine reconciliation. Question is: what have you done to start your people on the path to genuine reconciliation - that is besides blogging about it?
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Monday - 23 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Thank you, anonymous, for the feedback and (implicit) compliment :) You’re right “Somalia needs less pundits and more doers.” However, I hope you would agree that becoming a doer and assembling a team of doers to undertake the enormous task of reconciling our divided people would require a process. As an optimist, I’d like to think that that process is already underway.
  7. Ciilqabe Tuesday - 24 / 09 / 2013 Reply
    Abukar, The Somali imbroglio is a question of leadership or lack of it. It is not clan, because other societies are divided into clans/tribes, yet they are not bewitched by the primordial segments and the virulent side of clans/tribes. They form political parties, institutions and nation-states that serve their people. Brother, the problem in Somalia is Mogadishu and people who live in the area, because compared to SL and PL, Mogadishu and what is coming out of it and the level of corruption and destruction is unfathomable. When I say, people, I am referring to the likes of the current president and the disappointing performance since he took office. All Somalis yearned an end to the perpetual transition and welcomed him even if his selection was tarnished by manipulation and vote-buying; even if he belonged to the people who destroyed Somalia (call spade a spade) and lived in the city that brought great deal of shame and pain to Somalia; all Somalis welcomed. Rather than traversing the country, bringing together fractured society, breathing hope to the hopeless refugees; rather than huddling with the masses that are scattered around the globe and emphasizing all that unites them; rather than healing the scars of war and rape, he brought back clan politics to the fore and forever shattered whatever hope that was left in Somalia. Example, rather than dealing with the existential threat of Al-Shabab, he was fixated Jubaland and took his eyes off the number ONE issue in Somalia and the region. Brother Abukar, Somalis are not born bad, they are bred to be corrupt and destructive and the culprit is a question of leadership and situation in Mogadishu.
    • Abukar Arman
      Abukar Arman Tuesday - 24 / 09 / 2013 Reply
      Brother Ciilqabe, thank you for the feedback. I agree with the gist of your argument, though I differ with you on some of the details. Yes, leadership is a problem. At this critical juncture in our history, we need transformational leaders in EVERY level, sector and region. By this I mean, leaders with much broader vision than the prevalent myopic self, clan, or regional interests. These leaders must be willing to do or trade all that is necessary (including their respective seats of power) for the sake of the greater good. They must put reconciliation & selfless public service on top of their priority list(s).

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] By the same token, it would embolden other clan-based entities to mimic the Jubbaland blueprint for breakaway. This, needless to say, would compel the government to beg for yet another reconciliation fix as it has before the New Deal conference. […]

  2. […] By the same token, it would embolden other clan-based entities to mimic the Jubbaland blueprint for breakaway. This, needless to say, would compel the government to beg for yet another reconciliation fix as it has before the New Deal conference. […]

Add a comment

Author

Abukar Arman
Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman is a former diplomat (Somalia's Special Envoy to the US). He is a widely published analyst. His focus is Foreign policy/Islam/post-civil war Somalia/extremism. He is a DiploAct of a sort (fusion of diplomacy & activism).
You may follow him on Twitter: @4DialogSK or reach him via e-mail: [email protected]

GreadDecisions in foreign policy discussion group ad v2