Foreign Policy Blogs

Can Somalia’s Political Discontent Inspire Transformation?

 

 

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:

New Parliament:

  • 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.

New President:

  • 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.

Al-Shabaab:

  • 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.

United Nations:

  • 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.

 

 
  • Abdimahad

    Political and economic transformation can only occur when Somali people focus more on nation building and avoid repeating the same path they’ve trodden on for the past twenty years- too much hostility, chaos and lawlessness that cost lives..

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank Abdimahad, you said it well. I am assuming by “nation building” you mean state-building which focuses on building effective institutions to keep the state viable and sustainable.

  • Matan

    Dear Abukar,
    Thank you for your guidelines and I hope it helps to the stakeholders addressed to. Thanks to Sadia that keeps updated about such articles .
    Matan

    • Abukar Arman

      Likewise, Matan.

  • Hussein Samatar

    Great
    piece Arman and policy-laden advice! One thing though why should the United
    States of America reconsider its Dual-Track Policy towards Somalia? My
    understanding of the dual-track policy is about more of Puntland and Somaliland
    having access to resources that they need to defend their territory from
    Al-Shabaab menace and have access to resources for development.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Hussein for the feedback and kind words. There are many articles written by Somalis and non-Somalis answering the ‘Why?” questions. One such article by Prof Afyare Elmi was hyperlinked to the article. That said, at this post-transitional juncture the logical argument against the Dual-Track policy is that it is not a policy upon which bilateral relationship between Somalia and US could be based on. Simply because the policy’s objective was never the mutual interest of both nations, i.e., strengthening the diplomatic, political, and economic ties of both countries.

      • Dear Brother Arman, policies need to deal with for the most part the reality of the ground. We are truly excited for President Hassan Sheikh Mohmud. But your answer comes across as if Somalia never had a brutal civil war. And still being fought if I might add!

        I believe strongly it might be a good option for the new president to avoid even talking about the dual-track policy, let alone asking for to be amended.

        AU is his force. And without Puntland and Somaliland being part of the union what you have is fragmented country. And I don’t believe they are willing at this time to follow the dictates from Mogadishu. Again I pray and wish all the best for the new president.

  • Great
    piece Arman and policy-laden advice! One thing though why should the United
    States of America reconsider its Dual-Track Policy towards Somalia? My
    understanding of the dual-track policy is about more of Puntland and Somaliland
    having access to resources that they need to defend their territory from
    Al-Shabaab menace and have access to resources for development.

    • Abukar Arman

      See answer below.

  • Abukar Sanei

    Thanks ambassador Arman for the piece! Somalia now is working to stand its own feet again, and that means a complete sovereignty of the political and territorial integrity of the nation.

    I agree that it is now time for the United States to reconsider the Dual Track Policy or any policy that may undermine the sovereignty of Somalia as a nation. The new government of Somalia is the ONLY legitimate entity that the world must deal with should we need Somalia to come back.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Sanei for the feedback. It is a new dawn indeed.

  • I do not understand why we the Somalis from the south do not come to our minds. I do not understand why we always, when talking about the Somalia strife, we refer to all Somalia, as if there are problems in all over Somalia or all Somalis have the same problems we have in the south. A lot of parts of Somalia are safe and sound and even have developed in way they never and could not have developed if it was not of the Somalia strife. Therefore, to start resolve our problems, we must first recognize where the issues are, and not to hop hip around.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you for the feedback. You are right, there were pockets of stability in the past two decades and thank God security is now expanding to beyond those areas. However, the article was focusing on Somalia the state or that legal political entity with specific geographical area and a seat in the UN.

  • Hussein Darwish

    As usual
    well said and it is a great piece of Self-styled diplomat intellectual. Your skillful
    way of analyzing and your eagerness support, allegiance and enthusiasm
    for Somali people would consolidate you a position with nationalist.

    Cheers!

    Hussein
    Darwish.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Hussein for the kind words. Humbling indeed.

  • thank you very much brother we are always with the good advice we welcome and would hope that the new administration would adhere immediately

    • Abukar Arman

      Many thanks Geesh. I am confident the new administration would do what is right.

  • There is new dawn for Somalia. Many times chances come and again
    missed. For last 12 years every opportunity was undermined by local challenges
    before the global meddling (call the USA dual track false engagements). The new
    Somali president and his and government must come up with new vision that can unite
    the divided nations before handling any external challenges.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Ahmed for the feedback. Well said.

  • Nuradin Jilani

    Dear Arman;
    First, thanks for the great piece of advice you offer to all stakeholder of the Somalia conflict. I agree with most of your advises and wish all the best to Somalia. I hope the new president will place people like you in positions of authority to implement these great ideas.

    However, I was caught off-guard by this statement:

    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.
    I understand the political correctness behind this statement (the need to placate Ethiopia and Kenya and avoid unnecessary enmity for the new nascent Somali administration), but I don’t understand the need to insert it in a place where there is no need for it in the first place. Perhaps you’re advising the new prime minister to avoid hiring irredentist-minded politicians which may cause trouble for the new Somali administration? Fair enough. Somalis say: meeshad nin ka raacdo, ninkale ayaad uga tagtay. And: aduunka uun baa walaalo lagu yahay, aakhirana nin walba iyo camalkiis.

    Best of luck.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Nuradin for the kind words and engaging feedback. Mindful of the domestic and international sensitivities surround the issue, the point that you referenced goes beyond “political correctness”.

      The key phrase here is “…military claim of Somali-inhabited territories that are administered by foreign states.” Stating the obvious, this is problematic for two main reasons: 1) It has been keeping our three neighboring states (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti) nervous for decades…

      Throughout the years, that threat hanging over their heads has compelled at least two of three to periodically pull that card in order to vilify Somalia and win international support, as irredentism is widely considered as the Pandora’s Box where the Jinni (Genie) who could unstitch the nation state fabric is trapped.

      2) Our misguided sense nationalism/patriotism (for lack of better description) must be re-examined. We cannot exist as a nation if we continue to readily trade our sense of love for our nation, care for our people, willingness to treat each other justly, willingness to make space for another and coexist in peace for the pipedream of militarily reclaiming Ogadenia (currently under Ethiopia), Northern Frontier District (under Kenya), and Djibouti (which became an independent.

      Nuradin, enlightened nationalism, among other things, is introspective and pragmatic. It accepts the painful reality that hardly any of the ethnically-Somalis who inhabit in the aforementioned states are striving to join Somalia to form a greater one. The new Somali government should adhere to the international law and accept the right of these ethnically-Somalis to exist in the status that they so choose and extend them all brotherly, moral, and diplomatic assistance they need in the future.

      In that context, imagine if the five corners of the star in our flag represented real values and principles that could strengthen our nationhood. Something like Justice, Peace, Citizenship, Unity, and Development. Do you not think the average Somali who hopelessly watched the brutal fratricide of the past two decades and the disintegration of our country would find sense of solace and hope in this. Again, thank you.

  • Abdallah Kulmiye

    Yes, indeed, there is a new dawn for our country & our pple. I couldn’t agree more brother Abukar. It is another well-crafted piece of advice to Not only

    post transitional institutions & I C, but, for all Somalis as well. Despite the charismatic leadership and competence the new president has shown so far, much of our revival and societal changes we seeking for will depend upon our efforts. the least we could ask for the new MP’s is : to serve their four yrs term as significant number of them are able to do the job. As for ” Dual track policy” current in place- – I won’t be much concern about that, since it represents minimum risk at this stage.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Abdallah for the feedback and kind words. You said it well “Despite the charismatic leadership and competence the new president has
      shown so far, much of our revival and societal changes we seeking for
      will depend upon our efforts.”