Thegobannimoview, Part III
Abdirazak Haji Hussen, Fmr Prime Minister of the Somali Republic (firstname.lastname@example.org), & Dr Aweys O. Mohamoud (AWEYS6@AOL.COM), Founder of Gobannimo Institute,
We argue in this paper that the enduring conflict in Somalia has become so entrenched and zero-sum in nature that it is beyond outsider – or inside – management without first attenuating the continuing intra- and inter-Daarood-Hawiye factionalised struggles and rivalry outbidding. The issues at the heart of this rivalry are particularly difficult and intractable because they’re based on psychological factors, are more symbolic in nature and thus more complicated to manage. We, therefore, call upon the newly appointed members of the post-TFG parliament to elect competent and meritorious individuals from non-Daarood and non-Hawiye clans as President and Parliamentary Speaker to defeat the “wedge politics” of division and rivalry, and to usher in a new era of compromise, trust, and cooperation in the political process. We also call on the newly elected President of Somalia to appoint as Prime Minister an upright and competent Somali citizen from non-Daarood and non-Hawiye clan background to forge a sense of common purpose in the new administration and to deliver credible executive leadership to theSomali people.
This article represents an appeal to reason addressed to the members of the new parliament who will be electing Somalia’s post-TFG leaders in Mogadishu, next month. The abstract above relates the gist of our appeal to them. It is also an appeal for compassion, fellow-feeling and patriotism, addressed in particular to the elector members of the two clans who are the subject of this writing, Daarood and Hawiye. We are appealing to this latter group of MPs to help our people (D&H) transcend selfishness by dethroning ourselves from the centre of politics and placing in it competent political leaders from other clans who have never been given the chance to lead their country.Reconciliation will only be possible when power, rights and responsibility are no longer the privilege of the few, but shared by all.We define reconciliation here as a means of healing and uniting a wounded and divided people.
In a symbolic way, letting others have a turn will indicate that every clan or community is an equally valued member of our nation, which could lead to a new national collective consciousness about the meaning ofSoomaalinimoand the value of citizenship in post-conflict Somalia. On a human level, it signifies justice, peace, equity and respect for others, and the noble deed of treating all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. The first part of the article is a follow-up of the two pieces already published under the title, ‘thegobannimoview’, and will focus on the historical role of D&H in planting the seeds of extreme clan politics in Somalia, and the need for new leadership elected on merit. In the second part, we republish Somali elder statesman and fmr PM A. H. Hussen’s 2004 ‘Open Letter’ to the Somali people.
Whilst we do not speak for them, we both hail from the two clans we’re criticizing, Daarood and Hawiye respectively. As we shall elaborate below, our position is that it is time to elect or appoint to office non-D&H national leaders with the character, morals and qualifications necessary to run a government. We’re not acting out of prejudice against any group. The argument we’re putting forward is based on propositions of fact (historical and contemporaneous) and our own moral convictions that Somalia ought to have a post-TFG competent leadership from outside the traditional power groups. Such arrangement, we believe, stands a good chance of leading to win/win outcomes for all communities.
We are cognizant of the fact that there is a large group of estimable and upright Somali citizens from D&H clan background who’ve already put their name forward as candidates for these top offices of state. These individuals may be assured that we fully respect their right to elect or vote for others as they see fit, or be elected to office themselves. Our aim here is solely to advance the broader interest of peace and state-building in Somalia and that, in our view, is best served by the election of non D&H leaders who have credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the Somali people, and are capable of mobilizing the population for peace and nation-building.
The premise of our argument is that rebuilding post-TFG institutions demands a reckoning with past history of clan power politics, domination and oppression, which led to conflict. In the twogobannimopieces already published, we notice that four D&H sub-clans [namely Habargidir, Majeerteen, Mariixaan, and Muddullood] have, relatively speaking, dominated or contested political power in the post-colonial Somali government, and that these samesub-clans are also without exception party to the conflict that led to the collapse of the central state. We also saw that the contentious politics between these pairs represent the putative Daarood-Hawiye rivalry and that, if anything, the lessons drawn by these sub-clans have been largely dysfunctional.
Whilst the actions of subgroups are very important, it is the political dynamics between these two clan families which was (and still remains) the fulcrum of clan-power politics in Somalia.More than any other group of people, D&H leaders established the political centrality of clan competition for power and supremacy. For example, between them, the Daarood and Hawiye produced twenty out of the twenty four (or 83% of the total) presidents and prime ministers (including those who claimed/contested these positions during the protracted civil wars in the 1990s) Somalia has ever had since executive authority was passed over to us by the Italian colonial administration in 1956.
A brief historical background is in order at this point. Somalia’s post-colonial constitutional framework provided for proportional representation in the electoral system. There were 47 electoral districts from which 123 deputies would be sent to the National Assembly. The number of aggregate votes in each district would determine the number of deputies. Each political party had a list of potential representatives. Parties, not candidates would be the recipients of votes. If the party earned one seat, the candidate at the top of the party list would go to the Assembly. If the party earned two seats, then the two top candidates would be sent. There was intense rivalry between all candidates to get to the top of the list. If a candidate could not get a top place, he would seek to get enough signatures (usually 500) from members of his clan to form his own party. In this way, the number of parties multiplied until the process was no longer viable.
For instance, twenty-one clan-based parties vied for office in the first general election in South Somalia or former Italian territory held in 1956. In the general election of March 1969, a record number of 1002 candidates, representing 62 parties contested the 123 seats.According to I. M. Lewis, as soon as the National Assembly opened, a large number of members crossed the floor of the house to join the government, hoping to share in the spoils of office. The unedifying stampede of deputies left Abdirazak Haji Hussen sitting alone as the sole opposition member of the assembly.
Another British historian makes a similar observation of political opportunism, rivalry, and factionalism in post-independence Somalia. Somalis turned all politics into tribalism. Each big clan, small clan or sub-clan used the system of proportional representation so as to form its own ‘party’ and send its own man or men to parliament. A reckless competition for the fruits of power and privilege was soon underway. Having secured all the power and privilege, a small group at the top fought personal battles for their own interests. Whenever elections came, they went back to their clans and drummed up support against their rivals. Once back in power again, they returned to fighting their battles over sharing the spoils of office. This disunity and personal rivalry led directly to bad government and corruption.
If the first elected, post-independence civilian governments proved to be inefficient, corrupt, and incapable of creating any kind of civic political culture, Siyad Barre’s twenty-one years of rule and misadventures destroyed any semblance of national governmental legitimacy. He promised an end to corruption, nepotism, and tribalism, but gave us more. According to Lewis, Siyad distributed arms and money to his friends, encouraging them to attack their common clan enemies who were accused of divisive “tribalism” by the master tribalist. His inner power circle consisted of members of three related clans, each critically significant in its own way – the President’s (Marrehaan), his mother’s brother’s (Ogaadeen), and his son-in-law’s (Dhulbahente). The magic letters MOD thus represented the inner circle of his power. Sadly, this legacy of misrule ensured a wide and persistent prevalence of extremely bloody clan conflict.
Now think about these designations [they’re not listed in any particular order]: Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF); Somali National Movement (SNM); Somali National Alliance (SNA); Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM); Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) (sna); United Somali Congress (USC); United Somali Congress (USC) (sna); United Somali Congress/Somali Salvation Alliance (USC – SSA); Somali National Front (SNF); Sodere Group; Somali Democratic Movement (SDM); Southern Somali National Movement (SSNM) (sna); Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA); United Somali Root (USR); United Somali Front (USF); United Somali Party (USP); Somali National Union (SNU); Somali National Democratic Union (SNDU); Somali Africans Muke Organization (SAMO); Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC); Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT); Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRMLTM); Juba Valley Alliance (JVA); Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI); Islamic Courts Union (ICU); Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS); Muqawama (meaning ‘the resistance’); Raskamboni; Aanoole (in Somali ‘Caanoole’ meaning ‘Milk Proprietor’); Jebiso (meaning ‘the breaker’; it is also the name of a type of Somali snake); Hisbul Islam (HI); Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujaahidiin, etc.
A few of these names belong to political associations or organizations representing the interest of minority victimised groups. A few more could also be described as armed resistance against foreign domination. Most of the rest were factions and clan militias led by competing warlords who have held de facto control over vast territory of the country over the course of the Somali civil war. The only common denominator between them was a struggle for power and supremacy, and most have used political violence to oppose or derail a political process. Since the collapse of the government in 1991, repeated attempts to create a centralised government has managed only to sever the state from the society that should have been its foundation – all thanks to the discord, strife, contention, dissension, conflict, clash, and variance of interests between Somali clans using the above designations and many more.
The problem is not competition per se. On the contrary, competition is central to the success of any enterprise because competitors are forced to do their best, as in sports. The necessity of competing to achieve wealth and excellence characterises the nations and societies that achieve progress and development anywhere in the world. Competition, in these contexts, is a public good essential for the functioning of society in sustaining the physical well-being of its members, ensuring their safety, and promoting opportunities for education, employment as well as civil and political rights for all citizens.
Where it is unhelpful, and deadly wrong, is when we engage in clan competition for raw power and supremacy to have control over the state. For goodness sake, the ‘State’ belongs to the Somali people, and not to a particular clan family, sub-clan, lineage, or any of its underlings, in genealogical terms. As we have seen time and again, such competition leads to violence and war. We’re fighting, not over some notion of the ‘public good’ but over whose clan members are going to dominate the state. We then engage in truly titanic struggles where what benefits (or is perceived to benefit) one set of interests harms another, forcing us to compete even harder in an effort to win the game against our adversary. Just that the game is not card games or video nasties full of blood and gore, it is the real thing.
The unrelenting and fierce competition for raw clan power and supremacy led us into an unending war which is nearing the end of its third decade. Close to a million Somali people have died and millions have become refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons inside Somalia). The former include international migrants and stateless persons who fanned out into the four corners of the earth. Only enlightened cooperation between all our people will lead to a resolution of this conflict. For that genuine cooperation and effective human interaction between the Somali people to start, we commend the members of the new post-TFG parliament to accept our proposal.
The election of national leaders for the Somali Republic: an open letter by Abdirazak Haji Hussen, Fmr Prime Minister of the Somali Republic, March 9, 2004. [Translated by Aweys O. Mohamoud, Nov. 14, 2011]
Let me start with some questions to the (Somali) reader.
Question:(Somali) Reader, would you like to see your native land Somalia transformed into a peaceful, stable and united country?
Answer:I believe your answer will be YES (what else could it be!).
Question:How can we get there? And where shall we start?
Answer:Of course, people are bound to have different views when answering these two questions. Suppose someone comes up with the idea that we can get there if we had honest, capable leaders who are not only sufficiently qualified to do the job, but are able to gain public trust from a majority of the Somali people. If you have a more reasonable proposition, please put it forward! But if the idea of ‘electing honest leaders’ sounds plausible to you, you might think (in fact I do) the upcoming leadership elections at the ongoing Somali Reconciliation Conference in Kenya would be a good place to start. This open letter is an attempt to begin that discussion.
Let’s now assume, for the sake of the argument, that we are all agreed to the suggestion of electing honest and capable leaders at the ongoing conference in Kenya. Sounds reasonable to me! But can we agree on a definition for what we mean by ‘honest leaders’? The current state of feeling in Somali society or ‘the national mood’, if we can call it that way, would tend towards defining ‘an honest leader’ as someone who is from the same clan as the person who is making that statement. The person who is not from the same clan as them is not honest, in their view, and so they would not accept their authority. Yet if we agree that the country cannot have more than one president, one prime minister, and one parliamentary speaker, what is there to be done? In my view, we can take our pick from two options: let’s forget about unity and national government, and continue to exist in our current state of affairs and worse, or else we need to have a rethink about the wisdom of forming opinions and making decisions solely on the basis of clan motives or perspectives.
Although I can understand the climate of opinion that existed at the time, I still believe that it was a fundamental error of misjudgement when the clan-based formula known as 4.5 was adopted as a legally binding power-sharing agreement in the Somali National Reconciliation Conference at Arta, Djibouti (in the year 2000). Rather than condemn the clanism and clan chauvinism that caused so much collective violence, destruction and suffering in the (still ongoing) civil war, and instead of putting forward an idea aimed at raising Somali people’s political consciousness for unity, fraternity and solidarity, and for the good of their country, the participants of that conference (albeit indirectly) have declared that all that had happened were fully justified (Is the bloodbath caused by the devastating clan warfare in Somalia ever justifiable?). Thus in effect it was decided that clanism will be, henceforth, the sole basis upon which power sharing agreements and participation in the political process is measured. But have we carefully thought about how we can reconcile (dogmatic) clan agendas with the imperative needs of nation-building for the country?
I believe most people want to see the destruction, statelessness and division that grips our country come to an end. If that is the case, then isn’t it our responsibility to make as much effort as we can to work towards the realization of these goals (i.e., achieving the unity of our people, rebuilding the state, and putting a stop to the murderous atrocities being committed against our citizens)? The first step one has to take to achieve these goals is to elect the right leaders TODAY: honest and just leaders who will, for all time, be free from showing favouritism or granting patronage to relatives; leaders who will strictly observe and respect the rule of law; leaders who will use the powers and privileges of their office for the common good, and not to advance their private or family interests.
Granted that people are agreeable to these ideas, we will have (to move fast) to achieve these ends. This requires dedication, hard work, honest intentions, bravery and courage, especially on the part of young people whose (and whose children’s) future well-being rests on attaining these (nation-building) goals.
If we look back at the past 40 years, let’s say, we can learn something useful from our (often, unpleasant) experience. George Santayana, the Spanish American philosopher and essayist of the twentieth century, is reputed to have said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. An explanation of events of the past that is presented factually and not influenced by emotions or personal prejudices is very important for our historical record, and will help our people remember the past so that they won’t repeat it. But these explanations must be free from party affiliation or bias. We must also avoid reports based on rumours and innuendo. In sum, we ought “to learn our lesson”, but also we must be able to put past events aside to move on. Let bygones be bygones, as they say.
After some lengthy intros, may be these questions will capture the essence of it all. How can we start the engine? Where is the key? There is a stone wall between us and the keys (to the house):clanism and pride in numerical clan superiority.Forget about the long-gone past, what have been the consequences of‘clanism and pride in numerical clan superiority’for us in the past 14 years of civil war? Any upright person with genuine interest in the welfare of the Somali people would answer thus: the evils of war; harm; misfortune; utter destruction, and irrecoverable losses.
Let me now relate the gist of my conversation to you. How can we find good leaders with honest convictions in advancing peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing between warring communities, and societal reconstruction through non-violence and social justice? How can we find leaders who are capable of constructing new political institutions that express a people’s shared sentiments for a reconstituted independent Somali state? How can we find leaders who are able to rescue the good name and reputation of the Somali people that was lost through the evils of war over the past two decades?
As a Somali proverb has it, “A man who says me, sets himself apart from others”(Nin yiri aniga, dad iska reeb). As with others, we Somalis have sayings embodying some commonplace fact or experience. This particular one expresses a basic truth about the concept of humility in old Somali lore. However good, smart or powerful in terms of position one may be, at least in the old days, the Somali people I knew, lived and worked with, preferred someone with a sense of modesty and humbleness in word or deed to the one that was being unduly vain and conceited.
With that in mind and having thought and thought about this over a considerable period of time, I propose that today we chart a new course for the debate. Let us also tryShabshable(“Bal Shabshablena ku day,”is a well-known Somali maxim. Shabshable is a type of Somali traditional dance. This maxim is about people trying new things or ideas when they see the old ways as not working or producing the required results). And what do I mean by a new course or (in the Somali version) ‘new path’? As we all know, there are tworeer(Somali clans) who exclusively begrudge each other. In alphabetical order, they are D (forDaarood) and H (forHawiye). These tworeerhave a deep sense of grievance towards each other. It is a story that has continued running for a long time, and still continues to run. But also the rest of the (Somali) people feel they have a legitimate grievance against both. One or the other, or both, of these tworeerholding the top offices of the state would be like putting on the fire a bundle of easily ignited firewood. Instead of placing emphasis on restoring civic politics, inclusive identities and institution building, they will waste their time (or rather focus their finest effort) on rivalry, power struggles and pride in numerical clan supremacy, and futile rhetoric that glorify the continuation or resumption of war and feuding. Whilst one cannot forecast precisely what might happen, the public record of the individuals from both D & H vying for ascendance in the upcoming elections can be seen as a measure of the difficult time ahead for efforts towards reconciliation and genuine cooperation between the Somali people to rebuild a functioning state.
People are fed up with war and feuding. They are also unwilling to put up with fanaticism and narrow mindedness, hate mongering, and propagandizing based on distorted clan histories any longer. After so much suffering and destruction for so long, they now understand why opportunistic politicians in the midst of power struggles would resort to such base appeals. And I believe, given the opportunity, they do not want to be part of it. Instead, the people of Somalia are yearning for peace, stability, reconciliation and reconstruction, and the rebuilding of a functioning state in their country.
Therefore, the right cure for Somalia today is for these tworeerto renounce vying for ascendance to the top three offices of the state, namely the President, the Prime Minister, and the Parliamentary Speaker, in the next 5 years of transitional government. Individuals from non D & H community background must be elected to these top three offices of state.
Non D & H communities have come to believe, and with good reason, that they are marginalized in Somali society. So many of them felt that they were alienated, disenfranchised and unjustly treated in the hands of these larger clans, and that has some merit. In my view, that is why some people have advocated secession from Somalia. What is needed now is a sense of justice and sympathy to address these grievances, and the course I am proposing is the first step towards that direction. It would be very unfortunate if we didn’t take it up.
My brothers of the D & H communities must think very carefully about my submission. It is of much greater value to think in terms of the public good and what enhances the well-being of our people than boosting the ego of one or two individual leaders by helping them come to power. I know some people will say that, by proffering this proposal, I am aiming at particular individuals. In my defence, I will say this: I have no one or more persons or a particular group of people in mind. The way I see it, this is an idea that can be a response or solution to the complex and insoluble issues that we face today. We are caught in a trap largely of our own making. This idea represents a way to release or set free ourselves from this trap. But also it is a temporary measure, and not a permanent one. It is meant for the five years of transitional administration. The president and prime minister, etc., are not the only top office holders of state to be hired. My brothers, from the D & H communities, can have the lion’s share of other top government positions, and can play a major role in the essential work of reconciliation and reconstruction which is a moral obligation on them. By acting in this way, they will be regarded as true leaders with a sense of honour and integrity, both by their own people and the rest of the world. Can the moral rectitude of this principle (i.e., Somali politicians, guided by their conscience, freely renouncing power for the sake of their country and their people) ever be contested?
President Aden Abdulle Othman (aka Aden Adde) was indeed wise to the politics of equality for all people, especially in their access to the rights and privileges of their society. One of his often repeated and familiar public expressions was thus: “Let the people get to know their men (their leaders)”. What did he mean by this? He was basically asserting the equality of all men when it comes to running for office or being elected or appointed to it. His philosophy of social equality was the opposite of a rule by an elite group or a particularreer. He wanted jobs, roles and responsibilities distributed more equitably in society so that people will see for themselves the absence of discrimination based on clan or other forms of favouritisms. If I put it differently, what the President meant was that the offering of employment or positions in government must be based not on “who is the person?” but “what is the person?” Perhaps, we can sum it up in this way. Rights, including fundamental freedoms and privileges, belong to a person by reason of citizenship as a Somali but when it comes to appointing someone for a job or to an office, what matters is his/her competence and capability.
We need to work out fully in our minds that ‘numerical clan order’ cannot be the measure we use for the accomplishment of our national objectives. The criterion on which our government is established must be based on personal qualities such as uprightness, justice and fairness, honesty, integrity, reputation, and piety as well as on personal achievement including education, skills, competence and capability. President Aden Adde himself amply demonstrated the truth or validity of the argument that what matters is not ‘who’ the person is, but ‘what’ the person is in terms of character or achievement. It was because of his honesty, even-handedness, and feats of strength (what the person is!) that he was called “the Father of the Nation” (Aabihii Qaranka).
If this idea gains favourable reception, then I believe what we need are the right leaders with the right personal characteristics and achievements. Given the opportunity, in my view, such leaders should be able to appeal to Somali people’s sense of justice, reason and sympathy in fairly short order, and hence prove that ‘what’ (personal qualities of leaders) is more important than ‘who’ (clan attributes) they are.
Eebbow(Almighty God), you know what is good for us and what is ahead of us, so please help us come to an agreement to resolve our difficulties. Amen.
GobannimoInstitute is a trading name forGobannimoSomali Centre of Ideas Limited, registered in England with company number 7943558. GI aspires to become an educational, social, and political research institution that works towards improving the lives of the Somali people at home and abroad. We’ll be seeking funding from governments, and through charitable trusts and private donations. We’re in the process of launching GI in both the UK and Somalia, and welcome cooperation from educated and professional Somalis who share our objectives, wherever they may be.
See Hashim, Alice Bettis (1997) The fallen state: dissonance, dictatorship, and death in Somalia. Lanham, New York & Oxford: University Press of America, Inc. p. 61.
Lewis, I.M. (2002) A Modern History of the Somali: Nation and State in the Horn of Africa (Fourth Edition). Oxford: James Currey, p. 204.
Davidson, Basil (1983) Modern Africa. Longman Group Ltd., p. 177-178.
See Lewis, Ioan M. (1994) Blood and bone: the call of kinship in Somali society. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press, pp. 223-231.