Second parliament building in its happy and sad days
by Muuse Yuusuf
Monday, August 27, 2012
As you all knowSomaliais coming out of a protracted civil war, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and destroyed many properties. Indeed, large parts ofMogadishu, the city that is hosting your first session as parliamentarians, were destroyed by vicious cycles of clan, factional and religious violence. Ruins ofSomalia’s beautiful parliament buildings inMogadishuare classic examples of the destruction of our nation’s civic and architectural life. The first parliament that was reduced to rubbles was the beautiful building which stood near “Taallada Daljirka Daahsoon.” Originally built by Italians in a typical fascist style during 1930s, the famous building once hosted countless meetings of elected Somali parliamentarians and civilian governments throughout the years. The proud lawmakers would have gathered in the cameras of this majestic edifice, discussing how to run their country’s socio-economic and political affairs through hard politicking instead of the barrel of the gun. In their happy days, exercising their political power, they would have elected, endorsed or rejected presidents and their governments.
Sadly, most of the politicians of that glorious era, such asAden Abdulle Osman, the first democratically elected president,witnessed the destruction of their beloved parliament building. Feeling sad and heart broken by what happened to his beloved country, the late president was asked to compare the 1960-Somalia with post 1990-Somalia. The former president made it clear that they were incomparable when he said:
“Somaliaof 1960 was a united country. Today there is not even asingle document archived.Somaliawent backwards by100 years……Those fighting factions have killed, maimed or displaced the people they want to rule. Even animals and plants (country’s natural resources) have been destroyed…”
Certainly, the late president was the man who captured and articulated that public mood of despair and hopelessness. May Allah bless his soul for the good work he did for his country and his people. Amin.
Old parliament building in its glorious days and its ruins
The building of the first parliament lost its charm and prestige after the military regime had seized power in 1969 and overthrew the democratically elected civil government. Associating the building with the filthy era of colonialism and what it described the “corrupt” and “tribalist” civilian government, the Somali Revolutionary Council (SRC) removed the seat of power from this building, converting it offices for lower government departments. With the help of foreign donors, a new grandiose building was built on the top of one ofMogadishu’s hills near Taalada Dhagax-Tuur (the stone throwing man’s statue) and Sayid Mohamed Abdulle statue. The new stately house dominated the political and architectural life ofMogadishuduring the revolutionary era. It represented the face of a proud, more confident and revolutionarySomalia, which once was the most powerful country in sub-SaharaAfrica. The building proudly hosted many national and international conferences and meetings. Anyone who lived inMogadishuwould remember those days when world and African leaders gathered in the building to hold their meetings, especially the Organisation of African Union (OAU). The building became headquarters of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party and later on the Peoples’ Assembly or “Golaha Shacabka” as it was called after the election of 171 parliamentarians on 30 December 1979.
Sadly, that parliament lost its glory and beauty when the civil war erupted. As the fate of many other government office blocks, the building was reduced to a derelict structure where animals sought refuge from man’s conflict and destruction
I am narrating the past with its pleasant and ugly memories because I want to remind you of how the choice between peace and war can make the difference, especially this time whenSomaliais at cross roads and its future is in your hands. The country could go either way: peace or war, but you can influence the future. Remember, for the first time since 1991, your parliament is the most legitimate institution compared with the previous ones for the simple fact that it was constituted insideSomaliaby clan elders who still have some kind of legitimacy and exercise some sort of power over their clan constituents. Indeed, gone are those days whenNairobiorAddis Ababahosted conferences to reconcile Somalis. So please seize this opportunity of optimism and good will to save your country from further violence and destruction.
At the moment you have two important tasks ahead of you: electing a new speaker and president. Candidates for these posts are not in short supply, as thirty or so individuals have put their names in the hat. You would probably have seen their curriculum vitae, and I am sure you would have heard of stories and hearsay about their professional and personal lives. I am sure there are many competing constituents putting forward their candidates for the posts, but please be wary of unhealthy politicking and improper financial incentives, which will be pushed by some ruthless groups. Your role in all these should be simple and clear. You should carefully read candidates’ curriculum vitae, take professional and character references from people who know them, and then use string rules to vet them. And more importantly, instead of relying on hearsay and gossip, you should give each and every of the 32 or so candidates the chance to speak for themselves. Give them the podium as long as it takes, and listen carefully to what they have to say. As you are the job-interview panel, ask each candidate as many questions as you like. After this string procedure, the most qualified and capable candidate for the job will naturally come out and shine through. Then you will have to make your decision on how they impress, inspire and convince you that they are the right person for the job.
For example, there is a candidate who said he is happy to do the job for $1 dollar a month, which is very impressive offer considering how money (self-enrichment) has always been associated with the highest office in the land. Rare offers like this should be given more attention because it clearly makes an important point: highest office should not be seen as a source of income for its incumbents but as a seat to serve the Somali people.
In conclusion, please be very careful of unhealthy politicking, rumours, hearsay and all the bad mouthing that could drag our country back to the days of settling differences by the barrel of the gun.