by Ismail D. Osman
Monday, February 04, 2013
The new Republic of Somalia was born in August of 2012 following the adaption of the new constitution of Somalia that led to the formation of a new parliament and the election of the speaker and the president. This was historic because for the first time since the collapse of the Somali regime, a Somali conference was held in Mogadishu to end over a decade long of a transitional period.
In the past few weeks Somalia has gained momentum subsequent to the diplomatic recognition of the USA, which then triggered series of diplomatic interests that opened doors of many counties including the EU and UK, where the president is currently on an official visit. With Al-Shabab almost on the run, the hope for a long lasting peace and stability seems to be imminent. However, there is a need for a public support to swiftly transform Somalia from a failed state to a sovereign state. It is healthy to have genuine political differences, but unfortunately those differences should not be as a ruse to mobilize clans and create animosity in the society. Since dialogue is not part of our culture; we by and large tend to polarize and stigmatize our political differences. Let us keep in mind that a fractured society cannot build a strong nation. The first republic of Somalia was built under the premise of emotions and injustice as those in the power practically dictated the future of the country. After 22 years of chaos and anarchy Somalia has an opportunity to build a foundation based on justice, civil liberty, equality and economical freedom. Let us keep in mind that if we collectively fail to capitalize this opportunity, we will have no one blame, but us.
There are many challenges a head that could derail the exploitation of this golden chance. Some of them are easy and others are difficult. The easy challenges include building trust among Somalis. There is no doubt the government should sooner or later engage and tackle this task. Although a meager government is the best option, but the real wisdom dictates a more inclusive government is the best way to move forward in this fragile period of our history. This will eliminate complains about accusations that the president and his team have hijacked the control of the Somali political affairs. The public trust can also be obtained by creating transparency, accountability and building a justice system where no one is above the law. There will be essentially no effective government without a reformed justice system that defends the rights every single citizen. Likewise, Somalia can’t achieve its social and economic ambitions without an effective government.
On the other hand the difficult challenges are the future political dialogue with Somaliland, and whether Somalia should adapt federalism or not. The leadership of the new republic should not behave like a winner. It should go with an open mind in the future dialogues by listening carefully, respectfully asking to clearly define the problem, and how to solve it and finally aiming for a win-win solution. Both parties should form technical committees that will meet regularly to set up the agenda for the leaders of both sides to meet. The agenda of the meetings as well as the political positions of both sides should be made available to the public to debate and garner support. They must also be in a position to genuinely willing to compromise and begin their dialogue with the end in mind which is achieving a win-win solution.
The question whether Somalia should be a federal country or not requires serious debate. I doubt that Somalis are ready for it. Those who support federalism will stick to it and those who dislike it will reject it. The word Federalism is defined as “a union of states under a central government distinct from that of the separate states, which retain certain individual powers under the central government”. However, the nature of federalism is very dynamic and even in the USA it has been shaped through years by laws, Supreme Court decisions, and debates among prominent elected officials and statesmen. If it took too long for the US to shape federalism; it should not be expected Somali federalism to flourish within few years. We don’t have an effective supreme court and prominent legally elected officials in our parliament, so how do we do it? It is not going to be an easy process in a country where there is still no functioning justice system. Injustices exist in all regions of Somalia where the most dominant tribe has or is dictating the future of the other clans. The problem, however, is worse in the indigenous regions of the marginalized clans. In the past 40 years, the people in these regions have been the meat in the sandwich and will remain voiceless if no corrective policies are implemented. This is the major injustice that Somalia has faced in the past and will continue facing in the future. Policies that justify injustice can do immense harm to individuals or communities and should be opposed collectively as a nation. As long as the benefits and the burdens that are available in the society are unequally divided among the Somali clans, Somalia will remain an unjust society.
There are so far over 10 federal states with over 10 people claiming to be the president of these states; the question is how do we assure the full public participation? Our recent experience with clan elders selecting members of their own clan for the parliament was indeed extremely disappointing. Most of these so-called clan elders are corrupt and have no legitimacy to represent their clan. In a democratic process delegates should come from each village and districts of the region and delegates from each region will negotiate with other regions to lay down a foundation for a federal state if this is what they desire. They will then elect a federal governor who will then form a meager government for that state. This approach guarantees public participation; it provides transparency, legitimacy and brings democracy into play.
There are not only challenges, but also huge opportunities that could be capitalized on the governments’ advantage. The opportunities for the new republic are immense. Time is on the side of the government. For the first time after 22 years Somalia is gaining its sovereign status. The glory and the emotions are high among Somalis. As Mogadishu is finally becoming peaceful and receptive the president encouraged Somalis to return back home. The entrepreneurship of the Somalis is unquestionable; they can thrive in a peaceful environment, pleasant and welcoming taxation system. The government can utilize the Somali expertise to plan for the future of the country. It has also the opportunity to utilize the experiences of the professional Somalis returning form overseas to build a modern infrastructure for the country. The government has the opportunity create a platform where Somalis can debate about Somali politics and the issues facing the nation. With Mogadishu and the rest of the country soon enjoying peace, development programs can be started that would create jobs to the millions of unemployed people. Encouraging private investments should be a major priority for the government. Moreover, the government has the best chance to unite the nation and build a solid foundation based on checks and balances. Lenin said one of his speeches “Trust is good, but control is better”, which means although it is good to trust each other, but we should establish a control mechanism that has accountability and transparency. The constitution is there to act as a control system.
Ismail D. Osman