by Ibrahim Abikar Noor
Thursday, January 03, 2013
A lot has been said about the slow progress of the Somali government since its inauguration in September of last year. This especially comes into prominence when compared to the private sector that is rapidly changing the face of many cities including the capital, Mogadishu. Many argue it is too early to judge the government and more time is needed, but that is precisely the point. Somalia is already on borrowed time. There is no more to spare.
Not only is the country’s state of the union getting dimmer by the day, but the whole sovereignty is becoming more questionable due to consistent, unwarranted outside intervention. In addition, Somalia ranks lowest in almost all metrics of the least developed countries.
Somalia is coming out of 22 years with no central authority or a government in transition. The last election, if anything, mandated the need for a change of direction. The country is ready for leaders who are new in post-conflict Somali politics- untarnished leaders with track records and capacity to roll up their sleeves and hit the ground running.
The newly elected Authority’s first priority (as well as slogan) was security, security and security. While peace and security are prerequisites for sustainable development, they are not the only ingredients for a viable nation building mechanism. There are conspicuous nations with spotless records in safety that could not afford to feed their people nor provide basic necessities such as quality education or healthcare. In addition, to heal and rehabilitate a generation of war is way beyond one, two or even three administrations. The scars are not only manifested in buildings. The anomalies of Somalia are too many to fit into one framework. A multi-faceted approach is essential. There is not enough time to concentrate on a single priority.
Since its inception, the new parliament has not managed to pass enough bills to account for their time in session. To put it into perspective, the neighboring country of Kenya passed a record 92 bills this year, an average of 23 bills in each 2012 trimester. It is worth noting that this new parliament has half the members of the preceding one and, arguably, 40% of the members possess post-secondary education. In addition, as a career politician, the current parliament’s top management does not lack legislative experience or managerial skills. Taken together these qualities make formidable tools necessary to reconstitute the public policy apparatus. The leadership needs to exercise those qualities to produce public policies for the sake of national unity and perseverance of the country’s sovereignty. The clock is ticking. Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option.
The cabinet started with limited positions not witnessed in a long time, then expanded to more than double of its number. The whole process was plagued by postponements and consumed valuable time that could have been put into productive use. Still, the current cabinet did not satisfy a large segment of the population - not only in representation but also in capacity.
In addition, the roles and responsibilities of the agency’s top leaders are not clearly delineated. A ministry is either overstaffed or understaffed depending on its prestigious title and accoutrement. To sort out this mismanagement left behind by the previous cabinet heads will surely require the very one thing the country can no longer afford to waste - time.
To embark on recovering lost ground, the most pressing matter is having a qualified human capital in place. Currently, there is a huge gap to fill in the public administration apparatus. Over the years, too much emphasis was put on filling political positions with less due regard given to career appointments. Able, available, and erudite Somali nationals reside in all parts of the globe. To concentrate on a few based on affiliation, or to focus on the confines of a limited geographical location, does not put the country on a fast track to recovery.
With no time to spare and to recover the lost ground, an all-hands-on-deck approach is necessary. This should start with:
A clear leadership vision with a shared understanding of what needs to be done, by whom, how and when.
A well-defined conceptual framework based on empirical evidence to map out the context of current Somalia’s status, as well as where the country needs to be in the future.
A strategic plan that identifies not just a few priorities but multiple goals and objectives based on the bigger picture, starting with the salvation of national unity.
Somalia has been on borrowed time too long for comfort. The dismantling and reshaping of Somalia started a long time ago and continues to date. Somalia was pioneered by our forefathers and gained independence on July 1st, 1960. Now its very existence is at stake. There simply is no time for perfection or postponement, no maneuvering space left. To draw on aviation analogy: during an emergency you need to know your checklist by heart, as there is no time to look for or read from the checklist booklet. The responsibility lies with the generation on watch. The time is now. Respond to the calling.
Ibrahim Abikar Noor