Commentary on Prof. Michael Weinstein’s Article “S.F.G’s Strategy of Political Conflict"
by Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, CFE
Friday, March 01, 2013
The internet has brought many us benefits which we all cherish. It allows for the superfast exchange of ideas, opinions and information. It is however a two edged blade that can be used to cut an intended object but also cut the user if he or she is not careful.
This metaphor is appropriate when evaluating the accuracy and intellectual merit of this article. I would have thought that the Professor would have found it appropriate to express an objective analysis of the Constitutional challenges facing Somalia and not allow himself to be a victim of misinformation and propaganda.
It is, in my view, not coincidental that this article was published on the Garoweonline website which is owned and operated by relatives of the President of Puntland. It is also not a coincidence that the article seems to establish clear divides between Puntland and the Somali Federal Government (SFG).
My views will deal with four core issues.
1. The Somali Identity.
3. The role of the SFG
4. The role of the International Community
The Somali Identity
It is an inescapable reality that despite the fact that Somalia is a clan based society, Somalis share a common identity forged by bonds of religion, language, traditions and history. Wherever one goes on this planet, a Somali recognizes another Somali. It is inconceivable that Somalis irrespective of clan would not want to be a Somali and part of a Somali nation. This notion of a Somali nation has never been challenged by Somalis while acknowledging the fact that there are the cleavages of Clan in the Society. The central issue in how to shape a nation “e pluribus unum”.
The article makes a distinction between “Centralized Federalism” and “Decentralized Federalism”. It would also appear that the article seeks to publicize some potential disadvantages to Puntland if they embrace the centralized model supported by the Somali Federal Government. Prof. Weinstein asserts that the SFG seeks to “Establish Dominance and Control over the South-Central regions. He fails to mention what evidence he has to support his assertions. While the Puntland model would appear to be attractive to regional interests, it is not sustainable for several pragmatic reasons.
1. It is unsustainable because it is not in the national, regional or international interest to have a plethora of micro governments comprising the new Somalia. It does not foster stability both nationally and regionally. It is a recipe for continued inter-clan conflict and feeds into the perception of a failed state.
2. It is unsustainable because without a credible central Government, international participation in the reconstruction of Somalia would be extremely limited and piecemeal. Somalia would disintegrate into small fishes in a sea of sharks. Independence and self-determination would be a myth and the souls of Somalis would be mortgaged to the highest bidder.
3. It is unsustainable because regional borders cannot always be geographically defined. Somali traditions and the effect of the recent refugee crisis create legitimate reasons for international intervention under the rationale of responding to a humanitarian crisis. The world will never stand idly by while Somalia implodes.
4. Without a central authority, inter clan conflict in the form of Piracy , Terrorism and Extremism is encouraged. The rule of Law must permeate throughout the nation. Jubbaland is a prime example of the need to support the SFG‘s position on Federalism. Abraham Lincoln’s statement “A nation divided against itself cannot stand” is most appropriate.
The role of the SFG
I am alarmed by the fact that this article fails to acknowledge the constitutional role of the SFG. While this article seems to decry the motives of the SFG, it is remarkably silent on offering any constructive advice to the SFG. In this regard, I need to make the following observations.
1. The SFG is legally bound to abide by, uphold and defend the constitution of Somalia. It is clearly stated in the Constitution that Somalia “shall be a UNITARY” state. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state or imply that Somalia shall be comprised of a collection of balkanized enclaves. I therefore challenge the writer to state how the SFG has not abided by the tenets of the Constitution. Further, I am sure that the writer does not advocate selective interpretation of the Constitution to satisfy sectarian interests.
2. The process by which the current Administration came to power is universally recognized as the most transparent process that occurred in Somalia for the past forty years. As such it would be naïve to expect that the prophets of doom have all died; they are very much alive using their considerable talents to gnaw away at the new governance structure and ultimately destabilize Somalia.
3. For the first time in the past forty years, Somalia currently enjoys international legitimacy. This is a luxury that cannot be self- imposed, it must be granted. Merely implying that there is some grand international conspiracy between the United Nations and western donor powers is without merit and is the usual strategy of deflecting blame onto the international community. I will comment a bit more on this later.
I will accept the fact that the current Somali administration faces many challenges which for the most part, were inherited. However, there is no value in wallowing in the muddy waters of the past; it must take bold and strategic decisions in setting a new course for Somalia. Let me be very clear. While international legitimacy is critical to the economic reconstruction of Somalia, this in itself is also unsustainable if the Government also lacks internal credibility and domestic
legitimacy. Government must never be isolated from the people; it must be part of the people and be perceived as being part of a collaborative dialogue.
It is a truism that in modern times, the first law of politics is to remain in power. Some administrations seek to comply by establishing autocratic machinery of governance; Somalia with its social structure cannot take this option. Somalia has no alternative but to seek a functioning democracy. This requires that the machinery of Government needs to be structured to function optimally. In the interest of objectivity, there is some concern as to whether the current governance structure has the required intellectual muscle to sustain the required trajectory needed for domestic legitimacy.
The following issues need to be addressed.
1. There is a perception that beyond the evidence of the President establishing the necessary diplomatic linkages, there is little knowledge or information of what is happening to affect the daily lives of the population. Any void in the flow of information is an opportunity for misinformation and destabilization.
2. There is little information pertaining to the functioning of the Prime Minister and the various Ministries. Beside a few photo opportunities, the faces and performance of the Ministries are a blur to most Somalis. In a country where skepticism is rife, information needs to be the weapon of offence and defense.
3. The political honeymoon for the new Administration is almost over. It is advisable that the Government develop and promulgate a Multi -Year Development/Strategic Plan for the nation. This needs to be part of the Government’s Reconciliation Strategy. Difficult as it is, Reconciliation will only succeed if the Government through its action and policies persuade that reconciliation is in the common interest of all Somalis irrespective of region.
4. Questions are being asked regarding what is the proposed legislative agenda for Parliament. Legislation pertaining to the restoration of confidence in Government (corruption for example), legislation pertaining to encouraging private investment in Somalia, legislation pertaining to personal property and others are areas worthy of attention.
5. It is a known fact that Somalia lacks qualified personnel to perform critical functions required for the reconstruction of Somalia. Filling a vacancy is not an end in itself. Filling critical vacancies with unqualified Somalis will not only impede the pace of progress but it constitutes a waste of preciously scarce resources. Somalia needs to invest in efficient service delivery.
These are only a few of the observations that echo through the Somali diaspora community. They are, at this stage, observations as opposed to criticisms.
Role of the International Community
First, it is my view that the United Nations and the International donor Community are indispensable partners for Somalia. Those who are critical of their involvement in the affairs of Somalia should publicly confess that Somalia cannot survive on its own without the largesse of the broader INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.
Second, it would be helpful if there is a clear unequivocal international declaration in support of Somalia as a Unitary State with clearly defined borders (both land and sea). There needs to be international resolve that the territorial integrity of Somalia shall not be violated and that any regional accommodation with international companies shall not be enforceable unless sanctioned by the Somali Federal Government.
Third, the current pace of developing Somalia’s Public Finance System is too slow. Current conditions that apply to small grants are too bureaucratically cumbersome and grant specific. There is a sense that there is a lack of urgency required to arrest the societal crisis still facing Somalia. The fact that there is a new Government in place, diplomatic recognition is increasing, Mogadishu is more secure and some Somalis are returning home is by no means a reason for claiming success. This is merely the beginning of a long dark tunnel.
There are, in my view, two prevailing dispositions; one is optimism and the other is skepticism. However in this document, I have tried to be pragmatic and accept the existence of some inconvenient truths.
Some of these truths include:
1. Somalia currently lacks the institutional capacity to efficiently perform at the pace required to propel the new Administration into a sustainable orbit. The existence of a Cabinet and Ministers is of little consequence unless these Ministries are supported by technocrats. Somalia cannot progress if style is allowed to triumph over style.
2. Most of the Somali intellectual capital resides abroad. They earn salaries that cannot be matched by the current Government. If the international community is truly committed to helping the nation achieve stability, then a system aimed at the remigration of skilled Somalis to fill the void within the structure of the various ministries and important organs of state. I am not advocating an open door policy; I am advocating that Government conduct a needs assessment, advertise vacancies, and let Somalis compete for these positions. Only by open competition can the best candidates surface. Investing in mediocrity will only yield a mediocre rate of return.
3. The Governments in the region and the broader international community need to invest in Somali democracy. The simple truth is that the cost of failure is too high to contemplate. Somalia needs international support to heal the wounds of the past.
It is my hope that some of the points raised in this paper warrant serious consideration.
Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, CFE