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Somalia: Reality Checks

Abdirahman Hashi
Tuesday, March 04, 2014

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The recent wave of violence followed by the deadly attack on the presidential palace was a stark evidence of how poor leadership and rampant corruption have eroded the capacity of the SFG and undermined its legitimacy.  Hours before the fatal attack on the presidential compound, the Prime Minister (PM) Mr. Ahmed had addressed the festering problems in Mogadishu in a press conference he held in Nairobi.  His honest remarks were reflective of existential threat.  Hours after that press conference, the heinous assault on the presidential palace was unleashed that killed Mr. Mahamud Abdulle the Director of the PM’s office and other government officers.  A week after, the national security office was the target of another attack that killed over twelve people. Violence in such magnitude is reminiscent of pervasive systemic abuses far more dangerous than mismanagement of weapons and ammunition.  The national army that is critical to the survival of the state is predominantly made up of certain clan militias so enmeshed with Al-Shabab.  

In reality, SFG exists in name only as the gains achieved through years of political strife are in the throes of rapid decline posing potential threat to security. Profit seeking organized crime based in Mogadishu and the Roadmap (the political process that shaped the SFG) are to blame.  Forming a murky central government on the premises of incomprehensive constitution without constituent political units was a drastic political mistake.  Despite mounting public despondency over the rapid decay of President Hassan’s regime, the formation of Jubbaland State has inspired some hope as many regions are emboldened to follow suit. Reinforcing the establishment of regional authorities is the most realistic alternative to correct the mistakes inherited from the failed top down approach that culminated in the current political crisis.

Vigor Hugo once said, “there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come”.  The Roadmap was a tenable political idea that came at a perfect time for quantum change.  Majority of Somalis who have grown impatient with feckless transitional governments were receptive to healthy political transformation that was feasible had there been a diligent and timely intervention.  But the Roadmap’s quick fix strategy was problematic. First, its timetable was extremely short and impractical to produce effective change.  Second, it overlooked the fact that Mogadishu was unsafe to host a fair and transparent political process or to be a seat for effective federal government. Third, comprehensive reconciliation that should have been a steppingstone to peace and good governance was relegated to the sidelines.  Fourth, the election of the President was unconstitutional as the Upper House was not existent. And fifth, the whole process succumbed to the dictates of the UN Political Office in Somalia that was under pressure to accomplish something before the end of its tenure.

The above impediments allowed unbridled corruption involved by foreign elements to sabotage the formal process, which in turn produced a faulty outcome that pushed the broken nation further between Scylla and Charybdis.  It was illogic to expect from a regime founded on corruption to spearhead positive change. Despite those shortcomings, Somalis did not entirely snuff out their hope until they felt serious disenchantment with the current leadership due to grave ethical as well as political pitfalls. The infringements include but not limited to despising competence and probity; usurpation of power and failing to observe the constitution; obstructing federalism and promoting despotism; political killings and serious human rights violations; restraining national unity by provoking tribal conflicts; involving bribery and embezzlement of state assets; condoning proliferation of corruption, tribalism, and nepotism; and collaborating with warlords to enforce authoritative rule.  The above felonies were easily overlooked as laws are flouted with impunity.  The consequence is devastating as the SFG is on the brink of total collapse.

Since the implosion of Barre’s regime, organized crime has progressively infiltrated the political, economic and social levels of Mogadishu. Over the years, this profit seeking criminal group has evolved both in power and complexity.  And under the guise of diverse recalcitrant forces was able to obstruct the rule of law. The current regime is exceptionally vulnerable to this criminality due to lack of character and competence.  Significant number of government officers is believed to be rubber stamps for the crime syndicates. Those who have the courage and tenacity to show moral rectitude are either assassinated or subjected to resign and flee the country for their own safety. As a result, SFG has become a nominal government without actual political authority to govern the country.  Since Mogadishu has lost all functions for governance, relocation of the capital city is not an option anymore but a necessity to save the country from further polarization.  In 2012, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) issued a Global Trends report, which predicted in 2030 Somalia will be among a group of failed states for reasons related to “conflict and environmental ills”.  Under the circumstance, it is difficult to refute NIC’s prediction.

For over twenty years, Somalia has been hostage to the fallacy that Mogadishu is the beacon of statehood. The truth is the opposite.  Mogadishu became synonymous with corruption and lawlessness where Hargeisa and Garowe became model for peace and good governance.  Mogadishu has lost its status and to reclaim that status it needs to undergo cultural transformation.  While Mogadishu’s redemption is a shared responsibility, it is indispensible Hargiesa and Garowe to take the leadership role for bringing Somalia back to normalcy.  No doubt, majority of Somalilanders would embrace the idea of a unified Somalia once they see a genuine federal Somali state on the making.  Since Puntland was among the signatories of the flawed Roadmap, it should take an utmost responsibility in fixing the adversities of that scheme.  Without procrastination, Puntland needs to outreach Hargiesa and the rest of Somali regions while the international community and Turkey need to reexamine their state building policies towards Somalia.

Abdirahman Hashi
[email protected]

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