Last year has been a good year for the Hassan Shiekh Mohamud administration, there were a lot tangible efforts to get the country back on its feet after more than two decades of civil war. There was the international recognition and support for the new government, talk of building up institutions in the country, promises of working with both stakeholders and national leaders, travelling around the world to encourage inward investment into the country especially by the Somali diaspora, photo ops here and there to show the country is working. In other words, a good step has been taken in the right direction.
Now it seems the administration took two steps behind, and that has been the history of Somalia. Hopes are evaporating and dreams are, well, dreams. The government is undoing all it has done last year. For a start, there is new Prime Minister. Turkey is joining a long list of countries who are frustrated with Somali government. The UN pragmatically speaking, did the right thing lifting the arms embargo to inject confidence in the Somali Army who will go on to battle with Al Shabab, or so the narrative went, and now reports of weapons channeled into the wrong hands by UN Monitoring group is not shocking. The president’s order for a full investigation into rumors of his death purported to be circulated on the internet, is at best unproductive and at worst gross misuse and negligence of public resources. There is the federal conundrum, with the Baidoa issue brewing behind the scenes and will come to the fore as long as the government chooses sides or turns a blind eye.
It’s hard to blame the president on all of this. Part of the problem should lie at how politics is conducted by Somalis. The Somali public in general and political elite in particular, tend to respect and believe in powerful president whom the laws serve him rather than the president serving the public and upholding the law. I think it’s a mentality issue still in the psyche of many Somalis after two decades of military rule and another two decades of powerful warlords and clan militias.
Another issue that need to be solved is the lack of vision shown by both Somali leaders and the Somali diaspora. There are the only group capable of or are in a position to effect change in the country. The Somali political elite are looking for legitimacy, from Somaliland to Puntland to Hassan Shiekh administration.
Somaliland, unaffected by the civil war, intend to get sovereign from rest of Somalia, with the belief that the union is untenable. Although it’s hard to argue Somaliland’s claim, such drastic action is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem of Somali political elites own making, tribalism. I think it’s wrong, irresponsible and worst of all tedious.
Puntland,semiautnomous region, on the other hand is looking for its own legitimacy by undermining and sometimes working in conflict with the central government. Cutting all ties with central government just because you don’t agree with them is absurd. Add to the fact of asking and putting all fingers in every soup in equal footing with the central government hardly shows any trust and confidence in the Hassan Shiekh administration.
The Hassan Shiekh administrations’ stance and sometimes eagerness to moralize and win at all costs is also damaging for national reconciliation. Memories of Mohamed Siad Barre asking for time and criminalizing his opponents at the start of what came to be the civil war, is fresh in the Somali memory. This was the same Siad Barre who bombed Hargeisa two years previously, the same guy who maimed or annihilated the same tribal fictions that were fighting him. The administration should know this would fall into deaf ears and instead should concentrate on working with parliament to sort out ambiguities in the constitution.
The Somali diaspora, in all fairness, are doing the best they can with the resources they have. The last thing they want is unfair criticism and they will go back to their cushy apartments in the diaspora faster than they arrived in Mogadishu. Having said that, inequality is rife in the country, real estate value and land prices are sky rocketing and this is unfair to the average Joe in the country. And what are the diaspora doing about these things? Yes, you have heard it, they are in Lido Beach enjoying life as if nothing is happening. It’s hard to go into my Facebook feeds without seeing these positive psychology dross; the most beautiful beach in Africa, applause! applause!, the best Hospital in East Africa, High-five!!, and Oh see my smug face with a semi-famous politician while you are at it. They are better than this and they can do better this, but hey You Only Live Once right.
I think the vision the above groups need to show is one that fights poverty, ignorance, and justice for all. Mohamed Siad Barre briefly come up with programs to address these problems but got side-tracked as he went on to gain authority and legitimacy. Another important thing the political elite need to understand and demonstrate is competency based on results rather than kinship and legitimacy derived from goodwill or experience rather than the content of their wallet. The diaspora need to advance and advocate for common public interests rather than their private goals. Instead of trying to buy influence or their way into Villa Somalia, they need to fill the gaps left by advocacy groups, Public intellectuals and even the international community.
In Summary, the struggle continues and with every step Somali government takes forward, two steps are taken backward.