The Masochist in me
I don't want to sound a clanist. Equally, I don't want to skirt around a matter of existential significance for fear of being labeled a clanist. After all, the role I play as a political commentator is a very expensive one. It invites hostilities; it earns me aversion and abuse.
I come across as a petulant cynic, a killer of hope, a perennial moaner. I come across as a heckler of communal joy, strangler of national optimism, stirrer of a tranquil village. I come across as an undisciplined sadist who drives heinous pleasure from taunting others. And by way of earthly justice, I get requited in kind: through insulting emails, intimidating text messages, and shattering evil-eye.
I am a masochist gratuitously courting pain and hurt; all of it through own mouth, by own ink. In Somali, they say a coward is not oblivious to his infamy. I am not a coward but I am not oblivious to my notoriety. In many ways, critical discourse is a fresh addition to our social and political milieu. So, I cannot expect to find throwing unrestrained volleys at political figures, and challenging bad but deep-seated narratives, relaxing. Our deficient socio-political culture takes criticism for combat invitation. And therefore, I expect more brickbats after this installment.
The Kismaayo Issue
There are three deceptive narratives that have emerged since the takeover of Kismaayo which need to be demystified. First, if President Hassan is not intervening in the formation of a local administration for Baidoa and Beletweyne, but is concerned about the one for Kismaayo, he is not necessarily involved in duplicitous scheming. Baidoa is different to Kismaayo. There is harmony in Baidoa, there is acrimony in Kismaayo.
Secondly, President Hassan can and should ask IGADD and Kenya to get their hands off the politics of Jubbaland. He is closer to Kismaayo by mandate, by law, by commonsense, than Faarax Macallin and Yusuf Haji, much as the latter may feel close to Kismaayo through kinship association. Kismaayo is part and parcel of Somalia, the same Somalia he is supposed to be its lawful President.
Thirdly, the role Kenya Defence Forces are playing in Kismaayo is not the same as the one AMISOM is playing in Mogadishu. AMISOM is not involved in the governance of Mogadishu; its role is limited to security. The President’s argument that Kenya should not get involved in the governance of Kismaayo, but should help on the security front, is therefore not inconsistent with his approval of AMISOM presence in Mogadishu.
Therefore, President Hassan’s fixation with inclusivity with regard to any future Jubbaland administration is sensible and legitimate. His concerns are valid. His attempt to thwart inter-clan conflict in Kismaayo is far-sighted. But while the President is clear about inclusivity, he is less so about the composition of the administration he considers inclusive. Inclusivity is not the problem. The new administration by Ahmed Madoobe also reflects nominal inclusivity.
The problem is that Absame and Harti clans in the Jubba suspect that the President is driving a clan agenda and is hostile towards them. So far, the only indication that the President is pushing an anti-Ogaden and anti-Harti agenda comes from the alleged – I repeat alleged, backdoor statements of some of his key advisors, mainly the Feerfer clique. Members of the Feerfer clique in the President’s office are said to have expressed views which are unsympathetic to the claims of the Ogaden and the Harti over Kismaayo, particularly the Ogaden. But rather than oppose the President’s legitimate interest in the governance of Kismaayo on the basis of speculation and guesswork, it would have been better to wait and see what the President actually means by inclusivity, and oppose it if his proposal comes out as unfair.
The foregoing statements notwithstanding, the President must understand the political context and reality he is working under. Where Mogadishu is not de-Hawiya-ized, Kismaayo cannot be de-Darod-ized. De-Hawiya-izing in this sense is politically, not demographically. Where Mogadishu is not a national capital by spirit and symbolism, Kismaayo cannot become an all-embracing chartered city. Nor can Garowe become one. The same way Haregisa isn’t. The same way Baidoa isn’t. By virtue of this logic, the argument that it is only those who own Kismaayo who can talk about governance of Kismaayo gets currency.
Therefore, the President needs to focus on the pressing national priority of giving the national capital a veneer of national ownership. As at today, the capital city is not for all. The President must take concrete steps to give Mogadishu a political facelift before focusing on the regions. That is the first thing to do. The Hawiya-ization of Mogadishu is the casus belli for the proliferation of clan-based regionalism, which is dangerous to Somalia. The horrors of 1990s carnage in Mogadishu have not been forgotten, which means people from other regions will not invest in the reconstruction of the national capital, if Mogadishu remains a bastion of powerful clan elders who can depose any non-Hawiye politician with the snap of their fingers.
Silence about past crimes is not going to solve Somalia’s enduring clan hostilities. The President must speak out against the atrocities of the 1990s, the same way he acknowledged and implicitly apologized for the clan cleansing in Somaliland. He must condemn the philosophy that underpinned the clan wars that destroyed Somalia. And this includes the United Somali Congress’s (USC) national vandalism.
Although all clan-based armed groups committed atrocities, the USC’s war tactics were particularly shocking. It openly embraced a policy of clan cleansing from the national capital, the same national capital that should have been a safe heaven to all Somalis. Therefore, it is not entirely misplaced to call the USC Somalia’s Interhamwe – if not for the scale of its atrocities, for its intentions. Its leader, General Aideed, was a hooligan politician, for bravery bereft of responsibility is nothing but hooliganism. The President must reassure people those horrors and the excesses and abuses of Siyad Barre’s dictatorial regime are gone forever. That will go a long way in reassuring the traumatized citizenry.
Along with banishing the demons of the past, he must take concrete steps to instill a mentality of inclusivity when it comes to ownership of territories. And that can only start from Mogadishu. He must appoint people from other regions as governors and local administrators in Mogadishu. The start will not be easy. But, the long-run benefits of such moves will outweigh the short-term political hiccups. He must not shirk confrontation with these resilient realities, if we are to transcend the politics of clan that continues to be the bane of our nation.
Instituting national taboos
As a nation, we should have some national taboos. Praising Aideed must be made a national taboo. Glorifying the USC or Siyad Barre must be equated with profanity. All countries have national taboos. Go and form a pro-Osama party in America and see how far you go. Establish a no-holocaust civic organization in Israel and see if it gets a life longer than a day. We have no national taboos. Nothing is wrong; nothing is shameful in our politics.
We do not have principles, we have impulses. We do not have political devotions, we have hobbies. In fact, we have a notorious communal habit of forfeiting principles when these values refuse to corroborate our sectarian clan interests. For instance, to be a sellout is not always a taboo in Somalia. It is a taboo in the morning and a valor in the afternoon. It is why the same people who rejected the sellout politics of Abduallahi Yusuf were fine with the sellout rendition of Ali Gheedi. It is why Xaglatoosiye’s politics of the belly will not suffer communal ostracism. We have an eerie knack for sympathizing with mischief, for forgiving disgrace, all in the name of politics.
Somalising the Jubba-Ogaden
Currently, Somalia faces an abnormal political reality. It is a failed state. What applies to functioning states may not apply to Somalia. But that does not mean we should accept the abnormal as normal simply because the circumstances we face are abnormal. We should aspire for the normal and should embrace it on every occasion it reemerges.
It is abnormal to have your President and Parliament guarded by foreign troops. It is abnormal to see national leaders who consult foreign states to decide on simple local administrative matters. But it is also abnormal to have citizens who decry the involvement of their President in local governance issues, yet applaud foreign meddling. In the case of Kismaayo, the Ogaden community in Jubba needs to understand that it is part of Somalia, not Kenya.
Part of the de-Somalising of the Jubba-Ogadens, which manifests itself in the form of unfounded references to ONLF every time a Jubba-Ogadeni man or women asks for a political share in the Jubbas, comes from the community’s incapacity to ‘nationalize’ its politics.
One way of ‘nationalizing’ the Ogaden community’s politics is for them to accept that President Hassan, as the leader of Somalia, has a legitimate role in the governance of Kismaayo. If there are grievances, the community should take it to Villa Somalia, not the State House in Nairobi. The sovereignty principle, which should be the cornerstone of our political morality, must not be sacrificed for clan agenda.
President Hassan also needs to do his part in the Somalising of the Jubba-Ogadens who, among others, remain Somalia’s political nobodies, by addressing their grievances where it is legitimate.
Regaining the national ‘spontaneous’ consent
For the President to obtain the consent of those who claim the Jubbas, he should first take steps to prove that he is above clan. He should show he is for all Somalis.
They say parenthood rests on the false premise of parental infallibility and virtue. It is why a teenage girl caught red-handed while sneaking out for the first tastes of life readily accepts punishment from a womanizing father. The child cannot doubt the moral uprightness of the parent. It is the day she finds the father in bed with other women that the girl will stop taking rebukes from the wayward father. Or may even start to bring her erstwhile forbidden man to the house, to the eternal chagrin of the father. Having destroyed the moral order in the house through his sins, the father no longer has a restraining power over the carnal pursuits of his daughter.
Equally, acceptance of the decisions of political leaders, especially when they cannot enforce it, can only rest on the premise that these leaders are fair and honest. Unfortunately, that assumption has been irrevocably dashed in Somalia. Somalis saw national leaders with a clan agenda. Somalis watched leaders who do not think twice to use one clan against the other if it offers one more gasp in their political life. Somalis lived under rulers who were anything but just.
As the result, they do not trust national leaders anymore. President Hassan is not responsible for the omnipresence of this national cynicism and paranoia. But he cannot pretend it does not exist. He should address it as a matter of urgency. And to do this, the first step is to actively de-Hawiya-ize Mogadishu.
Muktar M. Omer
* “Islamists” coming through
backdoor? So What?
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