The Samatar brothers (professors Ahmed and Abdi) published under the date of 28 March 2005 an article which appeared on a number of Somali websites under the caption “Impasse Over Mogadishu: A Grand Compromise”. This was done in the name of the Board of Directors of a “National Civic Forum”.
Upon reading the article one gets the inescapable impression that the Forum is indeed a partisan group and that there is glaring need for a counterblast to its views in order to have the necessary balance. First, its language and deliberate use of certain terminological inexactitudes cast a long shadow of doubt on the intention of the group. The article starts with the inference that the government or the process of its “selection” is “…bereft of nation-wide legitimacy…” without bothering to tell its readers how that legitimacy was measured nation-wide. In the next paragraph the article shuns the fact that Abdullahi Yusuf was elected as President in a legitimate, free and fair process publicly admitted by his fiercest opponents and recognized by IGAD and the international community at large. It is the same process by which President Aden Abdulle Osman and President Abdirasheed Ali Sharmarke were elected – not “selected” and there are many countries that elect their head of state similarly. To say, therefore, that Abdullahi Yusuf was ‘selected' is tantamount to cheap meanness. The term “selection” is alien to the field of political competition and as a process selection is completely different from election.
Secondly, the article is quick to point to the hasty request of President Abdullahi Yusuf to the African Union for a force of 20,000 men and highlights his insistence on the inclusion of a contingent from neighboring Ethiopia . Whilst it states that this must be “remembered”, it conveniently forgets that the insistence on Ethiopian troops is what made the warlords and their collaborators in Mogadishu abandon their erstwhile position of not accepting any foreign troops at all.
Thirdly, contrary to the contention of the Forum's Board of Directors, there was neither debate nor voting of any kind in that infamous parliamentary session which brought shame upon all of us: The Board says, “After heated discussion, the overwhelming majority rejected the notion of the deployment of the troops….” By reflecting solely the viewpoint of the warlords and their supporters whilst choosing to ignore the government's viewpoint the Boards has sidestepped the most elementary and basic principle of justice: audi alteram partem.
I agree that it would be unwise to bring Ethiopian troops into our country now that it is generally accepted that other foreign troops be brought in. It is also imprudent to do so because it has proved to be too costly a proposition in terms of further deepening our divisions. But, I discount patriotism as a reason because if we were patriotic there would have been no cause for calling foreign troops in the first place: after all, thirteen reconciliation conferences before Nairobi failed to trigger any sense of patriotism in us. And our connivance with others to dump toxic chemical and nuclear wastes in our shores does not attest to our patriotism. It is therefore hypocritical now to pretend that we are patriotic.
As for the “Grand Compromise” which the Boards is calling for, I am truly baffled as I cannot reconcile between the Board's statement that it “…has been closely monitoring the current political crisis surrounding the proposed deployment of foreign peacekeeping troops in Somalia ”, and their display of ignorance about what has been going on. The Mogadishu warlords had themselves been saying time and again for the last six months that they would remove their militias from the capital and would assemble them in areas 30 kms. out of the capital. The only problem is that they have not done so; the warlords are not known for honoring their promises. It seems also that the Board is oblivious to the government's announced plans; else, they would not have proposed steps which are already in the pipeline as announced by the government.
But the implication of a call for “A Grand Compromise” is that no compromises have been made thus far. Reconciliation is a long and arduous process; it has to be nurtured with care so as to prevent eruptions of the civil war, but a firm hand is surely needed as well to bring recalcitrant politicians to book. I cannot for the life of me understand the need at this juncture for establishing a ‘reconciliation commission' of eleven eminent persons. If it is to be a standing commission (since the process of reconciliations is going to be inevitably long) it will need a certain institutional infrastructure to support it. Furthermore, I do not know if the current political players have any respect for anyone other than themselves – eminent persons or not. That aside, we have to remember also that our most eminent, wise and politically savvy persons (former President Aden Abdulle Osman, former Prime Ministers Abdirazak Haji Hussein and the late Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, and others) did actually put shoulders to the wheel at the first Djibouti Conference in1991 when it was not too late to nib the conflict in the bud.
There are, no doubt, many odd things about the present arrangement: a Speaker who is on the side of the opposition and is conspiring to overthrow the Head of State and the Government; ministers campaigning actively on the side of the opposition and who neither resigned nor were dismissed; a government which does not control parliament and is hanging by a cliff; a Head of State and Prime Minister traveling together ( and too often ) in the same plane unmindful of their safety and security and; members of parliament who cannot debate and score points but, in stead, resort to violence; the defenestration of the principles of collective and executive responsibility; and, above all, a government and parliament which seem to have settled in a foreign capital. The list is too long much to the dismay of those of us who expected things to be better. However, if we Somalis really want to salvage our long–wrecked ship of State we should work together towards the success of the Nairobi process (not ‘dispensation' as the professors call it) irrespective of whether we like or loathe those at the helm. It is my considered view that we should build on the achievements of the Nairobi Conference and not destroy it; for it opens a wide window of opportunity (not a narrow one as the professors put it ) which would enable us solve our problems with the help of the well-meaning international community. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to a well, but you cannot force it to drink”. The international community – our immediate neighbors being in the fore front -has led us to the well of peace: let us drink from it.
Ismail Ali Ismail
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