President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi ought to be applauded for giving consultation with all Somali factions the widest latitude humanly possible. However, like anything else in life too much of a good thing can have deleterious effects.
And so it has been of late concerning the freewheeling exchanges between the President and the Prime Minister on the one hand and a number of Somali warlords within the ranks of the government on the other. By now it is apparent to all that a few warlords based in the historical capital of the country, Mogadishu , are hell-bent on frustrating the agenda of Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The warlords are resisting the very goals, which they swore to advance some months ago ostensibly to help move the country forward towards full membership in the community of nations with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. Why then, one might ask, are they going out of their way to oppose the TFG's plans, after having accepted ministerial positions in the government, including some with high profile portfolios? Why not, for example, resign their positions if they found the TFG's policies objectionable on the basis of principle?
The fact is after 14 years of anarchy and mayhem, largely of their making, these warlords are neither in a position to claim victory nor are they, at the moment, feeling particularly vanquished. On personal terms, they are reaping the loot from sacking much of the south; a sordid activity from which spawned an entire corrupt but lucrative criminal enterprise that benefits them and their close associates. The warlords' seeming vacillation, at this time, on key issues of governance is no mistake; they want to have it both ways: they want stability that would confer legitimacy to their warped, narrow interests, but not necessarily an effective system that promises to mete out equal justice under the law.
There are nonetheless specific reasons for their current confrontation with the TFG. These are many and varied. For one thing, Mogadishu warlords such as Qanyare, Yalaxow and Caato have vested interest in and are desperate to prolong the lawlessness that prevails in their respective domains within Mogadishu and a couple of other locales in the south under their purview. They are not happy about the prospect of the TFG curtailing or even ending the vast extralegal activities that have been yielding them untold riches of ill-gotten variety. They figure that their importation of qat, extortion and all manner of contraband running, among other corrupt practices, would not be able to withstand much less thrive under the rule of law; their antagonism to the TFG may well represent a last stand to safeguard the status quo by other means.
The well-orchestrated campaign against peacekeeping forces from the frontline states is a charade calculated to confuse the issue. This is particularly true as it relates to the shrill outcry concerning Ethiopian troops. The reasons offered for the increasingly high-pitched war of words surrounding this topic, including the fear of AIDS, supposed Ethiopian enmity towards Somalia , etc., does not hold water. For people who would indulge in immoral behavior would be at risk for all kinds of diseases irrespective of where they live or with whom they come into contact. Regarding alleged fear of Ethiopian designs on Somalia, all these now obstinate warlords have in the recent past sought military aid from that country in their failed campaigns to kill, clan-cleanse and otherwise pillage fellow Somalis, on a large scale. So lets have a sanity check here: who poses the biggest threat to Somali national unity and territorial integrity now? The selfish warlords who want to rend it asunder? Or, Ethiopia which wants to sacrifice blood and treasure to help put humpty dumpty back together? Lame excuses and crying wolf may be the wont of warlords, but they are of no use to Somalia now or in the future.
Herding Cats and Other Pestering Matters
Somalis from throughout the country, including great many residents of Xamar can be forgiven for wondering: “is paying attention to the crocodile tears of the advocates of stalemate in Somali polity worth the effort?” “Don't these folks always circle the wagons and close ranks when the heat is on?” Yes and yes. However, on this score, there are other equally disruptive factors at work. The warlords' interest in continuing to self-aggrandize at the expense of tens of thousands of captive populations in and around Mogadishu as well as other places in the South is an open secret. Less known, though, are the external actors that, through ill-advised actions and pronouncements, help stoke the flames of discord in Somali politics. As a result, the TFG would be better able to herd cats than have these seditious warlords and assorted desperados to keep their words (which they routinely disavow at critical junctures).
While it is not necessarily useful to blame the external actors for having a hand, albeit indirectly, in setting in motion events that ultimately result in more, not less, instability in the running saga of Somali political discourse, neither should that role be overlooked. The culpable scalawags in this are many. They include Egypt (and her allies'). Their continuous meddling in Somalia 's internal affairs is a matter of record. It is also an open secret that Egypt, once a stalwart among the short list of countries that Somalia counted on as a friends, seeks to thwart any goodwill that Ethiopia might show to her neighbor to the east, Somalia, in what is certainly the latter's hour of need. One can understand the strategic nature of the long running rivalry between Egypt and Ethiopia that stems from the looming conflict concerning how best to share the waters of the Nile . What is inexplicable is that Somali warlords and their supporters are being unwitting geopolitical pawns in this conflict, though they are failing miserably to help put their own house in order. There are yet others who are guilty of undue interference. The International Crisis Group (the name says all!), for one, has never lifted a finger on behalf of Somalia during all the years that the country was deeply mired in an anarchic situation. The same organization is now making mischievous statements challenging the TFG on crucial, proposed policies aimed at leading the nation to real state of self-government. It is hard to believe, but true, that these well healed interlopers want to dictate the countries from which the Somali government should accept peacekeepers or where in the country the TFG should set up shop, while Mogadishu extricates itself from those who continue to hold a good part of the city hostage for so long. In so doing, the ICG seems to be egging on the opponents of the new administration to make trouble for the TFG, before it gets its feet on the ground.
The Need for Transformational Leadership
For the President and the Prime Minister, the prevailing situation, though by no means easy, presents a unique opportunity to lead the country from the grip of negative emotions of jealousy, greed, fear and mutual distrust by appealing shared values. This is only way to transform the society from the existing disorder. Thus the leaders should articulate the vision of where they want to take the country in coming few years. We already know that the Somali people are sick and tired of the perennial warlord foot-dragging and faction leaders' indifference. They want to be inspired to be able to lead the change themselves from their respective regions, towns, hamlets and the vast dwindling grasslands. They want their leaders to show unflagging sense of confidence, with a sense of humility. They want their leaders to seek justice and they want them to make the necessary sacrifices. Above all, they want national leaders to stick to their vision for the country. If President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi go about their leadership responsibilities along this line and ignore the mixed messages coming from the incorrigible naysayers, the Somali people will be only too happy to follow their lead. The landslide that put them in office attests to this.
Ali A. Fatah
Washington , DC
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