By Abdisalam Garjeex
For many years, I’ve felt troubled by my country’s predicament, one of destruction and lack of progress for my fellow citizens. I’m acutely aware of the difficult circumstances and realities we face in order to resolve this seemingly impossible situation we find ourselves in. It saddens me to realize that statehood and good governance has eluded us due our inability to abandon the underdeveloped and primitive culture of tribalism, which has given us nothing but injustice and inequality.
The last thirty years, I’ve chosen to stay on the sidelines and take care of my personal and family affairs like so many of us have been forced to in the Somali diaspora. It would be too difficult to attempt to succeed in life on two fronts; one in the West where we have immigrated to safety with our families and requiring of us a unique set of demands to ensure welfare in these foreign lands and yet still keep in the forefront of our minds the responsibility we have shirked in leaving Somalia and abandoning it to state of turmoil. These days however, life has taken on a much slower pace as my children have matured into independent adults and I am able to turn to consider and acknowledge that Somalia’s complications will not dissipate on their own. Successive governments have attempted to build a viable administration, but have ultimately failed to sustain real progress. Why has this been the case? Is there something you or I would approach differently? And if so how would we go about implementing these changes?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is essential to ask ourselves these sort of questions, to truly insert ourselves into the fabric of what has caused Somalia to fail and to dissect it. If not in real-life and in person, then at the very least entertain it mentally to see what conclusions we draw and state how we would approach things differently. That’s exactly what I’ve decided to do this afternoon, even if only condensed to a few bullet points and paragraphs.
If I, Abdisalam Garjeex, unencumbered by logistical limitations such as space and time, ran in the capacity of president and after a successful campaign had won and found myself as the Somali President-elect in Mogadishu, what would I impart or implement?
What can I do for my country?
Admittedly, Somalia suffers from many ills and I do not proclaim to have the magic solution for all these but my intentions from the outset would be to bring about reform. Seeing as it would be completely insane to repeat the same process of electing a president and parliament every four years yet not achieve any tangible results – I would begin to address what I feel is inherently wrong and historically pervasive in our civic processes.
- Those who in the past have run for public office have notoriously been men and women hitching a ride on get-rich-quick schemes; they have no true intentions to remedy the nation’s crises and help the poor and the displaced.
- The 4.5 political structure is ineffective and invigorates corruption and tribalism. To be elected to Parliament, you often need to bribe so-called tribal elders and vice versa nearly all representatives aim to take bribes themselves during presidential elections and parliamentary motions – they could care less to honorably represent their constituencies.
- Originally, intellectuals and most stakeholders saw Federalism as a way to unite the country, but it instead created a schism between different communities; the federal entities wound up becoming tribal enclaves, who would drift away from the central government, eventually being declared independent-states with their own presidents, some who would go on to do the illegal bidding of wealthy Arab monarchs intent on interfering in Somalia to further their own political agendas.
- Successive governments failed in strengthening security. Till this day, Al-Shabaab is still in control of large swaths areas outside of the capital and remain a force to be reckoned with. Tactics such as suicide missions and bombings are their way of asserting their strength if not through sheer numbers at least through spreading chaos and fear. Even with the added presence of 20,000 troops from neighboring African countries, guarding strategic places including the presidential palace, airport, and Mogadishu’s major port there still is no sense of security. Somali security forces themselves are weak and unlikely to ever develop the trust or means to replace these foreign troops as they themselves have been recruited along clan-based lines and therefore do not share the patriotic sense of duty required to allow them to serve effectively. Their allegiance is to their clan elders, a definite conflict of interest.
- The mechanism of electing the President is rife with fraud. Foreign Arab countries furnish millions of US dollars to influence the process; Parliament votes for the highest bidder. The elected President picks a Prime-Minister from one of the major clans with no regard to the representation of other minority clans. It’s a process that’s neither merit-based nor fair.
- Each administration has neglected public services. The government does not provide any sort of documented allocation to manage the essential social services required to develop and maintain society (e.g. education, health, and infrastructure) but can clearly be seen spending millions of public money on hotels, motorcades, and security for their travel abroad without any oversight or accountability.
- Somalia’s progress suffers further from the disintegration of unity caused by regional states which function essentially like separatist factions, each with their own appointed leaders chosen based on the majority clan in the region and neglecting the representation and rights of other smaller clans in the local area. On the rare occasion when the federal government does interfere to provide guidance these states are quick to threaten secession and demanding independence to subvert any centralized and cohesive effort to move Somalia forward.
A Platform for Change Based on a True Patriotic Sense of Duty
Somalia needs to reverse course. For the past twenty years we have achieved very limited progress. If we continue in this direction, Somalia will no longer be a viable state, gaining the full privileges and recognition of sovereignty or be able to defend its territorial integrity (e.g. land and maritime borders, airspace) and natural resources. The following steps are my proposal and vision for change:
- First and foremost, an effective security apparatus is to be established; all clans and sub-clans should equally contribute forces. They have to be well-trained and sufficiently equipped to fulfill their primary mission and duty, to fight and eradicate Al-Shabaab and protect against any terrorist organization that seeks to subvert or challenge the safety of a centralized government and its citizens.
- Abolish the 4.5 system and introduce multi-party, free and fair elections. Parliament will elect the Prime-Minister and President whose duties will be ceremonial. Somalia must choose to be a federation of states and agree to be led by a central government. Rightfully elected regional leaders will take on the title of “governors instead of “President.”
- To complete the first draft of the constitution and base it on the above principles and put it to referendum.
My Education and long experience as former civil servant and military officer provided me the necessary skill set to run for this prestigious office. Many years ago, I was sworn in as a former officer of the Somali National Army, trained in Odessa, Ukraine, the former Soviet Union to defend my country and people against all enemies, foreign or domestic – today, I’m ready to raise my right hand and be sworn in again , not as military officer, but as leader; So help me God.
Ashburn, VA (USA)
Email: [email protected]
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