By Osman Hassan
The last days of July 2020 may go down as the most momentous and memorable time about President Farmaajo’s otherwise lacklustre administration. His flamboyant cocksure Prime Minister (PM), Hassan Ali Kheyre, had been given a long leash by his boss for too long to indulge his narcissistic ego and hog the political stage as the shining star of Somalia. He acted in his last days at Dhuusomareeb as a clever dick who could outwit all and sundry and openly undermine his boss. All he did in the end was to hang himself in his rope.
There is otherwise nothing unusual in recent Somali politics about a PM being sacked. That used to be the favourite hobby of former Presidents, most notably Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud with hardly any tears shed for his victims. And there is nothing untoward about the predictable sanctimonious reproof from Somalia’s so-called international partners (IP) even if they have gone over the top this time, calling lawmakers spoilers and threatening them with punitive sanctions when all they did was to exercise their inalienable constitutional rights.
What was unusual in Somalia’s relations with its IP was for someone in government to have the temerity for once and say enough is enough to these meddling domineering cabal. That is what the new interim Prime Minister, Mohamed Mahdi Guled, a northerner, did. Barely one day in office, he told them bluntly to mind their own business and respect Somalia’s sovereignty and constitution. His stand was instantly echoed by his Minister for information, Mohamed Abdi Hayir, another northerner. It is not often that Somalis witness an action of their government they can be proud of, but this was certainly one occasion they held their head up high.
Be that as it may, the negative statements from different members of Somalia’s international partners may invoke a sense of déjà vu about it among many Somalis and let it pass at that. But what such statements reflect is the established practice in their relations. From the IP perspective, “guiding” the Somali government and admonishing it when it goes astray in their eyes, as on this occasion, are part of their job description as its supervisor, albeit self-appointed. And Somali governments inured to be bossed for so long have come to bow obsequiously to their benefactor’s hectoring.
But what lies behind all this supervision in their eyes is the status of Somalia. Their latest blunt, crude and menacing reactions, following the sacking of the PM, exposes Somalia for all to see as no more than a neo-colonial client masquerading as an independent sovereign country. What has condemned Somalia to this status are not direct colonial rule but the nexus of problems incapacitating Somalia, namely clan federalism, clan secession, denial of internal and external defence capabilities, financial dependence and pliant corrupt leaders. All these are manipulated for their own ends by Somalia’s international partners- an Orwellian double speak if there is one.
They have elected themselves to fix what they have come to portray as the failed State. And Somalia in that situation could only succumb to their stated mission. Thirty years on, Somalia still remains largely incapacitated not altogether of its own fault but to its minders’ self-serving open-ended malign supervision, frustrating its efforts to stand on its own feet, dispense with their guidance and run its own affairs. Their designs and deeds to keep Somalia hobbled reminds one of that Somali fable about the mischievous fox which forever unravels the efforts of a community to move forward: (Wallee reer aan ogahay ma guuro).
Federalism or fragmentation
Somalia’s first and foremost nemesis is the so-called federal system which has been largely foisted on the nation. Contrary to what its advocates claim, it would not create a stable united and functioning Somalia that we all want but its enemies dread. The realities on the ground speak for themselves. Admittedly, federalism has also support from those Somalis who see it as an alternative to distant centralised rule from Mogadishu, a stance mainly driven by certain doze of blinkered clan or regional chauvinism.
A federal system of course might suit some specific countries because of the size of their population or territory, religion, or the heterogeneity of their populations, or a combination of these factors. The USA, Canada, Russia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Australia, Brazil, are good examples that come to mind. Smaller, less populated countries also adopt federalism because of the multi ethnic nature of their population (Switzerland, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc).
On the other hand, Somalia is none of these country types which opted for federalism. It is a less-populated medium-sized country by African standards and with the most homogenous population in Africa if not in the world. As it is, London Metropolitan Area has more population (18 million) than the whole of Somalia.
There is no win-win outcome in the balkanization of Somalia along clan enclaves under the guise of federalism. It only condemns it to endless squabbles between the central government and the so-called federal member states and among these federal states as well as foreign interference and destabilisation. In a nutshell, federation in the case of Somalia only buttresses tribalism. It is hence the antithesis of the evolution of a united stronger nation that is better able to move forward and defend itself from both internal and external enemies.
Why opt for this self-defeating detrimental so-called federalism when the independence constitution which served the country well is an available? Like other constitutions of other countries, it could be amended where it needs change elaboration.
Denial of Defence Needs
After federalism, denial to defend its territory from internal and external threats is the second crippling impediment imposed on Somalia. All member countries of the UN are supposed to have inalienable right to arm themselves in order to defend their territories from internal and external threats. Somalia is the only exception. It is true that an arms embargo was imposed on it in January 1992 because of the ongoing civil war at the time and the embargo did make sense to save lives. But the civil war ended in the same year and in any case Somalia had recognized civilian government since 2000.?
All that the arms embargo does is to tie the hands of successive Somali government to defend its territory. More specifically, it encourage outsiders to invade Somalia or meddle in its affairs as both Ethiopia and Kenya did or do at different times; secondly it leaves al-Shabaab undefeated and a continuing threat to the security of the country; and thirdly it motivates rogue federal members states to defy the central government willy-nilly and get away with it, counting on its impotence to enforce its authority.
Given the impediments the arms embargo entail for Somalia, one has to ask why the UN Security Council renews it every year when Somalia is no threat to anyone but is the victim itself and desperately needs the necessary means to defend itself, a right all other countries enjoy? It can only be simply to maintain the prevailing status quo of a hamstrung Somalia for the benefit of others. Those others include members of Somalia’s international partners, mostly ex-colonial powers of the Somali homeland in the Horn, who are also permanent members of the Security Council and the very ones behind the renewal of the embargo year in year out. Do their different detrimental roles make them partners of Somalia? Or constitute conflict of interest? No, they might say, it is just realpolitik.
Need for True Partners
Somalia is facing the same predicament it faced after independence when it needed arms to defend itself and approached key western countries for help, the very same ones who are now members of its international partners. It was rebuffed and told paternalistically that all it needed was light arms for its police force to maintain internal law and order. Somalia then was a far more proud nation than it is now. As a result its Prime Minister at the time, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, took a strategic shift in Somalia’s external relations and approached the former Soviet Union for help who were only too glad to oblige. The rest is well-known history.
Somalia is confronting the same situation today with the same key western powers, only this time they wield the arms embargo at the UN Security Council and keep Somalia militarily defenceless as they have always wanted since independence. History could repeat itself if only Somalia could have another Sharmarke (not his son of course!!) to take the plunge and establish closer ties with Russia and China in addition to Turkey which remains its principal true partner through thick and thin.
Time for a northern Prime Minister
Somalia needs a far sighted mission-oriented and untainted prime minister who could uplift Somalia and take it to its right place in the world and at the same time mend its fractured union. Both aspirations got worse under successive southern leaders since Siyad Barre. There is unlikely to change under any of the current runners for the post of prime minister among southerners given their record. That is why it makes sense and fairness that the post rotates to a northerner who could deliver on both objectives, above all on the union front.
With Mohamed Mahdi Guled (or another northerner) at the helm of the government of Somalia as its confirmed prime Minister, long despairing northerners would immediately rally to him and the union from Awdal, Togdheer, Sool, and Sanaag to be more precise. The rest marooned in the secessionist rump around Hargeisa, would have no choice but to follow suit.
What then is standing in the way of appointing a northern Prime Minister for a change? It cannot be what Professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar wrongly attributed to the dictates of the dual monopoly of power exercised by two southern clans. That practise is not cast in stone. It is neither underpinned by law nor by binding national convention and the past proves it. President Sharmarke was the first to do so when he named Mr Egal, a northerner, as his Prime Minister in 1967. And President Ali Mahdi and President Abdiqasim Salaad Hassan did the same thing.. Can Farmaajo follow suit for the good of Somalia, or will he simply buckle and succumb to the demand of the domineering monopolisers?
Email:Osman [email protected]
Osman Hassan is a seasoned journalist and a former UN staff member. Mr Hassan is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews.
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