Friday, September 25, 2020
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Five Priorities for Somalia

By Ilyas M Hussein

Somalia had no strong functioning government for the last 30 years since the collapse of the central government lead by Siad Barre who ruled the country with an iron fist for 21 years. Barre came to power through a bloodless coup after the democratically elected President of Somalia, H.E Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, was assassinated in Las Anod.

Somalia FG and FMS leaders meeting, Garowe, Puntland

At the beginning, President Bare revolutionized the development programs of the country and adopted scientific socialism as the driving ideology of the state. Later on, Barre, like other dictators, tried to maintain his power by silencing the opposition, using the state power to punish communities who had revealed their distaste and disagreement with the regime policies. Somali armed factions based in Ethiopia revolted against Barre and finally overthrew him.

After the collapse of the government, the Somali factions turned out to be power hungry groups that had no plans for Somalia after ousting the President. The country descended into civil war and thousands of citizens meaninglessly lost their lives. After the failure of many attempts to bring Somalis together and establish a central government, Somalis ultimately succeeded in restoring a bit of order in the country and forming a transitional government.

Currently, the country has a legitimate federal government (as well as regional governments) with the mandate and responsibility to rebuild and bring peace to the nation. Despite some efforts being made, the government is facing numerous hurdles including persistent insecurity, large-scale corruption, inadequate government revenue, weak institutions and limited government presence in most parts of the country. This article highlights few priorities that are crucial to Somalia’s state-building journey.    

1. Fighting Terrorism

Al-Shabaab, as well as other terrorist organizations in Somalia, tend to be the biggest obstacle hindering the country’s development and state-building efforts. The terrorists who are blood-thirsty groups constantly target innocent civilians with deadly explosions and assassinations. They are inhumane, cruel and heartless individuals who thrive on the bloodshed of ordinary Somali citizens. Principally, terrorists in Somalia hide behind religion, misinterpreting verses in the Qur’an and using Hadiths to further their agenda and recruit new fighters. They believe that government officials are apostates who collaborate with infidels and thus deserving to be targeted and slaughtered on a broad daylight, even when they are in mosques praying to Allah.

But strangely, the biggest victims of Al-Shabaab’s attacks in Somalia are ordinary citizens who have nothing to do with the government. For instance, terrorists in Somalia succeeded in orchestrating and carrying out the deadly 14 October 2017 bombings (Soobe attack) killing more than 587 people who were innocent civilians struggling for their daily lives. Though some reports suggested that the target of the attack was not Soobe, there are many other public places attacked by Al-shabaab including Liido Beach and Pizza House. No one can tell why these victims had been targeted and cold-bloodedly wiped off the face of the earth.

Therefore, for Somalia to recover, the first government priority should be the fight against Al-Shabaab. The government and its international partners must realize that all other state-building efforts and reforms will not bear fruits unless Somalia is free of terrorism. This can be achieved by focusing on rebuilding the SNA (Somali National Army) because the war against terrorism is primarily Somali problem and solving it is the responsibility of Somalis; not that of other Africans nor the world. The current government has succeeded in reforming the military and paying their salaries on regular bases, but that is not enough.

We need to focus our efforts and resources on establishing strong army that can liberate the country against the terrorists as well as defend it from external aggressions. Additionally, we need to acknowledge the fact that the SNA will not be able to defeat terrorists as long as the arms embargo on Somalia prevails. It is about time the UN and the International Community re-evaluate this strategy and consider lifting the arms embargo. On the hand, it’s the Somali government’s responsibility to come up with a strategy to control arms flow into Somalia and ensure that the arms will not end up in the wrong hands.

2. Finalization of the Constitution

The second Somali policy priority at the present must be the finalization of the nation’s constitution. The process of reviewing the provisional constitution seems to be an endless, time consuming & resource exhausting one. In order for Somalia to achieve political stability and restore law and order all over the country, a non-provisional constitution that safeguards the human rights of Somali citizens is urgently needed. Moreover, it is important to ensure that the review process is Somali owned and funded. Because as a nation, we can’t rely on foreigners and depend on foreign aid for almost everything starting from the constitution, elections and all in between. The constitution of the nation ought to be free from foreign dictations and influence and must be reflective of the aspirations, norms and needs of the Somali people. In the meantime, the Federal government of Somalia must honestly engage with Somaliland as soon as possible to resolve the long-standing issue between the two sides, since the finalization of the constitution depends on this to some extent.

3. Uniting the Nation

Somalia has been a victim of civil wars, inter-clan conflicts and terrorism for a very long time, which have contributed to the country’s disunity and disintegration. Hence, it’s the right time to bring the country together and unite its citizens because that is the only way Somalia can proposer and stand tall. In this regard, its crucial to highlight the fact that the primary purpose of federalism was to unite the country. Federalism should be seen as a tool to bring the country together and not to disintegrate it. The federal government has a major responsibility in uniting the Somali public despite the challenges and obstacles by employing reconciliatory government policies with the intention to avoid any acts that might cause disunity and fragmentation of the country. Consequently, the federal government has to be compromising & keen to solve all political differences on the negotiation table. There is no point in escalating the disintegration and division of the country by taking tough measures and solving problems through the use of hard power.

On the other hand, the Federal Member State leaders should respect the constitution and avoid creating unnecessary and uncalled for confrontations with the federal government. For instance, the Federal Member States can sometimes be seen as entities that are independent from the Federal government tending to trespass the central government and dealing with foreign countries that are against the interests of Somalia thus sleeping with the devil.

The Somali political elite and stakeholders must realize that Somalia is at a very difficult crossroad. It is not the right time for politicking and applying Machiavellian politics and tactics. We have lost quite some time on meaningless tit-for-tat political skirmishes and disagreements. This is because most Somali politicians seem to be prioritizing their own personal interests over those of the nation. Practically, the country’s interests must be first while politicking, clan struggle for power, personal interests and other agendas secondary.

4. Reconciliation

Though there had been several attempts to bring Somalis together to reconcile, there is still need for reconciliation efforts in the country. A nation that had experienced clan in-fighting for the past 30 years can’t move forward without first implementing full grassroots reconciliation among its society. Social distrust and grievances are prevalent across Somalia. Each community has number of grievances against others. Therefore, the Somali government must organize national reconciliation conference that will bring the whole society of the country together in order to discuss the past and the way forward. This can be achieved with the help of clan elders and traditional leaders because the nature of the civil war was mainly tribal. This will also pave the way for community level reconciliation which can be more effective.  We need to put the past behind us in order to work together on furthering the interests of the country as a whole.

5.         Foreign Policy

Somalia can’t survive as a country without the help of the international partners and neighbouring countries. The world is globalized and interconnected. And that is why it is difficult for any nation to isolate itself from the international system. Therefore, Somalia needs a sound foreign policy that guides the government’s dealings with other countries with the goal of protecting the interests of Somalia. Hence, the foreign policy of Somalia should be based on the principles of reciprocity, friendship, mutual respect with all nations, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and solving disputes through diplomatic channels and negotiations. Somalia’s foreign policy must be based on non-alignment, avoiding to take sides on disputes between individual countries as the country is presently vulnerable to foreign interventions and proxy wars. We need to be smart and maintain friendly relations with all nations while putting our house in order.

Message to the Somali Youth

Finally, I want to conclude this article by sending a message to fellow Somali youth. Its apparent that the youth are those who will suffer the most if the ongoing peace and state building reforms fail. We had the right to be born in a country that safeguards our rights and wellbeing, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make sure that our children will not have to go through the same challenges we have experienced. We have to stop being used as paws in the political game because our future and that of our children is at stake. Let’s challenge the system, support the government when it does right, criticize it, correct it and demand answers when it does wrong. Blindly backing and supporting certain politicians on the bases of clan ties will not get us anywhere. And that is what many of us were doing in the last 30 years and nothing have changed. Let’s support the statehood of Somalia and campaign for stable and peaceful nation with strong government that can uphold the interests of its people .

Ilyas M Hussein
Email:[email protected]

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