By Faisal Roble
Past Missteps and Present-day Problems
I was once told that Somalis are good people with bad leaders. The proof is in the history of the last twenty-five years. One only hopes that Somalia’s political class learns lessons from its past experiences and resolves its current conflict in a sensible and amicable way. The Gulf crisis that has divided Somali leaders into two irreconcilable camps (pro-Qatar and pro-UAE) shall find an amicable way out.
The post-colonial state of Somalia was wrecked and nearly thrown into the dustbin of history by its reckless political class, who developed neither a theory for change nor a cohesive political program for the aftermath. When the Barre regime was gone, each side parted company and started working on its myopic clan goals. In the end, a beautiful and once cohesive nation-state was almost erased from the world map. That political class that started clan movements and its proteges still make up the core of the political elite of the country.
The manifestation of the Gulf crisis in Somalia has the hallmark of regional, clan, cult and corruption as perpetuated by the proteges of the political class who had kept Somalia at bay since 1991. If the current conflict is not handled carefully, its spillover could at a minimum halt the recovery of the fragile state of Somalia.
Yes, the country survived the devastating impacts it had sustained from past conflicts, least because of its political class, but by the tenacious nature of its people. Whereas its politicians are crooks to the core, its elders are peace builders and a unifying force in time of need; its women are as tough as they come; its business community is first class entrepreneurs and as such helped keep people and goods moving so as to save the nation from starvation and hunger of biblical proportions.
More importantly, the youth of this nation, given the right leaders, still bears the attributes of the inimitable Somali Youth League (SYL) that mobilized the most powerful patriotic movement in sub-Sahara Africa up until the 1950s.
About seventy years ago, one of those youth was John Said who symbolized both the force of the Somali’s youthful spirit and the unifying ideology of Negritude. Said’s contemporaries include Michael Mariam, who was a solicitor to freedom fighters in Jigjiga, Salool, an avowed activist for Somali unity who was from Burco region, and the entire leadership of the SYL.
Our skinny soccer boys with their historic upsetting victory against the well-fed Kenyans and Ugandans in the runner-up to the 2018 under-17 Africa cup exhibited both the resolve and the resilience of the indomitable culture of Somali youth.
Alas, whereas Somali political institutions succumbed to the weight of scurvy post-civil war politicians, our skinny soccer players showed guts with meager resources and sent out one simple message – Somali people are good and tough breed only held back by their own political class. They did hold their end of the rope but the political class never did.
As President Farjmajo basks in the uplifting victory of these young boys who had heroically lifted up the fallen Blue flag at the soccer fields in Burundi, I urge him to reflect on their dexterity and unending struggle to have a united peaceful country, take a deeper introspection and begin re-evaluate the Gulf crisis in light of the big picture. In other words, the future of Somalia is more important than either Qatar or the UAE.
Real or Perceived Discontent
I have been surveying and talking lately to many Somalis about the current condition of Somalia; I found out that the divide between Villa Somalia and Puntland is measurably significant. The recent visit of president Abdiweli Gaas to Dubai, of course in defiance of the Federal government’s foreign policy stance towards the UAE, is a clear sign that political conflict between Garowe and Villa Somalia is getting out of hand.
Both Abdiweli Gaas, president of Puntland whose term is waning with not many accomplishments politically speaking, and those who want to challenge him in the next presidential elections in the region, are united in their grudges about what they call an “unfair treatment” of their region by Villa Somalia. Although some of the complaints predate the current administration, Gaas has decided to politicize them since the Gulf conflict surfaces.
To make matters worse, some political leaders in Galmudug, Hirshabelle with its devastating and heart-wrenching floods that destroyed its farms and residential quarters, and Jubbaland, are equally complaining concerned about the deteriorating relationship between them and Villa Somalia.
For example, Jubbaland leaders informed me that the federal government rebuffed multiple requests to share some of the weapons that have been piled up in Mogadishu. As a result Jubbaland leaders are drifting away from Villa Somalia.
I have also witnessed a painful situation with the president of Hirshabelle, Mohammed Abdi Ware, who is one of the most educated and sensible leaders in Somalia’s political theater. Last October, 2017 on my brief visit to Mogadishu,
I was in a meeting with president Ware and leaders of AMISOM and IGAD. In the middle of our discussion, president Ware received an ungodly call from the Vice Minister of Finance.
To his dismay, Mr. Waare was informed that the money the federal government promised to release for him to jumpstart his administration ($400,000) will no longer be coming his way. According to him, the Fed was being vindictive of and punishing him for his participation in the Kismanyo convention organized by regional leaders. In that meeting, Waare was the peacemaker between the two sides. He could not swallow that he would be punished for such an honorable cause! The man almost had a heart attack!
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.
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