By Dr Aweys Omar Mohamoud
My fellow citizens, in this most solemn occasion, let’s pay tribute to all our Presidents who served our nation and had shown statesmanship, magnanimity, and generosity of spirit. I hope and pray that my government will follow suit to show wisdom and magnanimity.
I thank President Farmaajo for his service to our country, and for the cooperation and generosity he has shown during the recent peaceful transfer of power that you’ve all witnessed. Our country is in a much stronger position today as a result of that single act of generosity and loyalty to the nation.
Nine individuals have now taken the presidential oath of office. For me, it is my second time to have taken the oath to acknowledge a duty of allegiance to uphold the Constitution and to faithfully execute my duties as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.
I’m deeply humbled by the trust you’ve bestowed upon me to lead our nation a second time, but I’m also mindful of the tasks before us: the task of rebuilding security and the legitimacy of the state; the task of institutional capacity building; the task of investing in prosperity; and the task of restoring humanity by building our government’s respect for human dignity and the human rights of the Somali people. All of which call for real strategies as well as real policies and programmes which my government will be setting forth in due course.
My motto in this presidential election has been thus: “Somalia at peace with itself and with the rest of the world”. ‘Somalia at peace with itself’ will mean ending the hostility and violence by al-Shabaab in our country; it will mean our people attaining freedom from violence by al-Shabaab or any other entity; and it will also mean societal bond, harmony and Soomaalinimo among our people across the country.
Our nation is at war against al-Shabaab’s (AS) deadly network of violence and hatred. Al-Shabaab (AS) retains access to recruits, the ability to raise and manage substantial resources, and de facto control over large swathes of our country through which it moves freely to conduct high-profile, sophisticated attacks including suicide bombings on Somali civilian and government targets throughout Somalia, including Mogadishu. It also frequently targets AMISOM forces (currently known as ATMIS – AU Transition Mission in Somalia) and ambushes Somali security forces along supply routes.
Al-Shabaab‘s continued attacks have also taken a heavy toll on the civilian population in deaths, injuries, abductions, destruction of property, and displacement leading to massive humanitarian crisis.
Throughout history, we see ethnic groups or nations that have become entrapped in endless cycles of mass violence and atrocities that can prevent the establishment of a lasting peace for years or even centuries.
And so are we today! Peace has eluded our country for decades now and will continue to elude us even many more decades to come unless we can overcome al-Shabaab’s deadly violence within a reasonably short span of time. I promise before you today, my fellow citizens, that my government will leave no stone unturned to do just that.
According to the United Nations, we are now the most draught-impacted country in the Horn of Africa. At least 6.1 million people have been affected. Hundreds of thousands of people have left their homes in search of food and water, carrying sick and starving children to camps already overcrowded by those escaping al-Shabaab’s protracted violence and atrocities.
“Somalia at peace with itself” will ring true if we can mobilize family and friends and all Somali people everywhere to show solidarity for the millions of fellow citizens who have abandoned their homes and villages in search of water and food and the millions of children facing acute malnutrition and disease as a result of this escalating draught.
State-building and peace-building are political processes. With the best will in the world, myself as President and my fellow-government leaders (however good-hearted or capable we may be) will not be able to address the problems of poverty, conflict, disease and lawlessness if we’re unable or unwilling to demonstrate moral leadership, self-discipline, and unselfishness. There seems to be a huge expectation from the public that we, as leaders of the new government, should set a good example of integrity in our official conduct.
Maintaining moral authority is of course not a matter of bloviating about moral values, or exhorting the people for moral shortcomings. Instead, it is a day-to-day matter of us leading by personal and political example to sustain the legitimacy of our offices when we demonstrate that we can forge and maintain national, regional and international partnerships to end the insurgency and to embark upon institution building, economic development and, more generally, the creation of the conditions necessary to bring about stability and peace in Somalia; when we enhance the intellectual authority of our offices by proposing and implementing practical ideas of peace-making and peace-building that reject raw power as a preeminent tool to settle disputes; and when we seek to forge and promote the bonds of Soomaaalinimo, and a common sense of belonging, affinity and allegiance to the state among the Somali people.
National reconciliation is of the utmost importance in this context if our country is to address the tragic civil wars and historical injustices which generated deep-rooted collective sorrows and grief that has become a national trauma. The moral justification of pursuing reconciliation lies in the egregious wrongdoing of the past and the necessity to prevent continual wrongdoing and/or reprisals for the future. It is also based on the need to repair damaged relationships among the Somali people and to re-establish a mutual respect for the rule of law.
Indeed, the rule of law and the constitution are two concepts at the heart of our post-conflict political order where people demand greater justice and dignity, more transparent political processes, a fair share of political power and an end to corruption. In other words, with all the trouble that our people and our country had gone through over the past many decades, the Somali people demand the creation of a democratic society built on the rule of law which in turn requires that everyone, including governmental bodies and officials, as well as citizens, is bound by and treated equally under the law.
Although still provisional, our constitution represents a social compact between the government and the people. As the basic law of the land, it affords us a unique opportunity to put in place a political settlement and a road map to build a peaceful future for our country and future generations. We therefore need to finalize, ratify, and bring it into force to provide clarity on our country’s laws and how government responsibilities will be apportioned and funded both at central government and FMS levels. Moreover, setting the final foundation for our constitution in place strengthens our national unity as it accommodates and encourages different policy approaches, results in better decision-making, and brings government closer to people.
Our constitution also establishes that the requisite condition for democratic governance in our country is through genuine democratic elections where the Somali people freely express their will, on a basis established by law, as to who shall have the legitimacy to govern in their name and in their interests. The rights of citizens to vote and to be elected therefore is a constitutionally mandated right that this government will do its utmost to fulfil by promptly putting in place a workable plan to achieve the long-delayed “One Person One Vote” electoral system.
This government will also do its utmost to make demonstrable progress in building effective and accountable institutions; in fighting corruption; and in instilling greater accountability and transparency in government finance and operations. If we can do this in real time, all the other priority activities related to stabilization, reconciliation, local governance, access to justice, rule of law, and economic recovery should all be reasonably easier to achieve.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They’re serious and they’re too many. They include, for instance, creating a safe and secure environment to live and to work for our people (young and old), their families and communities; establishing the rule of law on a firmer grounding; building stable democratic institutions; developing a sustainable economy; and advancing social wellbeing for the millions of our citizens who live under extreme levels of poverty. These challenges will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this: with sweat, determination and hard work, they will be met.
To those naysayers and doubters of Somali people’s belief and practice in democracy, I want to remind them the following two pieces of real Somali history:
(1) Notwithstanding our recent difficult history, our country has produced some of the finest, ethical and democratic leaders in post-colonial Africa. A great example is demonstrated by our first President Aadan Abdulle Osman (aka Aadan Adde) who relinquished power peacefully in June 1967 after a parliamentary coalition led by former premiers Abdirashid and Igal defeated him for the presidency. In a video broadcast of his statement recorded at the time which has recently gone viral, President Aadan Adde’s gentle and gracious tone depicts a man of noble and generous spirit with no bone of contention even against his own political rivals who have just unseated him. In that immediate post-colonial decade, Somalia became the first African country in which power was transferred from one faction to another without political violence.
(2) Since the Arta peace process in Djibouti in 2000 that led to the creation of a Transitional National Government (TNG), successive presidents have relinquished power peacefully.
Thus each time we gather to inaugurate a new President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution, and affirm the promise of our democracy. So it has been; and so it must be with this generation!
Dr Aweys Omar Mohamoud
Email: [email protected]
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