By Dr. Aweys Omar Mohamoud
Here is an idea for the new members of Parliament who are going to elect the next President on Sunday, 15 May 2022.
Humility, not pride, is the mark of greatness. Humility finds its most authentic expression in the commitment to change. Pride never sees a need to change. The opposite of political humility is the politics of hubris, arrogance, enmity, envy and spite. These latter forms of politics lead to death and destruction in wherever in the world they arise. Somalia has had its fair share of leaders with these base traits and the disasterous consequences they brought forth to community and country.
A pertinent way of describing these forms of politics and the behaviours they induce is by using the term “hubris”. Hubris denotes recklessness and overconfidence in those who wield power, particularly when their actions lead to spectacular or disastrous errors of judgment.
Power, of course, is an essential element of politics but there’s a dark side to it which derives from its mind-changing effects on those who hold it: their refusal to engage others with different political perspectives; the reluctance of their subordinates to criticize or question leading to contempt for the views of others; the personal status of the leader generalizing into a belief in “special status” and, in the end, excessive arrogance which leads a leader to believe that they may do no wrong.
The greater the power, the greater the risk of these cognitive distortions taking hold and the worse the devastation when things go wrong, as they surely will when the leader loses contact with reality. We see the consquences of these political beliefs and practices all around us.
Most students of Somali history agree that the 1950s and 60s constituted the most tranquil decades of Somali politics. In my view, this was not only because we were unified against colonialism (although that was one good reason for our unity then) but also perhaps because our politics of the time exhibited less recklessness and overconfidence in our leaders.
A great example of a Somali post-colonial state leader who engaged in political discourse with political humility was our the first President Aadan Abdulle Osmaan (aka Aadan Adde). I recently came across an online video broadcast of a statement made by President Osman in 1967 after a parliamentary coalition led by former premiers Abdirashid and Igal defeated him for the presidency. His 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.
What follows is a full English translation of President Osman’s statement: “To my brothers – the Somali people, after seven years of holding the responsibility of the Office of President, today I’m handing over the leadership of the country to my brother (President Abdirashiid Ali Sharmaarke) who has been elected President through parliamentary democracy. It’s right and proper that [leaders] in our nation handover the leadership baton to one anther in the name of the people. (Different) leaders must have the opportunity to lead. The people are sovereign, and all authority and power to do anything at anytime is done in their name. I shall start serving you at a different capacity from 6 o’clock in the evening on the 30th of this month (30th June 1967). (And my new role will be) to serve you as a member of parliament. I trust that the duly elected President and those who he will appoint shall, in fear of God, serve the country in their very best. These are men who have served the country well and will be utilizing their skills and experiences to do their job. They will also take advice from all those of us who put the interest of the country before everything else. I congratulate you on your victory. I also thank you for the trust you have placed on me and the respect you’ve shown me throughout the past seven years that I was in office. Our country faced enormous challenges since the day of our independence. We have overcome (some of) those challenges and, in the process, strengthened our democracy. Thanks to Allah for the men and women of our Somali people who, fearing Allah, worked for their country (in honesty and goodwill). And I’m sure our country will rise above these challenges if we, the people of our nation, both men and women, work together and not dabble in animosity and ill will which, if we carry on with them and do not desist, will be tantamount to an act of criminality against our country and a loss to our nation. I’m very grateful to you all for showing the world during the seven years I was President of our country that you have (politically) matured. I trust that Allah will answer our prayers speedily. To all Somalis, brothers, my greetings be upon you. May Allah protect us all and our country. Long live Somalia”.
Under President Aadan Abdulle Osmaan, our political system has functioned effectively, aided by the basic cultural unity of the Somali people and their agreement on the primary goals of the system. His leadership fostered democratic politics which reflected the basic societal values: decentralized political power, an egalitarian ethos, and a pattern of widespread participation in traditional politics. He was a man who never forgot his humble background. His deep humility led him to relinguish power peacefully and Somalia became the first African country in which power was transferred from one faction to another without political violence.
The implication here is that MPs ought to use the humility test when electing the next President on Sunday. But, in addition to humility, our country also needs a very capable President who can usher in a new era of compromise, trust, and cooperation in the political process and a new politics of healing, decency, civility and Soomaalinimo.
The new President also ought to be a brilliant acumen who can forge a sense of common purpose and is able to deliver credible leadership to the country. He will have to be someone who can define the problems that our country faces “for what they actually are” and can give the country an opportunity for new beginnings to reason out a solution to our country’s intractable conflict.
Stay tuned for Part III of The Way Ahead for Somalia.
Dr. Aweys Omar Mohamoud
Email: [email protected]
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