WardheerNews series- What’s in a Picture
The Somali Partnership Forum, held in Brussels, Belgium, on July 16 and 17, 2018, was attended by representatives of fifty-eight countries and 6 international organizations to discuss humanitarian issues, economic recovery, and review the progress that has been reported since the 2017 London Conference on Somalia.
The Communique that was released by the forum was optimistic: “Somalia is on an upward trajectory and is making progress in a number of critical ways despite extraordinary challenges. Reconciliation among Somalis, stability, economic growth and prosperity without corruption, and equitable representation continue to be goals for all women, men, and children in Somalia.”
The two-day forum in Brussels was attended by Somali leaders at both the federal and state levels, as well as more than ninety Somalis from various sectors of society. All the expenses of the conference, from air travel to hotel accommodation and meals, were paid by the European Union (EU).
Although the forum is critical to Somalia’s security and economic recovery, where the international community is eager to step up their support to Somalia, what caught our eye was the lack of seriousness that many of the Somali attendees displayed. Many spent their time taking pictures of themselves, their colleagues, and the landmarks of Brussels. The images can be found littered all over social media, and that gives a grim picture of the misplaced priorities among these representatives, who never engage in substantial talk about what was being tackled in the conference.
Was the conference merely a working vacation for these officials—a time to take a break from a country that is afflicted with glaring security issues—or a serious conference that demanded their undivided attention?
The picture above shows a sad example of the lack of dedication of Somali regional leaders at a session they attended with officials from the EU. It shows the following:
1-None of the regional leaders has anything to take notes with, whereas the EU representatives all came prepared with notebooks and are ready to listen and decumbent what’s discussed. Record keeping is important for participating in official meetings. All it takes is a simple notebook and attention to details. Lack of note-taking apparatus on one side of the table in the picture is a sign of lack of professionalism..
2-The Somali leaders seem disengaged, acting more like observers than actual participants at a meeting in which the future of their country is being discussed.
3-On the left side of the photograph, the hands of one Somali participant, seated at the table, are shown using his or her cell phone in utter violation of protocol. Is anyone else, other than this participant, using a cell phone?
The Somali participants here are acting like Somali restaurant waiters, who never bother using a menu. These waiters simply recite the menu and leave it to the customers to choose what they want. The customers, of course, already know what they want because the list of available meals is limited. It is acceptable for customers to ask, “Maxaad Haysaan?” (What do you have?), even though they fully know their question is meaningless.
Are our leaders like these customers? Do they know what they want before they arrive? Have these leaders bothered to do their homework and bring with them an agenda based on their strategic developmental plans, detailing the goals of their respective regions to address and resolve the needs of their people? Or, rather, do our leaders simply reinforce the notion that Somalis are from an oral culture and they do not appreciate the need for written documentation? One of the regional leaders has a doctorate in economics and was once Associate Professor of economics in Buffalo, New York. Did this man give his university lectures without notes?
It is unfortunate of how many of our leaders lack professionalism in their behavior in meetings with international donors. The perception of Somali leaders being professional beggars among international donors persists for this reason. Our educated leaders are the worst perpetrators of this issue and would rather act like warlords than as genuinely reform-minded people.
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