By Billow Hassan Abdi
Since the downfall of the central government in 1992, Somalia has been in a series of catastrophic conditions. The civic war that erupted in 1992 had led to physical and social destruction leaving millions of Somalis dead and many more others fleeing for amnesty. More than 30 million were affected either directly or indirectly.
For close to three decades Somalia was a forgotten nation and its future depicted a dark horizon. By the grace of Allah, a situation that seemed unrecoverable to many is now indicating change -in-direction signal. Life is speedily returning to Somalia, Somalis are hopeful and the future for this ethnicity is bright. However, change does not just happen but it happens because of series of compounding efforts. The tedious struggle of the many Somali politicians and leaders is paying off gradually.
“There is more hope than ever before. Certainly, Somalia is back.”
They struggled to make ends meet. They disagreed occasionally as well as frequently, fought each other, disrespected each other and neglected each other for many years. Fortunately, the outcome is Somalia is on a recovery path due to hard work and enduring determination of its leaders and citizens. Stability is right here. Somalia is here again.
Welcome back Somalia. Sincerely, I missed you, I love you!
The Dark Days
For close to 30 years, a once strong member of the Africa Union has been in drastic turmoil. For many reasons mindful international observers nearly lost hope on any possibility of stability resuming and life ever changing for the citizen of an East African nation known for its vibrant entrepreneurs. Series of factors pulled Somalia from its comfort zone as among Africa’s top five economies and military giants to lawlessness and deadly civil war few African Nations have ever come through. Nevertheless, just as it gave hope and supported to many African countries during their search for independence, Somalia is once again on the first stair of five in providing an insight to international community to recollect hope that, under credible and focused leadership backed by determined citizens, states once classified failed can crawl back to normalcy.
Exactly nine years ago, the political environment in Mogadishu was at the lowest level of tolerance for many Somali politicians working around the puzzle of state re-establishment. Sweeping tides of political scenarios allegedly sprouting from imported political missions disguised as the national reconciliation and pacification focus would shake every politician’s mind, and their dream remained unrealistic. Deliberately or out of pure incompetence, external actors from the neighborhood reportedly cultured these national focuses before delivering to the country for maturity through political brokers. Consequently, swinging and fragile political settings had been the immediate outcome publicly noticed. Local politics remained bi-dimensional: pushed and pulled.
Although, there is no one who has so far declared or reliably hinted on the motive behind this push-and-pull swing, there is no doubt that it made life hard for the numerous Somalis within or outside the country. During those days, no single week passed and the feeling of desperation and diminishing public trust was not obvious among Somalis. People recurrently mounted pressure on the members of parliament for not transitioning the country to a relatively promising political domain.
As result of the persistent political vacuum and consequent countrywide restlessness, a more catastrophic ideology emerged. Its lead engineers derived fundamentally bonding fibers (keeping followers connected) from Islamic teachings of holy war. They sought a path to their vision, which only chief founders knew well about. Chief orchestrators expected everybody in the country to adhere to and abide by “Islamic teachings”, which unfortunately, were interpreted differently and purposively.
On some situations and scenarios, the code of conduct would be refined and redefined. Many were incriminated as murtadiin (Kafirs) for orally and behaviorally failing to satisfy the new set out code of conduct. Mostly, this happened in the absence or presence of the “lawbreakers” and a court of (Islamic) law would justify for their killing. Then, their law-enforcers would just execute their trigger(s) on seeing or arresting them. The most tormenting aspect of all was the fact that the Islamic court would issue a decree on someone without following the stipulated process of Islamic jurisdiction. In some cases, sect law enforcers would charge “offenders” at a crime scene! This habit did not go well with majority of public. However, for some the feeling was very different. To them, everything was under control and the political vacuum satisfactorily and rationally sorted. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Persistent Natural Calamities
With these conditions forming a perfect semi-permanent and effective background, chronic and prolonged natural calamities such as droughts, floods and conflicts managed to deepen the suffering of millions of Somalis across the country. Such calamities destroyed various sources of livelihoods, cut off accessibility to basic needs and many victims died. Worth mentioning are the droughts of 2011 and 2016 that destabilized less resilient living conditions.
Just in 2011, besides those killed by armed conflicts more than a million Somalis died of hunger and preventable illness after their worth millions dollars livelihood sources were devastated. Were it not Allah’s help, through the intervention of the international community by providing life savings humanitarian assistance, it would have been a genocide for the close to 10 million people spread within this constantly grieving nation.
Fairness of Nature
Stationed eternally on the other end of the above tunnel of disaster is hope of recovery. No situation is permanent and everything that has beginning has an end. Therefore, we are close to the other end of the tunnel of despair. Propellers are faster and efficient than I first thought of if conditions guiding the transit vessel persist for the next four years. With my sober conscious, I am optimistic of both determining factors.
Certainly, the fate of this country is in the hands of its citizens. They can make it again or keep it this way. Based on my analysis and interpretation of the past, greed for power in collaboration with tribalism were the central pillars that eventually toppled the 1969-91 federal government of Somalia. Indeed, nature is the best teacher. Consequences of unpatriotic decisions made in the past decades have sharply steered the views of Somalis, mainly youths. Just like how our body acquires new behavior(s) to make us safe again when we get hurt because of our actions within our environment, citizens of this nation are today craving for a lifetime opportunity. They have felt the painful punch of the political instability and its aftermath and they are more concerned with their country than ever before.
To date, tribalism still forms part of factors determining how state departments distribute government opportunities meant to empower youth and women like employment and oversees openings. However, the general impact is on decline. The Youth (between 20 and 40) in Somalia represent close to 75% of the population. Based on my observation since 2014 when I first started travelling within Somalia, perception differences exist between youth and adults (above 60). Youths are more concerned with the future of Somalia. They are keener on the progress of the country. On a higher scale, youths feel sorry for the Somalia and are less concerned with tribalism and power. They need Somalia more than anything else does. Given that, they currently constitute a significant portion of government (mainly in the lower and upper houses) they are sincerely doing a lot for Somalia. They listen more, reason better and consult objectively. Their decisions are informed and feasible.
I always applaud Somali Youths for their civilization. They are less reactive, violent. Somalis (youths) I chatted stressed on the use of dialogue and existing dispute resolution mechanisms mainly government machineries to swiftly reduce tension and reconstitute calmness in the event of conflict. They blamed adults (mostly above 60 years), especially those in rural settlements, for not acting on time, allowing clashes involving neighbouring communities to mature to deadly conflicts or covering up for offenders from their kinship. Youths also validated that their community adults temper with the operations of the state departments or officers for personal gains and that is how corruption thrives.
The state political podium has actively signaled towards maturing with consistency for the last five years. In the specified duration, we witnessed a relatively organized political front line received by a more unified and supportive audience. Somali politicians have comparatively managed to regain public confidence and, though still fragile, national and international observers have witnessed an upward and steady progress in the political arena.
For example, in 2012, Mr. Sharif proofed wrong the perception of many Somalis when he conceded defeat to his successor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Similarly, on eighth of February 2017, the immediate former president conceded defeat to sitting head of state, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo before the third round. In both elections, losing candidates vowed to work with the wining candidates a promise we saw implemented.
The members of parliament elected Farmaajo on merits. His ideal love for his people and sovereignty of Somalia perfectly equated to the leadership personality Somalis have searched for many years. He is the topnotch the alleged designers of the camouflaged national reconciliation and pacification focus never wanted to see him as the commander of Somalia’s national army.
It happened. We witnessed the entire ceremony. Certainly, man proposes Allah opposes.
It is approximately four months from his inauguration and the country has made a milestone step. A part from the fact that president Farmaajo is an undisputed symbol of national unity, it is now clear that he has really unified the federal government and the federal states. Precisely, I can proudly say now that Somalia has a federal government and Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo) is the president.
Before March 2017 the internal affairs of the country was under the dramatic influence of external players. Honestly, effecting national development plan was more of establishing a mutual peace treaty between the Israelis and the palatines. Alternatively, talk of the Syria’s fate sandwiched by equally opposing forces are on either side of Assad’s presidency.
Look at how Somalia presents itself nowadays. On February 23 2012, at Lancaster house, the government of the United Kingdom hosted a diplomatic meeting for Somalia. In attendance were the presidents of autonomous states of Puntland, Galmudug and Somaliland, heads of Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaah, representative of the transitional government and the international community. In this conference, there were many Somali representatives. Off course, there were multiple plans and I guess the international community had may be harmonized them. The United Kingdom government hosted a similar conference on 11 May 2017 in the same venue. Contrary to what happened in 2012, President Farmaajo headed Somalia delegates and presented a harmonized national development plan.
That milestone development changed how the world viewed Somalia. On the night before the main conference, many Somalis in diaspora met in a rehearsal conference where some federal states presidents hinted that federalism is not to stay and that in the reunification with Somaliland, Somalia will present itself as a unit.
The government of Hassan Ali has actualized the war with corruption: the main factor that has been derailing national development for many years. According to the corruption index released by the World Bank in the recent years, Somalia was one of the most corrupt countries together with Myanmar and Afghanistan. For sure, a similar indexing today could place the country slightly at a lower level. As of today, there is zero tolerance on corruption in Somalia. There is an aerial camera and highly detective radar on every ministry and they account for every penny from the national treasury.
According to the office of the prime minister, the government will immediately dismiss public servants convicted guilty of corruption charges. Similarly, all ministries are to do subsequent monitoring of utilization of public funds. The ministry of finance is to optimize on revenue collection. Following consecutive visits and inspection from ministry officials, transparency has improved within the government. Last week, the finance minister announced close to 90% increase in the revenue collected from the port and the airport.
In addition, there are plans to up-scale revenue collection including the collaboration between the police and the ministry officials to enforce tax collection. An indication that Somali will soon be self-dependent.
Bilateral accountability between the federal government of Somalia and the international community is a newly introduced move. Both parties welcome it. Previously, there existed routes for both parties to shelve bilateral agreements. National development plan was hardly put into real practice. However, the old habits of the federal government have finally died hard, I would say. Both the Prime Minister and the President are up to the task of real accountability from involved parties.
President Farmaajo, in agreement with the international community, emphasized on the same. Last week, the prime minster gave status-of-the-country briefing to numerous ambassadors and delegates to the contributors of the national development plan. External attendees welcomed the idea.
Worth mentioning is Somalia’s pacification mission. The federal government of Somalia has warmed up for a perfect fight against terror groups. Commander of the armed forces of the federal government of Somalia has vowed to finalize the war with UGUS in two years. In the meantime, the federal government is preparing the country for the exit of the AMISOM forces, which will commence towards the end of 2018. The plan set forth is the restoration of Somali National Army. The exercise is set to kick off soon in the course of the next six months. Somalia will soon have close to 18000 military personnel recruited from across the country. As was reported by the local media, the projected recruitment will have national face.
With the government showing reliable signs of handling the welfare of the forces and the anticipated lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia, president Farmaajo will be able to build an astounding force to take terrorism on it toes. In addition, President Erdogan is set to launch the Jazeera military training camp with a capacity of more than 1000 forces.
The writer is the founder and managing director of CentRep Ltd and a Food Security and Social Development Researcher. He is Nep Journal contributor. He can be reached through email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org