Beyond the TFG: Complexities and Compromises

OPINION / FIKRAD : Successful recovery from two decades of conflict and social strife is not an easy task.Somalia’s civil war has caused much physical destruction and human suffering both of which can be overcome irrespective of the magnitude. Unfortunately, the Long term casualties are the loss of trust between communities (social enmity), the loss of national vision and the erosion of moral values. These are specifically the ones that require a comprehensive planning process which includes all the tools of social rehabilitation and reconciliation twinned with extensive social education programs.

The long term effects can also be extenuated by the quality of governance and public administration which represent the catalysts to overcoming conflicts and sustaining the recovery process. Their proper reconstitution is central to overcoming the conflict as they underpin all other recovery programs and if insufficiently attended to will cause the underperformance of all other efforts including those of reconciliation of the society.

Because of the compelling evidence from so many examples in our country that a corrupt government and administration only add fuel to an already burning fire of moral decadence and corruption, our cherished desire to install a quality government that brings back sovereignty is exceedingly becoming hopeless. The tug of war between outside forces and the long term casualties of the civil war require that the administrative branches of the government be anchored by individuals with strong leadership and courage to restore moral values and national vision. At the end of the day, the quality of government is the president’s responsibility. The qualities required of the president, as the leader of such government, deserves special scrutiny.

The President

“In a caravan, the lead camel sets the pace and quality of the journey”.

Probably the most important aspect of the transition inSomaliais the qualities of the lead “camel” – the president that is. To end two decades of civil war, almost everyone has an expectation of what kind of a person our homeland needs as president. The desirable qualities and character must fit the difficult journey ahead of the nation.

Competence, which includes knowledge, efficiency and effectiveness, will rank high in the list of perquisites. The future president must be someone of great character and, as dictated by the testing times, this particular trait may in the long run be more important then all other characters. The future president will also posses modesty, and courage in abundance.  Arrogance and the lack of capacity or willingness to listen to others are diagonally opposed to the social traits of an egalitarian society like ours. More than two decades of trial and tribulations makes the people desirous for a leader that empathizes with their inner sentiments and feelings, someone that listens to their wants and wishes.

Any president must realize that tribalism, the most hated thing inSomaliais at the same time the most trusted and used tool simply because it is the one and only thing that that society can comprehend. It might be effective to exploit it for the benefit of peace-making and reconciliation without succumbing to its demands and becoming hostage to its sinister machinations. Nor should the president use tribalism and its dogmas to run the institutions of the country.  In order to end the transition, the country needs a doer not a dreamer; a president capable of uniting the divergent opinions and ideas; a president who can create something that the people can rally around – an object of cohesion. But above all, the president must not be someone who doused his hands with the blood of the Somali people.

The future president must be morally and technically a good leader, meaning that he must be above par as far as morality is concerned with equally strong technical competency. He ought to be a person with the right balance of ethics and effectiveness. A president who can, rightly or wrongly, be criticized for decisions made in the course of fulfilling his responsibility; a president that recognizes the cultural transition taking place in the Somali society. We need a president that does not succumb to the biblical Bethsheba Syndrome, the reason being that a morally weak president will surely abuse power in ways unimaginable. Weak morality has been known to bring down powerful individuals and presidents.

The president is a team leader and so must understand that, although the final decisions might be in his hand, the ideas of the rest of the team forms the basis of presidential decisions. He must learn to rely on people to fulfill the mandate of his regime.

As part and parcel of the leadership, the cabinet must share the qualities of the president. They must also have knowledge of their specific portfolios for which they must possess full powers to plan and implement with proper oversight by the prime minister and the president. Though charged with the responsibility of their portfolios, they must, together, be aware of the interconnectedness of all government departments. Although they may be selected on the basis of the abject and ineluctable 4.5, they should be fully aware of the breadth and depth of the sacred national obligations on their shoulders.

Institutions and Standards

“Progress is nothing but institutions aiming for higher and higher standards”

After all is said and done, the caliber of institutions determines the success or failure of a nation. As the engine that drives the nation, a great deal of attention must be afforded to the reasons for establishing an institution – the laws governing its inner processes and procedures, the quality of staff charged with the responsibility of implementing its mandate and how such mandate is related to the rest of the national institutions.

Institutions represent the lifeline of the nation. They are the medium through which the government accomplishes its services to the citizens and the grand vision of the nation, protect the citizens and build the nation. Every sphere of the government has an institution responsible for its function.

Institutions aiming for higher standards bring about change in a society. They become pioneers, not only of innovation, technology but also of social well being and development. Nation building is basically institution-building. The requisite for a successful institution-building involves around the provision of concrete plans for each institution that includes a progressive yearly growth. Stagnancy is not an option.

Institutions invigorate change and transformation. A transformation, in this case, entails a complete overhaul of how it does its service, a change in the quality of its service. The institution of education is one of them. Without panoptic changes to the way we educate our future leaders, we will constantly fall very short of our potential. The future education system must be based on the experience of our people; how and why we came to be at the bottom of the human hierarchy and the lessons learned. The basic tenets of our future education system must first be local with an international component. Unless we know who we are, and our particular idiosyncrasies and nagging problems, learning about the ways of others will not help us solve our problems. Our institution of education and the learning that it imparts must be grounded on our values – the Somali values. Furthermore, it must encourage students in problem solving, questioning and developing a thoughtful reflection where the teacher is the guide and a partner in forming the foundations of ideas, ideologies and solutions that will become the core of who we are as a nation and not as tribes.

The present private and community institutions, especially higher education, can confer nominal degrees but cannot bring about the desired change. Most of these new institutions, fromAmoudUniversity, which was the first, to the last one announced a few months ago, are the monopoly of cynic individuals who do not have the goodwill of the society at heart. They often confound the public with trivialities without following any of the proper rigorous of higher education.  Very few are run by individuals with some conscience and accountability.  Most, especially the likes of Amoud, have neither academic nor financial accountability. They have become a bottleneck of problems and regression rather than the transformative universities that we require.

The future transformation of education must also include how our faith is taught, who can teach it and who can preach it. Without this component, our future social transformation will be dominated by cult controversies and fringe organizations who pry on the unsuspecting society. As is common today and for the past twelve centuries, the study of Islam was largely limited to study circles at mosques. This system became vulnerable to the proliferation of alien ideas and the birth of sects, mostly with political orientations, spearheaded by an inordinately large numbers of unqualified proponents with meritless religious titles.

A mosque study circle is informal learning. There is no curriculum or analytically progressive and interconnected study involved. The students are not tested on what they have learned and there is no sanctioned legal authority that can testify to the veracity of the teachings or to the knowledge of the graduates. Let us suppose that I have learned and memorize a thousand books on medicine; can I become a medical doctor? Can I lecture at a university? Can I open a practice and prescribe medications? Does the fact that I have memorized a thousand books and I am able to regurgitate the content say anything about my capacity to understand, to reason, or about my intellectual depth or ability to relate one book to the other, one idea to the next and so on? Think about it, Islam is much more profound, deeper and wider than medicine. Why is it, then, that we trust our faith and our national and individual destiny to unqualified “imams”?

The economy

“No nation is sovereign unless it can pay it bills”

To improve the economy, the future Somali government has to reverse the economic policies of the pre-civil war era and adopt an open market policy whereby the private sector is the driving force of the nation’s economy. Barring from attention external factors which contribute to economic development, our future government’s policies will have profound effects on economic growth. A country like ours, transitioning to peace, will need to maintain a constant economic growth for many, many years before it can reverse the trend of poverty. With the private sector taking a leadership role and government institutions providing incentives for work, investment in technology and physical and human capital, we may have a chance to emerge out of poverty and human suffering.

Aside from regional and international markets, another factor that helps economic growth is the impact of cultural outlook. A society that consumes more imports, especially food products ends up discouraging its own farmers. Moreover such society becomes victims to foreign market fluctuations, unless their government cushions (subsidies) the wild price variations, in which case, local inflation becomes a real risk. Because Somalis consume rice, pasta and other imports as stable diets, we feel the pressure of price fluctuations more than other nations whose stable diets are locally produced. The government must develop programs that subtly influence the consumption habits and attitudes utilizing a combination of social education and incentives to encourage trust in local products and taxes.

Social development, reconciliation and rehabilitation

“On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow”- Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

The Greek philosopher is using the metaphor of a river to talk of change. The terrain over which the water flows the same but the water is not the same. That constantly changing water in a fixed terrain is the river. Like a river a society is constantly changing. The ideas of change are the water and the society itself is the terrain. Change can be good or bad. This is where the government comes in. Social change can be affected through a slow, gradual and planned process such as education or by sudden and often harsh process such as civil wars. Harsh social changes, although capable of good change, do not bring about permanent social stability (or at least it takes a long time). The current developments inSomalia, though still in the embryonic stage, can be nudged towards stability to give society a chance to avail itself of two decades of social strife. In order to deepen the roots of stability, it must be intentionally planned. One of the ways to do that is through education – both formal and social education.

A number of factors associated with social development have to be proliferated in order to gain a change in the way of life. Among the most important of this are human dignity and social justice. There is nothing worse than being undignified and unjustly treated in your own country at the hands of your own authorities. This and this alone, has been one of the root causes ofSomalia’s civil war.

Communities demand equity in the delivery of services. It is common for African nations to pour proportionally higher amount of resources into the capital region and, thus, create a one-city-state. The future policy makers, meeting the challenge of a more efficient and strategic allocation of public resources, must invest in all regions of the country.

The Tribal States

During the run of the TFG, we witnessed a drastic increase in the formation of “Tribal states”. Galmudug State, Mareeg State, Ceelbuur State, Ximin & Xeeb, Azania, Jubbaland, Maakhir State, Awdal State, Bay State, Khatumo State, Banaadir State, Somaliland, Puntland, Western Puntland and Udubland are examples. Are there any reasons behind the formation of the tribal states?

In a tribal society, when the viability of the national government is precariously unstable and its ability to govern and enforce compliance to laws are severely jeopardised she tries to accommodate tribes in varying degrees. States likeSomalilandand Puntland have formed out of the political astuteness of the two dominant tribes who realized the rush way before anyone else.

The TFG gave the nod to a number of these tribal states and, in turn, others formed because other tribes were weary of being left out of the political process and thus a piece of the pie. A closer scrutiny reveals that the overwhelming majority of these states are monopolized by one tribe despite the undeniable fact that there is no region inSomaliawhich is exclusively settled by a single tribe. Sadly, the tribe exercising the monopoly of the politics of the tribal state is one that also has had a heavy hand in the prolongation of the Somali civil war.

The only exception is Udubland, a region, overlapping parts ofAzania, with a diverse array of tribes all of whom have borne the brunt of the civil war and still continue to suffer under the merciless foot of Alshabab. Udubland is the breadbasket of the county which onto itself is reason enough for alien (non-indigenous to the region) tribes to scramble for its subjugation. As a result, Udubland has been formed to leverage political muscle from the national and international bodies to highlight the suffering of the peaceful agrarian peoples of these regions.

For a while, the TFG and the tribal states existed in symbiosis to defeat Alshabab but that relationship is waning as the power of Alshabab waned. Lately, the TFG has been hinting that she will not recognize any of these multitudes of states.

The politics of the tribal states involves bothEthiopiaandKenya, with the later devising to create a buffer zone between her and Alshabab yet unable or unwilling to choose sides between the armed Raaskamboni and the proponents ofAzania.Ethiopia, though, is apprehensive of Raaskamboni taking over the area and exporting the armed struggle toEthiopia. In the Central regions, the unabating struggle between Galmudug, Mareeg, Ximin & Heeb and the religious organization, Ahl-Sunna – a splinter of the same tribes in the area and dominated by the same tribe that dominates Galmudug, created a zone ripe for Ethiopian meddling and armed infiltration. Discounting for Ethiopian incursions and influence, the shear friction between a religious and secular political organization will tear the region apart.

Transformation of tribe into a state has severe consequences for other tribes within the confines of the tribal state boundaries who have not declared their own state within the state. As usurpation of power by one tribe usually ends up in escalation of hostilities because of the inherent unfairness in inter-tribal politics where the tribe holding the monopoly also holds monopoly of state power and resources, the result is a disastrous cycle of social chaos. In a tribal society, there is always an element of tribe in the national state and an element of state in the tribe. How many times have we heard “dawladayada – our government” or “annagaa dalka ka talina – we rule the country”. ‘We’ means the tribal “we”. The situation precipitously goes downhill when the powers of tribal monopoly are certified by the national government, a neighbouring country or even the UN.

It will be the unfortunate job of the future government and its president to navigate these infested waters of tribal political rivalry and pertinacious foreign manipulations traveling on the backs Somali marauders who believe that politics is the best profession for seeking undeserved power, fame and control of the gateway to material satisfaction by squandering public resources. The role of tribes and their leaders as actors and influencers of the policies of the state will have profound ripple effects on the administration of the futureSomalia.

The tribal state discussion will not be complete without touching on the role of Somaliland and Puntland, the first two tribal states, on the future ofSomalia. Even though they share all the traits of tribal statehood, Somaliland seems to be keen on secession whereas Puntland has always called itself ‘an autonomous state ofSomalia’ despite her relentless search to gain unconventional power and political concessions at the expense of the rest of the country. With the Siiraanyo regime in power,Somalilandhas been sending mixed signals on the unity issue that give some credence to the theory that secession was a bargaining chip. Both states are plagued by dissention from other tribes who are in the boundary of their respective territorial claims. There is also a land dispute between them withSomalilandholding on to the colonial boundary, an issue integral to recognition as perceived by Somalilanders, and Puntland claiming tribal blood lines to the disputed area. IfSomalilandcomes back to the fold of unity, their land dispute will automatically become a mute point, however, if she persists in her current course, the stability of that part of the country is in real peril.


The essence of sovereignty is the ability to guarantee security

There is no doubt that AMISOM was crucial in the war against Alshabab and creating enclaves of peace in and around the capital city. With its help, the poorly armed, underpaid Somali forces continue to expand the area under the influence of the TFG.

Notwithstanding there positive contribution and sacrifices, AMISOM’s presence inSomaliais imbued with controversy. In the eyes of a large number of Somalis, they represent an occupying army that gives Meles, Museveni and Mahiga the clout to lord over the Somalis and their affairs, political, social or economical. A corollary branching off from this thought is that AMISOM is a project perpetrated at the expense of the Somali people. It is argued that the money paid by the international donor community (of which only a fraction reaches the soldiers at the front lines, the rest being channeled into the coffers of their countries) could have been better spent by building a Somalia National Army. There are no plans, unfortunately, on the part of the international community, represented by a galaxy of organizations to build or even improve the quality of the ragtag Somali Army.

In addition, a few operations on key towns, that came about on the eve of some international events onSomaliagive more and more credence to a “ProjectSomalia”. Baidoa and Hudur were liberated on the eve of the London Conference. Beledwayne was liberated on the eve of the Istanbul Conference. These so-called liberated cities gave unexpected momentum to the events they coincided (or made to coincide with) but once the euphoria died down, the liberation did not bring any fruitful development of sorts. And yet, other African nations keep joining AMISOM so that they also receive a pie of the loot that isSomalia. The latest isKenya.

Kenya’s incursion intoSomaliatakes two steps forwards and two back. It has not produced any tangible military gains apart from the liberation of Afmadow, coincidentally also on the eve of the Istanbul Conference.Kenyais being pulled apart by Raskamboni militia and the so-calledAzaniamanagement who both lobby for control of the area.

The heaviest acrimony towards the AU peacekeepers has gained momentum for the three years from 2007 to 2010. During this period, the rise in civilian casualties as a result of AMISOM’s harum-scarum bombardment of heavily populated civilian areas, especially markets, catalyzed negative sentiments towards the peace keepers. Their indifference was highlighted by one of the famous remarks claiming that they had “No choice but to respond to the mortar attacks from Alshabab who are hiding behind civilians”. One would expect AMISOM, an intertional organization, to have higher moral standards than Alshabab, the militia, but when Alshabab fires mortars from inside markets and AMISOM happily and indiscriminately strikes back at the same market knowing that it is a civilian centre of commerce, any claim of higher moral standards by AMISOM simply fades into thin air. For three long years, AMISOM and Alshabab exchanged indiscriminate attacks on civilians andMogadishubled unforgivably and unforgettably.

Once the country is in their hands, the future government will deal with AMISOM quickly, decisively and wisely. The AU troops have helped the nation yet, in order to solidify our own sovereignty they must return home to their own countries. Their continued presence reflects a a diminished authority of the national government itself. On the other hand, their role in the death of thousands who died in their hands as a result of care-free bombardments will remain in the social memory forever and can and will surface from time to time.

These are all issues that the future government has to sort out. The tight lines that she is going to walk, the compromises required on her part, the opposing ideologies and interests it has to balance and, provided that it is a government loyal to the Somali cause, the hard choices it has to make are the reasons that compel us to require a government lead by people of outstanding character.

Nur Bahal | Toronto,ON | Canada |


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Posted by on August 3, 2012. Filed under Opinion / Fikrad. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.