Wait a minute, here comes Somalia with a blank page
Sunday, September 16, 2012
By Mwenda Wa Micheni
As they gathered to welcome the newly-elected President of Somali, Prof. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, my mind wandered a little bit, landing at the country’s national theatre. I love imaginative stuff and where else, if not inside a theatre?
Before the action on the stage, a bit of the theatre’s recent history rolled through the mind. Last March, the facility that mirrors the country’s rich heritage came back to life after more than two decades of inaction.
At the reopening ceremony, colour and ululation rent the air. The international media that has seemed to followed a certain script on Somalia went ecstatic about it, painting an image of a new dawn. They were not entirely wrong.
Like last Monday’s ceremony to usher in the new President, the theatre event was a great milestone; sort of a metaphor of the reconstruction going on in Mogadishu. A month later, in April, trouble struck: Militants from the Al-Shabaab group that has caused Somalia sleepless years, hit the national facility, killing top sports officials. The then premier, Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, survived narrowly.
At the event to welcome the new occupant of the Villa Somalia, the country’s seat of power in Mogadishu, was a very interesting twist. Former President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif Ahmed, who was initially expected to win the polls by a landslide, conceded defeat saying it was the first fair election in Mogadishu for 42 years - since Mohamed Siad Barre took over in 1969. That was another great reason for the country to ululate. A few other quick observations: There was a huge presence of the Somalia Diaspora participating in the poll, as legislators and youthful energy, plus a variety of skills in the house.
Back to my woolgathering. Does this youthful crowd have an idea how much responsibility it is putting on their shoulders? Does it understand the rough terrain of Somalia politics, especially due to the diverse interests that converge there?
The conclusion on this matter is that Somalia is a long way to go; elections were just a step towards the right direction, but the real test is not. But it can be managed with the right mix of factors, with Somalis leading the way, not the so called international community whose interest is in their pockets. And there are quick lessons from recent African history.
South Africa is under great pressure from the ruled majority. The mine workers are up in arms against oppression and years of betrayal by their own brothers, with whom they fought against the apartheid system.
With Julius Malema’s show of solidarity, as he seeks relevance after he lost his political home to the ANC kingpins, the workers are on the roll. The military also seems to be warming up to Mr Malema too, if their applause during his address last Wednesday is anything to go by.
In short, it is an act against betrayal by their own leaders.
South Sudan that celebrated its first independence anniversary last July, has some lessons for Somalia too. In the bush, while the SPLM struggled to liberate the then southern Sudan, from northern Sudan, it was total solidarity. The young, even women, were involved, without considering classes if indeed they existed.
Then the colourful flag went up. At that point, social classes became clear. Those who took charge had their interests to satisfy. So far, there are a number of pending corruption cases, and very little progress to report, a year after the country first played its national anthem.
The theatre in Mogadishu may still be rusty, but there are efforts to keep the shows going. What may not be immediately clear is what kind of shows, for the ordinary Somalis or the high and mighty, mostly weaned on foreign productions somewhere in London, Washington or Nairobi? It is a blank page for Somalia, the youthful leaders decide what they want to put on the pages. The world is watching with great interests, what are your interests?