by Liban Obsiye
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I am so bored by it now that I feel I must write about this new phenomenon. It is a phenomenon constructed in the security of the Western world and by those who have very little real involvement with Somalia and its politics. It is built on arrogance, fantasy and colonial like ambition of civilising the Somali people through sudden democracy. This phenomenon I refer to is the creation of Diaspora lead political parties who have the desire to return home to govern their people.
From Ha Noolato (where are they now?), Tayo and Hiil Qaraan to the others I have not heard of but probably exist there is this believe among their Diaspora leaders that they will be the ones to return peace, stability and security to Somalia. What is consistent about all of these organisations is that they are lead from the comfort of the Western world and they are spearheaded by ambitious but out of touch individuals. These individuals, while hiding behind the facade of collective leadership and responsibility, are the face and brains of the Party and they surround themselves with many yes men who are equally as out of touch. These people have learnt something in their time living abroad though. One of the key lessons they have learnt is to say the rights things, at the right time to the right people without any assessment of there practical possibilities. They have also learnt that gender equality is an ice breaker at donor conferences and as a result have propelled many of their female members to senior positions giving them an opportunity to continuously reiterate what their male leader stands for. What progress!
Political Parties and democracy are important to Somalia but the immediate objective globally is to stop the destructive civil war that has been raging for over two decades now. In an ideal world we would have a peaceful southern Somalia, with many different political banners hanging from its street lights on election day with millions of people lining up patiently outside polling stations waiting to cast their vote for the Party that best represents their key concerns. But we do not live in an ideal world. Somali politics is still dictated by the gun and by local and international players who have very little regard for the wishes of the suffering Somali people. If the dreams of these Diaspora Parties were possible then the Somali people would have been spoilt for choice and would have much to look forward to but as it remains the foreseeable future looks likely to be negotiated through heavier artillery, roadside bombs and street by street gun battles in densely populated areas.
I am by no means a natural pessimist. Who does not want the war to stop? Who opposes free education, healthcare and social services? Who does not want simple normality to return to Mogadishu and other war ravaged places in Somalia? Of course there will be those whose interest will be hurt by this, but the majority of Somalis have the same dreams as the Party leaders.
Successful nations and strong societies were formed by individuals who acted on their dreams and values but in this case, the Somali political Parties can do very little in Somalia. Firstly, Somalia is no longer just one entity as Somaliland has declared its independence and Puntland and other regions have become self governing albeit still part of greater Somalia. Talking on Aljazeera or the Somali channels alone will not be able to convince these territories which are traditionally governed by majority tribal groups, to surrender their own ambitions and agendas for that of a government made of passport holders from America, Britain and Canada. Even if these Parties were given a platform, what would differentiate them? They all seem to want the same things and are lead mainly by academics or former public sector employees in the Diaspora who have no experience in government.
In a conference in Bristol two years ago, the then leader of the Ha Noolato Party was asked how he would bring peace to Somalia. His reply was he would send an army of educated Party members to every city in Somali and then people would hear them speak; lay down their weapons and from there a government will be formed. Clearly this is where the United Nations, European Union and African Union policy makers and negotiators have gone wrong.
There is nothing wrong about preparing for peace by creating Political organisations but even when the time comes for democratic change and reform, the people of Somali are more likely to vote for those who have shared their experiences, campaigned on their behalf throughout the civil war and those they feel most comfortable with as leaders. It will not be easy, even in this hopeful future date, for the Diaspora lead Parties to have any relevance because those who have been ruled by the gun for so long will not readily welcome those they see as foreign Somalis to govern them. They would much rather have local leaders who are linked to their clans take charge of their affairs.
What these Diaspora leaders would be welcomed to do and would properly succeed in is becoming technocratic advisers in their different fields and helping to shape the future of Somali in the classrooms and from the back offices of government. But this would require some of them to leave their enormous egos at the airport and genuinely come with the national interest at heart.
The dream of multiple Political Parties is a positive one but still only a dream at present and in the near future. The Diaspora makes up a substantial number of members of all the government ministers in all the Somali regions but these candidates have been imposed on them from the top. Given the real opportunity to vote for a political Party in a free and fair election, the Somali people will go with those they know and trust and not with those who impose themselves on them from safer distant shores.