By Abdullahi Dool
The Somali people are very appreciative of the achievements to date of the Islamic Courts Union. A number of positive steps have been taken such as restoring public order, the opening of sea and airports in the capital and the clearing of the debris of years of war, destruction and neglect. The ban on the export of charcoal and live animals was also very progressive. The burning of trees for charcoal has been disastrous for the nation’s ecology and environment. Ideally this ban should also be extended to the utilization of charcoal for domestic use once a government is established. This presupposes that the nation can find alternative ways of tapping energy other than burning trees. One such solution could be a supply of gas for cooking and other uses. Until the nation’s gas reserves are tapped, it might perhaps be imported from other nations in the region. Unfortunately as reported the ban of charcoal by the Islamic Courts has had to be lifted within a month of its introduction. The ban of the use of Qat for the month of Ramadan too was a positive move. For those who use it daily it could provide a cleaning and a period of rest from the use of the leaf.
On the other hand, in Nairobi in October 2004, Abdullahi Yusuf also gained opportunity to contribute to just rule for Somalia and to lead and rescue the nation after a long civil war. Rather than seek the cooperation, support and blessing of the Somali people with whose governance he was entrusted, remaining obsessed with his past invitations of foreign forces to interfere and secure him absolute power, he made one blunder after another. Unfortunately in this pursuit, the TFG leadership endangered Somalia and our country could even be on a disastrous course toward terminal annihilation.
The Islamic Courts should not provoke Ethiopia or the TFG into waging war. They should neither attack nor advance to Baidhabo, the seat of the TFG. Without the support of the Somali people the TFG will almost certainly wither on the vine. The political cost which an attack on Baidhabo brings is by far greater than its military success. It could give a reason for intervention on behalf of the TFG.
The era of the warlord in Somalia is over and the strategy of the TFG in pursuing an alliance with defeated warlords has been folly with potentially disastrous consequences. By inviting and welcoming to Baidhabo, warlords who were either defeated or thrown out of their areas of former influence the thinking of the TFG leadership was demonstrated as being based on the illusion that they could ingratiate themselves with clans whose support the warlords had enjoyed and draw collective support from those clans. They sought to build a formidable alliance against the Islamic Courts Union. Individuals who only represent themselves cannot be mistaken as representatives of their clans.
Only doom will await any number of IGAD contingents who come to the aid of the ailing TFG, if they fail to recognise that President Abdullahi Yusuf is increasingly becoming the problem rather than the solution for Somalia. His obsession with absolute power is complicating matters and blinding him to the precarious conditions throughout the country. On the other hand because of his obsession with foreign intervention Somalia is in danger of becoming a haven for foreign fighters who have been entering the country since mid 2006. The introduction of foreign fighters in Somalia can import lethal conflict and could compromise the security of our country.
Our nation has been stateless now for almost 16 years. Countless attempts have been made and gatherings held to solve this on-going crisis. The outcome of the latest gathering was the formation of the transitional federal government now largely confined to Baidhabo. That ‘government’ does not have the trust of the Somali people but a way out of the current stagnation to the establishment of responsible national government is nonetheless essential. First and foremost, the Islamic Courts Union should be careful not to squander the achievements to date. The following could be a basis for the way ahead.
(1) Some form of mandate is a necessary license to rule any nation. The formation of the TFG was the outcome of a gathering of concerned nationals in Nairobi, in October 2004. That means the TFG could be supposed to have a mandate of sorts from the Somali people albeit only from those who set out to represent the nation in those marathon meetings. Even though the TFG has clearly not yet been up to the task of governing, their ‘rule’ to date could be accepted to take its course.
(2) The Islamic Courts Union could well halt its expansion into other peaceful regions. Since the expansion of the courts is drawing Ethiopian forces into our country, politics must now replace the gun as the right path to follow, for albeit unintentionally, at least nominally the expansion of the ICU has given rise to conflict which is attracting intervention by nations in the region and beyond.
(3) The Islamic Courts should concentrate on the important issues at hand such as removing guns from the hands of civilians. A factor which helps governance to operate is when arms are in the hands of the popular authorities and not directly in the hands of the people. In an ideal world the guns which were used in the killing of tens of thousands of Somalis during the civil war should all be destroyed. They have been stained with the blood of many Somalis whose lives were violently and unnecessarily terminated. But the authorities have to proceed cautiously and win popular trust.
(4) The ICU should prepare the nation for a national reconciliation meeting in our capital, by at the latest July 2008. Unlike in the past, this meeting should take no more than three months rather than be allowed to drag on for years. Eventually the main outcome of this conference in 2008 should be a national government, truly representative of the whole nation.
(5) At this moment Somaliland should not be expected to attend such a conference other than, should it so wish, as an observer. It will require a more complex and probably lengthy political process to solve the issue of Somaliland which is one of the many tasks that await a legally recognisable government which should emerge out of this conference.
(6) Puntland too should be left alone until such a time a government of national unity is created. Once a national government is established the Somalis in Puntland can be expected to join.
(7) Two conflicting visions within one organisation will not serve anyone. That means one leadership should emerge out of the existing parallel visions of the ICU.
(8) Along with the leadership of the Islamic Courts who have through the years dedicated themselves to the advancement of Islamic jurisprudence, we need individuals with the knowledge of public administration and politics to help operate and run a government. Not anyone can do this.
(9) Dual leadership is not the most ideal arrangement for any nation but sometimes it can be a solution and a way out of crisis. It might well be in the best interest of the country if in that national conference of 2008 it is accepted that the president come from the leadership of the ICU, for then the prime minister should be a progressive leader from another Somali community. This would compliment the ICU leader and lend the legitimacy within the wider sections of the nation and the international community. We need a prime minister who can form a truly representative cabinet and a government of which all the Somali people can be proud: a government which ends the wilderness of our nation and clan-based polarisation within our people.
(10) The country may well then require a period of at least 10 years of reconstruction and nation building. Then only can the nation legitimately decide what type of government, Islamic or secular, we need to adopt. The Islamic Courts Union would be wise to understand and accept both the country’s need for complete reconstruction and that the help and cooperation of many nations including the Western world, will be quite vital.
The Somali people do not want a clan government! On a national level we need a system free from the injustices of clannism where Somalis from different communities and backgrounds work side by side in peace and harmony. But what exactly constitutes a clan government? It is a government whose support is drawn only from those who believe they and members of their clan should benefit more than other nationals. A clan government is a government in which the well-being of a few is achieved by the disaffection of the many. The main reason for the failure of past attempts to form viable governments has without doubt been the clan factor. What we want is not clan government, because clan government has proven to be unrepresentative, unjust, short-sighted, divisive, inept and archaic.
The UN formula of 4.5 was likewise equivalent to applying acid to an already too acidic a situation. Purely cosmetic ‘remedies’ will never bring genuine lasting solutions to our problems. The Islamic Courts are thus right to reject the 4.5 formula. We confidently believe our people are capable of achieving the right government we all deserve and need. The new government needs to firmly right – but not avenge -- the wrongs of the past and lead the nation along a path of healing. The state having been rebuilt, the thorny issue of the status of Somaliland will be resolvable one way or another.
The TFG is neither clean nor holy. It is not clean because funds given in the name of the Somali nation have been misplaced and it is not holy because it is based on clannism. The Islamic Courts too have to prove themselves more than yet another organisation which is after power for its own sake. Merely going after power was the curse of many Somalis and between them they made Somalia lose out. Even today some appear to believe that if the ICU ally with the TFG the world will step in to rebuild Somalia. That is pure hot air. On its own no one will give a cent to the TFG because nearly everything contributed so far has been misappropriated. For their part the Islamic Courts should always put – and be seen to put -- the interests of the country first.
Let us further examine some of the thorny problems facing us as a nation. We should not imitate other cultures, because we have our own culture. We are an egalitarian and open society. Indonesians and Malaysians are Muslims but they also have their own culture and they would do anything to preserve it. In any case it will not prove possible to impose customs on our people because they love their independence and are fiercely independent.
Somalia can and should come to play a role in helping dispel bigotry against the Islamic faith. We have always demonstrated that Islam does not discriminate against females since it is a father who gives birth to both sons and daughters. Our women take part in every walk of life, including government. Nor, internationally, have we had anything against the Jews and the Christians, recognising that we are all first children of Adam as well as Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). The Almighty did not create mankind to hate one another. We need each other as members of the human race and it is stressed that Somalia needs the rest of the world to help us re-construct and stand on our own feet. Somalis as inhabitants of a geographical crossroads and as great travellers have always understood the diverse nature of the world in terms of race, religion, culture and language. It shows the truth that it is God’s design to have different faiths who respect one another and do not despise each other. That is the way He built our world and that is the way He wants it.
No one is objecting to basically Islamic way of life in Somalia. The question is: do we need first, the reconstruction of our country or the establishment of an Islamic government? Many in the world we live in would like to see the separation of religion and state. As an impoverished nation visited by devastation, if we start with a rule ostentatiously based entirely on our religion, few will invest in our nation’s mass reconstruction. It would be wiser for the ICU to acknowledge this and stress the reinforcement of Islamic values but with an Islamic state as a goal rather than a front-burner.
Leaders should always bless their citizen and not curse them no matter how opinion is differed. Freedom of speech and expression are cardinal tenets of governing. Governing is tough: you will be criticised both for what you have done and what you have not done. When one who is in a position of influence is criticised, one should take advantage of the message but never target the messenger. When the government we deserve is established there should be freedom of speech and expression and no one who should have expressed an opinion should be targeted or despised. A good government is a tolerant government.
For the sake of our nation we all should be willing to work with the Islamic Courts to establish a government of national unity to reconstruct and develop our country. The ICU should also be willing on their part to work with the whole nation to re-establish the Somali State and secure a better future for all our people. Personally, I would advocate support for the ICU leader in the person of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to lead the nation. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is a leader we can all work with but first he needs to secure a mandate from his organisation as the leader who can take forward the successes of the ICU. When a government of national unity is established, if it is to succeed it needs be a joint endeavour between the ICU and all free thinking Somalis whose motivation is to serve their nation and better the living conditions of their people.
There seems currently some shortage of political acumen on the part of the ICU, because at the end of the day what makes governments function and last is the political knowledge of those who operate it and not brute force. Somalis love their freedom and detest oppression. We do not want a government which flogs its citizen on the street like cattle. What we want is an enlightened government which uses wit rather than the whip.
We would like to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours. The old dispute between us and our neighbours which involves land and people will not and cannot be solved through further conflict. No one gains an inch of land by waging war. If anyone can take land by force the mighty Chinese would have snatched Hong Kong from the century old colony of Britain. The only way to solve the old dispute between us and our neighbours is through dialogue based on cooperation and mutual understanding. After all, our country needs many years of peace and tranquillity to rebuild.
To emerge out of the inherent wilderness of statelessness, let us think nationally and with a clear head. What we need is the establishment of a truly national government. When it comes to governing, the ICU on its own does not have all the answers. Nor internationally will its appeal be felt beyond some parts of the Arab and the Islamic world. What is needed now is military disengagement in favour of political engagement. In order its removal not to poison the birth of a national government, the TFG should be ignored and left to finish its remaining two years in Baidhabo. What is needed is to pave the way for a conference in our own capital. The outcome should be the establishment of a national government which attends to the myriad issues and problems which are facing our nation. Today the man who can lead the nation out of its on-going crisis is as mentioned earlier, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. He is the future!
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