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Courts deserve cautious positive review

by Abdul Rehman Hassan


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The Somali political arena has been worsening since 1969 when the armed forces ignored the constitution and took over the control, invalidating the nation’s elected government. After twenty years of corruption, lack of development, resource mismanagement, and unbelievable level of cronyism, the Somali public virtually became anti-government and anti-establishment in essence. However, after embracing lengthy period of anarchy and lawlessness, their view of authority shifted from extreme hate for governance to an intense desire for it.


Even though the broad majority of the Somali public unequivocally demanded and continues to demand a constitution that is based on the Islamic Sharea, the urgency need for law and order necessitated acceptance for any kind of government led by any murderer, technocrat, or even warlord. Waves of these were assembled one after the other, but none of them was able to take off the ground. The last and the current TFG government led by President A. Yusuf, which has been in the making for over two years in Kenya, has now celebrated for its second anniversary since inception, but achieved none so far. Regardless of who gets the blame, the incompetence level is much greater than anyone expected.  


When it comes to the proponents and the opponents of the above mentioned transitional governments, the public was and still is divided into two categories. A category that is bounded by tribal identity, which loves and hates the leader for whose son he is, and a minority category that assesses the leader and his team by their successes and failures. The later is the group that is so determined to see some sort of stability and government framework in the country. Whenever the landscape of the Somali politics takes a new direction, it’s only this elite cluster that has to decide what to do, since the rest has fallen prey to their biases and lost the ability to judge impartially. For the past sixteen years, the Somali political platform did not provide different options to choose from for the group in the middle. All they could do was to fully line up behind anyone, who gets elected or appointed for reasons more so serving the interests of the neighboring countries than that of Somalia. To them, strengthening these questionable transitional governments and their leaders was to opt for the lesser of the two evils. Bad government or no government.


The sudden rise of the courts not only offered a viable reason for rethinking, but also opened window of opportunity for a future that is totally owned by the people of Somalia. Their implicit message of “What is for Somalia is for Somalia and what is for its neighbors is for its neighbors” resonated in the hearts and minds of many Somalis and it seams holding.


In the last two weeks alone, the courts took humongous steps towards the right direction when they first expelled the warlord out of Kismayo and then annexed Shabelle into their main control. To be fully accredited for these major achievements, they need to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk by entirely decommissioning the remnants of Jubba Valley Alliances and Shabelle Conspirators. The courts need to handover these territories to their rightful communities same as they did with Jowhar and elsewhere. The courts had already secured very strong base in the south and winning the rest will partially depend on how they manage the areas under their control. They must demonstrate an exemplary level of commitment to justice and admiration.


Currently, the courts have number of problems that will surface into the horizon soon when they start dealing with any of the areas controlled by the FTG, Somaliland, or Puntland. In these areas, they have three factors that are playing into their favor, and three issues that will pose serious obstacles to their cause.   


The despair of the people in Somaliland and Puntland may encourage many to greet the courts with open arms. Both administrations have corrupted public officials. People are taxed to their throat, but receive very little in return. In Somaliland, the stake circulates among the higher ups, and much of the flesh doesn’t reach the ground. Solders and civil service employees are starving, and the cash supply is extremely weak in the local market because the money never makes its way to the retail level. In Puntland, sizable fortune of the collected tax revenues are packed and shipped to Baydoa in the next morning. The rest is extorted by the low level state employees. The later lavishly spends their portion of the misappropriated public funds, and presumably that is why retailers earn higher profit returns in Puntland compared to Somaliland. Mogadishu warlords were defeated not by the courts, but by the people they denied piece, and likewise, these two administrations may be defeated by their own people after they denied transparency, and good governance. 


Bay provinces have always been an easy grab for whoever has a little muscle to flex and little more ambition to advance. It’s usually much harder to administer this state than it is to invade. If commonsense fails to prevail and confrontation is resorted to, the courts have better chance of winning over these provinces compared to the possibility of the FTG keeping them.


Since the fall of Kismayo, strong differences of opinion surfaced between President A. Yusuf and his home base followers. They view the event as emancipation for their folks in the south and he views it as a loss of territory to his foes. The President still maintains the support of his diehard devotees, but the days and weeks coming will determine the direction of the progressives. The question is: will the courts extradite the remaining wing of the Jubba Valley Alliance leadership from Kismayo or not. If they do, the progressives will cross over to the courts camp. That will create havoc in the President’s defense lines.


The most serious obstacle to the courts comes within. It’s lack of clarity. Their message is not unified and their intentions are still in great deal of ambiguity. To win the support of the people of Mogadishu, all they did was to remove the barricades, disband the armed thugs, and restore calm on the street so that people can go on with their daily lives. This card doesn’t worth a dime in Hargaisa, and Bosaso, because these problems are not there. To set foot in these areas, they must put forward a qualified alternative to the people in these regions and to the nation in general by rethinking and restructuring their current add hoc approach.       


Courts can’t manage the country by themselves. They do not have the expertise and the attitude it takes to do so. They need to widen their circles and seek the participation of the learned society. There are thousands of well-educated well-trained Somali elites in all over the world today. They are the cradle of the Somali society, but unfortunately lost the hope of leading their nation to El Dorado, because of the hostile political environment orchestrated by the junta that ruled the nation for twenty years followed by the warlord led anarchy in the south and the oligarchies in the north and the east. So far, the courts demonstrated an extreme level of dissatisfaction with people’s freedom of expression. Their true color was revealed when they fell short of recognizing the rights of this syndicated Somali cartoonist Amin Amir to express his view peacefully and artistically. It got even worse when they prayed ill at his name in an official level, and further threatened him for his life. That was not only absurd, but a vulgar attach on a civic member of the Somali society. I can still recall when back in Somalia, Mr. Amir stood for what is right, by exposing government failures to the public through its own major news media – Xiddigta Octoober. His satire work of art, which appeared on the daily paper of Xiddigta Octoober, represented the voiceless society and sent clear message to the government, but unfortunately, instead of using the peaceful critic and taking the constructive steps needed, they grew more arrogance and strengthened their grip on the public. They paid the price for that, aren’t they? The courts must be smarter than that. I believe they should issue an apology to Mr. Amir and to the Somali people in general about this incident.


The question is: will the skilled people – the truly capable men and women like Dr. A. Ismail Samatar join the effort? Is the political atmosphere created by the courts friendly enough to attract these creative minds? Well, if that happens, there is hope for Somalia, because the trust that has been missing among the Somali society will be restored.


Courts must define the limitations of their ambition. They need to openly declare that they have no interest in invading Ethiopia. If their ego extends to the neighboring countries, the Somali public and the world will join hands to defeat them miserably. Somalia has unfinished business with Ethiopia and that stands till justice is made. However, this matter must be resolved politically. Face to face confrontation between the two nations is bad idea and will only bring more desolation to the already deeply poor East Africans.


When the courts tackle the above mentioned issues and the atmosphere changes to one of inclusion rather than exclusion, some positive conversations may be engaged between Hargaisa, Bosaso, and Mogdishu. Neither the FTG nor the oligarchy enclaves in Hargaisa and Bosaso will be able to pressure down the public need. But when the courts are still debating as to whether they should disarm Yusuf Indhacadde or not, nobody will easily jump on to the bandwagon and chant immediately. The people in these two states are not desperate for the safety of their families, but are upset with their corrupted leaders. Both administrations are in common in kissing Ethiopia’s butt and ignoring the deeply planted Somali values and culture.


To my humble understanding, within the elements of the courts, there are some, who are sincerely determined to promote justice and good values. But there are also some that have multi purpose. We will see and wait who prevails. I conclude this note: courts need major surgical operation if they want to bring a viable solution to the country. At the way they are structured now, they can only gain Gedo and Bay provinces. To cross over to Hargaisa and Bosaso, they must produce a working model for the long term future of the nation. And last, but not list, the window of opportunity is narrowly closing for the TFG, but it all depends on how serious the courts get about justice and transparency.


AbdulRehman Hassan

E-mail: [email protected]



The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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