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Nur Bahal


There are a number of reasons for the TFG’s inability to embark upon a national development policy. The prevailing political atmosphere leaves the TFG very little choice in deciding its priorities. Its resources and attention are currently dominated by the daunting task of gaining control of the country which in itself is a major stumbling block to any development initiative.  People are hungry for peace, stability and jobs; none of these can be made available unless the TFG gains control of the country. It is a vicious cycle. More importantly, however, lack of popularity with the people is an even bigger dilemma. The method and style of the TFG’s ascent to power; marching into Mogadishu under the shadow and in the company of Ethiopia - Somalia’s archenemy and a member of the nations that took part in its partition – translates into pathetic respect for the TFG in the public’s mind. In the eyes of the average Somali, the TFG has dealt the pride of its society the lowest blow by seeking help from their ancient adversary and oppressor. Furthermore, Ethiopia’s continued presence will escalate the discontent of the public with the TFG. Yet, its hasty withdrawal will also speed up the decline of the TFG and devolution back into the anarchy, especially in the face of the current unwillingness of other neutral African nations to contribute troops. It is another vicious cycle!


The vast environmental disasters that retched a cycle of flood and famine and economic down trends forced many to leave their villages or livestock heading for the big cities to find employment only to end up disappointed from loitering in an alien city with more perturb than they bargained for. This has not only caused population explosion in the major cities but also contributed to a drastic reduction in economic production. Mogadishu’s population explosion, with its integral unemployment burst, was the combined result of centralization, negative economic performance in the outlying regions, and environmental degradation.


The net increase in all of these factors over the last 16 years tests the TFG’s ability and disposition to tackle the ailments of a society that needs quick solutions to a serious national calamity with tortuous complexities. The Gordian knot that has become Somalia will be a test of wills and minds requiring the best of the society to overcome vexing tangles. But the TFG’s overarching solution to this labyrinth knot seems to be its cause and only time will tell whether a solution to a problem lies in retaining the vital elements of the problem itself.



Education empowers a society but it also confers responsibility on individuals and society in general, to foster development, harmony and peace. In many instances, depending on the prevailing politico-economic conditions, education has been used for purposes other than its natural goal. Writing the Somali language produced a vast number of people who can read and write but who are unable to qualify what is worth reading and what is worth writing. Although it was the single most valuable achievement of the dictatorial regime, misdirected policies aimed at “leveling the field” produced these effects. The sacrifice of quantity for quality compromised the noble intentions and failed to relieve the country’s hunger for skills and knowledge.


Quality can never be compromised for quantity and yet, options have to be given to those who do not make the cut. Standards have to be high. Moreover, education has to carry a social component; it has to be applicable to the needs of a society. TFG has a monumental task ahead of it when it comes to rebuilding the institution of education. The need to re-examine the old curriculum that regurgitated colonial-centered education is greater now more than ever before. A new curriculum that responds to the problems in our society and enlightens students on the failures, using our own experiences at social strife as a background for future social harmony, will ensure that our future generations possess the correct mechanism to prevent future discordance. The new education system has to nurture a Somali national identity. It has to restore our society’s pride and confidence in itself; teach it to eat what it grows, wear what it makes and find solace in one another.


ADDITIONAL FACTORS – Consequences of the First Collapse


Islamic Fundamentalism – Religion as a political weapon

Despite the openness of the Somali culture, fundamentalism succeeded to find a niche to operate on two different occasions. During the mid- to late seventies, the formation of Ikhwaan, predominated by the Majeerteen and Laylekase clans, was a response to broaden the opposition base against the regime. Contrary to many beliefs the Itihad also rose in the North during the height of the SNM opposition. Again, at the height of the warlord stranglehold on Mogadishu, the ICU, whose most powerful wing was dominated by the Cayr sub-clan of the Habar Gidir, ascended to prominence and established a semblance of peace in Mogadishu. Two factors, however, evidenced the ICU as more than a religious uprising. The imposition of hard line Wahabi doctrine raised a lot of eyebrows. The infliction of controversially strict rules is on itself an indication of hidden political agendas and religious charlatanism evidenced by the harsh ruling regarding human behavior in the face of the society bottomless pit of poverty. The adoption of warlords like Indhacadde, who controlled the Middle Shabelle Regions with impunity and inhumanely, was to most of the impartial observers a slab in the face that pointed the finger to the true tribal colors of the ICU.


Like the social plague that gave prominence to warlords, religious charlatanism also gained momentum and continues to plague the Somali society under the auspices of something as brain-numbing as tribalism and the gloom fostering cult like the Wahabi that prosper on taking short cuts to the knowledge of religion. These cults exploit the raw emotions of the unsuspecting by enforcing non-indulgent guidelines to avoid adherents getting the time to think and digest religion and the principles of their leadership. Devoid of thought, they adamantly believe in the correctness of their leaders and willingly dislodge any door, believing they are doing it for God, only to be disappointed when they find their leaders as a corrupted as the warlords.


Religious charlatanism is a new phenomenon in Somalia. Made possible by the lack of certification, many saw an opportunity to get an uncontested platform with loyal audiences and in the process they also get to boost their weak ego to compensate for other failures. The knowledge of religion, and especially of Islam, is one of the most complex academia which cannot be mastered without following established academic setting with proven curriculum. And even then, the need to specialize, like any other subject, becomes imperative. On the contrary, religious charlatanism is characterized by the total absence of organized studies and curriculums. It flourishes under informal on and off tutoring, quick inflated titles, unqualified rulings and emotional rhetoric. Religious charlatans always address issues that are irrelevant to the problems of the society. They are strict in their interpretation of Islam because they are not at ease to get out of their comfort zone – they tell it like they heard it; they do not tell it like they think the possibilities could be because they never exercised the faculty of thought. The goal of religion is to save lives, it does not kill. Yet, groups posing as religious organizations kill innocent lives on a daily basis.


In any event, The ICU succeeded in mobilizing large numbers of people from all parts of the Somali peninsula and its continued seething is a reality the TFG has to contend with one way or another and the method it deals with the remnants of the ICU may determine the fate of religion and politics in Somalia.


Regional Secessions

There is no shortage of arguments for and against Somaliland’s secession. Atrocities and genocide dished out to the Isaaq tops the list of the reasons. That the Isaq suffered genocide at the hands of its own government cannot be denied. The use of the National Army against the people it was formed to defend is a crime beyond the comprehension of any sane human mind. But to extend the commitment of that genocide to the Somali people or to the South is also logically skewed. It was perpetrated by a dictator; by a regime whose members included many individuals from the Isaaq.


The argument that Somaliland was a separate nation for four days, and thus to conclude that it stood as a nation before the union, is also deception of sorts. The entire premise of the North’s independence movement was predicated on the union with the South. Public demand for unification also overruled any imperativeness of the Northern Representatives to sign an act of union which would have constituted a legal basis for a present secession if it contained special provisions.


At the fall of Siyad Barre, the North had a golden opportunity to take the reigns of the situation and to ensure that the pain they have been put through does not repeat itself at any scale anywhere in Somalia. Somalilanders need to be aware that they also have the same troubles that afflict the South – tribalism – in addition to at least one major problem unique to Somaliland. Secession denudes the inherent historical collective memory of the society which forms the basis of national identity and leaves non but SNM to take the place of the independence martyrs and legendary poets. The SNM, however, was a tribal militia that has committed grave human rights violations, which does not give SNM any place in the formation of national identity. Supporters of SNM have to remember that one man’s mujahid is another man’s murder and the continued presence of SNM in any national identity platform will hurt more than it helps.


The TFG has to acknowledge the achievements of the society of Somaliland in securing peace. Without exaggeration, the process of the grass roots peace initiative by the tribes in Somaliland is a template worthy of copying by the TFG. The antagonistic approach of members of the TFG towards Somaliland is also an impediment. The TFG has to prove itself before they can ask Somaliland to sit at the table. As it is now, Somaliland is ahead of the rest of Somalia and it behooves the mind if the naked asks the dressed one cover himself. The TFG needs to dress itself in governance before it can approach Somaliland.


Somaliland is not the only entity that might secede. It may seem strikingly odd to cite Puntland among the list of seceding regions. Yet, given the tribal realities and the facts and actions evident in the mannerisms of the Puntland administration cession almost came close to reality and is still not far-fetched. As a tribe, the Darood is more cohesive than the Hawiye. That is why is there was only one presidential candidate in Nairobi. Abdillahi Yusuf’s lone candidacy was the litmus test for the Harti confederacy and to a degree many Daroods in general. It is exceptionally likely that in the event a Hawiye president was elected, Puntland would have announced a complete secession. On its inauguration, the region was pitched as an “autonomous” state with Yusuf as its president. An autonomous state within the state of Somalia is weird and if there is no “plan B” there is no need to complicate an already muddied political landscape. Yet, that “plan B” is always downplayed. The failure of Abdulahi Yusuf’s administration may bring a resurgence of the so far cloaked secession aspirations of Puntland. In fact, failure this time may result in the ultimate collapse of the Somali society and the fragmentation of Somalia into tiny tribal “X lands” where the addition of “land” seemingly represents a rejection of ones Somaliness and possess a strong dose of nostalgia for colonial hegemony.




Societies around the world have, are and will be faced with tribulation. Human interactions, whether a society is homogenous or heterogeneous, is replete with complications, rivalry, gluttony for power and privilege, resolutions, understanding and reconciliation. Every society chooses its own path to find pertinent solutions to their ailments. These solutions are constantly repositioned, redefined and refined according to the prevailing circumstances. This is the mechanism by which societies avoid collapse. It may take a number of social collapses to finally bring down a society entirely and to likely result in its extinction. The fall of the dictatorial government of Siyad Barre was not a national failure. It was a social collapse for the simple reason that Somalis proved unsuccessful to recover and rebuild a nation almost two decades later. It took the intervention of foreign forces to bring the warlord government pieced together in Kenya to its capital. And the hope that it might work and regenerate the broken society is very bleak.


Social aversion to collapse is evidenced through the willingness to generate workable solutions based on the experiences garnered through years of strife; changing what has proven not to work; understanding that strife will not be localized and that it is in the best interest of all tribes to cooperate to stem out factors (even if they are people) that can breed chaos. Societies dictate the course of their destiny to the degree that they can control and mitigate tranquility and progress inhibitors through culture-specific and apprehensible mechanisms. If a road leads to doom and a society keeps traveling it in the hopes that through an infinitesimal chance it will stumble on a solution, the perils of social collapse will be salient sooner then they expect. Allah in His Everlasting Grace told us unambiguously that it is up to every society to change itself for better or for worse:


It is the same (to Him) whether any of you conceal his speech or declare it openly, whether he be hid by night or go forth freely by day


For each (person), there are angels in succession, in front and behind him. They guard him by the Command of Allah. Verily! Allah will not change the state of affairs of a society as long as they do not change their state by themselves. And when Allah wills a punishment of a society, there can be no turning back and they will find besides Him no protector

Surah Ar-Ra’ad (chapter 13); verses 10-11; translation by by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali, Ph.D. & Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan.


The TFG may not have the luxury to take their time to plan or the premeditation to see around the corner. It is hampered not only by characters and their ability to lead a nation. It is also hampered by the same factors that led the dictatorial regime to failure and still the same reasons that impeded social recovery for the last sixteen years. At this juncture, it is up to the society to make a choice – a choice that may stimulate peace and the resurgence of the Somali race. The modern world is made up of institutions. Culturally, Somalis never shared institutions before the advent of colonialism and their lies some of our ills. We are struggling with the inner workings and details of a “monster” that is not our creation and we have to share that monster. It is the “how” we are having difficulties with. People come and go but institutions continue to stay with us and keep on serving long after the people who started them are gone. Institutions, as repositories of information, specifically accomplishments and failures of previous programs, forestall the reinvention of the wheel. In addition, the preservation of institutions saves the resources, time and effort of rebuilding them, thus, propelling a society forward rather than backwards and allowing faster recovery from national discord. In spite of the monumental problems and challenges it faces, the TFG has the potential to plant the seed of these institutions. Do Somalis have the patience and the minimum presence of mind to wait for that seed to germinate, arise and take root until the next generation of leaders, who by the Grace of Allah will be more honest, cultivated and magnanimously more patriotic, takes over?


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Nur Bahal

Toronto, Canada
E-mail: [email protected]

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