by Abdullahi Dool
We care about our nation and are thus naturally concerned about how it is governed. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has so far very little to be proud of but it has the opportunity to rebuild Somalia. It has also the opportunity to re-establish its credibility. Since the TFG is currently in the capital presiding over the day-to-day affairs of our nation, let us explore together where we are now as a nation and what could or should happen after the war, which brought Ethiopia to fight on the side of the TFG to topple the Islamic Courts.
The Islamic Courts held a number of appeals for the Somali people, such as: (1) They chased out the warlords who were responsible for the mayhem and statelessness for 16 years that were effectively lost to our nation. (2) The Courts established peace and order in the capital and the areas they controlled. (3) For six months since June 2006, the Courts were a political reality that was poised to take power in the country and had the support of many Somalis.
For this last reason alone, we owe it to ourselves to guide and counsel them so that our nation may emerge out of the wilderness. In our endless anarchy, when a group comes to power there is little we can do other than to guide or contribute to their efforts. Among other things, the courts failed because they would not heed to counsel. In my last piece, The Way Forward, posted on the Internet in October, 2006 I suggested to them not to threaten our neighbours, the TFG, then seated in Baidhabo, and not to attack peaceful Somali regions. By allying with Eritrea, the arch enemy of Ethiopia, and by harbouring at least two liberation fronts against our neighbour, the Courts provoked Ethiopia to work towards their demise. The alleged harbouring of foreign fighters and terrorists has also made the U.S strive towards their overthrow. The United States, which is still reeling from the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in September 2001, utilized its satellites to guide the Ethiopian artillery to the positions of the Courts’ combatants, and, later, to pinpoint the jungle hideouts of those accused of bombing the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. The Islamic Courts have presented a golden opportunity to the TFG by converging the TFG’s interest with that of our neighbours and the United States. Unfortunately, the Courts’ leadership could not see the bigger picture and the dangers that laid in wait.
Like the Islamic Courts who did not heed the advice of those who wanted them to succeed for the sake of our nation, today equally we owe it to our nation to guide and advise the TFG, which is currently in power. A successful government is one, which is open to ideas as well as to advice. Obduracy is not the answer to our problems. Obdurate leaders fail nations. In order to get down to the myriad issues and problems facing us as a nation, the following points are important.
(1) After the establishment of peace and order one of the most important tasks is to establish harmony within our people. The TFG should never side with anyone against anyone. It should treat everyone equally.
(2) All arms in the hands of the civilian population should be collected. Self-administering Somaliland should be seen as an exception, pending future negotiations and a future political process.
(3) The issue of unity. First and foremost, the most important task is the installment of the Somali State, which is the key to unity. The TFG should not complicate matters by rushing things and tackling the issue of Somaliland head on. In Somaliland there was peace, stability and reconstruction for the whole 16 years during which there was instability and destruction in the South. Things need to be stabilized in the South before there is any talk of unity. Unity between the North and South cannot be achieved by force or by mere persuasion. Unity will come when a deserving Somali state is achieved. Unity on the hoof cannot stand the test of time.
(4) Puntland too is a self-administering region where there has been peace and stability since 1991. Puntland too needs a period of re-adjustment until the rest of the country gets used to the peace and stability, which have been taken for granted in both territories.
(5) The plight of Somalis in camps in neighbouring countries is a priority. The answer to their difficulties is not immediate expatriation but they should feel that they have a government which is concerned and which is actively seeking to better their living conditions in those countries, as well as working towards a better future for them and for their dependants.
(6) The national press of any country should be responsible and patriotic. Referred to as the fourth pillar of state, after the executive, legislative and judicial functions, the press wields immense power of influence, and is an important factor in the development of any nation and the safe conduct of government business. The freedom of the national press is inviolable. Since the task at hand is to mend and rebuild a broken nation, the transitional government should not see the press as its enemy but its ally. They [the press] are there to inform, to point out problems, to fight malfeasance and evils such as nepotism and clannism, to convey government messages and to increase public awareness. The national press should work within a framework of understanding, to carry out its duties and to do good rather than harm its nation and her interests.
(7) Accountability is an important factor in governing. Those in power are custodians of a nation’s trust. Any funds provided to the Somali people through the transitional government should be accounted for. The Somali people are fed up with the old practices and want new ways of doing government business. The heart of that quest is to see the back of politicians who only care about themselves and not the nation.
(8) The burning of trees for charcoal has been disastrous for the nation’s ecology and environment. It is very important to spare our trees, because the amount of rainfall in a country is linked to the number of its trees. In time this ban should also be extended to the utilization of charcoal for domestic use. This presupposes that the nation can find alternative source of energy. One solution could be the supply of gas for cooking. Until the nation’s gas reserves are tapped, it might be imported from other nations.
(9) The talk of common boundaries and passports with Ethiopia proclaimed by the deputy prime minister of the TFG has shocked the nation. Many Somalis suspect that our landlocked neighbour may have come with the TFG to secure a sea outlet and once having landed at the coast of the Indian Ocean may never look back. Ethiopia is our neighbour but whatever the TFG owes to the Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi in its bid to seize power is a matter for the two governments. The TFG has no mandate to alter the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of our country.
(10) Force is not what keeps a government in power. The power base of a government is the goodwill of its public, without whose consent no one governs. The TFG did not arrive at the capital by popular support. The TFG, if it is going to have a chance, should reach out to the Somali public and use its arrival to gain acceptance among the Somali people.
(11) We have to stop clannism and factionalism. These evils have cost us dearly. Because of these two our nation has lost 16 years of progress and development. Every nation to function and secure its existence needs nationals and Somalia needs Somalis not clans. A clan is a private matter. We have to understand that in any government individuals are in power, not their clan. For better or worse those individuals are responsible for their actions. We have to move on from clan and clannism, which have denied Somalia the government it deserves. The absurd notion that somehow the government belongs to the clan of the leader should go. There should be no clansfolk who sneer at our people in the delusion that the government belongs to them more than anyone else. 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 harmony. The power base and support of a clan government 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. Time after time a clan government has proven to be unrepresentative, unjust, divisive, inept and archaic.
(12) A government lives and flourishes from its flow of ideas. To run out of ideas is to be out of steam. Landing in the presidency of a nation alone is not enough to run a country efficiently. After 16 years of statelessness our nation has a million or so interests and issues waiting to be addressed. The Somali people expect things to be happening for them. No one has expressed better the need for peace and progress than Mohamed Mohamoud Hilowle, a displaced Somali interviewed in the capital by a correspondent. He reiterated: ‘I need peace, I need a government and I need employment.’ An under achieving and static government is not what the Somali people want.
Many Somalis unfortunately exhibit the lack of a cause but an obsession with personal interests. Our cause should be the success of our nation. Our people need a stable government. We should not complain when we end up with individuals who do not measure up to the challenges and the mammoth task that await us as a nation. If we are not clear about what we want there always will be people who come to power and make a mess of things. What we want is an effective and efficient government: a government which does not differentiate among our people and which looks after our nation and its interests. For love of country we are duty bound to support any individual who has the ability or the vision to take the country from a situation of oblivion or stagnation to that of progress and development. On the other hand, let us not support any leader because of clan. It will not be fair to other Somalis. The support of any Somali leader should be based on performance and delivery and not on clan.
The Transitional Federal Government should seek the support of the Somali people to create peace and stability in the country rather than rely on foreign peacekeepers to achieve its objectives. It should strive towards the healing of the nation from the results of 16 years of civil war. Our people need to reconcile with one another to move forward. The TFG should be willing to talk to anyone to stabilize the country. They should talk to the leader of the Islamic Courts Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed who is currently in Yemen. When our people put aside their differences and genuinely reconcile there will be no need for foreign peacekeepers to keep the very peace for which our people yearn.
Many Somalis such as myself want any Somali government including the TFG to succeed. Personally, I do not approve of the way the TFG came to the capital. But if we now disown and vilify the TFG because of its methods, there will be a continuation of the cycle of violence. This is not in the interests of our nation. This time, yet again, it should not be another missed opportunity for the world is now ready -- more than ever -- to invest in the redevelopment of our country. Wisdom says let us give the TFG a second chance so that if they fail the nation they will blame no one other than themselves. The TFG should listen and embrace the Somali people as a whole for things to move forward. Once that happens foreign troops will leave our soil and there will be no need or justification for their continued presence. Anyone who serves our nation well shall deserve and have earned the extended trust of our people to oversee the management of our nation’s affairs. It should be the task now of the TFG to earn that trust.