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Things are as they should be

by Mahdi Gabose


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It hasn’t been easy watching the news lately, Ethiopian tanks in the streets of Mogadishu evoked a zombie like condition where the only defense for the senses is to become numbed to the reality of……Ethiopian tanks in the streets of Mogadishu!


If this new reality does not end the addictive tribal pissing contest we so lovingly cherish and sharpen into focus the current state of affairs for Somalia, then things are as they should be.


Life is about making choices, and those who know what they want usually get what they want. Abdullahi Yusuf wanted to be the president of Somalia, he was willing to get there by any means necessary, even if that meant bringing few of his Ethiopian friends into town. He is in villa Somalia today.


Ethiopians wanted to get rid of the threat posed by the UIC and “help” create a Somali government that won’t be a threat to them in the foreseeable future. They are in Mogadishu today.


The UIC proved to be lacking the ability to think strategically as well as tactically  and ultimately faced with the onslaught of the Ethiopian war machine self preservation instincts prevailed over faith or love of country as they simply vanished from the scene. They may be down, but they are far from being out and are planning to come back with a new and improved version of themselves, because they know what they want.


If none of these players are to your liking and you have a different vision for Somalia, a vision where being a member of an inclusive, democratic Somalia, free from foreign influences is more important than being a member of a clan; your absence from the scene is sorely felt. It is not enough to wish for the things one would like to see in life, one must actively take the necessary steps and turn those wishes into achievable goals. But deep down we all know that the elusive idealistic Somali is as unattainable as our collective wishes, because the idea of a Somalia where everyone is a stake holder has been dead for a long time.


It died a little when Somaliland chose union over independence and was promptly delegated to second class status. Instead of recognizing the magnitude of the act, southern politicians choose politics over the possible ramification of their actions and the well being of the nation. Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was picked as the first prime minister of the nation by president Aden Abdulle Osman.


It is worth noting that president Aden managed to beat his opponent Mr. Sheikh Ali Jimale by one single vote (parliament elected the president under the Somali constitution) and was for all practical reasons obligated to stay loyal to his party and pick his nominee from the SYL (Somali Youth League), however it was well within his authority to choose differently and hindsight clearly shows that the Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Egal leader of the Somaliland delegation would have been a better choice in more ways than one.


Subsequent elected parliaments and different prime ministers chipped at the moral fiber of the nation and made corruption and nepotism an ordinary affair. Elections were largely a tribal affair, sometimes violent and far from being fair or free. This condition re-ignited the natural tribal tendencies that were momentarily suppressed by the need to expel the former colonial powers and shifted the mood of the nation from one of brotherly love to one of singular clan or personal ambition.


The bright light of the five pointed star was not shining for everyone, and Mandeeq the Somali symbol for the motherland was showing severe signs of neglect by the time Siyad Barre came to the scene and with scientific socialism delivered the fatal blow to Mandeeq and any notion one might have had about realizing the dream of being one among equals.


In his world it was not enough to be in power, it was essential to remain in power by any means necessary, and to that end he found friends in the Soviet Union, the US and Somalis of every stripe. The superpowers found the simplicity of dealing with one man to control a whole country an offer they could not resist and were willing partners in aiding the regime maintain control irrespective of the methods employed. For them it was a simple case of the end justifying the means. The brutal lesson he taught for 22 years was that being in power was no longer an ambition, but a necessity if one was to survive the regime.


The one lasting legacy he left us was to shape future office seekers to his own image and adopt his notion that opposing the regime meant opposing the nation, and the consequences of that were very clear to all. In essence he was Mandeeq and she was no longer a benevolent life sustaining camel, she morphed into a life taking beast that demanded and found sacrificial lambs on a regular basis.


The reason why Somalia cannot find a stable government is because we can all see the beast in all the current players, and Mandeeq is nowhere to be found!


 She is not here, because we have abandoned her and choose a different path, the tribal path, and it is the one that brought us to where we are today as we watch the US attempting to stand the TFG on Ethiopian stilts.


Whether this will work remains to be seen, but the telling story is an observation made by professor Kenneth J. Menkhaus (Davidson College) at a recent event in Washington D.C where the way forward for Somalia was explored by politicians and “experts”, and here he suggested that if this last attempt to establish a government does not work, everyone’s plan B is to allow the age of the warlords to come back in Mogadishu.  Because they are a known commodity and they can be easily dealt with. In other words (this is my interpretation) the US and Ethiopia can fade back into the horizon and bring back their hammer whenever the situation requires it.


Lone protester whose actions halted a column of advancing tanks until he was pulled into the crowd. This famous photo was taken on 5 June 1989 by photographer Jeff Widener

The moral of this story is that God helps those who help themselves, and even those who wish to win the lottery must actually get up and buy the winning ticket. Building a country that fulfills the aspirations, the dreams and restores the honor of a lost people requires hard work, innumerable selfless acts, huge sacrifices and courage.

The kind of courage exhibited by the lone Chinese refusing to yield his city to a column of tanks at Tiananmen square by standing in front of them. For a brief moment he was the giant and the tanks were the ants because he held the higher moral grounds and when one has that on one’s side there is no power capable of moving them out of the way. Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King proved that point time and again as they took on immovable forces and turn them into ashes.


If this kind of resolve and sacrifice is a bit too steep for any of us to entertain…….then things are as they should be.

Mahdi Gabose


East Africa

Policy Institute

E-mail: [email protected]

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