by Abdullahi Dool
Even though I was invited, I did not go to either the Nairobi conference of 2004 or the one in Djibouti in 2000. For reasons of principle I do not attend clan gatherings and it does not make sense to represent a clan in a national conference to discuss or solve national issues. Even so, let us not forget that the gathering in Kenya in 2004 voted in the TFG with a mandate and for that reason our nation has accepted its legitimacy as a national government. Unfortunately, for months in Nairobi where it was established and later when it moved to Jowhar and then to Baidhabo, we know that the TFG was not up to the task and its challenges. The TFG has just a few years left of its mandate and so has very limited time to get its act together and show the nation that it is steering away from the disaster to which the country is heading.
Today our most important task should be to save lives and property from the indiscriminate shelling in the capital. Out of folly Somali lives have been lost for too long to unnecessary and consuming civil strife. The loss of one life is a national tragedy for our nation and today our enemy is anyone who propagates or encourages violence through insurgency. Somalia is not Iraq and we will not let the blood of our people spill like water. In Iraq the Arab World is watching and doing nothing about the shameful and unnecessary bloodletting in that country mainly because of a chronic shortage of leadership and because they want George Walker Bush to fail in his mission. How many more must die in Iraq before the slaughter is ended? Life, which is the dearest commodity on this planet, is cheap in some parts of the world. Our people in the capital should be patient. At this moment in time, our aim should to preserve lives and property.
The announcement of the TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf that he will hold a national reconciliation conference is an encouraging step in the right direction. The success of this conference will always depend on how committed the transitional government is to the healing of the nation. It is not enough only to talk to local elders who have no say or power over the deteriorating situation in the capital and its surroundings. Judging from the way it is being conducted there is little to expected from the reconciliation gathering called by the TFG leadership. Another question is, who is to be reconciled with whom? By dividing the nation along clan lines individuals have caused and fuelled the civil strife to further their interests.
The Islamic Courts have been damaged by individuals who make reckless stances and statements such as, ‘we will attack the Ethiopian forces if they do not leave Somalia within seven days’, announced in November 2006. In late February 2007, also did we not hear that the arrival of the African troops would be welcomed with canon fire? On 6 March 2007 they made this promise stick by unnecessarily firing a volley of mortars at Mogadishu airport during the arrival of the first contingents of Ugandan forces. For those who still believe they can further their cause through acts of violence here we have some sobering news. The Ethiopian forces that have now begun to stretch themselves with reinforcements throughout the South will go home within three years. That is if we do things right. During this period there should be not one bullet shot at them in anger. The African forces too should be left alone. They have a United Nation’s mandate to keep the peace and harming them would most certainly result only in the expansion of their mission. This too would result in the arrival of forces not only from African nations but also from other powerful interests outside the African Union. Escalation of conflict would not benefit Somalia but its enemies. Those enemies include misguided individual Somalis who wish the harming of African forces in order to see the expansion of those forces’ mission.
Today, if there was a national leadership vacancy, I know who would be my choice. Naturally this decision of mine is not be based on clan affiliation. I made this choice clear in my piece, The Way Forward, posted on the Internet in October 2006. To rule Somalia is not to have the last laugh as individual Somalis mistakenly believe. The task of rebuilding a stateless nation such as Somalia involves sweat, tears and a lot of hard work. When it comes to the leadership of the nation our people should support candidates not for their clan, but for what they can deliver. The leadership of a country is about serving the nation. When will our people learn that someone who will treat everyone equally irrespective of clan and who can deliver and accomplish something for all is better than a fellow clan member who will accomplish little and waste time?
Cities and towns of any nation should not become clan turfs where individuals bully and threaten nationals as well as foreign visitors. Such places never prosper and real estate values fall. A city or town must be open to all nationals as well as foreigners to visit, work or settle in. No one rolls up and takes land away from anyone. We must learn from cities and towns in other countries in which many of our people live. The capital of a nation belongs to its people and should not be claimed by any clan or group. Imagine individuals in London, Paris, Tokyo or Washington walking around and bullying citizens, visitors and residents from other states or regions. Needless to say our capital Mogadishu belongs to all Somalis and not to any particular clan or clans. Our towns and cities too belong to the whole nation.
Of course the presence in our country of forces from our neighbour churns our guts to the core. But the Somalis say if someone holds your own right hand, you should never pull it. If we fight the heavily armed Ethiopians in our capital what will be killed will be Somalis and what will be reduced to rubble will be Mogadishu and not Addis Ababa. This is not the time to moan. This is the time to be patient. We are a nation of warriors and we know how to fight but we have nothing to prove by toting guns in this electronic age. The use of force at this stage is not the solution to our problems. Those individuals who live in far away places who propagate violence are not the ones to pay with their lives, possessions or property. Let us also not forget that even without the occupation of a foreign force we left dear Somalia in lawlessness and anarchy for far too long. For all those years we kept our nation in the wilderness; the message we have sent out to the world was that we do not care much about our country.
In the world some people lack land while others who have land such as the Tamils and the Kurds lack the freedom to establish a state of their own. We have both land and the freedom to re-establish our state. Every nation has elders and wise individuals who guide their people through troubled times. A statesperson encourages not violence but caution. We need to inspire our people to move forward, make the most of what we have, strive for the better and hope for the best. There is nothing to be had from destruction and division. In this age those who grab guns to effect change are self-defeating. Our people should be patient for if the TFG fails irretrievably the nation shall pave the way for a national conference in 2009 based this time on nationhood rather than clan. Sanity and reason should prevail and the message to our people is: let us work with patience and not insurgency. There are less than three years to wait for the mandate of the Nairobi assembled transitional government to expire. The clock is ticking and the TFG can blame no one: do things right or mess things up – it is your watch!