Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
by Mohamud M. Uluso
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
January 17, 2013 is a memorable day for the entire people of Somalia. It will be marked as a day for jubilation. It is the day the US government abandoned its misguided policy towards Somalia and formally recognized the central government of Somalia after 22 years of avoidance, indifference or miscalculation. US diplomatic recognition symbolizes a walker or underarm crutch for united Somalia to stand up and walk. To move fast forward, two challenges that need quick actions are the mobilization of international aid package and the overcoming of internal divisions based on clan loyalty, past injustices, collective mistakes, fear of the future or political self interest.
The people and government of Somalia are now delighted and grateful for the surprise decision of President Barak Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not only to liberate Somalia from Al Shabab, pirates but also from foreign subjugation and manipulations as well as from self destructive Hobbesian mind-set. This historical move must be a vindication come late for the former US State Department Political Officer for Somalia Michael Zorick who was removed in 2006 from his position after he dissented from the G. W. Bush Administration’s counter-terrorism policy towards Somalia and late congressman Donald Payne who challenged Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia. The announcement is also a triumph for Professor Michael A. Weinstein of Perdue University who consistently spoke for the best interests of the powerless and voiceless Somalia, for John Prendergast who wrote in 2006 the article Our failure in Somalia, for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for its report Pathways to peace in the Horn of Africa: What Role for the US?, the Human Rights Watch, and for Somalis who sacrificed their lives, resources and time for the dignity, freedom, unity and respect of Somalia.
Indeed, many were disappointed, skeptical or critical about the US policy focused on war on terror and foreign intervention without commitment to the restoration of the Somali State. Now, with its diplomatic recognition, the US government joined the forces for peacebuilding and statebuilding strategy in the fragile states through the New Deal Framework in opposition to the forces for trusteeship administrations, mediated models of governance, clan based building blocks or fragmented community governance. In response to a question from Falastin Ahmed Iman of VOA on the now abandoned controversial dual track policy, the Secretary of State Clinton said categorically, “But our position now is the work that we did to help establish a transitional government, to support to fight against Al Shabab, to provide humanitarian assistance, now is moving into a new era, as the president said. I believe that our job now is to listen to the government and people of Somalia, who are now in position to tell us, as well as to other partners around the world, what their plans are, how they hope to achieve them.” I truly hope that the substance of this message is clear to all leaders of the Republic of Somalia.
The people of Somalia find themselves in the miserable life of fear, distrust, selfishness and aggressiveness harrowingly described by the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The interest of the Somali people, of the United States and the international community at large lies in the establishment of an absolute but democratic, accountable sovereign central authority in Somalia. Here again, in her remarks, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphatically declared that the establishment of new government through democratic process was a personal priority for her during her time as a Secretary of State and that the US government finds admirable the level of commitment shown by the newly elected leaders of Somalia for carrying out their hard work mission of nation building.
The US diplomatic recognition of January 17 gives hope to millions of Somalis languishing in refugees camps in the neighboring countries or in internally displaced people camps. Surely, huge challenges and responsibilities are coming with the bold action of Obama Administration. It is up to the people of Somalia to step up and make responsible decision on their future. According to words of the Secretary State, the US Government has promised nation to nation relation, a steadfast partner to Somalia as Somalia makes the decisions on its own future.
Between 2009 and 2012 the US government spent close to 1.4 billion dollars on Somalia’s problems. The human and material costs inflicted on defenseless Somali civilians are immense. The Obama administration took long time to change the shortsighted US policy inherited from the G. W. Bush Administration. The path followed to arrive to today’s turning point was tortuous, troublesome and tarnished. For example, the constitution making process and resultant provisional constitution have sowed political and constitutional confusions that could undermine the huge benefits expected out of the US diplomatic recognition. Nevertheless, the future role of the US Administration as described by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could mitigate those flaws:
The president had a chance to meet President Obama earlier today at the white house, and that was a very strong signal to the people of Somalia of our continuing support and commitment. So as you, Mr. president and your leaders work to build democratic institutions, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respond to humanitarian needs, build the economy, please know that the united states will be a steadfast partner with you every step of the way.
For the first time in the world history, a formally recognized functioning government of Somalia which got independence on July 1, 1960 completely disappeared on January 26, 1991 when national and local institutions imploded and late President Gen Mohamed Siad Barre and his cabinet fled the country. No central or local authority replaced the government overthrown by the people. Thus, Somalia became a stateless (failed state), an unprecedented situation that has threatened the international peace and security because all malevolent forces have been thriving under it, e. g., warlordism, radicalism, terrorism, piracy, human and drug trafficking, money laundering, violence and illegal waste dumping. As failed state, Somalia ceased to provide state functions to its people and started feeding national despair, distress and survival of the fittest.
Somalia is now a bankrupt country, which owes billions of dollars to international creditors while it urgently needs billions of dollars in grant in the next 10 years for rehabilitation and recovery. The federal government lacks political and institutional capacity necessary to navigate through the complex conditionality procedures regulating countries in arrears or debt default with the international lenders like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank or get access to international financial markets. Therefore, Somalia needs the power and voice of the US government for solution. The Secretary of State offered hopeful commitment on this issue by saying,
So today is milestone. It’s not the end of the journey but it’s an important milestone to that end. We respect the sovereignty of Somalia, and as two sovereign nations we will continue to have an open, transparent dialogue about what more we can do to help the people of Somalia realize their own dreams.
It’s not secret that Somalia is not yet a solidly cohesive society. However, without immediate collective action, the new momentum could be lost and consequence could be disaster for all Somalis. Genuine, practical, respectful, and responsible dialogue among Somali stakeholders and elite is the path for win-win outcomes.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso