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Somalia-The Country with Ups and Downs.

By Mohamed Bahal
Thursday, December 11, 2014

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The Somalis suffered the worst colonial legacy. Though they were people of one tribe, one religion, and one language yet they were dismembered into five territories under the rules of Britain, Italy, France and Ethiopia. Britain on the  assumption of humanitarian reason as well as imperial expansion, attempted to convince the members of League of Nations in 1949 in Paris that the majority of Somalis were nomads who moved their animals across the borders in search of water and pastures. The motion was rejected by Russia with support of USA. Somali nationalism which spread like wild fire in all five territories suffered the first setback. Britain felt ashamed of its decision to split junk of grazing land from British Somaliland and handed over to Ethiopia. Having noticed the anger and uproar made by the people, Britain sent a Royal Emissary to King of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, to return the area called “Reserve Area” and instead take the Zaila Port and its accessible area. The King rejected the offer.  Britain had no option but to grant the people of British Protectorate full independence  on June 26, 1960.

For the people of ex-British Somaliland it was Now or Never to unite with their brothers in the South with no conditions attached. Thirty two deputies lead by Mohamed Ibrahim Egal were flown to Mogadishu to finalize the act of union. It was a time in Mogadishu when two candidates were contesting for the position of the Prime Minister. It never occurred to Southern to offer the position of the PM to Northern since they were already holding the presidential position. It was a shock to the deputies of the North to witness lack of reciprocal from the South not offer the PM position to them. Even if such setback happened to them, the formalities for the union took place without hindrance.

From 1960 to mid 1969, Somali Republic was known to the rest of the world as the only democratic nation in Africa. When the late PM Egal paid official visit to USA, President L. Johnson acclaimed the PM in White House diner reception and said “ Egal stands for egalitarianism.” The interpretation of this statement meant that Egal pacified the thorny relation that existed between Somalia and Kenya or it could also be that the common people of Somalis have traditional equality with no class distinction.

In 1969, following the assassination of the President Abdirashid, the civilian Government was over thrown by the military led by Mohamed SiadBarre. At the onset, the military move was popular, because the civilian Gov. was perceived as corrupted due to the way it conducted the election of 1969. A colleague of mine who was Egyptian Agricultural Advisor said to me “ Your people don’t know the harsh rule of military.” Three years after, the leader of the coup, Mohamed SiadBarre took a new turn in strengthening his grip to power and became one of Africa’s greatest autocratic ruler. He demeaned all institutional rules and marginalized the role of SRC members. He despised  clan chiefs, religious leaders, scholars, and any body of respect. Instead, he exalted party cadres who where chosen on their loyalty to the regime but not on merit.

If I mentioned one important Siad’s legacy which is undeniable is the writing of Somali language. The true historical facts of SiadBarre’s regime can be revealed by honest historians who are unbiased and no clan linkage. Until his last days, the General defied any suggestion to give up the rule with grace. One of his great surprises was a hasty radio address he delivered in the 11th hour of his regime eventhough most of his body guards (red helmet) were fleeing the capital with looted cars. In his radio address he urged the people to avoid clanism and increase food production, subject no related to the situation of the of the time.

Following the downfall of the military regime, the country plunged in to a period of non-existence. Anarchy and lawlessness prevailed every where. Mogadishu which was cosmopolitan city and one of the finest and cleanest city in Africa turned to be a ghost city. The country was besieged by gangs possessed assault rifles and heavy weapons. Members of international community and IGAD organized marathon conferences to reconcile among the warlords and clan leaders to form national Government. Even if money and time were spent, there was no unanimity to form Government. Finally, the solution came to be an ad hoc Governments internationally not recognized and had no power to subduethe self imposed authority of the warlords.

The solution to Somalia’s paralysis was found to be federal system based on clanism. Under such system, the central Government has limited role to govern the country. It is already noticeable that heads of the regional Governments have easy access to foreign countries to discuss issues that central Government disagree. In the absence of a ratified constitution, so much administrative loopholes are taking place .

The present Government should waist time on internal wrangling every now and then. The President has to show himself as the leader of the Nation with no favoritism to a group on the basis of religious sect which happens to be his power base. There is no an article in the draft constitution that the PM has to come from one particular clan. So far, the silent majority clans were disregarded to hold the PM position. Selection of PM should be based on set of criteria among which are: professional caliber, a code of values of honesty, free from nepotism and corruption.

Last but not least, the Government should not loose the trust of the Somali people and international community. The recurring reports issued by the Monetary Group on financial corruption and arms misappropriation if not true, the Government has to prove with a clean sheet of transparency, otherwise it may result in negative effect on the donating countries. To finish remaining tasks before 2016, requires creation of team work andabsence of administrative tug-of-war.

Mohamed H. Bahal

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