By Shire Salaad
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Minneapolis—It’s called the “Uncommon Grounds Coffeehouse” for a reason I don’t understand. But in this particular night, it’s a bit chilly outside this two tier early Victorian American type house where the lower part of the house is a coffee cafe where hopeless romantics, students, cozy loving souls, and those who want to hide their faces behind the dim lights of this café meet and mingle quietly. Mixture of jazz and soft country music is playing on a speaker that’s hidden behind this artificial flourish green plant that’s fixed on the upper corner of where I am sitting. The soft and reddish sofa makes me feel too cozy and crave to cuddle with any soul that can handle a big heartfelt cuddle. But in this evening I am here to catch-up with friends and discuss non-fiction literature, politics and the surge of Somali “politicians” coming to Minneapolis holding small semi-planned gatherings in town.
Over the last couple of months the number of Somali politicians hosting small parties both in public and private soliciting political backing from influential Somalis in Minneapolis Minnesota has been the talk of the town among those who follow Somali politics. In factin mid-summer the number of Somali politicians staying in the city reached in the dozens. Many of these individuals came to the city for one important reason—to introduce themselves and gather the support of Somalis in this city in preparation of Somalia’s 2016 elections.
It’s still too early to start a complete political campaign for sure; nevertheless, this shows the level of thinking and planning some Somali politicians are putting on early to gather the election momentum as early as possible. Although their efforts to come to Minneapolis to gather support for their political campaigns is admirable, these politiciansshould ask themselvesthese three fundamentalquestions any leader should ask himself before he seeks a public office: first, what are your achievements as an individual; secondly, what is your plan toward helping the country; and third, are there the institutions and the political system that will enable and help you to succeed, democratically, your mission to hold such and such office?
The first two questions will vary from individual to individual and party and ideological lines, but one thing that all Somali politicians in Somalia must answer collectively is the last one: Are there the political institutions that will enable them to run openly for a public office in Somalia in 2016? Yes, there is some sort of a system which allows unelected politicians, bribed elders and warlords vote for who should become the country’s president. It’s a system that favors major clans, the corrupted, and the foolish with money who craves for unthinking-power; the opposite of what the nation should have. There also is a rough constitutional draft that doesn’t give the priority and the merit that this question deserves.
My counsel to Somali politicians who are seeking the highest seat in the land in the 2016 elections is this: start to campaign nowto implement the institutional platforms that will enable you to openly run for a public office in Somalia. Below is my list of things you guys should ask the parliament and the ruling government to implement now, and few things you early-birds should do to keep the momentum on your side or party.
ü Work to create a council or Ministry level agencythat is independentfrom the government which will be tasked of writing the rules of elections, election implementations, monitoring, and announcing election outcomes with the help of the country’s parliament. The constitution asks such office to exist and function, however, as of this writing, such office doesn’t exist and there are no concrete plans from the current government to undertake this project. For you as a hopeful candidate, this should be your priority before the election of 2016 if you want tobe elected under a democratic, fair and transparent system that does not empower you because of your clan or you’re the incumbent president.
ü Fight to nullify and erase the 4.5-system that favors big clans—a shameful symbol of institutionalized tribalism that is obstacle to creating a responsible government. If you have less money or from not the big clans, you know this will be an impossible enemy to overcome in elections under the current system if you want to be elected based on merit—so fight to end it now.
ü Make the judicial system independent from the executive branch. In other words, the current system that nominates the country’s chief justice is utterly unfair system, and could possibly be used against you in elections—make sure this power stays neutral.
ü Start writing your plan for the country—where you want to take the country and how you plan to implement your policies. This will differentiate you from other candidates who often just talk the talk but have no blueprint—if the job becomes yours, you will know you have a clear mandate to pursue what you have promised—it will also make you look more professional and a serious candidate.
ü Encircle around you smart, educated and wise people who will not be afraid to talk to you bluntly –their loyalty should be tothe country first. Do these early before others solicit their opinions and brain-power if you want to be a formidable candidate and win.
ü Asses yourself and your team, what are your shortcomings both personal and professional level—shut these down fast.
ü Most importantly, you as a hopeful candidate must remain in the public eye: start writing articles, sharing your thoughts...and use all media outlets including the printed word and online. Most Somali politicians focus on Radio and Television medium but ignore other mediums—be smarter, and if you must, use ghostwriters.
ü Join the social media such as Twitter and Facebook and build a strong presence there(there are tens of thousands of Somalis on Facebook alone—a major hub for sharing information and introducing yourself and policies faster and cheaper).
The French poet and novelist Victor Hugo is credited saying that we can’t stop an idea whose time has come—I hope by the time you run for election in 2016, your ideas can’t be stopped and you have answered all these questions and win a democratic and transparent election that will inspire the future generation of Somalis to follow your suit. Good luck!
Shire Salaad (Hassan Mire) is politics and developmental economics strategist, blogger (somalispost.com) independent researcher, and has written extensively about Somalia's politics, security and economics.Can be reached at: [email protected]