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Vision 2016: Beyond Ownership and How to Make it Happen!

Tuesday April 28, 2015 

by Thabit A. Mohamed

September 2012: Somalia stands at the forefront of a new era. With renewed hope, Somalis all over the world closely monitored the elections taking place in capital Mogadishu. For the first in over two decades, history was on Somalia’s side as the country evolved from the transitional era into Federal Government. The democratically nominated parliament elected a new President through what was largely considered a fair process supported by the International Community. It symbolized a major turnover for Somalis in Somalia as well as abroad and the rest of the world: the country was ready for promising governance and solid leadership.

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A part of the government’s mandate was to ensure a democratic transition and leading the country towards the end of its term to 2016, a year which became synonymous for the rebirth of country, in which fair and free elections where to happen for the first time in Somalia’s history. Vision 2016 was born. 

Before the country was ready for ‘free and fair’ elections, certain steps had to happen: finalizing the provisional constitution, establishing and finalizing the federal member states, overseeing preparations for a constitutional referendum, and organizing general elections.

In order to ensure this, the country had to be secure enough and people had to understand what it means to move from clan-based governance, towards democratic processes. In other words, securing the country enough to host elections and create federal states, and starting a robust civic education campaign to create awareness on what it means to move from what it is that Somalis have inherently known for centuries.

Fast forward to early 2015, with less than a year and a half to go to realize Vision 2016, the government and international stakeholders are coming to grasp that the vision set for Somalia to achieve in 2016 will be close to impossible. I emphasize, “Vision set for Somalia to achieve”, because Vision 2016, in all its uncertainties, belongs to Somalia. Peace and state building in Somalia is a process that must be wanted and owned by the Somalis themselves. If one does not have a priority to achieve something, then others cannot achieve it for them.

Nevertheless, significant progress has been made, looking at the point we started, but now it is time to go back to the basics for Somali Federal Government and re-establish an understanding of how important this is to the nation, and how crucial it is for something to take place in 2016, and by all means avoiding an extension. What people need to understand, and fathom is the fact that all Somalis have been fixated on the potential of change taking place in 2016, and if this does not happen, it will be a major and potentially destructive blow to the morale of the nation.

Therefore, there’s an urgent need for a consultative, inclusive, dialogue based reassessment and frank discussion on how to move forward. These discussions are now taking place, but needless to say, there is a lack of frankness about it. This needs to happen urgently in the form of a conference, in order for all stakeholders at the table to be present, and say on their behalf what needs to be done to achieve a form of elections in the year 2016.  

The Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, Regional Stakeholders, International Community, Civil Society Groups and Business Community, need to come together and discuss from each perspective what can be done, how this will be done, and how to ensure that momentum is kept for 2016, and beyond.

Key players need to be realistic and honest about the short time left. While doing so, it needs to reach out to the Federal Member States, which have proven to be able to sustain relatively calm dynamics in politics, security and economy. Puntland for example, is a Member State, which has shown to be settled enough to initiate and maintain political processes that have proven to be mature and viable.

With this in mind, there are three main areas, which need to be prioritized, and in some cases reorganized in order to ensure a form of elections take place in 2016. These areas should be the focus of the above mentioned stakeholders consultation conference.

Security:

The government needs to take leadership reassessing the security institutions. Moreover, there needs to be a clear understanding of responsibilities, and each institutions must be held accountable for failing in those responsibilities when there are security breaches. The only way this can be accomplished is by adhering to the Chain of Command practices that are in place at the security institutions. In addition, by empowering our security forces, and make them understand their responsibilities to the nation, and to each other. Only when you do what you are supposed to do, and excel in that, is when you will be able to complete the intended, overarching job.

Civic education:

As was stated earlier, Somalia will be moving towards democratically established political parties, rather than clan based politics, and this is a significant step in Somali history. Citizens all over the nation must be reached and made to understand what this current process means for Somalia. They need to understand their rights: to elect and be elected democratically, not on the basis of their clan, but on their parties’ political ideology. This requires a very vivid civic education campaign. The Federal Government should take leadership, but fully utilize the maturity and experience gained by the Federal Member States. This must be a collective effort between the SFG and the Member States to reach the citizens, and explain to them how the year 2016 will impact their life and that of their children, and there’s a vital role for the Federal Member States to play.

Constitutional review process:

Lastly, these plans will not be possible if the revision of the constitution is not complete. Reviewing of the constitution and the entire constitutional process must be a collective effort and something for all Somalis to engage in. The current constitutional review commission should engage the Federal Members States, by reaching out to them and have consultative meetings on how to complete the constitution. Federal Member States must take a part of the process by not only proposing changes, but by approaching it from grass root level and being instrumental by encouraging these discussions in every household across the nation. Citizens must be in dialogue about what is important for them, and what they must do in order to be in charge of their future.

To conclude, the implementation of the above mentioned has the potential to show the people a strong political will to move forward with the process, but it should be noted that it is just a beginning of meeting the set expectations. The task ahead will not get easier as time goes by, so standing in front of a clear mirror at times can bring some clarity in the vision ahead. By ensuring a realistic reassessment of Vision 2016, and engaging the Federal Member States more profoundly than has been done so far, can we reestablish a sense of optimism that the process is given back to the citizens of the nation. We need to move away from the current mode of thinking that the road towards Vision 2016 is for the government and international stakeholders alone, it is for the people and it should be by the people as well. Similarly, state building in Somalia and ensuring peace is maintained requires the energy, contribution and at times sacrifice of every citizen. Ownership is only valid when the owner owns the process. The international community has been an incredible, and reliable partner to Somalia’s peace building process. We can only be receptive to the support by the international community when we understand our role and responsibility, and theirs as well. We must understand that Vision 2016 is a mandate set by the Somalis, and not a foreign idea brought from outside. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every Somali to make it work, while fully appreciating the overall support provided by the international partners, be it technically, financially, or in the form of expert advice.

Understanding ownership and reaffirming the approach towards the year 2016 will ensure that people remain hopeful in the process, and confident in their leadership. It will create space for dialogue and consultation to happen on grass root level, which will affect major decisions concerning Somalia’s future. It will ensure that Federal Member States are included and utilized in the process, in the hopes that this will prove to be a stepping stone towards true reconciliation. Moreover, it will allow the appreciation we have for the international community to settle in, because we have acknowledged our part and understood how it can be achieved. Finally, it will safeguard the hope and optimism for Somalia to move one more step towards where it wants to be, and further away from the war-wrecked country it has been for some time.

Thabit A. Mohamed

Former Deputy Director General and Acting Chief of Staff, Office of the President of Somalia

[email protected]

Twitter: @ThabitMhd



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