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Somalia: Does it look like a dog-eat-dog world?

by Omar Ugas, MSW/RSW
Monday, August 25, 2015

So far Somalia’s negotiations appeared and proved pointless, probably because of our clannish thinking of not trusting each other. Scientists proclaim that our brain determines how we live, think, feel, and who we are. They encourage that keeping our brain healthy with positive thinking is the most important we can have and do. They consider that a healthy brain is the key to improving our relationships and quality of life.

 We know that some people perceive talking about their mistakes as an embarrassment and a liability. On the other hand, no one should want to push people believe in their vision, but to inspire people to participate in the process of moving forward and creating the vision. In this era, there is a great awareness and expectation that people be informed, and engaged in the decisions that affect their lives and see themselves represented in the decisions made. It is said that being heard is a starting point but not enough. People want to see practices, policies, programs and services that reflect their values.

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Nevertheless, there is one thing that we need to ponder about. Although the Somali people are connected to one another because of their unique values, religion and culture; yet there are two main relationships that such a unique people need to have. These two are shared interest and a way to communicate. Unfortunately none of them is visible to be in place for today’s Somalis.

Since 2012, when the hopeful president, Hassan Sh. Mohamud was elected, Somalis were concerned about the anxiety and the standoff between their top leaders, top institutions, sacking the prime ministers, impeaching the president (no matter if they were treated unkindly or as deserved), and how it disrupted and affected Somalis life both materially and morally.

While leadership maturity is described as considering others before ourselves, Somali leaders become visible with power abuse, corruption, favoritism, lack of transparency and accountability. History has taught us, when solidarity vanishes in any authority, the whole ruling body disappears.

My goal and challenge should not and could not to eliminate the conflict. It is said that conflict is inevitable, part of life, and in many ways useful. It often leads to change and generates insight.

As human beings, I see the need to explore different points of view and search for creative solutions. Somali leaders must have a clear idea of where they absolutely cannot and will not compromise, in terms of the people’s morals, values, and ethics.

As I stated in my article on November 16, 2012, Somalia’s new government: will change of direction possible? , I still believe Somalia needs a team able to discover new ways of leading, engaging, and transforming the communities from scratch. Somalia needs an honest government that can set priorities in terms of education, health and social services. A government with policies that do well, not just sound good.
Even though many Somalis went through difficult times for the last 25 years yet they do not seem aware that there is more than one way to see any situation, no matter how awful it was or it might seem right now. For some reasons, many Somalis seem programmed to notice only what goes wrong, what was missed, and how they failed. They might not even want to know, enjoy, celebrate, or appreciate the importance of what they did well.

There is an old saying that goes “if you cannot get out of it, get behind it.” This may be telling us to seeing something new in our everyday situations

The undesired circumstances surrounding president Hassan Mohamud

In my opinion, the president looks like someone who needs to improve his skills of leading people through difficult times. To gain a leadership, I think the president must be honest, acquire integrity, credibility, and earn people’s trust. Similarly, if any Somali leader wants to work with the current president, she/he should also improve and acquire skills of working with and under the people of poor leadership, poor decision- making, and a boss of multiple judgments.

 I am not expecting from the Somali leaders to know everything, to do everything, or to be an expert in everything. What I am looking for, is selecting a competent organized team, and let them do their job.

Yes, there may be some people or parliamentarians the president cannot stand with them.  They are either not doing what the president wants them to do or doing things he does not want them to do. The president might want to change them the way he desires, although critics say, “he is not communicating them in such a way that they can change themselves.”

Besides, I trust you have heard of many Somalis who believe that our president appears as a man who was not prepared to manage, and sometimes unable to tell dreams from reality. They did not see him motivated as a head of state or the statesmanship needed for such an office. They did not perceive him having an eagerness to learn and grow professionally.  They appear expecting him to demonstrate a willingness to take the rough with smooth, above all on the regional issues and conflicts or at least to give an extra effort to get his own office job done right.

For example, there is a wide popular perception among the Somali Diaspora that the presidential compound is not safe and may not be secured as long as Hassan sheikh is on the helm.  They observe the president as someone who undermined his people’s confidence, and because of that, he lost their support.

Many Somalis do not see his leadership as participatory, responsive, accountable, and consensus oriented. They see him ineffective and inefficient who cannot assure that corruption is at least minimized; a fellow who looks closed from the most of the public and only surrounded by his close friends. He is described as a man who wants to know what is good for the people without asking them. He is recognized as a person, who only likes to focus on the people he hates, without being an observant and listening to his people. 

Numerous Somalis of different regions already feel that the president let them down and earned from them what he deserved: nothing. They look as if expecting that the president will create a change that he believes in to the right direction of justice, trustworthy, integrity, and good governance. There is a belief that the president is not honest to bring back peace and stability because of the people who surrounded him day and night. There is a perception that the Somali president is not looking to the road of governance, but rather looking at his inner circle that are believed, by lots of Somalis, to have background as thieves, liars, looters and murders. They see the president as a man of sweet words but hiding daggers under his armpit.

Many people believe that the president does not have ability to selected good advisors.In addition, these people think that it is not the advisor’s job to order his/her boss on what policies the boss would like, or where the boss wants to go, what to see, or do. Neither does a good advisor follow you around whenever you happen to wander. They would prefer that the skillful advisor is a good listener and offers his/her expertise when and where it is needed. They imagine that leaders are there to help, to set things right, to get people on the road, to health and wellness.

 Some people are ambivalent about doing when they want to make changes. They sometimes see both reasons to make change, and not to do change, or not to stick with the constitution and other laws of the country. Nonetheless, it is clear to notice when a leader wants to change and does not want to change at the same time. For instance, there are people who believe that when Hassan Mohamud is talking publically to people and media, he uses his eye that advocates and supports the change; but when he is acting, he gives the impression of seeing with an eye that does not want a change at all. They believe that the president has a habit of hearing two talks mixed together. One type is about justice, development and change talk, while the other is stay and do the same as usual. They also say, “If ever Mr. Mohamud makes some change, it is because of the opinions of others, and not from him.”

Moreover, there are members of the Somali parliament, who accepted as true that President Hassan Mohamud is an idiot, a moron, completely incompetent, embarrassment to the nation, and a genetic mistake when it comes to doing presidential duties.  They also demanded the president to be impeached in a 9-paged motion tabled on August 12, 2015. This has again amplified the crisis in Mogadishu, and a big political infighting appears to be on the way.

According to Zhuge Liang of Shu kingdom (181-234 AD), “The wise win before they fight while the ignorant fight to win.” This implies that the wise people win before they fight by recognizing all possible games that could be played; steering the strategic environment in their favor, and then fighting with confidence in their ultimate victory. The fact is game can always be changed.

Based on my experience in working with the people in need, if a family, team or group is going to be dependable on each other, they need to be honest and open to one another. Everybody has a potential to add to our wealth of knowledge because every one of us has a unique perspective. We can also change our attitude about difficult people, even if difficult people continue to engage in the difficult behaviors, we can learn seeing the difficult and feel differently around them.

People assert that laws are made to determine where one person’s rights end and where the next person’s rights begin. That means, to live together peacefully, we need to have a good set of rules and a means of enforcing them.

Parliament and the current crisis

In my view, the biggest task of the parliament is to make sure first that there is an effective leadership strategy that demands an understanding of how the government works and how it can integrate its plan of work. Unfortunately, based on my Somalia’s experience of governance, constant motions against the government get the first priority of the parliament.

It is commonly reported that people are undisputed experts on themselves, and that no one has been with them longer, or knows them better than they do themselves; and that people are likely to be more committed to the process when they understand what is in it for them, or if their fears about any potential changes or required efforts are addressed.

Research has shown that including the public as active participants in the management of their goals and services, helps in prioritizing service plans, working together and improving outcomes.

If I were the parliament, I would first watch my emotions because they can be my greatest vulnerability. In this situation, any attempt to attack, defend, explain or even withdraw may not work. Therefore, I must find the courage to stand on my grounds by showing that I focus only on my work and want to get it done through the laws and rules of the country.

  I would suggest examining first the problem and asking critical questions such as, what is the problem, who is it a problem for, why is it a problem, what is causing this problem, what are the options for the solution, what problems might a given solution create,  and what is the most suitable solution?

Einstein was quoted as saying, “if I had one hour to save the world, I would have spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem.”  Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), who is attributed to be the architect, and the principle figure of the French Revolution, described a leader as the one who has two important characteristics: first, the leader is going somewhere; second, the leader is able to persuade other people to go with him.

In this circumstance, it appears unless Somalia’s leadership is led by a people of knowledge, reason, and trustworthy, we’ll not be able to separate between rhetoric and reality, between justice and injustice, and moreover between good and bad.

It looks as if many Somalis are expecting from their government to focus on three key issues in identifying its high priorities after the security. These three issues are inclusion, poverty reduction, and community safety. The rest is to give a chance for the people to manage and develop under the auspices of the national institutions and the law enforcement agencies.

Finally, Somalia’s current leadership appears as competing with each other in a cruel and selfish manner. It looks like a situation where leaders of authority would do anything to their interest, even if it hurts the rest of the people, and that is why I am asking if Somalia’s present shape is like a dog-eat- dog place.

Omar Ugas, MSW/RSW
[email protected]

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