by Ahmed Bashir
February 15, 2017
Now that Somalia has elected Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as the next president, many well wishers and experts may inundate him with their sincere counsel and offers of assistance on various issues and challenges along the road. Some of these ideas could be emotional outbursts of joy while others could be thoroughly analyzed policies and strategies such as how to increase revenue generation for the government, set up efficient tax collection system, improving security situation, grow the economy, introduce democratic reforms to empower citizens, and how improve the quality of education, etc, etc.
I am not unmindful of the fact that the president has his own plans, but I feel duty-bound to put forward my two cents worth!
Keep the People engaged: In my view the first order of business for the president should be to address the Somali people and jog their memory that just few days ago they have elected him as their president but now he needs their help to unite and rebuild the nation and that without their full support it would be difficult for him to succeed and achieve his plans. Also, he should always keep the public informed of the challenges and hurdles facing him, be honest with them, maintain good relations with them at all times, and seek their input on matters of importance. He should sympathize with them and offer his sincere apology for the difficulties they have gone through under different regimes since independence. He should promise us that such suffering should never happen again.
Tax collection and Revenue Generation: The president should articulate to the public his policy on how to grow and open up the economy, create employment for the youth, discourage aid dependency mentality, develop ways to grow government revenue by creating efficient tax collection systems, and government services that improve the quality of life for the public.
Growing the Economy: On the economic front, the President should give assurances that the government’s role in the economy would be limited to developing long term economic plans, develop sensible business laws, act as the enforcer of these rules and regulations and, adhere to market oriented policies that are based on the laws of supply and demand.
Security and the Rule of Law: The president should tell the people how he intends to improve security and the rule of law in the country, fight corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, extremism, and bring to justice those who steal or squander public resources. This would require independent and strong judicial branch, otherwise it would be impossible to prosecute violators.
Protecting the Homeland: Other matters of profound importance that the public would like to hear from the president include: his plans on protecting the homeland from both internal and external enemies, building professional armed forces, capable intelligence agencies, and community serving police to keep the peace and fight extremism.
Building Democratic Institutions: Without democracy and an eventual one-man-one-vote system, Somalia would revert back to tribal anarchism. Therefore, the president should support the formation of a maximum of three political parties (Left, Center, and Right) which are based on principles and not on tribalism or regions. People should be able to join one of these parties and run for office from any state within Somalia where she/he had resided for a full year, twelve consecutive months.
Dealing with Regional Administrations: Somalia is one of few nations in the world that is homogeneous, thus, the current Federal setup is not suitable for Somalia. The fact is Somalia is just one ethnic group that shares the same language, culture, religion, race, etc, etc., and creating regional autonomous states would only challenge and weaken the authority of the central government which makes it very difficult for the Federal government to accomplish any policy agenda. Instead, States should be given the right to elect their governor and local government for their state. This would be more suitable to Somalia than the Federal system that is place now.
Improving Education: The civil war had a devastating effect on education. A whole generation has been lost without proper education. The government needs to take concrete steps to improve the quality of Public educations and should provide free education up to the secondary level.
Foreign Aid: foreign aid is an insidious way to help developing countries. It creates a culture of over dependency on foreign aid and compromises recipients’ independence, productivity, and ambitions. It makes people lazy and creates vicious cycle of dependency syndrome. The government should instead encourage self dependency, hard-work, entrepreneurship, and make it easy for the people to make business in the country.
Further, instead of depending on foreign aid, the government should create a FUND called Somali development Fund Account where generous Somalis can contribute to help rebuild their country and/or help the poor and the disadvantaged.
Regulating NGO’s: These so called not-for-profit organizations have an unfettered, unregulated access and powers to all segments of the society and in all regions of the country and they are not accountable to anyone. Their overreach must be properly regulated.
Al-Shabab: Al-Shabab is made up of two camps. A group who has taken up arms to fight foreign troops that they consider as occupiers and, another that is widely believed to be agents for foreign countries for the purpose of infiltrating, collecting intelligence and defeating the former camp. I think it would easier for the president to make peace with the camp that is fighting foreign troop’s occupation. The challenge would be identifying and defeating the group.
Amisom: The president should vigorously negotiate for the gradual and the orderly withdrawal of the Amisom forces starting with regiments belonging to front line countries. Also a commission of enquiry to monitor troop withdrawals and investigate any crimes against humanity committed by this force must be created.
Refugees Repatriation: Somali refugees in neighboring countries should be repatriated and the president should publicly state that there is no longer a need for them to stay in foreign countries that threaten them time after time that they will be deported or be subjected to protracted asylum processes that is humiliating.
The Constitution: The constitution is still in Qabyo-qoral stage and needs to be completed. This administration should take upon itself to make sure that it would be completed as soon as possible. Also, the president should renounce the practice of clan based sharing. For example, the Parliament is currently based on the 4.5 Clan based sharing formula but if the country is to move ahead and unite the country, the selection of the cabinet should be based only on qualification, experience, education, loyalty and love to serve the country.
Uniting the Country: the unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Somalia are sacred. The president should clearly outline his vision to unite the country. He should pursue an aggressive policy that confronts countries that encroach on its territory. Those countries that infringe on Somalia’s sovereignty and enter into agreements with regional administrations without first getting the approval of the Federal government should be taken to the relevant bodies in the UN and to the international court.
Exploring and Extracting the Natural Resources: Somalia is rich in natural resources such as Oil, Natural Gas, Minerals, Fishing, Agriculture, and Live Stock but these resources have not been exploited in any meaningful way. The Farmajo administration must develop plans to fast track the exploitation of these resources. Companies that have been awarded exploration and subsequent production rights but failed to execute their contractual obligations should have their contracts annulled and not considered again for future contracts. The president and the Somali people should know that by the year 2050, China will be number 1 in world economy, India number 2, the U.S. number 3, Russia number 6, Japan number 8, and the U.K. number 10. If western companies do not want to honor their contractual obligations, we should shift our alliance to the East (www.pwc.com/world205#).
Foreign Policy: we should review our relations with other nations and develop a long term foreign policy that is built on mutual respect.
For the neighbouring countries, it is in their best interest to refrain from interfering with the Somali internal affairs because if Somalia which is a homogeneous nations was easy to destabilize and break-up into different regions then it would be even much easier to disintegrate the more than 80 distinct ethnic groups of Ethiopia, and the more than 70 different ethnicities of Kenya who do not share a common language, culture, or religion. I think that it would be wise for all of us in the region to avoid destabilizing neighbouring countries. Again, peace and stability is not just a concern of Somalia ONLY because If popular uprising or political unrest were to start in Kenya or Ethiopia, peace and stability would be hard to regain sooner than the 25 years it took Somalia to regain it.
Finally, I think the president should take to heart all the ideas and advices from the public, organize them into categories and implement them in order of practicality, usefulness, expediency, and relevance until all of them have been implemented accordingly one by one. The president should tackle these issues head-on and without delay, fear, or ambivalence.