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Planting Somalia's Deep State

Shire Salaad
Tuesday March 7, 2017

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The establishment of stable nations and the continuation of their governments in the modern era was stabilized, in part, by the establishment of the Deep State--a concept that has evaded many other societies and their governments particularly those in the developing world like Somalia.

For the purpose of this writing, the Deep State is defined as those apparatus of the nation that often work behind the scenes which enable the government to work from the position of knowledge, and inject into the system some checks and balances that are not often publicized and known.

The above definition of Deep State may sound similar to that of Bureaucracy, but it is not. Oxford dictionary defines bureaucracy as "A system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives." In other words, bureaucracy is completely from the government and for the government, but the Deep State is not completely from the government or for the government. 

The term 'deep state' is controversial in some circles because of its connotation of a hidden state, yet it has different meanings to different groups. Nevertheless, the Deep State is what has partly prevented from many countries that have faced civil wars and civil disorders from the total collapse of the rule of law and order. For example, the Ethiopian civil war that ended in 1991.

After Somalia gained its independence in 1960, the following governments established some of the Deep State apparatus, however, before they matured the rise of the Said Barre government disrupted their growth, co-opting some of those Deep State parts and disregarded others that were not useful to his regime, which undermined the checks and balance that were important for the creation of an informed system. Consequently, the lack of living and thinking Deep State was largely part of the reason why Somalia's central government was not able to withstand civil disorders and a civil war like its neighbor, Ethiopia.

Today after decades of wars, droughts and famines, and multiple governments that have failed to lift Somalia out of the abyss, there is a new government led by a president who many see as the coming of the man who the history books may one day regard him as the father of the modern Somalia. With such high expectations, the new government should be one that its THINKING goes beyond the basics of what Somalia needs today such as bringing back law and order, fighting graft, building the infrastructure and governing institutions. The new government should think about the whole system holistically to usher in a resilient and a progressive government that will be able to withstand the test of time.

The solution is creating a system within the system of the government that will be the watchdog for the people from the people, for the government and from the government.

                                                             Enter the Deep State

"Dear Government...I'm going to have a serious talk with you if I ever find anyone to talk to."  Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire


Historically, the Deep State in many countries grew from reactive measures of their governments, however, in modern governments, the establishment of the Deep State is often a government directed for the benefit of the nation. For example, those include providing public funds for research and development, creating within the government ethics watchdogs, establishing government sponsored enterprises, creating Think-tanks, creating wealth funds.  

Now, the new administration in Somalia is generally expected to prioritize building of the governing institutions including ministries; however, imagine if you could double the effectiveness of the government and its institutions, and double also the brain power of the system without creating extra ministries or undertaking huge investments to attract brain power?

The solution is attaching every governing institution to an autonomous think-tank that tackles intellectually the ministry's portfolio. For example, the ministry of defense should also have a think-tank, call it maybe the National Defense Institute, that is funded by the government until the think-tank is able to self-sustain (yes, it can self fund and sustain).

This will help the think-tank to attract many intellectuals who are interested in what the institute does and in the process create a feeder system for the defense ministry. Most importantly, it will produce thinkers for the government, and particularly for the nation. In other words, it will attract and create strategic thinkers capable of seeing beyond the obvious. 

If you apply this same logic overboard to all government ministries like many advanced countries already do, you will double the amount of brain power that the government could learn from who will write about the same issues that the leadership of the country must deal with. This will also create a generation of intellectuals that will constantly engage the governing body with the realities of modern governments, which will influence Somalia's leaders how they perceive issues and how they govern.

                                                              Permanent Secretaries/Civil Services

Recent Somalia governments were accused of walking away  with public goods such as office furnitures after their terms ended. Moreover, all Somalia's recent administrations were forced, by the lack of permanent secretaries and functioning permanent civil services, to start hiring from scratch for almost all departments of the government except the armed forces. This chaotic system has also demoralized not only the civil service community but also the larger Somali society who hear about the looting of public goods whenever a new government takes over the leadership of the country.

What the country needs to have are permanent secretaries that regardless of who wins the election stay in and manage ministries and lead the civil services. Without such arrangement, the creation of the civil services (part of the Deep State), will not be possible.

                                                               National Interest Committees:

“Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.”

                                                    Honoré de Balzac

                                                               The Idea

Dialogue and openly sharing of information among government apparatus are vital to national security and social stability. Because of this, the establishment of committees in different branches of the government to share information and expertise, and check and balance each other's actions, is needed. 
                                                             The Parliament

Somalia's national parliament is nascent one, but that could be an advantage. Since it's still young, it's time to incorporate within the fabrics of the legislative branch of the government permanent national committees that its function is to oversee different portfolios of the governing administration and the government itself. 

It's worth to mention that there are some ad hoc committees that are assembled as needed by the speaker of the parliament, they shall become permanent. 
                                                                 National Economic Board 

Not a single developed nation has succeeded without purposefully thinking about ways to improve the pillars of their particular economies. Such purposeful design starts with forming committees that studies ways to improve the economy and modernize the nation's infrastructure and business environment. Somalia needs similar committee that will work with all branches of the government helping to shape policies on economic development. 

In general, different committees are needed to tackle with different pressing issues that the nation is facing such as security, creating jobs, et cetera. 

                                                                   National Counter Intelligence Agency

Somalia government currently depends on foreign entities that work within the country to provide for the government vital intelligence tips and support while they spy on the same Somalia government which they help with the fight against terrorism and piracy. This double-dipping should not be tolerated if Somalia is to become a nation that protects its private and public secrets. 

The first step of dealing with this problem is the creation of an agency that works on counter-intelligence--surveilling the surveils. Those foreigners who are caught on spying or suspected of spying on Somalia's citizens should be sent home. This counter-intelligence will help safe guard Somalia's secrets and protect Somali citizens from foreign surveillance and influence, protecting the nation from foreign propaganda and sabotage. 

                                                                    Somalia's Spy Agency

The failures of Somalia's infant spy agency are numerous because of the incompetency of those who have led the agency. To be fair, every organization starts from somewhere, and definitely there is a learning curve. However, Somalia's spy agency is only by name a Somalia one because it's funded by and influenced by foreign entities that work in the country, who do not care as long as the agency does their bidding, its failures to protect Somali citizens.

The truth is, Somalia's spy agency to become a formidable one, first it must become free from foreign funding and bidding. Secondly, it must become a thinking and living agency, which is not led by former generals whom their loyalty is with their tribes, or men who do not comprehend the geopolitics of the world and the significance of the agency for Somalia's security and existence. There is no an informed Deep State, in part, without a thinking and savvy spy agency.

                                                                        Conclusion: Above All

One has to be careful about what type of Deep State he is creating because if you use the wrong ingredients and mix them together for the wrong reasons, the outcome will be a state like India that nothing gets done or one that favors the wealthy and the connected giving birth to an oligarchic system of government, or worse, maybe the mix of the two is what you will end up with.

Nevertheless, the benefits of the Deep State is worth the risk because it will infuse into the system its own checks and balances and give it brains that it may not have without the Deep State, which in turn will create a predictable and stable government and country with the help of the institutionalized bureaucracy. 

In conclusion, I hope the importance of the Deep State is not lost to this new administration. Secondly, I hope it gives the creation of the Deep State the same priority that it gives to those other apparatus of the State. Above all, I hope the new government is one that thinks about the future and plans accordingly. 

Shire Salaad is writes about Somalia Affairs. He has BSc in Economics and Global Affairs and minor in writing. [email protected]

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