Abdinur Sheikh Mohamed, Ph.D
Thursday, December 24, 2020
In this short commentary, I would like to highlight to the Somali people the purpose and seriousness of my candidacy for the highest office in our homeland and why I am uniquely qualified to lead my people at this critical time
Love of my Country
I belong to a generation fondly known as “calan saar” who were born at or around the dawn of Somalia’s independence in 1960. This generation enrolled in government schools where academic excellence, love of country and pride in citizenship was the core message of the national curriculum. Cultural norms, citizenship values were particularly taught through the poetic expressions of the famed Somali and Egyptian poets such as Abdillahi Suldan Timacadde and Ahmad Shawqi, respectively. Our teachers whose faces radiated light to their students were themselves young idealists emerging physically and mentally from the yoke of colonial rule. Like the rest of the public, they were overjoyed to reclaim their national identity and place in history. These teachers instilled in me and a new generation of young Somalis the desire to excel in school and effectively participate in the reconstruction of a modern independent state. This newly found national fervor and enthusiasm for self-rule that encompassed everyone was short lived and the system of governance began to degenerate as the primordial instincts of clannism, nepotism and endless political rivalry gained momentum. This clan-based political rivalry eventually led to demise of the democratic republic in 1969 and necessitated the advent of a military state. Massive social development campaigns which included the writing of the Somali script led to the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the country in the first few years of the military regime and propelled the growth of national literacy rates from mere 5% before the writing of the script to a whopping 65% within a year. This was a time where one can clearly and honestly identify the huge impact government policies and good governance strategies had on the overall progress of the nation.
Moreover, I am among those who benefited immensely from statehood and what it offers to its citizens and particularly polices that promoted social equality and free public education for all regardless of region or clan affiliation. This was made possible by the endless support of ordinary taxpayers including street vendors, women traders, other businesses big and small, that contributed financially to the betterment of society and an effective government that took its fiduciary responsibility responsibly.
Grateful to Somalia
My generation is arguably among the most fortunate who benefited from the fruits of good governance and stable economy in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Governmental programs and supports provided opportunities for the masses in the pursuit of educational attainment and employment in the public sector. Undoubtedly, many who took advantage of these public offerings OWE a great deal of gratitude to the nation and considering the challenges the country and its people face have an obligation to repay these silent uncollected national loans with in-kind services availing their expertise, knowledge, wisdom and if necessary, their material resources to the country. Doing so will in turn lend hand to a more deserving generation who lack opportunities for personal advancement.
I believe that I personally am grateful for the investments made on my behalf and owe a great deal to the Somali people. I hope, pray, and plan that I will be able to give back by instituting effective governmental institutions, creating initiatives and championing programs that will strategically provide opportunities including:
1. knowledge and skills necessary in the job market
2. decent jobs to make a living and raise their families
3. peace and security to allow for personal development, and
4. living in dignity and hope, and pride in Somalinimo, country and people.
Leadership Skills and Knowledge
Leading a nation, let alone one that is emerging from a prolonged civil conflict, requires specific leadership skills and a comprehensive understanding of the myriad issues facing the country-- be they internal or external. Moreover, leadership in post conflict states require skillsets and abilities that effectively capitalize and utilize human and national resources to push for the emergence of a desired outcome. The two most critical personal and professional attributes needed in holding public office asserted by prophet Yusuf (AS) in ancient Egypt are knowledge of the job (treasury) and trustworthiness in effective public management, maximizing output and protecting resources.
Prophet Yusuf said to the king: “قال اجعلني علي خزاين الارض اني حفيظ عليم”
“Appoint me the treasurer of the land of Egypt for I am trustworthy and knowledgeable”.
These presumed primordial qualities in leadership are to this day incredibly significant and distinguishes the effective leader from the mediocre. Knowledge and skills gained through education and work experience grounded in innate personal traits of honesty, decency, fairness, and trustworthiness are what is sought today in leadership. Consequently, I am stretching my neck out, so to speak, to claim with humility that I embody these personal and professional traits learned through life experiences and bestowed to his servants by none other than Allah SWT.
Improve national security
Without a doubt people from all walks of life in Somali society are yearning for a stable state which may one day establish a fair justice system and a rule of law that makes all citizens equal before the law. One of the biggest challenges facing the Somali society today is the absence of a justice system to adjudicate fairly and judiciously the myriad of social and political issues facing post conflict society. A famous Islamic scholar has been quoted regarding just societies when he said and I paraphrase that “Allah prefers a just non-Islamic state over an unjust state claiming to be Islamic” which highlights in no uncertain terms the importance of a justice system in all societies. Establishing a fair and just judicial system is a cornerstone of every developing society and governments that establish effective institutions that protect human life and property offer better living standards to their societies than others. Unfortunately, current, and previous Somali governments failed to prioritize the following:
1. Establish national reconciliation commission
2. Lead the nation in establishing citizen-based society
3. Create the environment where a new social contract can be drafted in which Somalis from different parts of the country agree on a joint national government.
4. Establish national forces that under no circumstances are used internally against their own people—unless a national tragedy of epic proportion that requires the use of all resources such as a high impact criminal act or large-scale hostage taking.
5. Establish working relations between the public and security services with the aim of improving relations and effective collaboration.
6. Restore public confidence in the justice system and the rule of law.
7. Establish a comprehensive hard and soft power approach to combat extremism with the following phases:
a. Open dialogue with al-Shabab directly or through a third party with the aim of resolving the conflict
b. Work hard to win the hearts and minds of clan leadership and the Somali public at large thus reducing or depriving al-Shabab opportunities for future recruitment
c. Engage religious authorities and institutions to offer counter arguments against their false ideology claims and highlight why the government is a better alternative
d. Mandate state agencies to close all financing sources of al-Shabab from local tax collections and from foreign actors
e. Provide incentives to youth and communities who are susceptible to extreme ideology or have already been recruited
f. Provide rehabilitative programs for former fighters for the purpose of effective reintegration.
g. Enhance Somali security infrastructure, capacity and capabilities with a plan to gradually replace AMISOM foreign troops with well trained and well-equipped local forces.
Fix Broken System
The Somali system of government for all practical purposes is broken and needs systemic overhaul undertaken by a technocrat government with the proper legal and constitutional tools to revamp and reinvent public institutions, train a cadre of public officials, and establish legal framework that lay the foundation for good governance, efficiency, and effectiveness. The Somali clan system which originates from primordial competitive kinship families and communities is rudimentary, zero-sum based, regressive, and utterly incompatible with the demands of modern state. The so called “4.5” power sharing mechanism designed originally for equity and inclusion between feuding clans is outdated, primordial and, in my opinion, must be dismantled. Instead, we must select merit-based systems that ensure capacity, inclusivity and responds to long-term needs of Somali society.
The federal system of governance in which Somalis chose at the height of the civil conflict to replace the previous heavy-handed “central authority” system has its merits and thus far served the country well despite constitutional glitches that require further review and improvement. Unfortunately, Somalia has seen the brunt of a centralized system in pursuit of clan domination or dictatorial usurpation of power. However, the current clan-dominated federal enclaves running in parallel with the Federal Government on all matters in a race to outdo each other is untenable, destructive and must be changed. We must ensure diversity at the Federal level and in each federal member state and must find a way to end clan domination and endless rivalry if we want to exist as a functioning modern state. My solution to improve the current federal system is as follows:
1. Complete the writing of the provisional constitution
2. Establish legally required commissions and institutions
3. Agree on a fair and equitable resource sharing mechanism between the FGS and Federal Member states
4. Democratize regional governments and expand authority to local municipalities
5. Finalize regional boundaries for tax collection and voting purposes with flexible options for border communities
6. Engage Somaliland effectively and work toward reunification and participation on the constitutional referendum
7. Establish a date for national referendum for the constitution to give the Somali people opportunity to accept or reject federalism.
8. If elected I will work hard to fix the system.
Until then, Somali leaders must honestly and diligently improve and promote federalism in accordance with the law until the public votes and the results of a national referendum dictates otherwise.
Competence and Capacity
The complexities of a modern state in the advent of the encroachment of Africa by foreign entities and other predators seeking to enhance opportunities for hegemonic aims or seeking cheap raw materials and other hidden treasures demand that we select the best and brightest nationals to serve in our public offices in order to competently enhance our complex national short- and long-term interests and safeguard our natural resources. To effectively emerge from a failed state status, my government will focus on vision, leadership and competence and will not shy away from recruiting qualified professionals to occupy government offices at every level. We need to glean the successes of countries such Singapore and Malaysia and the grave challenges they faced only decades earlier. Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore and his team came up with a plan thar averted state failure and is now exemplary among the top developing nations in the world. Similarly, Malaysia rose to economic prosperity under the steady hands of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his team. In hindsight, Singapore’s economy was only three times larger than Somalia’s at the dawn of Somali’s independence in 1960, however, it grew a whooping 90 times more in the span of sixty years. These notable examples provide the kind of leadership necessary to get a failed state stand on its own feet using vision, effective leadership skills and the effective implementation of strategies for a better national outcome.
Democracy vs Dictatorship
The Horn of Africa is a region that has historically seen its share of socio-political conflict which led to the usurpation of power by totalitarian regimes using past social injustices as raison d’etre for their harsh brutal rule. Generally, leaders in Africa who refuse to relinquish power for decades and whose public is suffering socially and economically under their leadership do not stand to offer exemplary lesson to Somalia. However, the changing of the guards in Somalia in every four years enshrined in the constitution, and eventually with one person one vote election system on the horizon, Somalia’s path to recovery is bright and attainable notwithstanding systemic enhancements to rain in on corruptive practices.
Somali leaders seeking for higher political office must affirm their commitment as I do to democratic rule and adherence to the national constitution and the laws of the country.
Somalis everywhere belong to a single social ethnic group called Somali and the concept of Somaliness or “Somaalinimo” has been a uniting factor beyond clan or regional differences. The concept lost is its appeal when instruments of government were used internally and selectively against other Somalis. Generally, as the only legal entity for Somalis across the globe, Somalia should represent and promote the concept of Somalinimo through education and public awareness and effectively advocate for the plight and interests of Somalis across the globe. Consequently, I will establish a special governmental agency for Diaspora Citizenship and Relocation Authority for the sole purpose of assisting the Somali Diaspora and developing mechanisms that address their relocation and employment needs upon their return.
The current stalemate in the dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland is unfortunate. Current and former leadership failed to give the unification of the Somali people the higher priority that it deserves. My administration will make talks between Somalia and Somaliland a critical national priority and will seek to find a permanent solution of the issues through pragmatic mutually beneficial steps that heals past injustices and improves socio-economic relations between the two.
We will identify competent individuals with historical understanding of the issues to critically examine the differences, close the gaps, engage with their counterparts meaningfully to produce a mutual roadmap and a revised social contract for the eventual reunification of Somalia and Somaliland. It is my heartfelt belief that both regions cannot sustain strong statehood separately and can only reclaim respectable state status regionally and globally if they come together under a federal union comprising of two regions or other mutually agreed political dispensation.
We will work hard to restore Somalinimo, promote brotherhood among Somalis to end meaningless conflict, engage communities in enhancing collaboration, respecting differences, and recognizing diversity as a source of national strength. Somalis of different dialects, features, cultures, and social backgrounds should all be appreciated, honored, and treated equal under the law and in society. As enshrined in the constitution nothing that gives the impression nor directly violates Islamic law should be acceptable to my administration.
Government of the People
Africa inherited repressive colonial regimes that used power and authority to suppress the masses while maintaining a fulfilling lifestyle for those at the top. Unfortunately, African governments continue to replicate these lessons and continue to misuse tools of government against their people thus creating justifiable fear from central authority. This leads to widespread public distrust on the formation of strong national army and police, which effectively hampers statehood. On the contrary, Islamic history which many contemporary politicians ignore its lessons for just society, offers examples of humility in leadership in which ordinary citizens have the right to question rulers in public without fear or repercussions, as well as, the development of a system of taxation that provides social welfare to the impoverished masses. Modern Western democratic welfare systems in which Somali and other migrants continue to benefit from are cornerstones of building a caring, uplifting and just societies. Somalia has the potential to feed itself, protect its weak and eventually get humanitarian agencies out of Somalia. This can only happen when the world witnesses that a caring competent government is in charge and the Somali public is no longer in need of handouts. I will work hard to lay the foundation for Somalia to stop being a recipient of emergency aid and becoming a self-sufficient nation that contributes to the betterment of suffering people across the globe.
Moreover, government officials must be accountable, transparent, accessible, and continuously inform the public on matters that are critical to public welfare and security. The public must be made aware of governmental initiatives and contractual agreements with local and foreign entities that impact social and community development. Other than state matters that are deemed national secret for a specified period under a national security court approved arrangement-- all governmental matters must be made public for transparency and accountability. My administration will ensure that the Somali people will be made aware, as much as practicable, all of our international trips, promises made and agreements signed immediately after returning from overseas trips or upon concluding meeting with foreign dignitaries visiting the country.
My administration will promote freedom of the press and will assist media to have full access to review and critique governmental misuse of public resources and other violations of the constitution. Rules and regulations and a code of conduct guiding media reporting will be established to ensure that Somalia media is competent and professional.
Establishing mutual relations between states is a national priority to enhance our international stature and improve economic cooperation and development of the country. Competent leaders must be aware of the renewed Western, Asian, and Middle Eastern encroachment, and interest in the Horn of Africa. The danger to the Somali state lies in the event that a national leader aligns himself directly or indirectly with a foreign entity or actor and becomes entirely beholden to them and whose hands are utterly tied to engage effectively and meaningfully on enhancing strategic interests of the Somali state.
I pledge to the Somali people that I am and will be free from and independent of any local group with a groupthink mentality, foreign actor, state, or a group of states involvement and direct or indirect influence or control of my administration. I view Somalia as a nation endowed with rich natural and mineral resources with an immense potential to emerge as a politically and economically viable nation if steady hands are in control and the Somali spirit of entrepreneurship and hospitality is nurtured. My administration will pursue developmental projects and economic cooperation independently and free from the influence and control of any group or state. Somalia can only be free if its leaders are confident of themselves, belief in the possibility of returning past glories albeit with necessary corrections of past injustices.
Finally, I pledge to the Somali people that my administration will
Ø honor and respect the Somali citizen
Ø respect and follow the Somali constitution
Ø not usurp powers of independent branches of government
Ø Fulfil my duties with dignity, honor, transparency, and accountability
Ø Select the most competent in my administration
Ø Collaborate with regional governments in accordance to the constitution and deal with them with respect and dignity
Ø distinguish the federal mandate from regional mandates and allow regional presidents to pursue their regional interests under the confines of the constitution
Ø under no circumstance encroach upon the rights and responsibilities of the regional governments and conversely expect the same from regional administrations
Ø enhance the involvement of women, youth, and marginalized groups in my administration
Ø Provide infrastructure and curricular support to Quranic schools, improve public and private education, and provide health clinics throughout the country.
Ø fight against clannism and nepotism in government
Ø establish commission against corruption and nepotism and educate the public about its corrosive nature.
Ø establish national army, community police to establish law and order and impartial justice system with competent judges, courts, and constitutional court to safeguard the supremacy of the law.
Ø Respect the electoral process and hand power to my successor with honor and dignity.
Somalia can maintain a functioning state that is at peace with itself and with its neighbors, improves the quality of life for its citizens and brings back dignity and respect to the Somali state in the international arena. With your help and the blessings of Allah SWT, I want to work towards these noble aims—that is, if honored with the privilege to serve the Somali people.
Abdinur Sheikh Mohamed, Ph.D. is Candidate for President
Federal Government of Somalia. He can be reached [email protected]