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E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One

Ali H. Abdulla
Monday, April 26, 2021


The above phrase became a traditional motto of the United States in 1782 and made its way into its seal. It is a Latin word that means out of many, one. It is a motto that has propelled the United States into greatness, using modern consumer centric standard: by molding a plethora of States into one giant country that, until now, dominates the world in economic prosperity and military might. It is a motto that calls for unity towards a common goal and purpose.

After committing to Unity and democracy, the United States has overcome many hurdles characterized by brutal slavery, a bloody civil war and struggles for gender equality. It is not a perfect place, but it is taking observable strides towards achieving an environment where being different is not a drawback. It is a system that allows new immigrants to aspire to the highest levels of government. This has made it possible for an African, Muslim, Somali woman to become a member of Congress; and a Kenyan man to become the first black president of the United States. The unity of the United States has been tested lately and almost cracked, but it withstood the unprecedented assault on its democracy because of its strong institutions and unparalleled commitment to defending its constitution: a constitution that has undergone many amendments to cater for new eventualities.

After two great wars that claimed the lives of millions, Europe is trying to adopt the US model of unity to become a power that can compete with China and the United States, economically and militarily. Although Britain opted out, the Union seems to be holding well.

Islam called for unity long before the United States came into existence. The Quran explicitly calls for unity in many chapters:

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers.” [3:103]

In his last sermon before his death, the prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, called for Muslim Unity by declaring that all Muslims are brothers regardless of their ethnicity or color:

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor does a black have any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone”.

It is ironic that a non-Muslim country like the United States largely adopts, despite a lot of shortcomings, the unity Islam calls for, while most Muslim countries fail to adhere to the teachings of the Quran and the sayings of the prophet. What is happening in Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya is against the teachings of Mohamed. People in these countries pray five times a day and still kill each other in cold blood every day. Most of these conflicts are caused by the lack of unity, and the failure to share power equitably. These problems have been exacerbated by foreign meddling, particularly in the case of Somalia which is divided along clan lines that can be easily exploited by its enemies.

OVERFISHING in Somalia by foreign fleets

Kenya is already trying to exploit Somalia’s constitutional crisis by asking the ICJ to delay adjudicating the maritime case between the two countries. Kenya is now claiming a non-existent land dispute meant to delay the case until a government favorable to its cause comes to power. Somalia has become a pawn in the hands of merciless local operators and greedy international players who want to exploit Somalia’s untapped resources, such as its rich fishing grounds and proven oil reserves

In Somalia, we suffered from many years of civil war, but we seem to have forgotten the destruction and despair that these conflicts subjected our people to. We scattered to every corner of the world seeking safe refuge. We did not run away from invading armies. We ran away from our own kin. Somalis are the most homogeneous people in Africa. They speak the same language; they pray to the same God, and they mostly look the same. But they are afflicted with a dangerous bug: “Qabiil” or clan identities that pits a son against his maternal uncles and cousins.

Clan affiliations is a curse that foreign powers exploited when they colonized Somalia. It is still being exploited by some of our neighbors to render Somalia weak and divided. They imposed upon its people a practice known as the 4.5 formula which they use to share political power and resources albeit to no one’s satisfaction. It creates division, corruption, nepotism, and the potential for perpetual conflict.

The latest government they elected through the 4.5 formula should have worked on extricating Somalia from this archaic system and lead it towards a system of a government of the people, for the people, by the people. Unfortunately, it failed the Somali people and succumbed to the willful machinations of discredited former presidents and Federal States some of whose leaders have been accused of being affiliated with some of our neighbors. Somalia now find ourselves in a constitutional crisis in which the current government’s term expired without an elected government in place.

The term of the parliament expired in late December while the term of the president and his cabinet expired in early February. To avoid a potential disaster that can take the country back for decades, Somalia should adopt the above motto: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of the many supposed stake holders, one. It is not easy, given the ambitions of many leaders who are focused on putting their interests above that of the people and the country.

It makes sense to agree on adopting a system of government of the people, by the people and for the people and dispense with the indirect elections based on the 4.5 formula that most Somalis hate, and that has the potential to fill the Somali parliament with uneducated individuals who may inadvertently sell the country to the highest bidder.  Somalia’s priority should be resolving the current constitutional crisis that it faces.


Somalia is in danger of becoming another Palestine.  Churchill's saying comes to mind when he compared Palestinians to a dog in a manger:

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

If Somalis fail to agree on an equitable formula to exploit and share their own resources, there are others who are ready and willing to replace them. Somalia cannot continue this way. Its people must wake up and stand up to foreign and domestic enemies. They should put pressure on their leaders to get their act together and extricate the country from this dangerous impasse.

 If these leaders care about their country and its future, they need to take the following steps immediately:

1.      Agree on extending the terms of the current parliament and government for a mutually agreeable fixed and reasonable period that is not renewable. This will resolve the constitutional crisis that the country finds itself in. The opposition parties and the Federal States are dead set against this extension, but it may be the best option available under the current circumstances and the urgent need to avoid unnecessary conflict in this critical period.

2.      Appoint an impartial body staffed with Somali technocrats and foreign experts prepare the country for an election based on one person one vote and not on the cursed 4.5 formula.

3. The international community should put pressure on both parties to reach a binding solution for holding the election in the time frame proposed by the impartial body above.

If the various sides fail to appeal to their patriotic sense, it will be difficult to agree on any of the above suggestions. If they really care about Somalia, as many of them claim, they will work together on a government of the people, for the people and by the people and consign the 4.5 formula and its associated indirect elections to the dustbin of history.

The current skirmishes in Mogadishu can only lead to more mistrust, bloodshed in the holy month of Ramadan and the risk of reliving the horrors of 1991, God forbid.

Ali H. Abdulla, IT Consultant
[email protected]


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