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Somalia at 64 Years: Where Are We Heading?
Hon Sadik Warfa
Monday July 1, 2024

 

"Freedom is never dear at any price. It is the breath of life. What would a man not pay for living,” The words uttered by Mahatma Gandhi during his fight for freedom. These words serve as a poignant reminder of the struggles and sacrifices our forefathers endured in their pursuit of liberty. On June 26, 1960, the northern protectorate of Somalia gained independence from Britain and Five days later on July 1, 1960, the south Italian protectorate and British northern united forming the Republic of Somalia under President Aden Abdullah Osman, Prime Minister Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, and a 123-member National Assembly representing both territories. The words of Mahatma Gandhi have led to a reflection on just how far our country has come, the victories we have achieved, and the challenges we still face.

We have made strides in various sectors, from political reforms to economic development, showcasing the indomitable spirit of our people. However, the path to true freedom and prosperity is ongoing, and we have much more to accomplish. we are rewriting our story, and over the past years, we have  fought for our place among nations through self-determination. It is a journey that has been marked by notable achievements and significant challenges. Imperative to note are the numerous achievements, since the Arta peace process in Djibout and the rebirth of the third republic.

In these 64 years, on political grounds, Somalia has made significant strides in establishing a federal system of governance. This decentralization initiative aims to empower regional states and improve local governance. The federal system seeks to distribute power more evenly across various regions, enabling local leaders to have greater autonomy and responsibility in addressing the unique needs and challenges of their communities. The Somali government has also made substantial advancements in state-building and security restoration through military offensives against al-Shabaab. This progress has been made possible by the involvement of local and clan leaders, who are now focusing on the youth, teaching them the value of unity and development. Additionally, there is a Provisional Constitution that was adopted in August, 2012 which has been the foundation for legal and political reforms in Somalia. While it has laid the groundwork for the protection of human rights, the rule of law, and the separation of powers, which are essential for a functional and just society, it has still not been finalized and needs to be for it to achieve its objectives.

Economically, Somalia has faced severe challenges in the past due to prolonged internal conflicts. These conflicts have led to devastating droughts, rising food prices, and a significant decline in exports, compounding the difficulties faced by the nation's economy. However, there has been a concerted effort to address these issues and pave the way for economic recovery and growth. One of the most significant milestones in Somalia's economic recovery was reached in December 2023, when the country achieved the "completion point" under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. This achievement qualified Somalia for a substantial debt relief of $4.5 billion from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is a monumental win for Somalia and will help improve the country’s creditworthiness, attracting more foreign investment and aiding in the creation of jobs.

In Somali, we have a proverb that says, ‘weaving a Haan should start from the bottom’. While I have highlighted the numerous achievements and I feel proud to be part of the leaders and citizens of Somalia as we celebrate 64 years of independence, there is still a lot at the bottom that needs to be handled to ensure our Haan is functional. An independence day marks not only a celebration of our past struggles and victories but it is also a moment to envision a prosperous future for Somalia. Somalia is still grappling with peace building and state building efforts, and that can only be rectified by us shunning the clannism that still affects our choices, the Quran says that “only Allah created you from a male and a female, and We made you races and tribes, so that you may come to know one another,” Clearly indicating that we should not let this lead to clan and tribal fights in our midst, it is a call for Somalia’s political actors, and more importantly the youth, to play a major role in providing national leadership, to not only support the government but  be part of the change moving forward and help in curbing the challenges of the existing decades-long leadership crisis brought about by clannism. We have always used the ‘4.5’clan system since it allows for clan-based power-sharing, but it is also a reflection of historical social conditions that only allows a minority to make decisions for our society and blocks the remaining ‘0.5’. Moving forward I believe we should change the  4.5 clan system and focus on an idea-based leadership, giving room for a more democratic governance.

There are lessons that we can learn from our Neighbors and in Particular my mind is drawn to the Tanzanian model of peace, to address conflicts and promote peace cultures in realistic ways. Tribal diversity in Tanzania is conspicuously embraced and celebrated in both modern and rural lifestyles, with decades of cohesive leadership fostering a strong sense of national identity that has maintained peace and stability since the 1964 unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar into the United Republic of Tanzania.Their unity was further solidified by Julius Kambarage Nyerere's socialist ideals in the Arusha Declaration of 1967, contributing to a harmonious coexistence among approximately 121 ethnicities and an estimated population of 59 million,and has been sustained by the country's commitment to equality, mediation in regional conflicts, and participation in peacekeeping missions.

Celebrating 64 years is a great achievement but I also feel that this should be a day for introspection and inter-territorial dialogue, advocating for peace and reconciliation among Somalis. Our country is at an unprecedented crossroads, facing numerous internal and external challenges. The competitive regional bloc dynamics are intensifying, with Ethiopia aggressively pursuing policies that threaten to undermine Somalia's sovereignty. Al-Shabaab remains an active and persistent threat, aggravating the already toxic domestic political environment. Additionally, political uncertainty and shifts in the West further complicate our landscape since  growing middle powers seem intent on keeping Somalia in a state of chaos. It is time that we the Somali people come together and embrace the value of peace, working towards an adoption of Idea and merit-based politics where leaders are no longer elected for the tribe they come from or the tribes we favor  but from the Ideas, dialogues and possible reforms they plan to achieve for us. More so, this is an opportunity for us to empower and harness Youth Power. Empowering youth involves equipping them with the tools, opportunities, and mindset needed to spearhead transformative initiatives across the region, this can be achieved by providing access to quality education that that equips them with relevant skills and knowledge. Governments and stakeholders should also prioritize investments in education infrastructure, curriculum development, and teacher training, as well as job creation initiatives tailored to the needs of young people, such as supporting Small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), promoting entrepreneurship, and investing in high youth-employment sectors like technology, agriculture, and renewable energy.

While the Constitution’s finalization is still ongoing, I urge our leaders both in Federal and Member states to redouble their efforts and ensure that the process is completed consensually, hoping that by the next Independence Day we will have something more to celebrate. Having a constitution helps a government protect its nation's values and serves as the foundation on which a government is built and how its laws are made. Such a government will function efficiently and embraces innovative ideas that create a conducive environment for economic activities. Once we finalize the constitution, policies will be well-crafted and implemented effectively and thus another win for our people.

Finally I will still insist on a  Transition to an idea-based political system. I know entrenched interests, corruption, and the legacy of patronage politics will be significant obstacles. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. With a strong political will and the active engagement of civil society, we can create a robust framework for idea-based governance. For this transition to be successful, the active participation of the citizenry is very essential. We must demand accountability and transparency from our leaders. It is our responsibility to support and elect those who demonstrate competence and integrity and to hold them accountable for their actions.  

Mr Sadik Warfa, Consultant in international relations, governance and labor, is a  Former Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and also served as Member of Federal Parliament for Mudug Constituency,Somalia.


 





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