What next in The Reconstituting Endeavor of Somali Nation-states

Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan)

PhD at the University of Glasgow

“What are the Consequences if the people given control our government have no ideas how it works; The fifth Risk by Michael Lewis”.

In the trek of civilization, humans settled as nation states of different ethnic assemblages and curved up for themselves a piece of territory called home. Obviously, Somalis, in the permutation of human race transformation into groupings of the same feather, landed on the horn. And, as a consequence, together with their piece of land, in the partition of Africa at the ebb tide of 19th century by colonial western Christians found themselves fighting for independence. On a reverse of fortune, they became an independent country called Somali Democratic Republic in 1960. After two subsequent forms of administration and thirty-one years into independence, they succumbed into internecine civil strife predicated by and large by the totalitarian regime of Siad Barre. The big conundrum that bedeviled international community has been to bring Somali ethnologically clan groups together in order to reconstitute the nation-state. One can vividly recollect the argument of the day in early 1990’s, both in Somalia and aboard alike, that it wouldn’t take more than two to three years to bring the country back to a new administration, as there had been the hypothetical naivety; in this modern days, nations couldn’t sustain themselves without a state that cater for their existence into the community of nations.  Consequently, after almost thirty years of effort by international community to first revive Somali nation-state out of the ashes of brutal and multifaceted civil war, and secondly, repatriate hundreds of thousands of refugees languishing in camps of the neighboring Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia, has pretty much fallen through.

One can imagine that every tools of the trade in hand of historically reconciling the adversarial groupings of a nation was tried and tested, yet it demonstrated almost impossible to come up with an enduring solution that satisfy the opposing factions of the day, as the representation of conflicting clans has been changing like a deck of cards. Sometimes, one wonders if these delegates carry the confidence of their respective fiefdoms. Mind you, in a fairly short space of time, Somalis regrouped themselves according to respective clan-line territory, and this made the third part brokerage precipitously hard to decipher the mystery of Somali’s political machination to reduce them into one territory belong to all Somalis. In short, in order to unlock clan fiefdoms back to one nation-state modality of idyllic yesterday, though miracles can happen overnight, spectacularly failed.

Over the years, things took their natural course and, consequently, regional administrations featured in to reinforce the idea of clan fiefdoms. It was Puntland that first became an autonomous self-declared administration. Somaliland proclaimed itself as an independent country that rescinded, as they put it, its sovereignty from the Somali South. Another decade or so, this time round international community tried the idea of clan-based federalism, which is, after four administrations, proved itself as a futile exercise. One must make very clear the federal government as well as the federal states stunningly floundered to behave like any other conventional governmental administration: The executive branch has the power to collect taxes and in return attend the public services. Since there is no effectual legislative branch that holds the executive power of government into account, the plebeians are at the mercy of the respective administration

 lead by a president. As aforementioned, they, respective governments, collect comparatively huge amount of taxations and receive large sums of donations from the international community  to attend social services such as affordable energy (electricity), clean water, adequate healthcare, free basic education, prepare for the society to grow its food by putting in place the expertise as well as the necessary infrastructure and encourage the entrepreneurial acumen of the lower tier of the society to help lift themselves off the poverty line.

Since the only seasoned federal state one can gauge on these parameters is Puntland, its evidently clear the energy sector is vertical monopoly, thus the price of electricity is beyond human comprehension; almost one dollar per kilowatt. The healthcare services, the real clinical one, is sought, with the exception of Ophthalmology, outside the state. The natural water not only is expensive, but barckishly undrinkable: an undertaking that could be easily solved with the installation of cheap filtration system. The primary education is precipitously very steep and forced some of the lower tier families not to afford to send some of the household children to school. In every society to produce their food is a priority. In here Agricultural sector is pushed into the fringes of the state’s priority, and almost all food produce is imported. Surely that is not sustainable in the medium term.   

There is a new administration that is in place for almost eight months and the steps they have taken so far presages a good omen. Things like reshaping the security sector, and financial institutions ought to be, though still early days, commended and welcomed. But then again, there is always that atavistic fear of getting off the rail and follow suit to its predecessors. The mind-boggling thing is that the priority is reversed in a topsy-turvy manner. The above-mentioned matters should’ve pressingly taken the utmost urgency they deserve like any other nation-state in this day and age.

The federal government’s endeavor, since its inception in imbeghatti, should have been, in addition to the societal services, mainly putting the foundations of the federalism exertion and finalization of the constitution. After four terms in office nothing moved as far as the above-mentioned dispensations is concerned. Rather, they are in a retrogressive trajectory in which the country plunges back into agnatic strives. The current one’s modus operandi gives the sneaking suspicion of pitting tenderly clannish communities against one another. Instead of consolidating what its predecessor started, the current administration gives the impression of dismantling incipient federal states and rather became a quagmire for them to neglect the two main aforementioned priorities. Galmudug, hirshabelle and Jubbaland are, each of its own different political predicament, in a state of uncertainty and one wonders what the future holds for them respectively. Surely, the international community, who put their weight behind the federal government project and lost live and limps, couldn’t watch the state of affairs as far as the future of this nation-state is concerned.

Exhausting every possible trick in the book (cajoling, brinkmanship and outright threat) its obvious that international community came into a cul-de-sac. The question comes into the fray is not only to re-think what else left to experiment on Somali laboratory, but also to look into this unique people and their behavior in so far as the perception of modern nation-state is concerned; it defies the accepted norms. Norms in the sense of reconciling differences of adversarial entities. If one looks at the parallel conflicts of the same attributes, almost all of them are being, in one way or another, resolved. Look at Afghanistan, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They all have either been completely resolved, apart from incidents here and there, or the conflict is being subsided and the process of nation building is in a fairly good course.  By the same token, the behavior of Somali individual is intriguing; he gives the impression, with good heart, at that particular juncture of reconciling one another to the mediating bodies, here the international community, but never follows through it. Once they sworn in that they resolved their differences, recite koranic verses, praise one another and session is broken, each group rush to the press quarters only to ascertain the otherwise: that there has never been a consensus and refute outright the reconciliation outcome.  

That invokes the Hume’s philosophy built around feelings and emotional-states rather than rationality and levelheadedness as reason is the slave of passion. This revolves around “our feelings make human beings just another kind of animal”.  This idea of being slave to one’s needs doesn’t bode well with the lower tier (the majority poor) of Somali nation. The poor character sacrifices his or her needs and future of their offspring to that of the rich and powerful simply they happen to be in the same agnate. Anyone tries to attend Somali issues and their everlasting conflict has to deeply look at the nature of Somali individual that defies that of their human peers. Reason comes on later to support the original attitude. In the long run Somalis need an education that addresses their feelings (the basic needs) rather than the reason of sacrificing their basic needs to someone else’s end, simply because that leviathan belongs the same clan or sub-clan.

In the meantime, international community, who are the sponsors of the laboratory experiment of Somalia in bringing them into the conventional nation-state, ought to go back to the drawing board and recycle, once again, the existing mainly diaspora extracted political entities of the day. They have proven themselves no different from the faction leaders they replaced. Once more, the George Orwell’s conclusion of central problem – how to prevent power from being abused – remains unsolved after thirty years of testing from one political group to another. What one calls “the existing mainly diaspora extracted political entities” accumulated huge capital by usurping exposed to them money for the sole reason of buying their way in for re-election due to the upsurge of prices of potential parliamentarians. This outlandish vanity pits them with their diaspora colleagues whom has been refused to get their share of the proceeds. Mind you, what one implies about is nothing but taxations and the international community contributions to rebuild the country. In addition, the rich Arab countries, namely Qatar and Saudi Arabia, inject untraceable cash into the scramble.

Therefore, International community, particularly United Nations and EU, this time round, after thirty years of effort in fixing this curse-stricken nation-state, must think long and hard and first not to repeat the failed modality of bringing clan-nominated individuals as parliamentarians into Mogadishu, only to trade their votes for the higher bidder. And secondly, take an active role in this repeating cycle and come up with a drastic measure the majority, who are at the receiving end for the failure of the top few, get out of the protracted predicament they have been enduring for too long.

Sifting through the public opinion while putting this short essay, one starkingly found that almost everyone engaged in the matter believes that it’s the International community who sets the course of never-ending political stalemate existed in Somalia for so long. And, if the international community, want to fix they could have done long time ago. The plebeians accepted as true that it’s the International Community that could turn the county around in a fairly short space of time if the will is there. One could have a handle on frustrating habit of Somali political entities, but those bank-rolling the issue of Somalia should exercise their strong leverage and set out a different road map, and never get back to the tested and tried fiasco of the past.

Finally, Somalia is intrinsically just like Norther Ireland – Catholic and Protestants – only Clan loyalty replaces the religion in here, they never reconcile until and unless the mediator takes the mentor role in here. One could recall how the late Mo Mowlam, Tony Blair and the Taoiseach of Ireland worked flat out in Stormont with little and no sleep for days; it came into fruition. One may well vividly remember how International community, mainly USA and EU, went about the putting a team that could replace the Taliban in Afghanistan. They convened all stakeholders in Germany and hand-picked the best out of the available pool at the time with good intention- it worked. The thesis one forwards is the personality type whom international community engages are worldly and corrupt and that alone makes them weak, as pascal put it, and the very best we may hope for in the circumstance is to face the desperate situation head on and replace the existing mainly diaspora extracted political entities of the federal Government with, this time round, men and women of utmost integrity who puts the country first, and leave legacy for themselves. They are out there, but never has been engaged. Their number is dwindling by the day as they have been faced out systemically since the demise of Somali central authority.  

Note: the essayist referenced the Somali individual as he not her in the discourse deliberately, as anticipation for a feminine take the role of top leadership is hitherto remote due to religious or other cultural motives. Also, the policy priority of Puntland alluded in here as a model for the Federal states deserves an essay of its own.

Synopsis of the essayist

Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan)

Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) did his PhD at the University of Glasgow. His work focuses on, inter alia, higher education management-cum-quality assurance, curriculum development, Agricultural and environmental issues. He taught several universities and colleges including Somali National University, Technical University of Kenya, Camden College, East Africa University and Puntland State University. Guest lecturer: University of Helsinki, Michigan State University and Mogadishu University, SIMAD University. Member of African Studies Associations.