In Coup D’etat We Trusted

By Yamayska (Puntland Post Monthly columnist)

The fiftieth anniversary of the military coup that cut short Somalia’s experiment with parliamentary democracy stirs up passions in Twittersphere. Views exchanged by those still enamoured of the kacaan (revolution) day and those who  find it abhorrent to this day realise that 280 letters cannot deliver a nuanced view of a regime that bit the dust nearly 29 years ago. The zeal with which each camp presented its view reminded this columnist of Chou En Lai’s dictum on the French Revolution (some say it was about 1968 student revolt): It is too early to tell about the impact of the Revolution. 

The impact of the Somali military coup runs deep  in the Somali political discourse. Is the failure to reflect on that fateful day in a level-headed manner to do with the language Somalis use to discuss their politics? Language here does not refer to the mother tongue of Somalis upon which the military regime bestowed dignity of orthography in 1972. It alludes to terms used to describe a political phenomenon.

One of those terms is kelitalisnimo (Dictatorship) which was never allowed to feature on the government-run mass media.  Fifty years is a long time in a country’s history. The military regime inherited a system nurtured and run by civilian leaders.  Armed opposition movements that toppled the military regime had not shared post-dictatorship  goals. Unlike the military commanded by Major Mohamed Siad Barre before overthrowing the civilian government, the opposition did not have one leader able to steer Somalia towards a more prosperous and democratic path. Those facts might make kacaan enthusiasts look winners in tweet exchanges. The military regime was autocracy. Sam Hill defines  “autocrats as those who came to power and held on to it through undemocratic means. It turns out badly 99% of the time, measured both by the rights of people in those countries and their economies. ” According to Simon. 99 % of autocracies resulted in failed or failing states. State collapse followed the ouster of the military dictatorship.

To many Somalis it is difficult to be on the guard against the military regime’s approach to history. The regime described its predecessor government as dowladdii musuqmaasuqa (the corrupt government) and yet corruption reached  its zenith under the military regime.

Major General M. S. Barre

In Monetary and Exchange Rate Policies 1960-2001, Mohamed Dalmar Abdurahman recounts how the junta abolished the Somali Central Bank Law that prevented civilian leaders from printing money or using Somalia’s hard currency reserves. The military regime leaders reneged on their promise to return to barracks. To stay in power longer than desired in the national interest is an indefensible argument. That is partly why the 1991 political change was both violent and fruitless . 

© Puntland Post Monthly, 2019