In Praise of the British Ambassador to Somalia

Mogadishu (PP Editorial) — The British Ambassador to Somalia Ben Fender last week reminded the Somali political class of their obligations towards citizens. At the summit for Somali stakeholders the Ambassador recounted how his arrival in Somalia and interactions with Somali politicians had made him understand the import of Leviathan, a book by Thomas Hobbes, who happened to come from the same hometown as the Ambassador — Malmesbury.

Hobbes argued that, in the absence of a sovereign authority, “life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Somalia went through a hobbesian episode of statelessness. The spectre of statelessness is rearing its head given how the link between sovereignty and rule of law is blurred.

The Ambassador shared an example about how elections were conducted at some federal member states to keep an incumbent leader in power. “Everything about Somalia’s future turns on how strongly Somalis believe in the idea of a social contract” said Ambassador Ben Fender.

A part of the British Ambassador’s speech.

Without a social contract Somalia’s sovereignty will remain feeble. A nation state cannot get by on multiple authorities of equal powers.

Two questions pertaining the political situation obtaining in Somalia convey the gravity of this problem. One is about the economy. What should the Federal Government do about the currency depreciation and attendant inflation in a Federal Member State due to the country having one currency with two different values? The other question is related to security. What response should the Federal Government give if a Federal Member State demands withdrawal of contingents of the Somali Army from a region?

Ambassador Ben Fender: “Everything about Somalia’s future turns on how strongly Somalis believe in the idea of a social contract.”

Somalis have a common ground on the need to rein in authoritarian instincts of a government but no consensus on how to curtail the freewheeling attitude of a Federal Member States that sign agreements with foreign parastatals.

“By one great thunderstorm he had changed the climate of thought; and his achievement is not the thunderstorm, but the change” a distinguished historian wrote about Hobbes.

What Somalia needs is a national conversation about a social contract that puts the rights of the citizen at the centre of the political authority. Only then can political accountability become an important element in Somali politics.

© Puntland Post, 2020