Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

SOMALIA : A NATION BETRAYED

There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher. Henry Van Dyke

In October of 2004, for a few brief moments in time, Somalis everywhere rejoiced the birth of a government. The pangs of the labor pain in the grueling and exhaustive 2 year long peace mediation process, the jubilation for a new dawn of peace, security and brotherhood when finally delivered. We swarmed the mother to get a glimpse of the newborn. Was the baby healthy, suckling and growing stronger? We asked each other. We waited and waited and waited and six long months went by with no sight of the infant government. The baby stopped taking the milk of the mother and grew weaker and could not stand on its feet. Then with shock and disbelief, the news came that the child is sick and bedridden and that the infant was stillborn, suffering from heart defects and severe congenital malformation in the neural tube. Somalia is mourning in silence and suffering in solitude. How close we came and how painful it is to loose hope.

What went wrong? How did the infant Transitional Federal Government, TFG, faded so far and so fast into obscurity? What rendered it ineffective and what caused the wound to fester to the degree of inescapable amputation? What led to the divisiveness and the distrust to grow deeper and peace to evade us despite the hopes and promises we pinned in its birth?

If peace and stability is to reign again in Somalia , the TFG must embark on a bath of dialogue and reconciliation. Its combative approach has further alienated communities, sowed more distrust, driving the nation into the brink of another civil war. Circumventing the pillars of the hard won fruits of the Somali Reconciliation Conference held in Kenya has already weakened the prospects of implementing a viable democratic federal government in Somalia .
Meanwhile neglect, death and starvation continue unabated in an alarming scale throughout the country. At the present state of affairs, The TFG is a sinking ship heading straight in to the eye of the storm and must, to redeem itself, reverse its course 180 degrees.

Furthermore, the international community must not reward failure and impose a repressive regime on the Somali people. It must hold this government liable and demand that it stand up to its obligations. Also, neighboring nations who, in flagrant violation of the UN's arms embargo, continue to pour weapons into the country and prolong the agony of the Somali people must re-evaluate their policies. The fire and fragmentation wreaking havoc in Somalia today, could easily spread and engulf the entire region tomorrow.

A nation led by authoritative violent leaders can enjoy neither peace nor stability, nor can a society ruled by kleptocratic maniacs, interested only in amassing personal fortunes on the expense of their people, ever prosper. There is a direct positive correlation between the authoritative tendencies of the TFG and its subsequent failure to win broad based public support or to implement a single mandate of its obligations. The Somali people are tired of an inherently antidemocratic, repressive system which ignores their will and imposes itself by means of force and thru draconian measures. It is incompatible with their culture and way of life. This very same phenomenon is equally attributable to the brutish civil war raging in Somalia for the last 15 years.

Consequently, the many communal fiefdoms dotting the country's landscape is an irrefutable fact of the desire by communities to freely determine their fate and not be subjugated by others. Almost each clan is running its affairs in its own turf. Somaliland , Puntland, Hiran, Gedo, Galgudud, Mudug, Bay and Bakol, Mogadishu and the Benadir Coast are all carved out and delineated with communal boundary lines. This is a testament to the country's rejection as a whole to be dominated by one group which usurps the resources of the nation with impunity and controls every aspect of the nation's socio- political and economic outlets. Hence, Federalism, not force, is the only viable and practical solution to the bloody conflict ravaging Somalia .

In affirmation of the Somali character and its experience, the National Reconciliation Conference in Kenya owed its success primarily because of its guarantees on proportional power sharing and fair representation based on the principles of democracy. The Interim Charter stipulates in Chapter 1, Articles 1 that “ All the sovereign authority belongs to the people of Somalia and may be exercised directly or indirectly through their representatives, in accordance with this Charter and the laws of the country”.

Regrettably, the Executive Office's blatant and unconcealed attempts to wrench legislative power from the hands of the representatives of the parliament, in deliberate violation of the soul, spirit and letter of the charter, is the single most debilitating blow which rendered it stillborn and irreversibly ineffective. Filling the post of the Prime Minister with a “Yes-Man”, bypassing parliament by mainly using decrees instead of passing laws thru it and re-instituting the diabolic colonial policies of divide-weaken- and rule turned the Charter on its head and nullified any hopes of cooperation to resurrect Somalia from its ashes.

The raison d'être of the TFG, its single most important mandate, is to rescue the nation from the grip of violence by advancing peace thru dialogue and reconciliation. Somalia should have been by now well in its way to recovery and nation building. On the contrary, the reality on the ground from the day of the TFG's inception points to unprecedented rivalry, deepening distrust, worsening polarization and societal division surpassing the state of the nation before the outbreak of the civil war. In its very short existence, this government has caused far more damage than solution. The latest report of the UN Monitoring Group on the situational analysis of the country states that the “ D ramatic upswing in the flow of arms into Somalia is a manifestation of the highly aggravated political tensions between TFG and the opposition. This has correspondingly given rise to the increasing militarization of both sides, which has resulted in a severely elevated threat of widespread violence in Central and South-Central Somalia ”.

It is unethical and unconscionable to subordinate the primacy of the noble endeavor to rescue Somalia to mere politicking and personal gain, specifically in these difficult times when the very existence of the nation, as we know it, is under such serious and grave danger to completely disintegrate. If a grain of goodwill or concern to the plight of the people existed, the pre-requisites for filling the premiership post would have been based on strong leadership qualities with an impeccable integrity, political savvies, unquestionable loyalty and patriotism. A prime Minister who is a healer, unifier and who could build bridges between communities would have been sought. Those qualities were shoved under the carpet, despite a large pool of qualified brilliant politicians available and willing to serve, and a naïve easily manipulated political novice with no appeal or ability to bring skeptical groups on board was picked solely for being the lackey of Mohammed Dhere, the Jowhar strong man and the closest ally of the president.

Inarguably, the sole purpose behind Mr. Geeddi's appointment was to concentrate power in the hands of the president and his henchmen, thus incontrovertibly throwing away the principles of the Charter in power sharing and fair representation to building trust and to achieve a democratic federal government. Furthermore, it can be deduced from the actions of the Presidential Office, that there was never a sincere and genuine desire to truly affect positive change in Somalia but to use the prestige of the office for sinister objectives. This act alone reneged every commitment agreed on the Interim Charter and sealed its fate to null and void. Power mattered more than country and saving lives. Somalia was betrayed.

Certainly, upon approval of parliament, the constitutional powers vested in the president entitle him to nominate the prime minister, in a manner which promotes national reconciliation, unity and based on democratic values. Hardly could the appointment of the prime minister be qualified in those terms. Mohamoud Ahmed Nur, an eye witness to the election process in Nairobi , correctly writes in his article, “ the authority of the prime minister, who the charter envisages to hold the highest power in the executive branch of the government, diminished. Furthermore, since the opposing factions did not have a say in his appointment, he ended up toeing the president's line in every issue. Unless this imbalance is corrected, the government will not work and is bound to collapse” 1 .

The country's skepticism and reluctance to embrace the TFG is far from fondness of the status quo or blind tribal allegiance to the warlords' abuses of the general public or the misuse and loot of resources, but a legitimate fear on the intentions of this nascent government and its tendency to metamorphose into a ruthless dictatorial regime.

Close observation of the modus operandi of the executive branch on its decision making processes on important national policy matters, as well as the behaviors of regional authorities closely associated with it reveal fearsome tyrannical entities with unparalleled appetite for brutality and repression. A wide range of human rights violations including intimidation, unlawful arrest on bogus charges, torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial killings are carried out right under the noses of the President and the Prime Minister in Jowhar. Disturbing human rights violations and the curtailment of press freedom and arbitrary incarceration of dissidents and journalists are the norm in Puntland, where the president has perhaps the greatest political leverage yet choose not to face these egregious abuses. Birds of feather flock together.

Not withstanding the abysmal track record of the president himself with respect to human rights and political inclusion, reinforced by incessant venomous rhetoric and the glorification of force to solve the deeply entrenched complex Somali problem with force, has spread unease and suspicion on the true intentions of this administration. From the day of his inauguration, this president has yet to address the nation from his pulpit, even once to appeal for cessation of hostilities. Despite the crying shame of malnutrition and starvation devastating the country, he has yet to appeal for food donations from the international community to feed the hungry, medication for Diarrhea, Tuberculosis and other preventable diseases that are wiping out thousands of lives on daily basis. Ironically, the only commodity which this president has vigorously appealed for is the lifting of the arms embargo for more weapons. For what? To speed up finishing the already dying!

The Somali people have endured long and excruciating pain of civil war, death, hunger and disease more than their fare share to be forced back to where they were exactly a quarter century ago - under a ruthless autocratic ruler. Therefore, the prevalent chaos and lawlessness must not justify imposing a dictator on Somalia for the sake of short term goals. Despite the seemingly insurmountable political impasse, anarchy and the disastrous humanitarian situation, peace is still attainable in Somalia , because no other nation in Africa has the unique familial bond in social and cultural affinity in ethnicity, language and faith like the Somalis. It can in no time be resuscitated from its death bed into vibrant, peaceful and democratic nation.

It is still an opportune time to lift this nation from its drudgery if the international community holds this nascent government to its obligations and makes support and the delivery of aid contingent upon accountability, transparency, good governance and the pursuit of peace thru dialogue and reconciliation. Furthermore, a nation is for perpetuity and man mortal. Neighboring nations must realize that a Somalia , democratic, stable and at peace with itself is far more conducive to regional stability and economic progress than a fragmented Somalia.
Their imposition or support of a dictatorial regime in Somalia is a sure recipe for more instability, refugees and a renewed cycle of violence on their door step with the potential for more human suffering and chaos engulfing the entire Horn of Africa. Investing in the Somali people rather than on an individual or on a despotic group of individuals is the wiser alternative and politically safer route.

[1] “ Is There a Way Out of the Somali Morass ?” Mohamoud Ahmed Nur; www.MarkaCadeey.com, October 18, 2005

Rashid Yahya Ali Baltimore ,
Maryland
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