Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Somalia’s plight: What can be done?

History has taught us that nations are born, grow and develop like a child, and it is their leaders who organize and assist the people in becoming more productive. Leaders provide the boost and the citizens carry on improving the quality of life for individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. But we know that any country’s standard of living is calculated on how its people have access to the basics of food, housing, education, health services, employment, safety and security and so forth. When the people of a nation take pride in their citizenship, their country also becomes increasingly competitive and is looked upon with respect of its social, cultural, political, and economic achievements.

However, many people are not sure if Somalia is a nation or merely a bunch of factions. Somalia has an ambassador at the United Nations but there are no formal public institutions, defence, banking system, schools, hospitals or police force. The fact is that the power of authority is in the hands of warlords and their prowling gunmen.

In my point of view, I would equate Somalia’s situation as a damaged house that is not completely destroyed. I say that it is not all destroyed because the land, livestock, people with some know-how and skills, the exchange of money, even modern communications are still there. Yet, it is perplexing that no one seems to know what can be done and that Somalis do not seem able to help themselves?

When I am raising these questions, I am not implying that there is no big problem in Somalia, or that collapsed countries like Somalia do not need help from the other world. I am not saying that Somalia’s problem will not affect the interdependency of other countries. There are big problems and there regional issues to take into consideration. Nevertheless, I think we Somalis have a character of waiting to have our job done from the outside. Perhaps we inherited this culture of passivity from our colonizers who introduced civil government and its institutions to us. If this is the case, especially if such government was imposed, then we have never really had a sense of ownership over the government form the world expects of us. Is it our choice or theirs to return civil government and the civil society to Somalia?

Even when no one is interested in us, we are inclined to find excuses that we do not have enough resources, knowledge, expertise, or funds to build up ourselves. We say that we need assistance to develop an economic foundation so that we will reach the point where we can do business equally with other nations.

Moreover, some of us are very skilful in creating crimes, violence and civil wars as determinants of financial gains and profits (as in the case of latest Mogadishu fighting), which are conversely the causes and consequences of Somalia’s dilemma, and poverty. These harmful and deadly actions happened because of certain elements’ wrong assumptions and choices. The results reflect who they are.

When I discussed these issues with some of my colleagues, many of them cite the problem as a lack of leaders who can lead the people not with killing but with negotiation and contract. The assumption is that our Somali leaders cannot steer the ship even when the sea is calm because of their lack of vision. furthermore, those so called leaders do not have a sense of selecting good knowledgeable persons to do for them what job they want to be done; a case of the blind leading the blind (leaders and the people), resulting in both going down into the ditch.
This observation points out that the warlords have many obedient civilians, who are unable to stand up for their own rights. Civilians who feel that warlord’s needs and rights are more important than their own. Civilians who presume that their own ideas are worthless compared to that of the warlords. Further, the warlords are stuck with their old preferred leadership style of corrupting and punishing, despite having proved to go nowhere for more than fifteen years. They are reluctant to change according to the will and the needs of the people.

Naturally, when your house is damaged your common sense encourages you to consider at least a number of options, such as fixing the damaged part of the house, building the house portion by portion until the entire house is installed, or completely abandoning the old house and immediately putting up a new house.

Based on my experience in working with people seeking help in managing their situational problems, people like Somalis need help to gain some control over their troubled feelings of distress. A sense of control will enhance their ability to cope with the changing demands of their lives. Nonetheless, the will, intention, and action for change have to come from the Somalis.

The impression is that as a nation, our future should depend on us by putting together our passions with our best interests, and combining our honest efforts, education, and skills. Since we have been talking our rights for about sixteen years, we may start demanding our rights and confronting every warlord who is not accepting the reality that they cannot fit anymore the situation or the society in a meaningful way. We should understand that our life time is very limited and that now is the time to do it right.

Definitely, our success will be easy if we recognize our desires, coordinate our thoughts, aims and actions. If some Somalis cannot believe these ideas and their application in Somalia, it doesn’t matter. Every society has some people who spend all their day walking through the forests, but who may never see firewood at all. On the other hand, other views supported the idea that Somalia’s present situation makes it necessary to work with these unkind leaders with tolerant caution. As the saying goes, “Give the suckers an even break, may be they will not be so bad after all”. This concept gives priority to working together with the existing regional administrations, by creating and funding programs designed to help people who are in a disabling decease, injury or addictions to return to normal functioning.
They are considering the fact that there is always an affinity between leaders and the people they are leading, which is our today’s reality that we have to face. They also express their feelings of disappointment regarding today’s world leadership, particularly the United States, which preaches democracy when speaking publicly but practically rewarding the wrong behaviour of some world leaders, who are not good for their people, while punishing other heads of states who are good for their people and their people like them.

In any case, I don’t think that we can deny that some of us are opportunity wasters. For years we have been waiting help from others, or we behaved believing that somebody will do it someday. But someday may never come. It is now, the present and the only time that we have. We have to try to do it now with positive thinking, nerve and courage. Even if we can’t work collectively, we can work individually with the right mental attitude and hope that it may later converge with collectivism. We should replace our closed and clanish drained mind with an open and national mind. As the saying goes, “Minds are like parachutes, and if they are closed they won’t hold you up”.

Fred Frohock (1979), in his book of public policy-scope of logic, states three main types of political actions that leaders can use according to the situation. They are: power control, bargaining, and gaming. He suggests that a leader can give an order only when she/he has law enforcement that can back-up and support it. If not, the leader has to use the bargaining, give and take method to reach a satisfactory outcome since people cannot, or will not control one another. If both of the above are not possible, Frohock indicates gaming (Dhuumaashow/ Kadhimay-Kadhim) as the only remaining tactical option. It is the condition of no authority and probably the true situation of Somalia. Therefore, if the Somali leaders are unable to lead because nothing would or could work for them, then he/she should accept the last option, which is submitting his/her resignation. They cannot lead by corrupting or killing the people. It won’t work.

In conclusion, I believe at least that if we as individuals think good, feel good and do well for our people and the country, it will help infuse new hope into some of the core causes of Somalia’s conflict such as economic anguish, social injustice and political oppressions. Trust me. This will restore our communication, and when our communication is restored, everything will be possible. It can make a difference. Just try it.


Omar Ugas, Master of Social Work and Registered Social Worker
Ottawa, Canada
The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "the Center for Peace and Democracy in Somalia (CPD)"