The opinion piece of renowned Somali born novelist, professor Nuruddin Farah, published on the opinion pages of October 14 New York Times, under the title Somalia’s Leader: Look Past the Hype, recycles the bashing lines that few Somali politicians fallen from grace with the people of Somalia have been throwing at president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for quite some time for self-serving aims. The piece trumps up political allegations while it dismisses the truths and contexts. Surprisingly, the professor, contrary to what expected from an enlightened person like him, has lowered himself by owing and circulating hearsay stories he doubts their truthfulness.
Sadly, by stating that “President Mohamud didn’t have the determination to lead the country, nor the hardiness to stand up to clan elders who have contributed to the two decade civil war and still dominate the country,”, which seems overboard assertion, the professor nurtures the bad culture he warned against, which is “Somalis are notorious for their petty mindedness, tendency to focus on their grievances and constant warring.” The sum of the implicitly singled out clan elders and their followers, the great number of political panhandlers and their peers, the terrorist and piracy groups and their associates, and the pervasive culture of petty mindedness will leave Somalia with no good people.
While the government has the responsibility to explain the case of the killer of the staff members of Doctors Without Borders released by appellate judges, all other allegations crammed in the piece are personal attacks to defeat good policies beneficial for all Somalis. The allegations include the claim of loss of credibility among the Troop Contributing Countries of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)-probably intended for Kenya, the disputed Central Bank fleecing, professor Ahmed Ismail Samater’s frivolous complain of losing the presidential election for vote buying, and Dr. Ali Khalif Galleyr’s preposterous allegation that unnamed British and American intelligence sources linked president Hassan to Al Shabab- a terrorist group bent to destroy any Somali government- and finally the demand for the prosecution of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys for terrorism in difference to his allies now hailed as heroes. In conclusion, Professor Nuruddin appeals to the West to end its darling of President Hassan, and particularly to the Time Magazine to re-evaluate its claim that president Hassan as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
First, as background, in 2006, upon the request of undisclosed but maybe now identifiable member of the defunct Islamic Courts Union (ICU), Professor Nuruddin had extensive discussions with Sheikh Hassan Aweys and other leaders during his failed mediation mission between the ICU and the former Transitional Federal Government of President Abdullahi Yusuf. In the opinion piece titled My Life as Diplomat published in the New York Times on May 26, 2007, the professor didn’t hide his distaste towards Sheikh Hassan Aweys.
Second, according to Professor Ahmed I. Samater’s admission, the abysmal failure of his presidential ambition was not principally due to money but to many other factors including strong doubt about his leadership as a Somali politician and the genuineness of his slogans, later confirmed by his sudden political conversion. Third, the pitiful leadership performances of former Prime Ministers were sufficient to take their allegations with grain of salt.
Among the 2012 presidential candidates, President Hassan was one of the most qualified presidential candidates in terms of character, education, good understanding of domestic problems and international geopolitics. He pledged to focus on establishing the foundations of the Somali State, neglected by the preceding transitional governments. That doesn’t mean that president Hassan’s leadership is without major political mistakes but the allegations in the piece are idle talk (fadhi ku dirir) stories.
The major source of the on-going political tension in Somalia is due to the clash between the clan rivalries fueled by yet to be defined federal system and the urgent need for a national integration under the rule of law for ending state fragility. The performance of the Somali government depends on many factors, including nationalistic leadership, the overcoming of the civil war bitterness and Somali elite egocentricity, and check on foreign interventions.
After more than two decades of statelessness for civil war and foreign manipulations, the first permanent national representative government, which controls only a fraction of the country, has exceptionally received diplomatic recognition from key international powers. Unfortunately, some have seen this international special treatment as a personal gift to President Hassan rather than seeing it as an opportunity for the Somali people to collectively own their country and destiny by fostering internal unity despite many differences.
The leaders of the new government pledged to restore and protect the sovereignty, dignity, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Somalia on the basis of not on clan fiefdoms and preferences, but on national strategy founded on decentralized regional administrations connected and loyal to a democratic accountable central authority and not to foreign powers. The stay in state fragility, defined as a country where the government lacks the ability to perform the functions necessary for the security and well-being of the population languishing in poverty, insecurity and hopelessness, is immoral and unacceptable.
Neighboring countries (Kenya and Ethiopia) have diplomatic relations with Somalia but they deliberately ignore the respect of the principles of equality of states and no-interference, and are determined to vandalize the gained international diplomatic recognition. As reported by Ethiopian Government’s News bulletin of October 23, Ethiopia establishes a strategic relationship with Somaliland and is proud of the role it played in the endorsement of the Somaliland Special Arrangement (SSA) in Brussels with the support of UK and Danish governments. In addition, Ethiopia leads the process of alienating the people in the Jubba regions. These blatant interferences are one of the major challenges facing the Somali government because it fuels internal political instability and loss of legitimacy. The expert witnesses at US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ hearing on the Security and Governance in Somalia, held on October 8, unanimously stressed that the US government should rein in the aggressive intervention of Kenya and Ethiopia in the internal affairs of Somalia to ensure peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.
During the last eight years, the international community spent billions of dollars in the name of Somalia, but the new Government did not inherit: (a) a constitution which ends the country’s fragmentation into clan enclaves; (b) basic public administration structure; (c) an established security forces; (d) credible public record; and (e) national revenue sources except Mogadishu port revenues. Most of the country remained beyond the control of the central government’s legal authority. Nevertheless, some unscrupulous political opponents demand the fulfillment of functions and services beyond the federal government’s capacity for lack of national integration and resources as well as for lack of direct support from the international community. The politically motivated accusations targeted against the president tap the myriads of problems and challenges either left unresolved at their right forums or purposely created by foreign powers to undermine Somalia’s march towards statehood like Jubbaland crisis.
Since the constitution making process of eight years did not resolve the fragmented political power of the country, the role of the federal government remains to support and legitimize the peacemaking efforts of AMISOM forces under the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and embrace foreign dictated agenda. However, on September 16, the international community endorsed, in the context of the international engagement with fragile states, a New Deal for Somalia with the pledge of 2.5 billion dollars for 2014-2016. The New Deal is not without dangerous traps.
In general, the goal seems to be to re-establish within three years throughout Somalia the foundations of a Somali State based on the rule of law rather than on clan parochialism. The essential condition for achieving this goal is the unequivocal respect of the federal government’s leadership and immediate fulfillments of the New Deal pledges. Moreover, the Somali people- government, politicians, religious and community leaders, and elite class- have to set aside the insistence on fractured governance structures and to seize the new opportunity for an integrated system of governance for real peaceful transformation and exit from the fragile situation. The alternative would be a continued polarization and brinkmanship that will hasten the already in progress demise of Somalia, which in turn, will increase regional insecurity.
Mr. Mohamud M. Uluso