By Osman Yusuf
We, Somalis, have utterly failed for the past twenty years or so to iron out our differences, stop clan warfare or animosity among different ethnic groups, bring the national reconciliation to a successful ending and agree on rebuilding the nation. But also the United Nations, IGAD countries, and the so-called International Community (NGOs) have all indirectly contributed to the deadlock of the reconciliation process and the emergence of enclaves led by king-makers who use their respective ethnic groups to rule their portion of this unfortunate country. The population in the enclaves wrongly believe that their interest is best served by king-makers belonging to their ethnic group whose aim is rent-seeking, not nation-building. Nothing good for the nation can come from them. Theirs is just a waste of time and the sooner they are removed or chased away the better for the country. Instead, a concerted effort by all Somali people is needed to overcome the obstacles on the path to a genuine all inclusive reconciliation conference (not only by politicians) to be held at an appropriate place and time inside the country, the sooner the better.
Nomadic Society and Democracy:
Being basically a nomadic society, the people called ?Somali? are deeply rooted in tribalism, and the conflict which has been going on for the last twenty years is tribal in nature. In the old days, whenever a problem arose, tribal chiefs sat together under the shadow of a tree and found ways of resolving their differences and still use this traditional method of conflict resolution to a lesser extent. But, surprisingly enough, it didn?t work this time. The process was tried several times with no tangible results. Moreover, the modern day democracy which requires good governance not experienced during the colonial administrations or the Somali ones that followed them after independence proved to be incompatible with the values of a tribal society. No wonder that that kind of civilized self-rule and social cohesion is undergoing severe tests in the last five or six decades simply because the new system was ?alien? to the society and adapting it has become a daunting task for the tribal leaders. How to share the pie? What pie? Foreigners understand how to do it but the chiefs and/or politicians didn?t know how to share power in a satisfactory manner where the representatives themselves are elected or selected on tribal basis. In fact, when the warlords held their first conference in Nairobi, Kenya, some years ago, with the assistance of the so-called international community, they forged a formula called 4.5 for power sharing along tribal lines which perhaps worked for the NGOs to justify collecting aid money for Somalia and mostly using it for their lavish lifestyle in the most expensive places and/or enriching themselves with impunity. The then TF government (and also the present one) utterly failed in its mandate to unite the country and instead led to further divisions among the people, particularly when they invited Ethiopian troops to help them defeat the opposing forces of the warlords and the religious groups in and around Mogadishu. This move gave the opposition the excuse to mobilize the people against it but in the end a dramatic turnaround of events resulted in unexpected and hasty withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from occupied parts of the country including Mogadishu. The incoming TFG replacing the previous one as we see it now is still struggling for its survival with the help of foreign troops. A broad-based government along clan sponsored or hand-picked individuals without popular suffrage have little or no legitimacy to claim national representation. This is one reason that the process of reconciliation outside the country is not working. In fact, work done by well-intentioned Somalis inside the country is much more effective as it may succeed to obtain the blessing of the people than work done by the same people elsewhere outside the country.
The weak role of the diaspora:
We know that a big number of Somalis are in the diaspora scattered around the world and comfortably living there. Their role is confined to sending remittances to those left behind who are destitute or under the mercy of religious fanatics in most of the regions. Some of the members of the diaspora do mess up with local politics only to worsen the already precarious situation instead of improving it. Thus, it can be said that politically the diaspora has become a liability because they fuel the conflict by supporting the king-makers and capitalizing on the divisions along ethnic lines. The host countries do urge community members to form unified committees with no avail. In fact, in all countries where these live, a number of different groups who are antagonistic to one another sprung up and no wonder that they even spy among themselves for silly reasons. How can communities earn the respect of the host country when they cannot organize themselves as one community and abandon or ignore their responsibilities to try to adapt to a new way of life built on values that often times are in conflict with the ones we were used to. Some in the host countries see this as an intolerable situation in the long run and are unhappy with disorganized communities not looking after the interests nor working with the authorities but usually seeking their interests on individual or clan basis.
The silent majority:
There are Somalis both inside and outside this unfortunate country who still yarn or long for their beloved motherland but who otherwise are unbelievably inactive and silent while they see their country slowly sliding into the abyss and risking to be wiped out of the world map. We also know that the world community has not been sincere enough to help Somalis reconcile their differences despite the numerous conferences held for that purpose. The last conference held in Djibouti compounded the reconciliation process by hastily removing the sitting weak government in Mogadishu and replacing it with the present TFH whose leaders were invited by the then UN representative to appoint their own members of parliament on top of the existing one earlier formed in Nairobi. It is no secret that Ethiopia is the main beneficiary of the marginalization of Somalia in the Horn of Africa, and most likely the world community wants it that way. Historically, Ethiopia enjoys the sympathy of the Western world in the Horn as it is seen a lone majority Christian country surrounded mostly by neighbors of Muslim nations. Reality on the ground may change that situation if the Somali people rise to assume their responsibility to unite and regain their lost prestige and position among the international community. That day may not be far away provided that everyone of us makes the necessary sacrifice to forget the horrible past and focus on the future, and above all, set aside the feeling of tribal hegemony over another tribe which contributed to such a long and protracted deadlock to resolve the conflict. We must also learn to define a leader not on the basis of ethnicity but on his or her competence, patriotism and respect for the rule of law and religion. To this end, the majority of the Somali people must recognize that a ?reverse? exodus from foreign countries to the motherland is perhaps the only solution to save the nation, engage in healthy debates, and establish a unity or federal modern government with proper representation along clearly defined regional states or autonomous regions all detailed in a constitution approved by the people.
A word of appreciation:
The young educated men and women in Mogadishu who are trying to achieve a functioning government in a hostile environment deserve a word of appreciation and encouragement but they know and we know that it is almost impossible to see a functioning government in that kind of adverse situation and the presence of foreign forces is just a temporary solution to keep the government in ?life-support? and cannot change the situation for the better in the absence of an effective national force which is one of the prerequisites of a strong government capable of keeping the whole country under its control, serve the people, and retrieve the country?s position internationally.
I do hope that this short essay on the seemingly hopeless situation of Somalia will trigger a sincere discussion among the educated and the elderly in the diaspora and in the country. Silence is not an option and it has never been for any troubled country in the past, and a period of twenty years of endless and senseless conflict is not justified nor should it be considered as a ?fait accompli?. This state of affairs will only change when we all recognize that no one else can do it for us and that it our responsibility to stand up to fulfill our duty and save our country. The world community has no magic solution nor is there an invisible hand to count on solve the reconciliation issue. If they had one or there was a helping hand, we haven?t seen them for the last twenty years both the UN and IGAD have been interfering and meddling up with the affairs of our country. It is indeed our job and no one else?s. And, it?s never late and so let?s this common goal of unity and have the determination to face reality and come to grips with wrong attitudes among us, stop bickering and useless arguments, shake hands and start a new page for the good of the country and save the next generation. Let?s also recognize that it is a bad choice to do nothing and stand by idly while it is in a state of anarchy and lawlessness for which it has been termed by the international community as a failed state, the only one in the world today. Is that acceptable to anyone of us? What message do we get from that statement?