By Dr. Ibrahim Farah
A flashback to the Arta peace process in late 1999 and throughout 2000, the 2002 – 2004 Eldoret/Mbagathi talks, the Djibouti talks in 2009 and the recent indirect ‘elections’ in Mogadishu in late 2012 and one will be left wondering whether history does repeat itself or it is us, the Somalis, who like making the same mistakes all over again – while at the same time expecting different results every other time.
The various products of these processes made all kinds of promises: from federating the country, to writing a ‘Somali’ constitution, to stabilizing it and most important, of late, of all leading to ‘free and fair elections’ if such exists in the Somali mentality of both yesterday and today. There have been, however, numerous achievements among them some form of elections, the drafting of a constitution, regardless of how unSomali it is, as well as some semblance of governance in places like Mogadishu, the capital city.
These set aside, there was more than hope when the current government came into office; with all kinds of predictions basically because of its non-warlordistic nature, its civic background in terms of orientation coupled with the highly unpopular fatigue by a majority of the Somali people as the time. Whether the government delivered and/or slept onto the job is yet to be assessed: of course the Somalo-pessimists will tell you my Awowe is done but we also have the blind, die-hard loyalists and the innocent nationalists who are always taken for a ride and who will not be cowed by any type of criticism.
The aim of this article is not to assess who is there but what: In other words, where is Somalia today? Where are on the road to 2016? What are the fears and hopes in Somalia beyond 2016? and in the form of reflections lest I push a few mindful members of the wider policy community on Somali affairs: from our colleagues at Villa Somalia and around.
Unfortunately, there are a number of ‘Somalias’ rather than one: the Somali Republic. There is also confusion over whether it is the Somali government which is federal or the Republic; hence the cropping up of various so-called Somali states when we all know, for example, that the Somali Republic is itself is one Member State, and that it therefore has one single voice and vote, in the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States (LAS), the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) among others. Where would any of these regional entities cropping up fit in such an international order and why on earth are not only the Somali government but also members of the international community encouraging them to shape up and without any real synergy vis-à-vis developments at the national level. Why are we dividing the country? Why are we rebuilding a new Somali army which derives from clan-based brigades? That brutal image of the early 1990s aside, why is there not any sense of vision and nationalism in us?
The road is equally not as clear as to where we are going with regard to Somalia towards 2016. Everybody is talking about elections. Elections are good and in Arica; and more so in Somalia by all means and of course standards. Many are longing to see the queues, let alone governance systems that can bring in and other related niceties. There are many, many questions than answers. Are we going to do it the same way; I mean have the current house elect the federal government’s successor, possibly one that pushes for a government of national unity this time?
Finally, what are the fears and hopes in Somalia beyond 2016? This is probably a very difficult — but most important – question of all. From a brief encounter with a Somali elder, a die-hard nationalist and a historian, today’s Somalia is exactly where it was when the colonialists came to the country and that it is even worse since this is happening at a time we we are no longer the same fierce republicans nor the pastoral democrats that knew what they were doing! And, we are talking about Vision 2016, all types of funny regional entities, ‘elections’ and all kinds of external relations without the necessary solid foundation for state systems as if this is equally ‘as cosmetic.’
Maybe what we need to do is to extend the term of the current parliament for another year or two — rather than the elders who are not elders or ‘regional leaders’ — so that they can elect the successor to Mohamoud’s establishment rather than go back to the basics whose expected results we all know; and the new government may Insha Allah continue with the struggle. Alternatively, the same parliament can be expanded by ten-fold and turned into some kind of an electoral college like that of the United States; in this case it will be difficult to buy 2750 votes, the same indirect elections may be a little bit more issue-oriented than clanist and possibly with the addition of biometrics (Interpeace, AMISOM, the Nairobi mafia can chip in if need be; of course it is business), and we shall have a better group elected: at least more legitimate nominally. My parting shot? there are many, many more hopes than fears as the bright years of the Somali Republic are about to come; just wait.
(*) The author, Somali academic Dr. Ibrahim Farah, PhD – IDIS/UoN, Nairobi is the founder of the Mogadishu-based MAANDEEQ Network – Somalia, which is a global Somali civic movement. His areas of interest include foreign policy analysis and conflict studies in Africa and the Middle East; with emphasis on Somalia and the eastern Africa sub-region. He can be reached directly via farahiq2002[AT]yahoo.com
“I would like to leave behind me the conviction that if we maintain a certain amount of caution and organization we deserve victory[….] You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. […] We must dare to invent the future.” Thomas Sankara, 1985