Across Somalia, on 1 July 1960, there was great jubilation and celebration as the country had gained independence from both Britain and Italy after a long struggle for independence. Having bitterly battled against and survived the devastating tyranny of colonisation, there was a slight uncertainty that the genesis of the new epoch would not only convey political sovereignty, but also lead to the fulfilment of its long-deprived economic liberty and social opulence hitherto unseen in the country. The triumphant achievement, and the ultimate envisioned prospect, was notably depicted in Somali’s national anthem—Somalia, Wake Up. The national anthem was composed in the 1940s to entice citizens to rise against colonial rule. These noble compatriots, warriors, the Somalia Project, the purpose of its struggles, successfully defeated the enemy who were an existential threat to Somali union, motherland, brotherhood, culture, religion, and to Somali moral and ethical standards/wellbeing—by advocating for a united Somalia to keep at bay any prospective threats from neo-colonisers, regional and non-regional, state and non-state actors.
As these newly liberated compatriots of Somalia were revelling in the midst of its pristine self-determinations, nonetheless, there was a greater, yet subtle, impending quandary waiting to strike. These malignant manifestations of imperialism recklessly revealed themselves in numerous ways: poor governance, widespread corruption combined with dictatorship; and clan divisions; relentless poverty, devastating diseases and appalling health conditions; decrepit public infrastructures and wretched under-development. Although the Somali citizens have been magnificently liberated from the draconian chains of imperialism, Somalia has today become synonymous with inexpressible misery, tenacious diseases, famine and all the blemish of this planet, which is much more than anything imagined by those patriotic comrades who were out celebrating the fall of colonial rule.
Regrettably, from the classic features of most Somali leaders of the post-colonial epoch, those faulty genetic factors were staunchly passed down and completely adopted by those leaders of today, rather than standing up to the calamity and delivering credible and concrete resolutions to their shortcomings, they began looking for scapegoats. Luckily for the leaders, but unfortunately for the Somali citizens, those textbook scapegoats had their origins in the catchphrases of imperialism and neo-colonialism. Naturally, all complications bedevilling Somalia were enlightened away and discharged as mere, but unavoidable, consequences of the collective inheritances of colonisation and neo-imperialism. The unambiguous and immediate response taken was the concentration of power in the hands of a few elites, maintained through clan-based politicking.
However, can it be said that Somali leaders were, and are completely, stranded in the midst of conditions brought about by issues outside their power—those initiated and enforced on them by foreigners? We argue that colonialism, neo-colonialism, regional and non-regional, state and non-state interventions are not solely to blame for the current state of Somalia. The Asian Tigers, the Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans, citizens of Thailand, the Taiwanese and Singaporeans, which are the desire of the globe today because of the remarkable achievements of their individual economics, were once faced by the same fangs of imperialism and interventions before they completely recuperated their independency. It is estimated that in the 1960s, many African nations, were more or less economically advanced than countries such as South Korea. Thanks to their political stability, economic models and visionary leadership, today, these countries appropriated exclusive membership of the most developed nations in the world. Their success, despite their colonial legacy and neo-colonisation, is the earnest evidence to most troubled Somalians that the ball is in their court.
Although it would be peculiar to reject the heinous legacies of colonialism, neo-colonisation, and the growing regional, non-regional, state and non-state intervention that, respectively, impoverished Somalia’s young and enthusiastic productive labour force, we should never use these as an excuse, “mission impossible type”, as their core objective is to demoralise our forward thinking. These same groups are advocating for federal member states in order to weaken the country’s central government with the core objective of forming alliances and affiliations to protect their interests, further destabilising the country and destroying noble ideas to resolve and free the nation of all plights it experiences.
Federalism is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the nation – building federal states that serve the interests of the country. Due to lack of trust and land disputes, the process of forming most federal member states has been uptight with adjournments, contestation and disagreements, misunderstandings, tensions running high amongst the rival state formation talks, with a lot of disagreements between the federal government and federal states and in-fighting between the federal member states:
Federal Government Versus Federal Member States
- Somaliland (Unification versus independency)
- Hiiraan (Dispute over how the state formation process with Middle Shabelle should occur)
- South West State
Conflict between Federal Member States
- Jubaland-South West State
These federal member states, are predominantly clan-driven, often signified as clan federalism, have unsettled grievances against one another and have, under the pretext of kinship, amalgamated during the course of the civil war, while their multiplicities and conflicting behaviours, governed by their self-interests, antagonised many resolution efforts to the country’s appalling conflict. There is growing concern that the federal project could further widen and fragment the already polarised nation that is still struggling to recover from the legacy of clan violence and more recently terror organisations such as Al-Shabaab. We fear, like most Somalis, that by crimping the power of the federal government could lead to the balkanisation of Somalia along clan lines and this could trigger a resumption of hostilities between federal member states, rendering peace negotiations. Furthermore, if the federal member states interests take precedence over the national interest, the shared Somali interest, envisaged by the country’s noble warriors, is lost as a result, and that could set a deadly precedent and will remain an intractable problem in the long-term.
The country’s rampant corruption and acutely rooted patronage structure is hammering the legitimacy of the government. Corruption is further worsened by the lack of an efficient central government, and administrative capacity, a poor leadership system and a limited capability to pay public officials. It has infiltrated core areas of the economy, for instance port(s) and airport(s), tax and custom collections, immigration, telecommunication and supervision of international aid with practised negligence, and camouflage of existing resource flow.
Reasonable or accessible security provision is indeed an essential part of some of the prerequisites for a developed society that is at peace with itself. The effort to rebuild this country’s military and other security forces is taking place amidst an absence of a political coherences and strategy. The security sectors of the country is dispersed, weak, corrupted, under-resourced – lacking leadership, discipline, command and control and mostly being run by either corrupt officials or various non-state militant entities with their own security institutions functioning. To reform such bodies or stakeholders in line with the idea of accountability as well as democratic values is thus significant in such contexts.
Observing from within, whether those obstacles lie with the leadership or the Somali people as a whole; from where leaders are chosen, is a different discussion in itself. Be that as it is, we anticipate that you, as a reader, agree with our analysis to some level, what lessons, if any, Somalia gleaned and acquired from this, apparently, totally disastrous and dark past and an uncertain future? These lessons would perform as a guiding post to the current dreadful environments.
In order to find a way forward, Somalia needs to learn from the past by being a devoted student of its mysteries—obnoxious or stunning ones! We would like to highlight two quintessential elements: avoidance and emulation. Firstly, all frailties and impairments brought about by the civil war, civil unrest, corruption, poor governance, inequality, injustice, terrorism, insecurity and clientelism, amongst others, must be avoided like leprosy. Secondly, achievements, from the rest of the world, especially the Asian Tigers, must be conscientiously pursued and emulated. All documented achievements in history were formed on the existing knowledge before they were adopted and innovated on.
Nevertheless, there is a need for visionary and ideologically inspired leadership, otherwise it would just be a simple wishful idealistic thinking. Weak political, social or economic strategies and policies amongst the governing leaders would signify that they would stand for nothing and can consequently fall for anything: short-sightedness, self-delusion and political expediency. From a political perspective, the government must reform its anti-corruption strategy by establishing an independent panel, naming and shaming corrupt officials, and imposing travel ban and imprisonment. Furthermore, it has to reform its judiciary, protect and promote the rights of its citizens, freedom of speech and human security. From an economic perspective, a meticulously planned, significant balance must be reached between social and economic equality, and free market economy, where the margin between the rich and the poor is kept at minimum. The virus of corruption and poor leadership hinders economic and political freedom.
Furthermore, Somalia must reform its currency, utilise its labour force, subsidise and facilitate tax incentives, adopt policies that promote export growth and monitor its tariffs to stimulate the economy. It should also review its monetary and fiscal policy, diversify its economy and utilise its cheap labour force as a competitive edge, concentrating on sectors or niche markets in the country can surpass and therefore, upsurge the country’s exports to the developed nations—creating much desired foreign exchange with which to obtain imports and other indispensable resources not produced in Somalia. With the right leadership, Somalia will certainly make it into the prosperous future envisioned by the aforementioned noble warriors.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Mohamed Omar Hashi was a Member of the Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia from 2009 to 2012, and holds a Postgraduate Certificate in International Studies from the University of Staffordshire and an M.A. in International Security Studies from the University Of Leicester.
E-mail: [email protected]
Adan Omar Hashi is the Executive Director of Insight Somalia.
E-mail: [email protected]
This briefing was originally written for the Hiiraan Online opinion resource (www.hiiraan.com)