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Article review: The Myths of Somalia Elections

The article, “The Myths of Somalia Elections”, by Mohamed Amir tries to address the Somali election – corruption nexus. The evaluation, or critique, of this article is based on my understanding of the topic: Research and Design Methods. My concern is to develop a systematic and analytical discussion based around the degree to which this article exemplifies the characteristics of the research topic. Throughout the article, certain themes emerged from the findings and as these themes are emergent, they allow the author to build grand hypotheses concerning the correlation between corruption and politics in the context of the Somali election process. The article divides the debates surrounding the case into two opposing schools of thought. The first, which the author swears allegiance to, includes those who view Somalia being free from corruption, whilst the second, and which the researcher is heavily critical of, includes those who hold the perception that there is widespread corruption. The author starts with a bold statement by critiquing the anti-corruption camp and by labelling them as myth-driven ideologists.

The author tries to present the article in an objective manner and, to support his thesis statement, randomly points to a number of retrospective events; however, going beyond the “Somali election process is free from corruption” rhetoric, the researcher fails to engage the hybrid and contested nature of the subject – to critically dissect and balance the two-camp debate. Objectivity, in general, is an effort to disconnect oneself from a theme, to report basically the verifiable realities of a matter, without any personal contribution or editorial angle. Nevertheless, upon any scrutiny, this logic claimed by the author falls very quickly apart. To present “the facts of a matter”, researchers are loaded with dissecting all the obtainable data, and deciding on what is reflected to be a “fact”. Then, this inevitably subjectively decided, it falls upon the researcher to choose which “facts” to present, how to report them, what weighting to give to seemingly contradicting data, and indeed in which order to present contradictory opinion from others. This all promptly eradicates any chance of “objectivity”, as a human interpretation is needed to parse the collected data before passing it on. Subjectivity of the reviewed article reveals itself from all corners. Personal bias goes right down into the author’s use of language, and hence the article comes across as robotic and tedious.

Another key area of weakness is the lack of methodological ground. The researcher holistically side-lines the mainstream population’s perceptions and concerns of Somali’s election-corruption nexus, and labels them as a few individuals who are politically motivated and spreading rumours for their own benefits. These findings are inaccurate, bias and highly controversial, and it is worth examining the data collection undertaken that led to such findings so to determine the validity and reliability of the research findings. The author presents throughout the article unfounded statements without any methodological backing. The reasoning on which the author based his entire article is “fundamentally flawed”, but that also that the article fails to present any primary or secondary data, in statistical or case study form or to support his argument, in other words the article lacks in empirical data. The lack of clarity in the methods has consequences which can limit their development and subsequent use – creating the danger of an over-generalisation.

Because of the article’s lack of methodological reasoning, the author failed to appreciate the complexity of the subject and, therefore, over-generalised and presented poorly argued simplification with assumptions being made about the election-corruption nexus in the country.

There is virtually no country on earth which can be said to be totally corruption free. Evidently, Somalia is not one of those nations with a good grasp in the management of corruption. Though it is not the scope or the intension of this article critique, my subjective, denotative and connotative understanding signifies that systemic political corruption is costlier in Somalia because the substantive jurisdiction of the federal government is limited, there is poor governance, lack of accountability, transparency and institutional capacity. This provides a virtually unlimited menu of opportunities for elite interests and political representatives to design mutually beneficial interventions, the cost of which is borne mostly by the non-elite. According to the Transparency International corruption perceptions Index of 2015, Somalia is ranked 167, the lowest of the table. The extent of corruption in Somalia today is hammering our post-conflict, reconciliation and developmental efforts – slowing down our progress as a nation and bringing shame to our country. Though we might contend that there is need to show reservation about the reportage of corruption and its preponderance in the polity and society of Somalia by international news media, actions within and around Somalia point to the indubitable fact that corruption indeed thrives in this country.

To conclude, the overall critiques of the reviewed article’s analysis of corruption in Somalia based on three indicators are labelled by the author as myths; however, the sources and methodologies used for aggregating these indicators are seriously flawed and leads to biased measurements. I re-examined the plausibility of the reviewed article’s assumption based on the corruption level in Somalia, and present evidence that most of the findings proposed in the reviewed article are speculative and cannot weather empirical examination. In fact, they are not effective causal explanations, but rather the artificial ornaments for the subjective and highly controversial and exaggerated statements. I argue that the three indicators presented do not assess corruption levels on the basis of objective truth, but rather based on the author’s subjective perceptions. On a positive note, brother Mohamed highlighted an important subject that would determine our country’s future direction.

Adan Omar Hashi is the Executive Director of Insight Somalia.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @ahashi19

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