By Zakaria Saeed
For a quarter of a century our beloved nation has experienced all kinds of natural and manmade disasters. Droughts have taken the lives of tens of thousands of Somalis’. We have had nuclear waste dumped off our coasts which led to increased cancer rates in coastal population. This in turn resulted in piracy which cost the international community billions of dollars. The disastrous Ethiopian invasion in 2006 resulted the rise of Muslim extremism , the Al Shabab, and in the deaths of many innocent Somalis’ in what was a deliberate targeting of civilian neighborhoods. With all these problems in Somalia, why has there been no leadership to address these serious crisis? Why is the international community in the lead when it comes to Somalia, and not Somalis themselves?
Somalia is no longer a “failed state;” but we have progressed into a “fragile state”. The fragile status of Somalia will remain for some time due to the enormous problems the country is faced with. These problems, no matter how daunting, can be tackled and solved. For example, food insecurity should not be a problem in Somalia. We have two rivers and plenty of arable land. We have more livestock than there is Somalis’ in Somalia. As a matter of fact, Somalia has one of the highest livestock to population ratio. An absolute abundance of fish stocks which could feed 4 times the size of the Somali population makes the issue of food insecurity so irrelevant.
As to the problem of terrorism, it could be manageable. The group al-Shabaab is approximately 5000-7000 rag-tag militia, which means its ability to fight, is greatly over exaggerated by the media. Ethiopia and Kenya both have nefarious plans to subdue and dominate the Somali people, yet we have “presidents” going to these countries as if they have our best interests in mind. What other country in the world has five “presidents”? Do they not understand by going to foreign countries and meeting with their political representatives, they are undermining the authority of the very country they are a part of?
Our main political crisis rests in the lack of strong leadership. The current political leaders in Somalia have never won an open election. Their mandate to lead was never given by popular consent, meaning they are not accountable to the people. They are only accountable to those who put them in power which by and large means are elders or corrupt MP’s. Not all MP’s are corrupt, there are those who are working hard, but it is a fact there are corrupt elements.
Take Hassan Sheikh for example. He came into power with the hope of a large part of Somali society. He was an educator with no leadership background and was not known to many people. Why elect someone you don’t know anything about, it doesn’t make sense. I was against any Somali winning the presidency who had stayed in Somalia during the civil war. The reason being is that those who stayed lived in an environment where the rule of law did not exist. To have someone become president of Somalia who lived in this environment would only end in failure. Many including my friends did not agree with me at all and encouraged me to support Hassan Sheikh when he came to office. I refused knowing that Somali leadership should be sourced from the diaspora, from Somalis who understand the concept of good governance and rule of law. Unfortunately I was proven to be right; Hassan Sheikh disappointed the Somali people.
The presidency of Hassan Sheikh has been mired with allegations of corruption. Leaving aside the biased and erroneous UN reports, take for example the creation of SOMA Oil & Gas. When Hassan Sheikh visited the UK in early 2013, there was no company by that name at all, it did not exist. After his visit by August of 2013 the SFG was signing exploration deals with this company which materialized out of thin air. This company has zero history or proven track record of oil exploration. The race for control of Somalia’s resources has been enabled by the current Somali president. Why would anyone bother with oil & gas contracts when the country is in such poor shape? This is a hallmark of poor leadership and shady deals. The company is exclusively focused on Somalia only. What a surprise! Could this be a sign of corruption?
Also a company run by ex-British soldiers has been given exclusive rights over Somalia’s fish stocks. Who would give control of Somali resources to foreigners? The answer is simple; the leadership of Somalia does not represent the Somali people. They represent special interest both foreign and domestic.
Weak Central Government
The international community ( IC) comes to us with both positive and negative consequences. The positive aspect of the IC is that, we have generous support from both Western & Eastern countries. However, the negative side effect is that our current political leaders do not have the free will to run the country as they please, the international community puts a lot of limits on their power, which is a good thing considering the makeup of Somalia’s current political establishment . Foreign countries are vying for influence in Somalia. The UAE for example, has contributed a lot to Somalia’s’ security sector, but it is more interested in Somalia’s’ ports more than the people. Djibouti revoked DP Worlds contract at Doraleh due to corruption, which upset Dubai. Since then the UAE has actively been bypassing the SFG & going to the regional states.
They have already made clear they want to operate three of Somalia’s’ ports namely Berbera, Bosaso & Kismayo. Foreign governments, no matter how friendly, should not bypass the SFG under any circumstances. This can be attributed to a lack of leadership at the Federal level giving donor countries the impression that weakness can be exploited for personal gain.
We cannot impeach Hassan Sheikh because there is no constitutional court in Somalia. His former Justice Minister Farah crippled a lot of judicial reforms needed in Somalia, which is what led the previous PM Abdiweli to shuffle the cabinet and replace Farah to the livestock portfolio. This was a legal right of the PM to reshuffle the cabinet, based on Somalia’s constitution. Little did the Somali people know that this cabinet reshuffle would bring down Abdiweli’s government and lead to his impeachment. Hassan Sheikh fought tooth and nail to have the former PM voted out of office over a cabinet reshuffle. Why is Hassan so close to Farah that he would cripple the nation? Is Farah pulling the strings of Hassan Sheikh? This question was answered when the third PM Omer Abdirashid , in less than two years, re appointed Farah as Justice Minister in his cabinet, along with other ministers who were previously sacked! The corruption was there for everyone to see, and finally the parliament stood its ground and threatened to reject the cabinet if certain individuals were included. At the end of the day Somalis’ must come to the realization that a president who would cripple the progress of the country over a cabinet reshuffle is not really working in Somalis’ interests.
The myth of leadership in Somalia is shown by Hassan Sheikh, Ahmed Madobe, Sharif, Gaas, and Silanyo. Five presidents for one country. We have certain representatives of clans claiming to be “presidents” with no authority from the people. It must be emphasized that most of these individuals have never won an open election, they were all selected. Silanyo won votes mainly from his clan members who make up the majority in North Western Somalia. In Hargeysa there are three political parties, all with leaders from the same clan. So there is a myth of democratic choice and free will for certain clans, politically in the north of Somalia.
In Search of Good Leadership
There is hope though. All over the world there are many Somali people who show leadership qualities that are found in true statesmen. The question is who are these people? Do we know them? Do we follow their activism and their analysis of the concrete problems the nation is facing? Many Somali politicians back home are infected by Qabil; they are too clan-oriented and this is a threat to our nation. We need people whose strength comes from somewhere else than from the power of their clan, and who are not infected with clan-cancer. We need a leader who is not afraid to speak his mind and lead the country. We need leadership.
In an accidental way, I came across a video some time ago, and it made me optimistic about our future leaders. It was at Fagaaraha, a forum for Somali political advocacy and dialogue which takes place throughout North America. It was here at the Fagaaraha where for the first time I was introduced to Faisal Roble. I have never seen or met the man in person, but for a fact he has the leadership qualities Somalia needs. He is confident and he speaks his mind with conviction, which is crucial for Somalia at this moment. Somalia needs someone who won’t play games like orchestrating the impeachment of two PM’s. He understands the legal aspects of government like the constitution, and understands the importance of federal member states. His work experience in the United State is vast and unparalleled. He knows all about warlord politics and the misguided policies of the SNM and the conspiracy of domination and separatism. A scholarly piece of work written by him and a must read for all Somalis is on the challenges facing the secessionist camp and the oneness of the Somali nation.
The most important part about Fasial is he is an honest Somali who loves his people and wants to see them prosper. The leadership qualities of Fasial are not available in Somalia today.
Abukar Arman is another unique man. He is intelligent and soft spoken. He is a leading advocate for Somali sovereignty. He always talks about the need for peace, but he also points out the hard truths which Somalis’ tend to ignore. He openly informs the Somali people through his articles about the threat posed by irresponsible “presidents” and “politicians”. He accurately describes Ethiopia and Kenya’s threat to our country.
Moreover, Abukar tries to educate Somalis’ that they do not want to see a strong Somalia; they want a weak Somalia that they control or no Somalia at all! Yet we have “presidents” who believe that these countries as if they have our best interests in mind. Abukar’s advice unfortunately does not seem to be reaching those in Somalia. Abukar is one of Somalia’s future leaders who I hope gets more involved in Somalia on the ground. We must support individuals like him because of the vision he holds – a vision that calls for a Somalia which is at peace with itself.
There are many other Somali leaders who I have not named such as Dr. Sadia Ali Aden. I would have to write another article on Somali women with leadership qualities just to do them justice. There are many Somali women who would be a great asset to our nation if they were given a chance to be a part of the leadership process.
This article should be clear to all those reading it that the current crop of leadership in Somalia is a myth, it doesn’t exist. Somalia’s future leaders are those who have been away from the ills of civil war. They are the Somalis in the diaspora, those who have lived in countries where the rule of law exists. Our future as Somalis’ must be defined by us Somalis. Somalis in the diaspora have as much a right to be leaders of Somalia as anyone else. The only difference is you get a better crop of leadership