By Mohamed Yusuf
Mr. President, I am extending to you my heart-felt congratulations in your winning the presidency of Somalia. I feel a great sense of pride in the unity of our people in electing a president who will lead Somalia to a brighter future. One whose foundation is good governance and a better approach towards national healing. In retrospect, winning the election cleanly in a purported rigged and unfair process now seems to be the easy part; the heavy lifting of governing a divided and bankrupt nation now begins.
The collapse of the central Somali government caused by a prolonged civil war has resulted in chaos and destruction, leaving deep wounds, societal havoc and vast disarray. Finding the proud Somali people scattered across the globe as refugees is a painful reminder of the failures of governments past. In Dadaab Kenya alone, there are 600 000 Somali refugees camped for over 27 years- a truly sad reality. Al-shabab is wagging a terror campaign in and around Mogadishu controlling large areas in the southern portion of the country.
We have an anemic government that has limited real-estate to govern, an empty treasury all while we function under AU troops as we don’t have our own national army. These are some of the painful problems the government needs to tackle immediately.
These plethora of problems worsen when we couple them with corruption, nepotism, and clan rivalry. An incomplete constitution that does not accurately delineate authority between federal and local state governments has left us in a state of conflict and despair. Pulling the country from the brink and steering it in the right path undoubtedly requires capable leadership with vision and strength, in tandem with good, honest men and women who are willing to work hard, aware of the sacrifices needed to pull our once proud country from the abyss.
To mitigate and lessen the impact of these heavy issues, a visionary with a strong and purposeful government is needed, all the while remaining conscious and keeping at arms length any corruption and or nepotism, real or imagined. Sparing no time in the building of bridges between shattered communities will help mend broken spirits, gluing the nation back together so that peace and harmony is not only attainable but sustainable. We must also reconstitute the national army to represent all 18 regions better so as to safeguard the country’s security more effectively.
A government that inspires and uplifts the nation is sorely needed, including the compatriots in the diaspora, to shake off the sense of apathy we have endured for far too long and to set forth a vision to strive for a better tomorrow.
Since the first republic, dating back to 1960, bad governance and an unchecked myopic tribal rivalry among the elite produced a toxic and potent cocktail of corruption and nepotism that has fragmented the nation, reducing the country into the sad state we find ourselves in today. To learn from the past, it is paramount that we form a lean and transparent government that deals decisively with any sign of corruption. The clean image that the President cultivated in the short period of time he served as prime minister along with a collective sense he can steer the
country to safer shores was the main attraction that drew people from different back grounds to the presidents camp. To maintain the government’s credibility in the eye of the public, it is necessary to empower an independent attorney general and parliament as a check and balance system to monitor and ensure the government is responsible and at all times held accountable.
Any hint at nepotism or corruption will quickly dissipate the public support and severely damage the government credibility.
The country has been through a destructive civil war, communities have been uprooted and the fabric that once held our nation together has been severely damaged. The underlying issues that are tearing our country apart have not yet been addressed so that we may begin to heal and start anew. It is important to reconstitute and build the nation on a solid foundation so as not to find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.
The elders in the upper house should be empowered so they may begin a genuine reconciliation process to heal the simmering feuds that exist between clans. To hold public meetings and listen to grievances, empathizing with the people as a means of a psychological antidote that will thereby help with healing process. Investing time and effort to heal the nations wounds first is a must and that can only be achieved with a solid foundation.
The ability to defend our own security is a chief concern; Somalia cannot remain a nation with no national army. For the last ten years the AU forces have thankfully maintained the peace with their limited resources. They have pushed back al-shabaab, bringing large areas back under the government control. Their gallant efforts are appreciated, and we are forever grateful for the sacrifices they have made, but it is time to step up and shoulder our countries security burden. Rebuilding the national army by recruiting young men from all regions of the country will help to unify us. By giving them good training as well a dose of national pride as opposed to a more tribalistic one, we would be building our future by maintaining the peace of today.
Rather than identify with a certain tribe, these young men would learn to identify as Somali first and this would, above all else, help to unify our broken country.
The current hot topic of today is undoubtedly the crippling severe drought the country is experiencing. The prime minister recently announced that the drought has caused the death of over 100 people in just the last few days. Mr. President, your good office must rally the diaspora to urgently respond generously to the plight of our brothers and sisters in this dire situation.
To gain the public confidence, decent individuals who are held accountable are needed to manage and coordinate the relief operation. No time to waste, your urgent call to the diaspora to rise as one nation to help our nation is indispensable. Alternatively, you could levy a tax of $10 for every $100 remittance sent home. Regardless of whatever aid the world may offer, it is now your time to demonstrate strong leadership and to indicate to the rest of the world that we are not indifferent to the suffering of our people.
Mr. President your recent win has brought out the dormant hope our people held suppressed for too long; this sense of hope compels the government and the people to work tirelessly for the betterment of our nation. Rebuilding the national army should be a top priority, as it would serve as a symbol of national dignity and pride. In this critical time of drought and fear of famine, the government as Agitator-In-Chief has to set in motion immediately a host of relief measures to manage the effect of the drought, including but not limited to appealing to the diaspora as well as to the business community for their help. Working with the various clans in unison so as to help clear the air of any suspicions and grievances, thereby uplifting the nations self-esteem.
This would in turn encourage the population to contribute to our safety by being the eyes and ears of the security apparatus to bring terrorism to an end so that the economy can finally be rebuilt.
Here is an opportunity of historical proportions to close an old chapter of misery and despair, instead opening a new one of hope and common purpose. A fresh new beginning ushering in a new spirit that draws from the old one of resourcefulness, optimism, independence and self-assurance. Mr. President, be the voice that appeals to the Somali spirit to rise to the challenge of dislodging the artificial differences we share and work to strengthen the salient features we all share so that we may flourish. Invoke the Somali culture that values altruism, family connections, rising above pettiness and a strong sense of community and country.
Who we are is not a matter of clan affiliation, a regional identity wrapped in colonial legacy, but rather a people with an ancient history and identity. We share more commonality than perhaps any other race in the world, be it language, ethnicity, religion, history or culture. Be the voice that invokes the dormant Somali spirit to turn what appears to be an insurmountable problem into entrepreneurial opportunities that will help fuel the economy. To sustain public enthusiasm it is imperative the government maintains a clean image as well work tirelessly to lessen the impact of the drought’s effect before it becomes full blown famine.
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