By Faisal Roble
Dear Mr. President,
On February 8, 2017, the Somali people gave you a historic mandate and a rare opportunity to reimagine and reconstruct Somalia in a new light. Tired but hopeful, most Somalis placed on your shoulders a last ditch hope that things will change in a meaningful way. Some may feel such an expectation as a naïve bluster; yet nothing is a naïve bluster about a nation wanting to get its bearing once again. We will keep hope alive until otherwise proven.
Mr. President, although the challenges facing you are mounting, they are surmountable; surmountable only because of the promises embedded in the great national awakening washing our shores like a tsunami; the spirit of unity that has been sparked among Somalis of all hues and persuasions is a tremendous asset for you to utilize in the right way.
Mr. President, electing you is seen by many as a victory not for an individual, although your character is a big part of it, but for the millions of Somalis that had seized a renewed national awakening of patriotism over clan, class, or political persuasion. That is an impressive political capital at your disposal and is only useful if and when harvest it wisely and judiciously.
This spirit must be sustained by any means necessary. The slogan of “Farmajo iigeeya,” or “take me to Farmajo; he gives me hope,” must be read as a euphemism for longing for bygone good old days when Somali leaders were trustworthy; you must never let that spirit die.
It is in this spirit that I combed through many articles, ideas expressed in social media, plus my own contributions that I submit this quick yet perspective list of issues and opportunities for your consideration.
For the record, I have sent this letter in a draft form to your aids about three weeks ago and it is my hope that they have availed it to you.
Mr. President, I hope you and the recently confirmed Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khayre, will succeed in this gigantic undertaking for the sake of the greater good and on behalf of our otherwise good-natured Somali people who are tired of corruption, coercive famine, and lack of secure political space. If given the right leadership, that which they expect from you, Somalis will certainly be ready to standby you rain or shine.
Following are three buckets of issues with a semblance of sequence. While I don’t purport the list to be a final, I think it may give you food for thought and a potential sequencing of major issues discussed by Somalia.
Bucket Number 1 contains issues that you can harvested as low-hanging fruits. These are issues that are ready to be addressed, and you can right away start working on them.
Bucket Number 2 contains issues that are on the back-burner because of some political sensitivity. You can announce issues in this bucket and let the nation know that they are in your focus and work would commence once the government gets some footing.
Bucket Number 3 contains long term Issues that are tough, politically challenging and may require heavy lifting. These are issues that make up the bulwark of reimagining Somalia. They deal with revenue generations, dealing with International community, our love-hate relationship with AMISOM and neighboring countries, and our efforts to resuscitate our weak national sovereignty.
Mr. President, in dealing with these protracted issues, caution and careful handling are instructive. You don’t want outside forces to derail your work program. Despite the nature of these issues and how protracted they are, Somalis weighed and gave you a full mandate. Trust your gut feelings and execute your vision by involving others.
Sequencing National Issues.
Low-hanging Fruits (First quarter of 2017)
- Address and work on the issue of famine right away. Draft and share with the Somali nation and regional governments an executive order pertaining to drought. Drought management will require a long term plan in the future. This time, though, focus to containing the devastation to the extent possible.
- Draft a high level Presidential Vision for the nation and share it with the nation as soon as possible.
- Do a victory tour to the Regional States to rally the nation across the Somali Federal Republic.
- Seat a well-balanced highly motivated and professionally savvy cabinet. If you have to use the 4.5, then ask each group to give you the resume of three candidates, and select the best and whose vision meets yours.
- Consider carefully whether to bring back former ministers and/or members of both houses as members of your cabinet. Former ministers are generally considered to have failed former President Hassan Sheikh, while members of the legislative body can pose a serious conflict of interest for your government if they join you as part of your executive team. Change the status quo by bringing a new blood.
- Ask and expect from each minister a Vision Statement and each ministry’s programs that translate the President’s Vision into policies and programs.
- If the opportunity arises, open immediate talks with Al-Shabab
- Draft a resolution to initiate, plan and implement a Somali-led reconciliation (this may require a well-thought-out planning and securing venue and funds).
- Ensure that women play a healthy and positive role in your cabinet composition.
- Start right away working on public services provision in Mogadishu and showcase success stories of Mogadishu and some selected urban areas such as Galkayo, Baydhabo, Kismayo, Cadaado, and others. Make your government relevant as early as possible.
Mid-term Goals (3-12 months)
- Manage corruption and establish an independent National Corruption Commission must be real as soon as possible.
- Embrace in a serious manner Institution building and professionalize the work of ministries, including the judiciary, the Central Bank, and other key institutions.
- Realign and consolidate some ministries that overlap, or are not critical at this juncture. For example, Foreign Ministry and Ministry for Planning and International Cooperation can sign a memorandum of understating (MOU) to implement your vision in a coordinate and streamlined manner.
- Start building the national army as soon as possible by integrating regional armies with the Somali National Army.
- Work out a system of streamlining what we as a nation want to call Regional leaders (e.g. Presidents, Governors, Regional administrators). This should be done through a smooth process, involving a two-way consultation within the Federal structure. Try to achieve this goal while the nationalist sentiment is fresh. Also inform current regional presidents that you will respect the draft constitution.
- Engage the Diaspora communities as stakeholders in rebuilding Somalia politically and economically.
- Restart official talks with Somaliland; your team should be knowledgeable about the issues and the region. Make sure you don’t travel the same fatal route former Presidents travelled.
- Protect to the extent possible the demolition of historically significant building in Mogadishu. Put a moratorium of the demolition of historic resources by starting with Mogadishu.
- Work quickly and to the extent possible to provide electricity, trash pickup and clean water for Mogadishu resident, first.
- Establish a group of eminent leaders including former Prime Ministers to help you in promoting inter-regional dialogue as well as trouble shooting in inter-group conflicts.
Long-term Goals (on-going work program)
- Sort out foreign policy in a careful way. But you have to be firm and show resolve that Somalia is serious about protecting its national interest. Reclaim national sovereignty predicated upon raising and generating enough revenue.
- Review comprehensive all International agreements and United Nations resolutions on Somalia.
- Reconfigure relationship with neighboring countries and AMISOM presence in the Country. Come up with a phased exit plan for AMISOM soldiers.
- Mobilize residents of Mogadishu to play a more prominent role in managing local security. With full cooperation of a mobilized neighborhood groups, Mogadishu can be stabilized.
- If and when the opportunity arises, don’t hesitate to negotiating with Al-shabab. Winning the war should be the last option.
- Establish an independent commission to address past corruption and follow the trail of money stolen from Somalia, and seek ways to repatriate any funds stored overseas.
- Start working on completing constitutional review and complete the Draft constitution. A capable and a knowledgeable minister for this ministry is a prerequisite to achieving this goal in a credible timeline.
- Draft laws to regulate telecommunication and Xawal money transfer companies and come up with an equitable system of taxing their businesses.
- Consolidate, reform, and realign Somalia’s diplomatic missions.
- With hard work, honest executive team and brining a culture of close consultation with the leaders of the legislative body, you may be able to inch up Somalia to the right direction.
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.
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