Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Somalia: Back from the Brink

By Ali Ahmed Fatah

February 8, 2017 is a date that Somalis will not soon forget. It will be memorable for a number important reasons, including the election of — by all accounts — an honest politician in the person of Mohamed Abdulahi Farmajo as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia. The principled way in which the much maligned Somali Parliament discharged one its principal duties — the election of a president, is another.  It would also be memorable for the dignified manner in which the Somali people put aside petty politics and decided to beat the odds by rejecting, in no uncertain terms, the predictions of the naysayers who consigned the Somali nation to the status of failed state, in perpetuity.

Going forward from this momentous occasion, President Farmajo now embodies the hopes and the aspirations of all Somalis that refused to be beaten down or dispossessed. After more than a quarter of century of instability born out of chaotic politics, the Somali people — having weathered all kinds of difficulties — evidently gained sufficient knowledge of how to defeat the purveyors of divisive policies of distraction — be they foreign or domestic. They also came to understand full well the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead for the new government.  Their courage to choose a President who is mentally and morally prepared to lead the country at this critical juncture is no small matter; it sends clear signals to all concerned that Somalia is not only back from the brink but that she is ready to take her rightful place in Africa and the world. Further, by taking that giant step, Somalis will, in all likelihood, exercise due patience and give the new government reasonable space in which to develop and implement the type of policies that can put the country on the right track to security, justice and sustainable development buttressed by best business practices.

So what should be top priorities of the new government?

Clearly, the tasks that President Farmajo identified in his speech to the parliament on Election Day, which put emphasis on security and service to the poor foreshadows important and much needed milestones.  However, there is a need to prioritize the vast socio-economic and political areas that require urgent attention of the new government.   Among them three areas cry out for quick action:

1) Security. Security is paramount for a society to function minimally let alone achieve meaningful social progress.  In the case of Somalia, the country long suffered greatly due to historic breakdown in security that lasted decades.  Not surprisingly, the resultant vacuum was filled by entities uninterested in upholding the rule of law or worse aimed at intentionally subverting it.  So securing the peace  is a fundamental role of government without which lawlessness of the kind witnessed in the not too distant past can wreak havoc and tear an otherwise decent society into warring factions and mutually suspicious camps.  Somalia needs to put this deplorable era behind it in a hurry to be able to create the bright future its citizens deserve.

2) Corruption.  Today Somalia is branded as the most corrupt nation in the world; but this tag in no way defines who the Somali people are.  Trust is a hallmark of the Somali way of doing business as exemplified by the xawala business-model they created and continue to manage so successfully under difficult circumstances.  It was due to the absence of governmental regulations charting ‘rules of the road’ for both market and wider social discourse that allowed corruption both petty and major varieties to infiltrate and expand in the country, particularly in the national capital and to a lesser extent other urban centers.  This scourge has to be cut down root and branch.  Fortunately, the President identified this problem for what it is and promises to wage war on it.  When that campaign begins in earnest and is taken to its logical conclusion, greater socio-economic successes will ensue.

3) Justice.  In terms of social cohesion, the Somali society is second to none in the world.  However, clanism was and remains to be a major problem for the country’.  When it is cross-fertilized with corrupt political and business practices, it had been known to render society ungovernable.  So the Farmajo Government should not delay one day the President’s announced declaration of war on this debilitating practice in all its manifestations, especially as it relates to favoritism and its lowly interjection into the political discourse.  History shows when peoples’ affairs are managed in a just manner their loyalty and full-fledged support can be counted on; Somalis are no different if not more so awing to their Islamic values and austere, egalitarian way of life.

Its the considered judgment of this writer and many other Somalis that if President Farmajo and the new government he heads seek to solve the foregoing three (3) fexing issues forthrightly and with determination, Somalia will not only overcome its myriad societal problems, she will witness renaissance in a short span of time — the blessed can-do-spirit of the Somali people will see to it.

Ali Ahmed Fatah
Interim President of North East State

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