The election of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud as the federal president of Somalia has ushered in a new era of hope and optimism for almost all Somalis. The initial reaction from the general public to his election was one of excitement, elation and high expectation. The incumbent was given an unprecedented diplomatic recognition and unwavering support by the international community, including the support of the world’s only super power, the US together with the United Nations Security Council who last year reaffirmed the unity and territorial integrity of Somalia. In the hope that things will be different this time round, Somalis all over the world, too, have rallied behind the current administration. No president before him was given such a morale-boosting and much needed support as international diplomats and foreign dignitaries began to pour in Mogadishu in droves, the seat of the federal government of Somalia. Dozens of countries have opened their diplomatic missions while others are planning to do so in the not-so-distant future. Many Somalis, who were chased away from Mogadishu in the past twenty years, are also coming back home with mixed feelings. Everything is apparently going in the right direction, or so it seems.
But, there are many people who believe the current situation in Mogadishu is too good to be true, and of course there are evidences on the ground to support their legitimate concerns. President Mahmoud’s administration is shrouded with suspicion and uncertainties that a large number of concerned citizens are apprehensive about whether Somalia’s clan-stricken system and continuing nightmares are truly over, or just a mere lull from the past. The Somali National Army (SNA) is still considered by many as a tribal army as its highest ranking officers and its entire rank-and-file hail from the former USC militiamen, the very same militia that brutally cleansed Mogadishu from other Somali clans, particularly Darood, at the height of Somali civil war. In the absence of fully-integrated federal national army, which does not exist right now, Somalis will continue voicing their grave concerns about the recent lifting of arms embargo on Somalia, a move many consider as hasty and premature. The police force and other security apparatus, too, are not different to the army.
The then improving security situation under Sheikh Sharif-Abdiweli government appears to be a distant memory as suicide bombing and target assassinations have returned to Mogadishu and its immediate environs. Instead of reinforcing its gains on the areas wrested from Al Shabaab, the current government is indeed losing ground to its former enemies, including the resurgent Mooryaan as admitted by the outgoing chief of the National Security, Ahmed Moalin Fiqi. Hudur (Xudur), a major town in Bakool region, was recaptured last week by Al Shabaab following the unannounced and sudden departure of the Ethiopian army from there. It seems all the efforts of AMISOM as well as the national army have now been squandered because of the timidity of the current government in Villa Somalia. Despite Somalia being a parliamentary democracy, the country is run through a presidential decree as all senior government appointments are made by the president and never go through the scrutiny of the elected parliament.
The country’s chief executive officer i.e. the first minster, Saacid, is nowhere to be seen in the day-to-day running of the government duties. He was simply pushed aside and his power was completely usurped by the President who surrounded himself with a Free Masons-type Dam Jadeed, a secret religious sect that controls the entire business of the government. The top brass of the army, who risked life and limb for the betterment of the nation and to a certain degree managed to get rid the despicable Al Shabaab of the capital and other important regions, including lower Shebelle have recently been sacked for reasons only known to the president and his immediate confidants. This was followed by the sudden departure of the national security chief, who announced his resignation for personal reasons, although a government underhand could not be ruled out. Neither the departure of the security chief nor the sackings of the top two bosses of the army were approved by the Somali parliament.
Moreover, Mogadishu’s districts are run by officials from the same clan so much so that many are questioning its legitimacy as the Federal capital of Somalia. Here, Muktar Omar’s brilliant article on Wardheernews.com: “let us De-Hawiye-ize Mogadishu”, comes to mind. Even its famous Banadiri communities, who were at the center of attraction for everything the Somali capital had to offer in the glorious past, are facing a grim future as they are being threatened on a daily basis by the very same people who seized their properties and disgraced their women.
On the regional front, the government seems to be paying little or no attention to the continuing problems faced by unionists in Northern regions of Somalia where they are subjected to a daily intimidation, harassment, incarceration and all forms of humiliating acts at the hands of the renegade administration called “Somaliland”. The one-clan enclave, whose fame and fortunes are plummeting, has now started hijacking travelling unionist politicians at its airports, with the Federal government of Somalia doing nothing about this illegal and despicable act. A junior Somali minister was recently seized in Berbera airport and put in Mandheera jail while an elderly chief was sentenced to jail for two years for visiting Mogadishu by a kangaroo court based in Hargeisa. President Mahmoud, who sworn to protect the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia seems to be oblivious to the illegal undertakings in Hargeisa, if not ignoring it on purpose.
The Jubbaland region of Somalia has become another area where President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s government is playing with fire after he blatantly refused to endorse the choice of people. The inhabitants of Jubbaland, the breadbasket of the country, have every right to form their administration the same way the people of Puntland, Hiiraan and Bay and Bakool have formed their own regional administrations. In the latter two cases, the government of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud has put its full weight behind them while dithering on Jubbaland.
In general, politicians have the habit of promising something and doing the opposite once power is firmly ensconced in their hands. Almost all the major pledges President Mahmoud had made in front of Somali parliamentarians and the watching Somali public disappeared as fast as the morning mist.
One such political promise was one he said that he would never venture out and wander off aimlessly in foreign capitals without first mending the pressing needs of the country. Now, he made more foreign visits within a space of two months than his predecessors had ever made, while at the same a little has been done at the home front.
On the positive side, thousands of Somalis from the four corners of the world, albeit largely from one clan, are beginning to arrive in the recently-renovated Adam Abdulle Osman airport in Mogadishu on a daily basis to start a new life; opening up businesses, building hotels and engaging in all kind of business activities. In a nutshell, Mogadishu, the battered and disfigured Somali capital, is for the first time in as many years as one can remember, looking forward to a bright future.
Whether Mogadishu opens its heart and soul to all Somalis in equal measures hinges on President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s government and how it deals with the former residents of a city simply known as Xamar Caddeey. Despite the euphoria surrounding the current peaceful lull in Mogadishu, many returnees are yet to get their properties back from squatters who have never known anywhere else except squatting other people’s properties. Even the famous Somali singer, Maryan Mursal, could not repossess her Hawlwadaag home from squatters/occupiers.
There are thousands upon thousands of Somalis whose properties are still occupied by squatters despite the brave efforts of mayor Tarsan. We all know the mayor is doing his level best by making all kind of positive gestures to those who lost their properties and businesses during the civil war, but if many Somalis are to be convinced that Mogadishu is about to become its old self, where Somalis of all clans and persuasions lived side by side in a peaceful and friendly neighborhoods, then his deeds have to be turned into practicable solutions. No amount of soothing words and empty rhetoric will heal the wounds of yesteryears.
To conclude this piece, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s handling the affairs of Somali state is far from promising in spite of all the supports he received from the majority of his fellow countrymen and women, as well as the international community. The support of the international community is always important, but what matters most is the support of Somali people whose expectations have never been so higher. Failure to meet their expectations this time will put Somalia a point of no return. President Hassan should win the hearts and minds of Somali people by providing concrete evidence that he is serious about uniting the country. More significantly, he should start implementing a comprehensive reconciliation program, including returning the properties occupied by squatters from his kin and kith to their rightful owners. Institution-building should be the next important milestone for his government as there are none right now. Last but not least, his government should not only be accountable and transparent, but should be seen so by all. Somalia has seen many false promises in the past fifteen or so years. It cannot afford another false promise this time round.
Mohamed F Yabarag
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