The purpose of this paper is to discuss reality-based politics and how that essential feature is peculiarly missing from our political discourse. Meanwhile, I will not to turn this short piece into didactic and moralizing dissertation. It is common knowledge that beyond crisis, Somalia is in dire straits in all aspects of the country’s societal life. So there is no need to dwell on that. What I am interested in discussing is the apparent gaping hole that the Somali intellectuals habitually tiptoe around when thrashing out issues related to Somali politics. Specifically, the very notion of trying to reach for plethora of quotes of long dead men and ancient parables from cultural milieus far removed from Somalia in terms of social organization and history.
Often the treatises put forth make for good reading as they are well crafted, even elegant. Their problem lies in the absence of much substance in bringing about clarity to the pressing issues of the day. The best of them identifies a well- known villain as stocking horse and rides it to death. In fact, if some of these pieces were food that one had to consume to get energy, their nutritional value would in all likelihood not be any better than the empty calories found in popcorn. Why? Because in the author’s rush to wax eloquent about amorphous philosophical concerns and far flung strategies, key elements including the reality on the ground, the historical record and the dictates of pragmatism, to say nothing of the imperative for fair play in social engineering are ignored. And, beyond the need to manage the present-day crisis, this issue of social engineering or its lack thereof is at the crux of Somalia’s political failure.
The Need for Crisis Management
In crisis situations, disputants are often forced to make important decisions. When an aggrieved party to an on-going political fiasco realizes what was a long brewing conflict is getting out of hand, the last thing this party needs to do is to delay corrective action. Under normal circumstances, strategic thinking is employed towards an optimum resolution. But when an entire society is lurching from crisis mode of operation to precipitously dysfunction, snap decisions are not only inevitable but in some cases necessary. Waiting until the situation is totally unmanageable is akin to pursuing fool’s errand.
Imperative of Power Sharing
Power sharing is too important a field to be left to debating societies given to chasing after idle exercises and trivial pursuits. Nor can the dimwitted policies of failed regimes such as the TFG in Mogadishu be expected to be magic potions or cure-alls; to many Somali communities they represent more like poison pills!
In the civil war wracked Arab country of Iraq, even the recent relatively successful election failed to diminish the struggle for power between the various communities. As in Somalia, the shaping of the draft constitution remains a major bone of contention. This is because its outcome will determine the formula by which resources will be shared between the regions and allocated within the purview of the central government. Equally important, it will delineate the degree to which communities will retain self-rule to be able to manage their own affairs. This is the reason why contending communities require having adequate voices in the corridors of power so that their issues of interest would be heard and acted upon satisfactorily.
In Iraq, the parties are all on record agreeing to a “federal system of governance that preserves the unity of the state, advances the aspirations of the ethnic and sectarian groups, and is administratively viable”. In other words, the federal states would control all affairs not explicitly assigned to the national government. No such luck in Somalia, which indicates that the situation is really as hopeless as it seems. Hence, self-interested obfuscation or over simplification will not lead to real solution; it can only delay the day of reckoning!
Still, in many ways, Somalia’s situation is not dissimilar to that of Iraq. All one has to do is to substitute sunni and Shi’a Arabs for the extant Somali clans and you get the picture. What is called for, therefore, is for commentators to have the presence of mind to be able to examine the situation with the objective reality in mind. That’s all. No need to fulminate ad infinitum about unspecified offenders and tangential, free-wheeling issues of all stripes.
There is a lot at stake. Not too many Somalis of good conscience would, under the current environment of excessive political corruption, be willingly to leave the fate of their communities to the tender mercies of the avaricious cabal in and around Villa Somalia. This is not so complicated a matter to appreciate. And no amount of over intellectualizing could conceal the simple truths that situation reveals about the low ebb into which the Somali society has fallen. Nor can we Somalis blame the whole sordid affair of repeated societal failures on Ethiopia’s reviled, ruling Tigre, minority regime—a community of mere three million members at best. (Somalis throughout the Horn of Africa and elsewhere are estimated to be over 20,0000,000 strong).
Congenital Problem Overlooked
Somalia’s self-styled politicians have become renowned for deceptive practices interspersed with hastily contrived unilateral decisions that are typically presented to the public on take it or leave it propositions. This is dangerous in a land without institutional checks and rampant abuse of power. The habit of entrenched mendacity on the part of the present ruling clique, aka, TFG has gone on far too long. This is in part because on a number of occasions, aggrieved communities decided not to challenge their set up in the interest of national unity or in the hope of helping to bring about a genuine reconciliation. That gesture of moderation allowed the foregoing problem to continue unabated. As a result the corrupt practices began to develop longer tentacles, greased by bribes. If these practices are not cut root and branch, they would choke the life out of not only specific communities but the society as a whole (sooner rather than later).
By engaging in unrestrained indulgences of malfeasance and misfeasance, the two Shariifs, their minions, diaspora enablers and sympathizers are all but ignoring the predicates of true national reconciliation, namely equitable distribution of power. Is it any wonder then that the wretched state of affairs wrought by the two wicked Shariifs and their surreptitious diaspora supporters failed repeatedly to engender confidence in the Somali people. This is another compelling reason why no one in his right mind would find fault with the communities at the receiving end of the cabal’s abuse of power, such as it is, for rejecting out of hand their latest proposed administration—a team some of the key members of which were recruited directly from Sheikh Shariif’s personal staff—to prolong the current TFG misrule. In this context, the exemplar role played by people including Awad A. Ashare, MP, deserves praise for talking truth to power or, in this instance, to those wishing to usurp the power that belongs to the Somali people, collectively. Mr. Ashare along with other courageous colleagues reminded the would-be emperors masquerading as national leaders that they have no clothes.
Finally, it has been said that geography is destiny. If corruption and mischief is going to be the order of the day in Somali politics for the foreseeable future then the Somali nation state will wither in the vine and may not make it to when and if sanity returns to the Somali peninsula. So it may very well become de rigueur that, to unite the Somali clans one day organically into a cohesive national polity, they may be justified to go their own separate ways (at least for the time being).
Ali A. Fatah