When the Military Junta led by General Siyad Barre overthrew the civilian government of Somalia in October 1969, the General was so timid that he could not inform the nation of the coup d’état that had just taken place, according to the late prominent elder and businessman Ali Barre ( Cidi Libaax). One day in the 1980s Ali Barre told me that in the early days after the Military takeover, he patted on the shoulders of Siyad Barre and encouraged him, “to speak to the people bravely like a man”. History is full of similar stories from Stalin to Mussolini to all petty and big dictators in history. Dictators, therefore, are not born, but created by their own people.
In the case of Somalia, there is a popular cliché in the native language, “wax la salaaxo, madaxxaa ugu sareeya” (meaning literarily the human head is the highest point someone can reach out and fondle”). In Somali setting, it means nobody is to be satisfied with the decisions and rulings of pertinent officials, bodies, departments and institutions until someone has the opportunity to go all the way to the Chief Executive Officer of the government, in most cases, the President. Based on my personal experience, everyone in the country, every Somali visitor from other parts of world, including the members of the large Somali Diaspora, seek to see the guy at top for whatever personal or mundane reasons they may have in mind. Some even bring foreign interested persons along with them to quickly secure their access to the President or Prime Minister. Failure to secure that opportunity is extremely disappointing to them. There is only 24 hours in a day and it is humanly impossible for everyone to meet with the President. Think about the enormous, unnecessary and extra burden on a Somali political leader, his offices and staff. Think about the acrimony and hatred that surround these offices, the inherent and chronic personal complains, false and unjust accusations against the staff and security personnel, influence peddling, the bribery and corruption practices the enterprise creates in the process. Unfortunately, in Somalia the positions of the President, Prime Minister, and Chief of Staff, Protocol or Public Relations Officers are the worst jobs in the world for any decent person has to seek and accept.
I could recall bitter experiences during my tenure as the Chief of Staff and I have the scars to show. Although I paid high prices at personal level, there is no doubt and nobody can deny that I had the greatest impact and made enormous difference in confronting this dilapidating Somali political culture in Puntland State of Somalia as the constituency finally accepted my approach to government operations and decision-making process.
Under these crushing, cruel and painful working conditions, one cannot expect like other normal countries to produce a good Head of State or Government. That way Somalis turn their leaders into authoritarian devils overnight by bestowing them the powers of the final say on everything. That way they disable the functions of other public institutions of government while at the same they whine about bad governance and dictatorship. They must learn the hard reality that they cannot have both ways. The powers of the any public servant including the President, Prime Minister and other officers must be respected, not worshipped. Instead, they must be constantly challenged. Leaders must be compelled to fight for popular support, not the other way round. Only that way people of Somalia can help themselves prevent dictatorship and have the opportunity to choose better leaders and maintain good governance. Do not create unaccountable, monstrous authoritarian leaders, please! That is one of the best ways you can really and positively contribute to a better Somalia.
In another related story, once upon a time people elected a man to be their leader for a fixed term in office. At the end of the term, the man wanted re-election to another term. People told him that he had not done well to deserve re-election. He told them, “how come!? I have been doing successfully what you had elected me for-meeting with you all my time”.
Other related articles:
The Way Forward for Somalia
Public Trust Deficit in Somalia
Federalism, a Guarantor of Peace among Somali Clans
Hope and Lessons in Somalia
Outside View: Building a Secure Somalia
TFG Top Priorities as Expressed by the President
Somalia, Foreign and International Conspiracy