By Ismail H. Warsame
“Ultimately it is the Somalis who can solve their own problems” is the desperate and repeated expression often used by the external diplomatic and political actors of Somalia when something didn’t work out as planned, or planned intentionally to fail, after all. This is another way to concede defeat and shift the blame of failure onto the Somalis themselves. It is also a successful ploy by these foreign actors to justify the continuation of their respective tax-payers’ money contributions to find the elusive solution to the dangerous Somali stateless chaos, rightly acknowledging that Somalia is not only a security threat to itself, but also to the outside world. Their bottom-line strategy on Somalia is to contain, at least, this security menace within Somalia. Such an approach to Somalia’s long-running predicament have been creating a thriving industry that continuously produces good paying jobs and resort-like living luxury existence in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Djibouti and Uganda for expatriates on Somalia’s supposedly dangerous job assignments.
As a man who worked in the field, a witness to most recent events in Somalia, I found quite astonishing that nobody is getting or reading rightly the Somalia’s current root causes of the problem, apart from the legacy of the Military Dictatorship that led to the failure of the National Government. Everybody, including researchers and experts on Somalia is busy with in looking at symptoms of the problem: warlords, the Union of Islamic Courts, Al-Shabab, corruption, piracy …etc. Nobody had ever thought that the instruments and institutions that helped sustain livelihood of the Somali masses in a uniquely failed and stateless situation for such a long time are the same ones that perpetuate the status quo and prevent, at any cost, the creation of a viable institution of governance, especially in Mogadishu.
It is important to note here that one would not see any scholarly references attached to this short article as I was there, in person, to re-tell my own take of developments and events that made the most recent history of Somalia.
It was towards the end of 1996 when I met, for first time, with Mohamed Abdi Habeeb (Mohamed Dheere), the Late Former warlord and former Mayor of Mogadishu of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, in Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the time, he was not a warlord, but a future one for Middle Shabelle Region (Jowhar). He was a member of then the National Salvation Council (SNC), an impressive organization of Somali Warlords sponsored by Ethiopia under the initiative of Late Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed in a congress held in the city of Sodere, about 120 Kms to the Southeast of Addis Ababa and within the Oromo Regional state. I was a member of Somali Diaspora in Canada, having spent at that time one and half years in England and mostly in Dubai after I left Canada in 1995. While in Dubai, I was invited by the SNC Co-Chairmen to help in the documentation and office work of the Council in Ethiopia. As the warlord organization was seriously planning and set to hold a congress in Bosaso, the commercial city of Northern eastern Regions in 1997, to announce the election of a new Somali Central Government, one perhaps to be led by Ali Mahdi Mohamed as President and Abdullahi Yusuf as Prime Minister, I was eager to learn more about the political, security and economic events in Southern Somalia and Mogadishu, in particular.
In my conversation with him, Mohamed Dheere was a surprise to me. Although he had no academic credentials to speak of, I found him shrewd, highly intelligent and amazingly knowledgeable about the nature of Mogadishu conflicts at the time. He exposed and gave me his take and analysis of what he termed: “The Mog Forces”. Basically, he informed me that the real and invincible force in Mogadishu are not the warlords in the name of Aidid, Ali Mahdi and others, but a handful of business tycoons in Northern and Southern Mogadishu. The warlords are used and bankrolled by these business titans to prevent any local, regional or national governance in Mogadishu or Somalia. These business giants of ill-gotten riches following the collapse of the Somali State run huge enterprises of telecommunications, money transfer (Hawaala), makeshift seaports, huge warehouses of foreign aid (think of WFP) and its distribution outlets, public transport chains, hotels, import and export businesses, security and protection escorts… etc, all tax-free. They created their own huge army of militia. They constituted the real power that no other institutions can challenge them, foreign or local. Add to this, the proliferation of the so-called civil societies under the watchful eyes of these business predators as their clever and invisible channel of communication with the external diplomatic, political and humanitarian organizations, primarily working as double agents within the misery of Somalia at cost of Somalia’s national sovereignty. Warlord alliances like USC/SNA and USC/SSA, SNF, SPM and others continued to operate to add to the Southern chaos for divide and rule purposes along sub-clan allegiance. That was the gist of Mohamed Dheere’s assessment of Mogadishu situation nearly twenty years ago.
Having understood and fully aware of what was happening in Mogadishu and Southern Somalia, in general, the establishment of Puntland took first steps to contain and isolate such business and NGO forces becoming too powerful. Militia organizations of SSDF, USP and SNDU were outlawed and banned for good. Traditional leadership was allowed to drive the governance process and a government based on the consent of its stakeholders was instituted. While the Somaliland Administration of the Late President Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal had an ideological difference with the Somali National Movement (SNM) to politically marginalize it, SNM former members were active and still are behind the scene in Somaliland body politic. They are known as the “Calan Cas” (Red Flag) Group because of their leftist political orientation. In the case of Puntland, former militia organizations are things of the past, and while Puntland lacks behind Somaliland in terms of democratization and multi-party system because of latter’s concerted attempt to attract international recognition and more international aid rather than a result of inherent good governance, there are areas in which Puntland is a way ahead of Somaliland like fair distribution of resources, standard of living of residents, gap between the rich and poor, and even residents’ self-confidence in better future, welcoming and creation of safe heavens and income opportunities for Somali IDPs, regional cooperation and good neighbourliness despite Somaliland unwarranted provocations in Sool and Ayn Regions, and struggle for the re-institution of Somalia’s Central State for the benefit of all, including Somaliland, and in the best interests of all peoples of East Africa and world peace and security, in general.
It may sound very sad indeed to suggest and recommend now that, given a genuine commitment to fix Somalia, the international community needs to completely re-think Somalia by targeting those forces that prevent Somalia to stand on its feet again and rise up as a less dangerous member of world community. Unfortunately, the only way feasible at moment is to restart resolving Somalia’s problem afresh by identifying the culprits for the failure at local and international levels. Trial and errors approaches on the failed state for the past two decades had become the Sarah Palin ‘ s “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.
In conclusion, the international community is either ignorant or reluctant to learn one important lesson from former colonial powers of Somalia. When dealing with law and order and governance issues in a given city or region in Somalia, you cannot have a Governor in the same city he/she hails from. Because of the local sub-clan rivalry and conflict, a local governor will be a part of the problem, not its solution. Such a Governor will not have the benefit for playing fair arbitration as he/she is perceived locally to belong to and serve the interests of one of the clan antagonists. A Somali President from Southern Somalia suffers the same perception and fate in Mogadishu. Hence, you also have an additional clan and family conflicts in Mogadishu, on the top of the powerful “Mog Forces”.