The Dawning of a New Era for Somalia: Contemplating the Prospects
By: Abdirizak Adam Hassan
Mogadishu, Thursday October 25, 2012
Most observers of Somalia would readily tell you that – with the coming of the new government – Somalia has now taken the road towards a new era of governance, continuity and renaissance. Similarly Somalis everywhere are of the opinion that the rebirth of a new Somalia is finally within reach. One cannot miss the sheer size of the renewed hope that is so pervasive among the population of Mogadishu these days. For example they would tell you that the transition period is now over and that the new government of Somalia is officially a fully recognized government by the international community; paving the way for a better bilateral cooperation and interaction with the world. They would also invariably point out that the new Constitution augurs for a new era of legality and good governance for Somalia. A great deal of their expectations unmistakably hinge on the potential goodwill of the new Parliamentarians and the leadership that are now in place for Somalia. They look upon the current set of leadership as being qualitatively a better deal for Somalia than their predecessors of the transition period. All of these clearly indicate that Somalis are very much eager to redeem themselves from their current sorrow conditions of life and to let the bygones as the bygones. For the first time in the last twenty-one years Somalis seem to be convinced that their protracted woes are on the wane and that Somalia is on a fast trajectory towards the foreseeable return of their statehood, governance and lasting peace. As far as the Somali public is concerned therefore, a precious opportunity has now presented itself to the new Somali government and all is set for the attainment of their simple legitimate demands. Hence they are resolute in imploring their current government to show some leadership and not to recoil from delivering on their expectations.
It would be very desirable and a nice turn of events if the current government of Somalia somehow manages to mend all the problems of Somalia within the course of its mandate. In the real world however that may not be as simple as it sounds. Deliberatively, while an opportunity for the advancement of the national cause is agreeably more available now, the realization of a well governed and peaceful Somalia has, without a doubt, its own challenges and preconditions. Identifying these challenges and preconditions would give us a better clarity on the enormity of the tasks ahead as well as a better evaluation for the prospects of their accomplishment. By the same token, understanding where we are by way of assessing the overall situation of the country and determining where we want to go would give us a better sense of direction and improved prioritization of what we want to achieve. In doing so, the attempt in this paper is to be able to arrive to an early contemplation of what can realistically become of Somalia by the end of the mandate of the current Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia.
As a background, Somalia has had three successive transitional governments ever since the Arta Conference 12 years ago. Each one of these had modestly contributed in bringing about the current enhanced political and security situation of the country. The country in general is undeniably in a better situation now than then due to the slow accrual of achievements made by the transitional governments of Arta, Embagathi and Djibouti. Despite our recognition of their accomplishments we tend to judge the records of these governments with contempt and slight because they invariably failed on their basic unvarying mandate of transitioning Somalia to an era of democratic governance, constitutionality and continuity. In other words, whatever they were doing was not part of our expectations or what we wanted them to do. This partly explains why these transitional governments fell from grace and lost the hearts and minds of the Somali people; and in contrast, why the current government is leisurely enjoying so far the backing of the Somali public in general.
Assessment of Where we are
In essence then, most of the political and security crisis of the country remain neglected and the transitional tasks therefore, as a backlog, are to be carried out by the new Somali administration. To be sure, the country is in a situation where the new constitution is yet to be finalized and adopted and the country is yet to be prepared for the official conduct of fair and free national elections before the current government’s term in office ends. Similarly the security situation of the country continues to be knotty although some progress has been made in rolling back the onslaught of Alshabab in many regions and localities and more efforts are still ongoing. In simple terms, this is where the current political and security situations of the country are.
Where we Want to Go
Hence, the whole Raison d’être of the current government becomes embarking upon the above political and security situations of the country thereby bringing about the dawning of a new era for Somalia characterized by the return of democratic governance, rule of law and the achievement of enduring peace. It is an era where the unity and the integrity of the country are restored and Somalia prevails under a system of governance of its own choosing and making. An underlying hope is that, at this stage, Somalia would in effect become a peaceful, well governed and democratic country whose citizens are prosperous, thriving and very hopeful of their future. Those who have been leading the way for the advent of this new Somalia would be well-regarded as statesmen and true sons and daughters of Somalia and they would go down in history as the founding fathers of the Third Republic of Somalia. This is the overall ideal that we all wish to be attained within the mandate of this government.
Conceptually, the abridging mechanism that would take us from where we are now to where we want to go is the actual materialization of the transitional tasks that have been collecting dust throughout the transitional period. These tasks are so crucial for the reclamation of Somalia from its current dicey predicament without which the very continuity of Somalia as a nation-state would become in serious peril. They are the very reason why a government is needed for Somalia in the first place and executing them would hopefully and by default propel Somalia towards the emancipation of the nation and the continuity of the state. However, if we scrutinize the intricacy of the due process that each one of these tasks involves we would begin to understand how the odds are stacked against their successful implementation. For instance, the finalization of the new constitution entails, among other things, the grooming and completion of the final draft, validating it through a national referendum and tabling it for parliament consideration and approval. By the same token, preparing the country for a fair and free national elections would understandably involve, among other things, restructuring Somalia into some acceptable arrangement of determining the status of the regions, taking a sweeping national census, the authorization for and formation of national and regional parties, the formation of local and regional constituencies, the allocation of equitable electoral seats for the regions and local ridings and successfully carrying out a nationwide election.
Most of these tasks are to be essentially carried out at the national level and their challenges and implications are massive. The census taking exercise, for example, can be taken as a case in point here. Issues of human and financial resources quickly come to mind. Other challenges include expertise, planning, logistics, coordination, public awareness, local participation and regional cooperation. Providing for all of these would undoubtedly involve the mobilization of local resources as well as getting a massive support from bilateral and multilateral sources. Securing such a foreign support topping up much of our shortages would seldom be without strings or other intrusive riders attached to it. In addition, streamlining all of these activities would at the onset require to be designed into feasible projects and policy documents with fixed timelines for their commencements and final execution. These challenges are in no way comprehensive and they are meant for illustrative purposes only nonetheless the success in accomplishing them would partly depend on painstakingly addressing these challenges and many others that may arise.
Furthermore, certain preconditions are also to be met before one worries about ways and means of undertaking any of the actual tasks above. For example, the security situation of the country does not presently allow for the implementation of most of the above tasks at national level. A National Security and Stabilization Plan (NSSP) is to be developed and implemented throughout Somalia. The end state of such a plan would for all intents and purposes be the creation of a standardized national environment characterized by the instilment of security and governance. For this to happen however, prime institutions of the current government of Somalia would first require undertaking an extensive capacity-building program. As it stands, most of the institutions of government are inherently lacking much needed capacities by way of personnel, equipments and finances. To be sure crippling shortages, inefficacies and wide-ranging disorganization are notoriously peculiar to the security-sector institutions whose responsibility nexus is the stabilization of Somalia. AMISOM and other regional forces could be expected to continue their fight against Alshabab, on the other hand the formation of a robust and professional national army as well as efficient police force would be indispensible in reversing the lingering issues of insecurity that now prevail in most of Somalia. Finally, the overarching and most important precondition pertains to the existence of a genuine political will on the part of the current government for the execution of these dire tasks. Its importance is such that there is no substitute for it as political will works at the architectonic level, in all deeds and at all stages and it can solely be responsible for the making or breaking of these objectives. In the event that the government could not muster engendering enough levels of a political will, for some reason or another, then weighing up any prospects for the accomplishment of these transitional tasks in the next four years would become utterly futile.
The above foregoing is a sketchy reflection on the issues that surround prospects for the implementation of the transitional tasks by the current government during its term in office. The paper identified certain preparatory steps and preconditions that must be first in place before undertaking any of the necessary tasks. These include the availability of political will, institutional capacity building and the imperativeness of aptly addressing the insecurity of the country. Doing these would in turn pave the way for the finalization of the new constitution, census taking and conducting national elections. This methodical approach to doing the job – which starts from lower internal premises to higher national premises – is particularly important because one constitutes as a precondition for the other. Other cross-cutting matters include furthering the reconciliation process, peace-building, outreach, adhering to participatory and inclusive norms and solidifying the intergovernmental affairs between the centre and periphery.
The focus of this litany has been to deliberatively and persuasively arrive to a better understanding of the magnitude of the task at hand, as well as shedding some light on their due processes, challenges and preconditions that might be in the way of undertaking them. No real efforts have been made to qualify all the various assumptions that form the basis for the strata of reasoning of the Somali expectations outlined above. For example the paper does not seriously question assumptions such as, the soundness of the existence of a better opportunity to do the job, the benevolence of the new leaders, the political will of the government and so on and so forth. Similarly, this analysis has not been giving any thoughts on possible roles for the regional governments, possibilities of receiving timely bail-outs from the international community and/or bilateral underwritings from friendly countries. Another unaddressed conundrum is the difficulty of forecasting the time-span within which the total defeat of Alshabab might take place. Indeed, all of these and other wild cards have direct bearings on this subject matter, however the rationale here has all along been, even if these various assumptions are in order (and they hardly are), the magnitude of the required work would still be too daunting and problematic enough as to dim the prospects of carrying them out.
Conceptually, and in modest terms, these are what it takes to complete the required transitional tasks while at the same time delivering on the expectations of the Somali public. As a recap, their successful undertaking demands diligence, dedication and solid sense of purpose. The challenges are demonstrably huge and very few of the requirements and resources needed to do the job are now available to the government of Somalia. Typically, transitioning tasks are mandatory in nature and there are no known procedures that may circumvent or miniskirt the core and tough activities needed for their fulfillment. No one is denying any far-flung possibility of achieving these grand aims through other means or the existence of better opportune conditions initiated by the recent elections of Somalia that saw the change of the old guards from the leadership of Somalia. But if the new Somali government has to primarily use its assets currently at hand to provide for its priorities, the vastness of the needs and deficiencies seem nearly insurmountable. Seen under this light, the prospects of realizing these goals come into view as precarious at best, if not implausible and bleak.
Food for Thought
It cannot be totally discounted that unforeseen help, events and impetus can facilitate in improving these odds to a favorable degree matching the nature and scale of such a contribution. Contemplatively, let us castle in the sky and say that Friends of Somalia or a coalition of some sort may generously come to the help of Somalia by way of affording funds, expertise and other capacities. In addition AMISON forces and other regional states can help reverse the sources of active insecurity in South Central Somalia. This course of thinking however would be tantamount to a drastic paradigm shift and away from the basic rationale of this paper. Different assessments for its feasibility and likelihood would be needed nevertheless; irrespective of how you cut it or slice it many of the preconditions identified above would still be applicable in so far as the Somali government remains to be the inescapable agency putting these responsibilities into action at the local level. The world will help within reason and as a partner but the onus of putting Somalia in order will always be on the shoulders of Somalis and their government and there is no way around that.
Abdirizak Adam Hassan was the Chief of Staff and a Senior Advisor in Policymaking and International Relations for President A. Yusuf. He is an independent consultant based in Nairobi and currently works as Strategic Advisor for the National Security and Stabilization Plan for Somalia (NSSP). You can reach Abdirizak A. Hassan at Adam_somalia@yahoo.ca