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The Vortex Leadership Issue of Somalia
By Abdullahi Dool
For nearly two decades, a major factor which has prolonged statelessness in Somalia has been the issue of too many individuals after the role of the nation’s leadership. In 2003, one of the rulers of our neighbours has been quoted to have said: “The reason why Somalia was without a government for so long was because there were too many actors on the stage.” We know nobody fights over the steering a sunken ship. What could have been the reasons behind the fight over the leadership of the sunken State of Somalia? For too long the leadership of Somalia has been a magnet for individuals whose motive was to take advantage of the predicament of the nation. Their drive was one of greed: to personally gain at a time when the nation was at its most vulnerable. Such individuals had the support of clan folks who to their disappointment saw them as their representatives: custodians of pieces of the shattered power of the Somali State.
Somalis should mind the interest of the nation — not clan-based interests. Normally people everywhere wish only the best leadership for their own nation. During the civil war era, a Somali has muttered, “A Habar Kuulay  from my clan is better for me to lead the nation than the best person from another clan”. This is sad because the choice of a nation’s leadership is about competence, not clan. With every generation of every country come leaders who have what it takes to lead a nation. For that reason, the baton of leadership should always go to those who can use intellect to sprint for the development and progress of their nation. It is not our business who takes office in other nations but it is our job to ensure only the best persons to lead the nation. In most countries, including the US, a crook will never dream of let alone aspire to high office. Is this because such individuals know their limit? Do not expect anyone to see himself second best. A crook has neither inhibition nor humility. It is society which sets the limit and sends the signal and tells its crook that he is up to no good. In the US and in other functioning nations, crooks always know in their heart that the public will not entrust them with a hen house, let alone the White House. That is why, in the 2008 US presidential race, gifted individuals such as Senators John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are aspiring to lead their nation. This takes us to the question: Since 1991 why did the Somali people allow individuals who have only traces of education and credibility to misrule and fail the nation? Do we not care about our own nation? Do we not think we deserve better? We need to put an end to the mindset which says anyone from my clan, no matter how bad, should lead the nation rather than a better person who was born in another clan. If the US was a clannish society, in 2008, individuals such as Jesse Jackson,  Bill Cosby and the country music singer Kenny Rogers would have been standing for election as clan elders, rather than McCain, Obama and Mrs. Clinton. In a broken nation such as ours we have seen how anyone can aspire to anything and how anyone can go and take part in any conference about the nation. Some individuals may see this as a good thing or even progress. What is good about a nomad or a herdsman attending national or international conferences to represent the nation? What is he going to do there? Watch others win the day for their nation? The bar can only be raised by society which benefits from good governance and has to suffer when things go wrong. Those who short-change their own country cannot expect their nation to succeed. We have to stop putting our nation second to clan and personal interests. Otherwise, Somalia will remain an insignificant nation which drifts on the periphery of the developing nations.
Clan-based institutions are institutionalised failures. Only sound institutions can ensure strong foundations. Justice is one of the main pillars of state, and the lack of it can bring the state down. With a third of our population now scattered around the globe and with a million or so problems, Somalia needs leaders who measure up to the task at hand. We need to build a fairer society where every Somali matters and no-one has to suffer. When we find the right leadership, the nation will be on the move and will get back on track. The brains of the Somali nation of every field who are currently wasting away back home and in the Diaspora, will be utilised for the good of the nation. Every Somali will be required to contribute morally, emotionally or physically. Once such government takes office, one of the longest wait of a nation will come to an end. Displaced Somalis back home and our refugees in neighbouring nations will feel at last that there is a national government which cares about its people and is intent on doing something about their suffering. With a nation in unison the rudimentary infrastructure will be rebuilt. Government offices and agencies will be up and running. A robust and independent press which does its job will be in place. After the initial period of state-building, Somalis will go to the polls to elect the government of their choice. In the regions too Somalis will take their destiny in their own hands by electing their own administrators. That way, no-one will feel they have been imposed on officials unilaterally and insensitively appointed by the central government. However, it will take a lot of hard work to catch up with our neighbours and with the rest of the nations who have been developing for the past 18 years Somalia was basking in the gutter and in infamy.
When the next opportunity to form a functioning government arises, what we need is not a leader who only picks his fellow clansmen for positions. That would erode confidence and power-base of government. Somalia will need a cabinet of 20 ministers. This number may go to 24 ministers once the state has been built. The formation of a cabinet does not take weeks let alone months. Speed is the essence. A nation’s collective time is precious: a broken nation’s time is even more precious. In a functioning nation, the appointment of a cabinet takes within three days. In a stateless nation where there are myriad problems, the formation of a cabinet should take not more than 10 days. Matching position with the right person is one of the tasks of an able leader. Failure to do so will look like ‘the carpenter who went to do an electrical job’. Governance is reinventing itself and moving with the changing times. There are a number of ministries which are no longer part of modern governing. One such ministry is ministry of information. Check and see if any developed nation or many developing nations have such a ministry. Such things are a relic of the past. In progressive governing information is free and the press is independent. ‘Independent’ can only mean to be owned not by the state but by individuals. Other dinosaur ministries which are no longer part of governing are ministry of tourism and ministry of sports. These too are relics of the past. Modern governments have Tourist Promotion Board (Commission for Tourism) and Sports and Athletics Commission (Board) etc.
We now come to the serious issue of making things happen. In this world, it takes hard work and perseverance to get anywhere. Angels will not descend from the heavens to mend Somalia. Do we not have the determination and the resolve to mend our nation? Something is missing though! Orchestration for power is lacking. Nor is visible the hunger and the will of the Somali people to get the nation back on track. Waiting on and following inept individuals will not bring statehood for Somalia. From both the unwavering clan-based support for ineffectual time-wasters and the general apathy and indifference, it doesn’t look as if we are a nation which has suffered a day, let alone 18 years in the wilderness. According to the dictionary, an orchestra (symphony) is a large group of people who together play a variety of instruments to perform. To deliver, an orchestra has to have a conductor to coordinate its performance. Its success is based on choreographed team work. Governance too requires a large group of people who work together as a team and a conductor (leader) who guides, inspires and coordinates various roles and efforts of governing. Basking and cozying in failure cannot be the way out of wilderness. There is the need to work together towards the formation of an effective government which can deliver and can govern well.
There are things we have to oppose such as the division and dismemberment of our own nation into ridiculous entities. There are also things we need to support such as the establishment of a good national government for the nation. However, the achievement of a better Somali society cannot take place if Somali affairs have become like a muddied pond. In our fight not only to help establish a good government but also to save the nation from oblivion and dismemberment, what good could come if everyone shoots in any direction? It would be a waste of time and energy. We need to rein in bad habits similar to those who shoot bullets in the air out of exhilaration. What is needed is concerted endeavour, if what we all want is the betterment of the nation. It is said: Everybody’s business is nobody’s business. That is why nations assign able and accountable individuals with integrity and humility to look after the collective affairs of society.
Because of the incurable clan malady, the preference of a national leader should not be based on clan relationship but competence, otherwise Somalia will not succeed. This thinking is archaic and backward. Successful nations have not woken up one day to find the pavement of every street, the existence of leafy suburbs and immaculate houses with running taps. Such things exist only in fairy tale story books. Successful nations are not where they are by chance but by choice. Successful nations are always on the lookout for better leaders in every field. With the single aim of success in mind, companies in developed countries hire household-name directors and chief executives. Football clubs and national football teams in those countries too hire only the best money can buy. In the developed world the position of company directors are untenable if they did not yield better results (bigger profits) year after year. Once profits have dipped heads roll. Somalia has been a failed state now nearing two decades. To bounce the nation out of oblivion there is only way to go and that can only be upwards. We need to remind all our people that the nation remains on ground zero. The biggest damage has been inflicted on the nation’s image and standing. The Somali name has been rubbished beyond recognition. It will have to be painstakingly rebuilt. Our preoccupation should not be how to have a clan relative as the leader but how to take Somalia up there in the galaxy where other nations have made their home!
We come again to the issue of whimpering after the past. What we seek is not to change the past but the transformation of the future! The past is no-go area. It has been said, the past is another country. If it is another country, it has no travel agencies to book a journey. We are believers! We have to accept what has happened to us as a nation and move on. The question is: where do we go from here? Of course our enemies have other plans for us. The plan is to dismember Somalis into clan-based mini and insignificant entities. This is injustice which we all must fight of. There is a scenario which is: give a fool a rope and he will hang himself. To the astonishment of the whole world it is educated Somalis who are spearheading the division and dismemberment of our own nation into insignificant and unviable entities. We long for the day when we can belong to a new Somali nation which takes care of its people and looks after its affairs and interests and which occupies its rightful place in world arenas. What is needed is not a clan relative as the leader. If I want my clan relative to rule the nation, how am I going to answer the question: What is he going to do there? Not to mention, it will not be fair to the nation. It will be selfish as well as short-sighted. Misrule will not be probability but a reality. We should not ally ourselves to anything which has no mileage and which will not take us far. What the Somali nation needs is the type of leadership which can release the economic and human potential of the nation. When that happens, God willing, success will be a certainty. However, there is an impasse to which we cannot bury our heads in the sand. We, the people of Somalia are not united in the quest to find a better society which rights wrongs, heals wounds and makes all our people recover from the terrible things which the nation has been marched through. Unfortunately, some of us are looking for something else. We need to find the way out of this deadlock. This brings us to the question: What could remedy the vortex leadership issue of Somalia? Next time we meet in discussion, let us examine this issue to have a crack at this quandary.
1. A Somali example of a person who is a byword for incompetence.
2. Jesse Jackson stood for the US presidential race in 1988 and did not go far. In a functioning nation,
the mechanisms are there to ascertain the suitability as well as worth and ability of a candidate.