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The sum of all our fears
Much has been said about what kind of an entity will emerge from the ashes of the Somali Republic when the dust finally settles down. Reconstituting Humpty-Dumpty back together has proven to be quite a task and remains elusive so far despite many attempts to recreate what once was and utterly failed us all.
Perhaps the reason why Somalia is so hard to reconstitute is because the premise and the approach taken to resolve the Somali political crisis is one based on old ideas and paradigms that no longer apply to realities on the ground today. For instance the concept of nationhood and what obligations or responsibilities one has toward such entity is not what it used to be compared to the 1960's when the UN Trusteeship of Mogadishu joined independent Somaliland to create the Somali Republic.
Back then the principle organizing factor was to unite all Somalis under one flag, it was the only reason why British Somaliland joined Italian Somaliland, it is the reason why we fought two wars with Ethiopia and supported the "shiftas" in NFD (Northern Frontier District of Kenya) and French Djibouti remained near and dear to the hearts of all Somalis until it became independent and decided to opt out of the greater Somalia dream.
The fact that Djibouti choose a different path than Somaliland when it came time to fly its own flag is a clear indication that Somalis could entertain the notion of having different nation states outside of the greater Somalia dream. This choice was facilitated by hindsight and observing Somali governments in action for over a decade punctuated by the strong man tactics of the Barre regime. Mandeeq's light was not shining strong enough, and was considerably dimmer than it was in the 60's when for Somalis it was the only thing that mattered.
In contrast, when the British offered Somaliland 10 years of infrastructure development and investment into the country to get them ready for independence in an attempt to persuade them not to declare independence and join the UN Trusteeship in the south, the leadership responded that they choose poverty and the freedom to choose over anything offered by her Majesty's coffers.
"To know and not to act, is not to know" is what an old Chinese proverb reminds anyone who seems to know what is the right thing to do, but fails to act on it. This condition is one which most Somalis can relate to given our collective ambiguous stance in knowing the ills with our insatiable need to be the one's in power and not being able to .restrain this self-defeating ambition gone awry.
Is it possible that we really don't know what we want? Or maybe we all know what we want; it is just that we are not interested in accepting or even acknowledging what the rest who do not agree with us want. Perhaps the difficulties lie in the changed world and lost innocence of yesteryear, after all we are no longer dealing with black and white issues of colonizers who should leave our sacred grounds. Nor do we have a collective fresh memory of injured pride when our lands and people were taken away by foreign powers and given to neighboring countries.
This time things are not so easily defined, because this time the enemy is us, and so far what we have offered as solutions are nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing!
Instead of a shared dream, what we have is the memory of 31 years of corrupt, inept, tribal and (during Barre's regime) cruel Somali government ruling, and 17 years of charlatans masquerading as Somali government, so there is very good reason to be more than a little skeptical when someone is on one hand claiming all glory, and on the other hand comes to town riding Ethiopian tanks.
In the minds of many Somalis this is the picture that come to their mind when they look at the TFG and see what it is has done to get the power and continues to do to stay in power. Connecting these dots will inevitably produce a very familiar picture of days gone by when dictatorships and strong man rule were the land of the land.
Franz Fanon (Wretched of the Earth-p183) described Africa's dictatorships this way:
"This party which of its own will proclaims that it is a national party, and which claims to speak in the totality of the people, secretly, sometimes even openly, organizes an authentic ethnic dictatorship….The ministers, the members of the cabinet, the ambassadors and the local commissioners are chosen from the same ethnological group as the leader, sometime directly from his own family (remember Barre?) are the true traitors in Africa, for they sell their country to the most terrifying of its enemies: stupidity."
The condition described above is one that plagues us and we have yet to find a good answer to address it, as we jump from one extreme to another.
The principle opponents to the TFG today are the "Shabaab", who are the latest entry into the US State Department's list of "terror organizations". All indications are that even though they may not have the military muscle to directly challenge the Ethiopians in Mogadishu, in this war of attrition they will be hard to beat.
If successful in driving the TFG out of power, they will proceed and take up the fight of imposing their version of what it means to be a true Muslim. Which inevitably means that they cannot be opposed, since they alone are the true believers and the rest of us either get in line and support them or be ready to feel the cold edge of the sword or the hot tip of the lash. So the choices presented to Somalis today are to either accept the Ethiopian imposed TFG or the "jihad' driven Shabaab.
They may be diametrically opposed to each other, but they share many attributes;
They both subscribe to the notion that the end justifies the means. Killing civilians is not a deterrent to either group.
What is missing in the choices offered is a shared common vision that is more compelling than the one either parties provides. What makes a nation is the belief in a vision that offers a better future and life for those who subscribe to it. Lost is the comfort and secure surroundings of good old "Maandeeq", what is being offered is ready made solutions concocted in foreign capitals that feed the never ending addiction to anarchy in the South.
It is not enough for one to just say that they are for Somalia, or that they are for Islam, and expect people to fall in line and salute. Being Somali or Muslim has not deterred anyone who intended to do harm to his neighbor to do just that in Somalia. Yes, there is good and bad in all of us, and yes, dire circumstances can bring out the worst in people, but the reality in Somalia is that since independence it seems that our regressive genes have taken over to a point that we are eating our young now.
The real questions begging an answer is what kind of Somalia is being put back together, and who decides what it should look like? If you don't like what is being created and have no say so in its creation, what are your options? How can one define what it means to be for Somalia? And if you do find a different path than the one currently proposed, does that make you a non Somali, or non Muslin?
Difficult questions to answer, but must be asked and answered if a lasting solution is to be found. The one thing that is not in question is that Somalis in the south have lost control over their political destiny, and ability to have a meaningful influence in the process of reconstituting a government of their choosing.
Washington's war on terror landed squarely in Somalia when it identified three individuals of interest amongst the population and deployed the true and tried method of guided weaponry directed by less than precise intelligence, resulting after the third attempt in one bad guy taken out and the customary number of lost innocent lives normally described as collateral damage and readily discounted as the expected expendable lives justified by the end game of killing a high value target, in this particular case, one man.
Predator drones in the air, reinforced by Ethiopian troops committing atrocities on the ground are not going to bring the desired result Washington is seeking in Somalia, at best it will hasten the inevitable drift toward more radical views taking hold and change drastically the nature and perspective of those on the receiving end of this deeply flawed policy.
Exporting democracy by way of war is turning out not to be a walk in the park, and all indications are that in the long term it will fail whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan in or Somalia.
East Africa Policy Institute