Somalia – Ending the Political Quagmire

boat-and-leaders

Pic – Courtesy of Amin Arts.

A tug of war is shaping up between President Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Adde and a lot of the government big wigs are lining up behind each team in what appears to be the final chapter of this government. To make matters worse, IGAD countries are flexing muscles trying to warn the two teams before the rope snaps. But this is like tossing up the classical coin and such flexing may have the desired effect or backfire and put Somalia back to its clannish cucoon.

The mess all started with the Charter which is not only vague but also has very poor controls.

Take the position of the President. Unlike other countries, he is neither the ceremonial type nor the overall executive and this adds to the confusion. He is commander in chief of the Armed Forces and appoints the Prime Minister but he can neither fire him nor pass a motion to parliament to consider a vote of confidence. This allows any difference of opinion between the PM and President to escalate into a crisis because there is no incentive for the PM to avoid disagreements with the President. Both can be brought down by parliament and this gives them both an incentive to stay on good terms with the Speaker and even resort to bribes when there is a crisis and the parliament appears to be the only way to resolve the issue.

Such a set-up has made the speaker the king maker in Somalia politics. We have seen how easy it was to pass controversial issues like foreign forces, making Baidoa the seat of government, impeaching the former speaker and passing a no confidence vote on the former PM. All these prove that the vote goes where the sympathy of the Speaker and the bribed parliamentarians go.

As the current crisis escalates, we are sure to see envelopes going under the tables, secret meetings, group lunch invitations, raising funds, Baidoa recording full house and another controversial vote that will either axe yet another PM, impeach the president or keep the status quo with a sour relations and bruises on all sides for a finale in October when all sides have to go at the end of the 5 year term. The only winners will of course be the group of 275 MPs who have lined up their pockets from both sides and glee every time a crisis pops up.

This is the  time to take a deep look at all the crisis that occurred and take steps to ensure that they are not repeated. But, alas, the MPs whose job it is to legislate are busy logging dollar signs and sums in their dollar books. The few renowned professors we have – Samantars, Gasses and Company – do write always on the ills but never the solutions. As for the Somali media who should have exposed these ills and kangaroo dealings, it is oiled by amateures who write what their tribal emotions dictate or demonize one of the opposing sides hoping a reaction will come from that side bad enough to put them in jail or on a flee prompting a sympathetic protest from some human right outfit loud enough to put them on a coveted post at the BBC or VOA Somali services with an expatriate label.

One issue with the current controls in the existing charter is that it follows a very crude set of controls that are vague, ineffective, promote differences and groupings, and discourage compromises and consultations. 

This is my recommendation on those articles in the charter that relate to the responsibilities of the president, prime minister and the speaker:

  • The president can now appoint the PM while parliament initiates the no confidence motion. Give the president the right to also initiate these motions. This will give an  incentive to the PM to promote an understanding with the president and seek compromises with him on differences. Maintaining the same 6 month cap for one motion will ensure the president does not use excessively this right.
  • The PM now proposes list of ministers to the president. The charter does not specify if the president is required to approve or reject. This loophole has created two interpretations that the proposal signifies the president’s consent and an opposing view that the proposal is advisory and an approval/rejection is not required. My recommendation is to specify the nature of the proposal as requiring presidential consent withinin a specified time and requiring the PM to submit a final agreed list to parliament also within a specified time. This will give them both an incentive to work together, ensure neither can hold a list indefinetely and eliminate differenct interpretations of the charter and escalation to a crisis.
  • It must be mandatory for the PM to submit to parliament  within 3 months his annual budget. This will eliminate a scenario like the current one where no budget has been submitted and also establish accountability and a minimum of controls and checks which is not the case now.
  • All motions initiated by parliament must clear the respective committee first where the merits of all issues will be decided and non legislative issues thrown out. For a committee to send a motion to parliament, it must hold hearings of all parties if hearings are not mandated in the charter. This will eliminate a scenario like the current one where it is up to the speaker or a group of parliamentarians to table, debate and vote for an issue in one day in a very questionable fashion and without hearings.

The above points are desired to beef the president’s power. the PM’s role, embed transparency in the decision making workflow, accountability and to enhance the independent role of parliament making it a unique legislative entity instead of acting as an extension of the persona of its speaker.

Were these to be implemented, would it solve Somalia’s never ending crisis? I would have hoped yes, but knowing the knack of the Somalis to adjust quickly, I would not be surprised if like the magician, out of the sleeve comes yet another crisis.

What stuff are we made of, for God’s sake!

Advertisements

Obama, McCain and Somalia

As the election voting gets underway tomorrow, history is in the making in the USA. A win for either Obama or McCain will be a landmark for both African Americans and Women. It will show the world that America is indeed the land of opportunities and democracy. It will prove that the USA at least practices what it preaches when it comes to the ballot box. While Obama and Palin are not the first to reach Everest and actually will follow the footsteps of seemingly larger than life personalities like Mandela, Golda Meir or Indhira Ghandhi, to name a few, the USA is not these countries particularly when now Washington is the proverbial Rome where all the roads lead to. Despite differences on how to address a number of current world issues, one thing nations can learn from the USA is how to handle the As and Zs of the Novermber 4 election and what it leads to January 20 which is the key to the White House. Our salutation to the USA. Many nations in different stages of turmoil, for some apparent now and for others dormant, need to take note.

Would the USA take note of Africa? Would Obama and McCain, Biden and Palin take note of Africa? That continent which is trying to emerge out of a multitude of odds. Africa and America are connected by both blood and humane bonds. While pockets of despotic men and other calamities like desertification, brain drain, aids and economic hegemony not to mention corruption and mismanagement, are hampering progress, the sons and daughters of Africa are doing what they can to maintain a slow but steady march forward. All Africans of my generation take pride in the J F Kennedy era when thousand of young American men and women of the Peace Corps were building schools and hospitals across Africa. We need more of such initiatives and Marshall Plans to give a surge to Africa’s tortoise uphill battle for a better life for its population. Would the next USA president give us a grip, pull us up and let millions see hope at the end of the tunnel or like Bush and those before him only remember Africa in his last year of presidency ?

Africa must take note. Where we have egghead who change the constitution to have an endless term. And have laws that includes stoning 14 year old rape victims to death and if that is not enough will not wince at banging the opposition’s head with a machete.  Not to mention genocides that obliterate over a million souls or waging useless wars for decades only to see their turn to have wars waged upon them. One of their own sons is gunning for the White house on the power of the ballot box. Africa must take note.

East Africa must take note. After all Obama has Kenyan roots and it was only yesterday that we almost went over the cliff following an election that reportedly was anything but fair. The pride of kenya must not be only in Obama’s roots but also in his impeccable use of technology, oratory and love for America that he displayed to convince people of all colour and creed, political shade and religion, age and social group, to vote for him. East Africans must emulate him and go the path of gaining power through the people’s choice.

Would Somalia please note. After all its name figured in the election as the picture of Obama in a traditional Somali dress during a visit to Kenya’s mostly Somali populated region was used by McCain’s support machine and neo-conservatives to play the Islamic card against him. Somalia’s disaster and war leaders must note and stop waging wars that only bring disaster  and destruction, death and disease, hunger and hopelessness. They must note the USA election and how Obama and McCain spend millions and mind engagement, not muscles and morphine, to attract the young voters while they stuff them with drugs, arm them and then send them to death without remorse.

 

 

 

 

They must save the young generation of today which will be tomorrow’s torch bearers. Would they please save them and instead of bullets, give them pens and books.

No to Savagery in Somalia – The Case of Aisha

Recently an incident occurred in Somalia’s Kismayo city that shocked most of the Somalis and showed the savagery some of the Somali radical factions are capable of.

A young girl, Aisha Ibrahim Dhuholow, who was 14 years old according to her father (23 according to the Islamic kangaroo court that ended her life) was stoned to death because she reportedly committed adultery.

The spokesman for the radical faction Alshabab that rules Kismayo, Sheikh Hassan Yakoub Ali was interviewed by VOA Somali service and stated that the girl was 23 years old, married(making adultery pubishable by death as opposed to lashings for unmarried women) and came to the authorities by herself reporting that 3 men raped her. The authorities arrested the men and soon their kangaroo court passed not a religious verdict but a ruling that reflected the tribal balance in the area and proved what you may call the jungle law in Somalia which is the survival of the most powerful.

The girl was coerced into saying the 3 arrested men were 3 men she made consensual sex with, that the 3 men who raped her are still at large and that she admits adultery and accepts the court’s ruling.  In no time, she was stoned to death in front of a large crowd in front of the old stadium with poor Aisha screaming as she was led to a pit up to her shoulders and stoned, dragged out 3 times to check if she died. Unable to bear, some of her relatives tried to run towards her and were frightened with a barrage of bullets killing a child.

VOA interviewed her father who is in a refugee camp who challenged everything the spokesman claimed. The girl was only14 years old, not married and indicated that she did not understand what was at stake. He also condemned claiming this was murder and he would request full compensation. The girl’s sister was as shocked and claimed that they have not approached the girl’s family as required.

I am shocked as every Somali was shocked. The whole world is shocked. How can the victim who reported a rape be the one who ends up dead unless there is foul play and bad intention? How can the spokesman sheepishly tell us that the 3 rapists at large would be brought to justice when the only witness to the rape who is the victim is stoned to death? How can it be possible for a rape victim to identify the rapists and then change the story unless under duress?  This reminds us of the May 2006 Islamic courts similar kangaroo court when they forced a 16 year old boy to stab continuously a man who reportedly killed his father in from of thousands of people in Mogadishu (picture  on the right).

Somalis are shocked by this incident and condemn it. In a popular site, the story attracted over 150 comments from Somalis and a sample of these indicated an outright 10 to 1 rejection and condemnation of this inhumane act. Like the Somalis, the world also expressed outrage and condemnation both at individual, state and organizational levels.

It is illiterate people like these with misguided concepts and sick minds who mete out cannibalistic acts that are not only unislamic but break every rule of the Koran, the Towrah, Bible and human thinking.

May Allah rest Aisha’s soul in peace and lighten the hardship on her parents and Friends.

As for those who did this heinous act, we Somalis and the world will not forget and will not forgive.

Nostaglia for Somalia’s Siyad Barre Era

On October 21, 1969 Somalia  witnessed a bloodless coup that brought to power President Mohamed Siyad Barre and was the beginning of over 2 decades of military power. This was part of a string of coups that occured in Africa during the last three years of the sixties decade fron Libya to Sudan to Somalia and a lot of Sub-Sahara Africa.

This is not about his dictatorship or the atrocities that happened in his final years or the debacle of the Ogaden war or the other 1001 debatable secrets in the October revolution pandora box. All these have been recorded and renarrated, debated and discussed, printed and prosed.

Rather this is about the nostaglia for what I can remember of Somalia when it was a country, a nation and a state. When we had a National theatre and Heesaha Hirgaly. When we could ride the Sitay Ma noogto and drive to Afgooye without bullets and bombs. This is about a girl walking past midnight to an October or 1st July parade simulation without being harassed or raped. This is about a nomad walking a three days journey across other clan territory in search of a lost camel without fear of being killed and expecting to be hosted and fed with meat and milk. This is about those city people excursions to the country side to escape the city’s hectic life. This is about Mogadishu ‘s 1001 melting pot characters of every shade and colour of Somalia’s clan culture. This is about neighbours next door who do not know each other’s tribe and dont care. This is about going to Cinema Ceel Gaab and watching an Ivan Cliff film. This is about sitting  on the stair steps of your Boondheere bechalor room and watching the people pass. This is about going to any district and watching a weekend popular cultural outing. This is longing for Burco and Beerta Xoriyada or Bosaso and Beletweyn, Borama’s banaan  and Isha Baidoa. This is about Beeraha Kismayo and Badda Barawe and the other hundreds of other Somali towns.

Siyad Bare’s Somalia was the last Somalia we remember as a country. It is like having a lot of money and spending it using the notes and ignoring and throwing the coins. But as you run out of the notes you look for  the coins not finding them except one or two that are rusted, dirty, damaged and unacceptable now. That is how Somalia was and is now. Powerful, united and among nations then.  But weak, divided and an outsider now.

I long for that Somalia. Nostglia in its extremest. May we see all of us on our feet and then hold our nation togather and bring it its glory and rightful place among nations.

Vivo Somalia!

12 October – Somalia’s Flag Day

Our flag is today torn, discarded and ignored. The very people who should have protected it are now fighting clannish and personal wars and for over 17 years, they have refused statehood and therefore the hoisting of our blue flag with the white star in the middle.

But the silent majority and the millions of Somalis who have been killed, made homeless and denied their rights will one day stand in fury and raise high the Somali flag and will put it among the flags of the nations of the world.

We pray to God to put sense into the heads of our warlords and medialords and tribal lords and make possible things to flow back to normal and restore Somalia’s glory and our flag’s honor. Amen.

What a better medium than to listen to that icon of Somali songs Maryan Mursal and her touching song of Somali Udiida Ceeb (Prevent shame from Somalia).

God bless Somalia. God bless us all.

Samia Yusuf Omer – So Inspirational

There comes a time when you are stuck for words and just freeze. You freeze in awe and want to communicate to the subject. You are moved. You want to hug that person. You want to say God bless you.

When I first read about Somalian Samia Yusuf Omer the day after she ran the 200m race for Somalia, I was moved, choking and moving my head sideways. She was so motivational and inspirational. A model in a war-ravaged country. That she came in last is a fact and not news. But it is the impact she had on the spectators, her co-runners, people who read her story across the globe and Somalis like me that outweigh all the gold medals one hopes for. Above all, the biggest achievement is the feeling of a dream come true for Samia in going to the Olympics against all odds and raising Somalia’s flag in Peking at a time when Somalia appears to be forgotten.

Samia was born March 1991 on the eve of the war that brought an end to Siyad Barre’s rule. So she has never seen the normal life that had prevailed in her country. She is a civil war child. As she grew older, she developed an interest in atheletics in a very harsh enviroment. In a July 2008 pre-olympics interview she gave to the BBC, she describes the difficulties she faces in training, the insults she is subjected to as a female in a traditionally male dominated country where some of the factions look down to films, sports and music as evil hobbies and more so when it relates to a female.

Samia had competed in the 100 metre sprint at the African Athletics Championships in May 2008 finishing last in her first round heat.

At the Peking Olympics, she tried the 200m coming last with a time of 32.16 seconds. Was she very disappointed? Yes. How did she see the whole saga? This is what she said to an Australian Yahoo Sports Journalist:

“We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country.”

As her story was wired across the globe, people poured their hearts out to her. Hunreds of comments were made as the story and other Samia bylines were webbed across. Hundreds of bloggers picked up the story and dedicated pages. American patriots, Japanese mothers, Icelandic students, Russian teenagers, Sports fanatices and everyone who read the story expressed his/her awe. There were even Samia dedicated forums and Youtube entries. Perhaps all  had in common what one Canadian lady wrote: ” I cried. I can not continue. Hey Samia, keep on!”

I can only add God bless you Samai. Here is the link to the original story.

Somalia Ranked Number 1 in Global Corruption

Recently Somalia was ranked the worst in the Corruption Preceptions Index appearing in the unenviable position of country no. 180 out of 180 countries. This index is produced by Transparency International which is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

Who are the top 5 corrupt countries? They are – Somalia, Myanmar, Iraq, Haiti and Afghanistan in that order. They all share the the status of countries that have been ravaged by war or ruled by a junta and survive on handouts from donor countries although Iraq possesses the largest oil reserve deposits in the world.

How were the East African Countries ranked? Somalia (180), Sudan (173), Burundi (158), Kenya (147), Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda (126) with the best East African slot shared by Tanzania, Ruwanda and Djibouti (102).

Who are the 5 least corrupted countries? Three countries shared the number 1 position – Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden followed by Singapore and Finland.

This index was started in 2001. How was Somalia ranked since that time? Somalia started appeared from 2005 and was ranked: 2005 (144 out of 158), 2006 (Not ranked), 2007 (179 out of 179) and 2008 (180 out of 180 countries).

The index and the accompanying notes did not of course indicate the sources of their ranking as understandably this will produce howls, rages and what not.

But all Somalis know quite well that corruption is the number one occupation of politicians.

Both in Somaliland and Puntland contracts will not go through unless a cut of 5-10% goes to one of the key ministers. In one of this two entities there is a minister called Mr 5%!

The TFG is a corruption elephant. While president Yusuf is very well known as a man who does not siphon off money and other government assets, he reportedly buys influence among parliamentarians and groups to obtain their support. Ex president Qasim has amassed wealth from government coffers and also bought support. One of the major fall offs between Yusuf and ex Prime Minster Geedi was the disappearance of a USD32m grant from Saudi Arabia. 

The two most corrupt entities in Somalia are the members of parliament and the UNO. While not spending one hour on key parliamentary issues, the parliamentarians have been holding frequent vote of confidence sessions for every government since 2005 and members will change positions by the hour depending on whom they met last and the size of the envelope passed under the table. The UNO has registered over 1,000 local NGOs across Somalia most of which are fronts by people with UNO connections set up for the sole purpose of defeating any audit trail for the millions of dollars granted to Somalia.

The newest rage is now forced corruption. Call it ransom for hijacked ships off Puntland and the Gulf of Aden or payouts to Islamic outfits around Mogadishu. The recent closure of the airport in the capital and Alshabab’s recent warnings to Care International and other charity organizations fits into this category.

Oil exploration companies, nuclear waste dumping organizations and even getting yourself appointed as an ambassador all get accomplished with shady deals. The two or three private airlines operating inside Somalia are notorious for arranging huge payouts to the prime minister and Haj minister of the day to be granted the lucrative Haj Pilgrim flights.   

Even the Somali media has a large stake in the corruption pie. The BBC uses free lancers across Somalia who provide pro Islamic Courts propaganda in their daily dispatches reportedly with the blessing of the BBC Somali section chief. Puntland and Somaliland media generate programmes that favour these entities and are anti-Islamists and pro-Ethiopian. HornAfric and Radio Shabelle sound like the mouth pieces of the opposition. Which brings home the fact that the Somalia media is one of the high profile corruption spinners.

A difficult web to untangle? It sure is. And it maybe sometime before we can see an improvement in Somalia’s ranking in the Corruption Preceptions Index.