By Ismail Haji Warsame
Villa Somalia, the seat of the Somali goverment
The Presidency of the Republic does not give the expected trappings of power, the magic of the highest leadership position in the land or the glory of the Office amid distrust and absence of loyalty within the population and regions of the country. That institutional empowerment must be earned nation-wide in the hard way, and in the case of Somalia, require hard work over many years to come for the future generations of Somalia to enjoy it. If successful, the new leaders can only pave the way for restoring that missing public trust. To accept any Somali President, Prime Minister or the Speaker of the House as a leader of all the people is a long shot, given the depth of distrust developed within the communities for the past 30 odd years towards government officials, or rather any institutions of governance unfortunately. In Somalia’s today the Presidency or any position of leadership is unenviable role for a decent person to play for it requires heavy personal sacrifices few are willing to commit to.
The very idea of bottom-up approach in rebuilding Somalia is primarily based on the restoration of that missing trust before the country has central institutions. Quite a number of Somali intellectual circles and many politicians inside and outside the country, particularly in Mogadishu, do not still appreciate how important the “Building-Blocks’ concept is, as we coined the term more than a decade ago in Puntland State of Somalia, as the shortest way to heal the deep wounds caused by the civil war and abuses of the Military Government, in addition to nepotism and rigging of elections by previous civilian governments. Creation of Federal Institutions starting with the TFG Charter and current Provisional Constitution is a hard fought negotiated outcome towards rebuilding that public trust. Anybody who believes that we can have a highly centralized system of government again in Mogadishu or elsewhere in the country is either of out of touch with reality in today’s Somalia or must have his/her sanity re-examined as this dream cannot be realized in the present political conditions of Somalia. The sooner we all embrace whatever type of federalism we accept as result of a negotiated settlement, the better off we are to re-construct our country. I may add, under the current political atmosphere, having a Federal President and Prime Minister hailing from South-Central Somalia is a recipe for failure and does not meet the necessary power-sharing legitimacy to move the country forward. If proven true (I hope not), the rumors flying around these days in Mogadishu and beyond on the selection of a Prime Minister do not give me sense of optimism for Somalia to be on the mend.
Practical intellectual thinking and bold political leadership are required to brainstorm on why Somaliland and Puntland were created in the first place. While the First went to the extreme of outright unilateral declaration of seccession, the Second did not lose hope that Somalia can be rebuilt from the ashes of the Civil War and the deficit of public trust. For the benefit of those who were not closely following major political developments in the country during the past 15 years or so, or limited/exposed to only superficial sideline debates on Somalia, Puntland State spent considerable resources including brain power to see Somalia re-instituted. This is a major political capital investment that cannot be written off without paying a heavy national price.
A simple political instinct is lacking among the intellectuals and politicians in Southern Somalia, i.e. they could not figure out that if Mogadishu is to remain the Capital City and enhance its status as attractive to the residents of Northwest and Northeast Somalia among other parts of the country, it should be subject to power-sharing. Someone cannot be expected to have both ways or as they say, “have their cake and eat it”, given what happened in that City during the vicious Civil War. Mogadishu leaders instead, for the sake of national unity, would have been smart enough to encourage others get elected to the presidency. That did not happen unfortunately despite the great expectation from the new President to deliver, and a lot of people are worried about the direction and the future of the country.
While it is not so popular to be an early pessimistic person, they say, a pessimist is a well informed optimist. Nevertheless, I have strong conviction that the best days of Somalia are still to come.
By Ismail Haji Warsame
The author is the former Puntland Presidency Chief of Staff and long-time participant of most Somali National Reconciliation Process since 1995. He lives in Toronto, Canada.