Wednesday, January 19, 2011
In the past, one could argue there were reasons to hold conferences to turn armed groups into politicians. From the early actors in clan-motivated wars, warlords, to the now defunct Islamic Union Courts (ICU), these groups were willing—fully or in part—to come to a negotiating table to pursue a peaceful way out. Whether the result was successful or not is not as much my point here, as there were conditions which necessitated such trials at
peace. In other words, all those past attempts to form a government in Somalia were to make peace among warring factions!
Somalia is in a different place now. For starters, the armed opposition group of Al-Shabaab is, as of now, absolute in its opposition to any kind of negations with the TFG.
The following question desperately begs for an answer: What would be the aim of yet another conference to form a new government at the end of this year?
Certainly, the answer to the question would not be to enhance peace, for Al-Shabaab will not come to take part in a new government! If they were willing, it would be logical to elect a new government, with Al-Shabaab in it, to usher in a complete silencing of violence in Somalia. All Somalis will be for it!
If Al-Shabaab will not come, which will render any new government by another one of usual past conferences “not a government of reconciliation,” then what for?
Forming a government in Somalia should not be about satisfying individual egos to the title of “Mr. President.”
For a government in Mogadishu to succeed, it needs continuity—especially when it seems to be working!
Today, for the first time in almost 2 decades, Somalia—a country left for dead—has a combination of right leaders. A new generation of Somali leaders has assumed the mantle in Mogadishu, a once thriving city rendered as an ancient ruin. And, because of it, change has finally come to Somalia.
President Sheikh Sharif, a novice in politics or governing or world affairs, has finally found a capable team to work with by his selection of Mr. Farmajo for the premiership.
If Sharif’s earlier company simply made him impotent, without a clue of what do, if what was to be done was about country and people, the new company (Farmajo and his cabinet) make the president virile! I give President Sheikh Sharif an A+ for choosing Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed (Farmajo).
“If we create a 1000 ministerial posts, someone or some group would still feel left behind; it is not about quantity, it is about quality,” said the new prime minster on his decision of cutting back ministerial posts from the old bloated 39 to 18.”
From day one, the President, Prime Minster and all his cabinet started running on going about their respective responsibilities. On daily basis, they are holding meetings, visiting soldiers (at the frontline) or schools. This new government under Sharif and Farmajo has the feel and look of a functioning government. A one clear indication of such was its swift response to a recent interclan fighting in Mudug region in central Somalia. The government immediately dispatched officials on a peace mission to the area to resolve the fighting, which they did.
It seems that the new government in Mogadishu is functioning in an unprecedented cohesive frame work. The days of infighting and clashes of Prima Donnas are over. Sharif Sakin is finally put in his right place, outside of any chance to meddle in counterproductively in executive decision-making.
About 55% of Mogadishu is, incredibly, in the hands of the government now. Mogadishu residents are increasingly flocking to government-held territories in Mogadishu. This is partially due to Al-Shabaab’s harsh treatment of civilians, which was recently admitted by one of Al-Shabaab’s top leaders by the name of Shangole!
The Al-Shabaab and their ilk, the usual anti-peace forces, are losing ground. Another evidence of this is Hizbul Islam surrendering to Al-Shabaab, for a better chance to survive together their current misfortune.
The Somali National Army is on its way back, like the phoenix rising from the ashes! With better and regular pay and deserved attention from their superiors, the morale of government soldiers is higher than any recent times! Moreover, soldiers are once again under strict military code. 4 soldiers were so far court-marshaled, found guilt and executed for a conduct unbecoming of a soldier!
On the other hand, all indications point to about mass desertions of Islamists’ foot soldiers. Many youngsters in the rank of Al-Shabaab would be hard pressed to stay with or give their lives up for a doomed and discredited organization. Why continue doing that, when they can be part of a proud national army!
What a difference leadership makes! The Somali-American dominated technocrat government, led by Mohammed Farmajo, is indeed succeeding where many governments before it could not. The simplest explanation is that Somalia has finally produced leaders who understand that it is not about them. It is about country and people!
So, how could possibly Somalia benefit from starting from scratch with a new government? I do not see any how!
We have a government, however imperfect! Electing a new president and parliament is not an easy affair. If anything, it would be a source of a new conflict or division, within what is now the TFG, as many groups and individuals scramble for power! There are no guarantees either on electing a better bunch than are in office now. “A bird at hand is worth more than two in the bush.”
What Somalia needs is a stable government, without the uncertainty of “transitional” hanging over its head! This is not to suggest a government in perpetuity. But, in a country like ours, we need a government which will see through the mammoth task of pacifying the unyielding-to-reason violent Al-Shabaab. Surely, Al-Shabaab is not electing a new lot as their leaders every 2 years. They have command and control stability. The government, under the difficult circumstance, deserves the same chance! Stable countries in the world cannot even afford such abrupt changes of the guard; let aside a country starting from nothing, and in war, like Somalia!
That said, the one area in current TFG government which badly needs reform is the parliament. The parliament is dysfunctional. It would most likely continue to be so as long as there is someone the like of Sharif “Sakin” at the helm! That post badly needs a young technocrat, like the ones in the cabinet.
Somalia can no longer afford a conference for “Mr. President” pageant, for every Dick and Harry to flex and prance for the title. Enough of that! Let Sheikh Sharif and his Somali-American technocrats continue for another 2 years in a permanent government, with no transitional label that is, to successfully execute the war against the radicals!
In an emergency situation, like in Somalia, there is simply no logic or utility to change political horses in the midstream. Once the war is over, and then it would be up to all Somalis to elect in peacetime a truly democratic government.