By: Ismail Haji Warsame

August 28, 2012

The members of the New Somalia Parliament have no place to hide in order to choose only one of two options:
  1. Somalia
  2. Personal/clan interest
The Parliament exercise/deliberations during the next few days in Mogadishu will undoubtedly make or break Somalia.
It has been said that those who repeat their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. One cannot expect or hope for a different better result from repeated action of the same thing over and over again. The outdated practice of judging persons to hold public office based on their respective clan constituencies or affiliation would lead us nowhere other than poor leadership, the core of the entire Somalia’s intractable governance problems. If experience and modern Somali history were of any value and lesson to us and our people serious to move forward as a nation-state or rather , at moment, Somalia to be, we must move and seek quality-based criteria for choosing our leaders.
A government is a dangerous enterprise in the sense that if the reigns of power are entrusted in shorted-sighted, selfish, clannish and irresponsible officials, it would do more harm than good and put the nation in peril. Recall what other people before us said about leaders peoples have: “people get the leaders they deserve’. You are what your leaders are. Don’t complain about your country’s state of affairs after you cast your destiny vote.
But, what quality-based criteria are we talking about to elect our leaders at this crucial moment in our history?
To tackle with this issue, I acknowledge that different people have different opinions on the subject. What is common though is that Somalia seemingly emerging from the ashes of one of the longest Civil War in history, has immediate priorities which include peace and security stabilization, revival of public institutions and public service delivery, tremendous reconstruction projects, sound economic policy, fight against corruption and misappropriation of public wealth.
Equally important are issues of protection of the environment, safeguards for human rights and personal personal freedoms as well as fostering innovation and entrepreneurial talents.
To realize the above national goals (priorities) one would understand that we cannot achieve them alone without the genuine support of international players. To interact with the world community requires sophistication, the diplomatic soft skills and cross-cultural abilities to think and operate at the same level as world leaders. Most Somali leaders have functional disabilities in the form of cultural barriers. Such barriers are historically the biggest obstacle to positively connect with the international community to create friends of Somalia and sponsors of our aspirations.
Not understanding how the world community is interlinked leads a country to an international isolation, suspicion of its leaders’ action, negative impression and even sanctions. Good examples of such unenlightened leadership include Sadam’s Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Apartheid South Africa and a host of other countries on and off. Good example of how to beat off economic and political strangulation by a super power is Castro’s Cuba because of its powerful diplomatic engagement with countries of Latin America, Eastern European Block nations and other Third world countries. Cuba survived where even the Soviet Union could not, proportionally producing more medical doctors and engineers than any other nation on earth.
A classical history lesson we ought to remember and learn is the humiliating diplomatic defeat Somali leaders suffered in their struggle with Ethiopia, Kenya, United Kingdom and France to unite Somalis under one flag mainly because of their lack of understanding of international diplomacy and vital national interests of other nations in the region. Big powers sided against Somalia. Even OAU supported Ethiopia in Cairo meeting at that time with Jamal Abul Nasser at its Chairperson. Miscalculation of the Ogaden War of 1977-1978 is another best example of misreading the world community.
At this junction in the history of our Republic, it is imperative to take note of the fact that certain countries and some corners of the world are entertaining the idea that Somalia would be considered as ‘spoils’ of its civil war and a country that has been. Think about it. And it is happening faster than these corners would have been thinking for Somalia to cease to be. Wake up to the immediate threats to Somalia’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We marched a long way from the concept of ‘Somali Weyn’ to the brink of the Somali Republic disappearing from the geographical map.
To reverse this dangerous trend and imminent national calamity, Somalia is in desperate need of able men and women to unite the nation and act immediately for Somalia to be.
The above are huge responsibilities, unenviable tasks to fall on someone’s shoulders.
It is obviously clear now that persons of exceptional capacities in terms of character, experience, education, vision, diplomatic skills, hard work and stamina are urgently required to step in in the positions of leadership and I am not talking about one person, a President, a House Speaker or a Prime Minister. The concept embraces all levels of leadership to dig Somalia out of the deep ditch.
A word about the most criticized clan power-sharing formula: 4.5.
In the absence of a uniform governance throughout the country, the impossibility of holding elections on one man/woman one vote, the existence of defacto decentralization of the country amid a severe civil war, distrust and clan rivalry and the baseless claims by some clans to be more numerically than others, the negotiators of a series of national reconciliation conferences had to move the process forward rather than choosing to be stuck in a political stalemate. To hold a congress would require an allocation and distribution of delegates among constituencies/clans. Since there was no credible population census, a difficult political compromise arrangement had to be made. The result was the famous or infamous 4.5 clan formula. It was meant to be temporary subject to a national population census and a general democratic election. I would urge those criticizing the current clan formula to come up with a workable concept before a nation-wide election.
Another thing worth mentioning. They say in a democracy the rule of the majority is the law of the land. But, that is far as it guarantees the rights of the minority and avoids the tyranny of the majority. Unexpectedly, in today’s Somalia, the minority communities do not seem to respect the numerical superiority of their majority communities. This further complicated Somalia’s governance structures. This issue should be responsibly dealt with as soon as it is feasible for there lies the bulk of the 4.5 criticism by both sides of the argument.
A piece of advice to the members of the international community interested in or currently holding stakes in Somalia affairs: “There is an Amharic saying, if you hold a tiger by the tail, don’t release it’ because if you do it will definitely kill you. They must make sure that Somalia is no longer a danger to itself and to the world at large.
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.

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