Life after the transition period

“Nations with extractive political and economic institutions are likely to be poor, whereas those with inclusive institutions are likely to be rich.”

– Why Nations Fail

Finally the transitional period is over for us. We now have a legitimate government that has the blessings of our people and the international community.

We took new direction when our parliamentarians elected a president that was virtually unknown in the political circles of Somalia. His election is truly a major change for our country.

I say this, because this is the first time in a very long period that our people wherever they are in the world are truly feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of our country. There is a real feeling that things will finally change for good in our country. There is the feeling that we have finally closed the dark chapter of the past 22 years.We are all feeling this way because we have recently seen real and concrete changes on all fronts in our country.

The first real change that we have experienced is that our people have realized after a long period that they just cannot keep backing groups who don’t have their interest at heart. And our honorable parliamentarians have reciprocated that feeling into action. They responded to our feelings and aspirations when they took the step of electing a president that was virtually unknown in the political circles of our country. Their action is truly a significant gesture. It means they have decided to cut the ties to the old groups who were running the affairs of our country. It means they have realized that our country needed to move forward and the only way they could do that was to once and for all change the old ways of doing things in our country.

However, the steps we have taken so far are great and they deserve to be hailed. But we have to remember that this is just the beginning. What lies ahead is the real challenge. As we all know our country has been in anarchy for quite a long time. Throughout that period, we have been living in a stateless country where there was no law and order. Our governmental and civil institutions were none existent because they had disappeared with the civil war.

The most critical step we need to take right now is to rebuild the institutions that will safeguard our people and our country. We need to build strong institutions that will ensure the integrity of any government that comes to rule the land. Without these institutions suspicions regarding the intentions of the government will always arise and people will not be able to trust their government. We will also not be able to achieve whatever we are trying to achieve as groups who want to destabilize our country and hamper our progress will always take advantage of the lack of transparent institutions that exist. That is why building these institutions are of utmost importance to our unity and survival as a nation.

One of the biggest problems the civil war period has created in our country is that there is little trust between some of the groups who are involved in the political and social process of our country. When the last government had collapsed everyone went back to their little towns and cities. Since there was no state that could rule the people and give protection, everyone gave their allegiance to tribes who in return looked after the interest of their own members.

We now have a government that is representative of all those tribes, but still the suspicion and mistrust that existed since the collapse of the last government still exists. I am sure anyone who is fully aware of the situation in our country knows this problem exists.

Therefore, we have to find a way to deal with this issue. One of the ways we can deal with this problem is to setup a transparent system that has checks and balances. In this way everything that goes in and out will be known and on top of that no group will be able to accuse the other without any verifiable evidence.

What we also need to build are institutions that are politically and economically inclusive. I believe if we do this then the playing fields will be leveled and all the stakeholders will be able to work together and have confidence in the system and the government.

Advertisements

The Beginning Of A New Era

“There is strong synergy between economic and political institutions. Extractive political institutions concentrate power in the hands of a narrow elite and place few constraints on the exercise of this power. Economic institutions are then often structured by this elite to extract resources  from the rest of the society.”

– Why Nations Fail

It is been coming for a long time. No one in their wildest imaginations thought that it would take more than four decades to see a Somali Parliament being formally elected in a Somali soil. As they say ” it is better to be late than never”! This is truly a historic moment for our nation and our people. History is full of many defining moments that make or break the destiny of nations/society. I think that moment has dawned on us.

Long gone are the days when dictators could suppress the freedom of an entire nation. Gone are the days when warlords and warmongers could dictate our future. Gone are also the days when our people could easily follow wicked and selfish politicians with their evil intentions and mislead us with their hateful rhetoric. Gone are the days when our people were disconnected from each other.

Our country has finally awakened from the coma and our people are no longer in hibernation. We are fully conscious and self aware and our hearts are beating as one. Now that we have a legitimate formal parliament that has the blessings of our people it is time to close the dark chapter of the past 22 years and put it behind us for good.  I know it has taken us a long time to reach this historic point in our short history as a nation but the reality is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge starts now as there is a long and steep road ahead of us.

Our long journey to the road ahead and beyond starts with first and foremost electing the next President of our Federal Republic. I am confident enough that our honorable Parliamentarians will carefully deliberate and think about the hardships and miseries our people had experienced the past 22 years and realize that the hopes, expectations and aspirations of the entire Somali people home and abroad are resting on their shoulders. I am also sure that they know without a shadow of a doubt that it was lack of leadership and vision that has failed our country and our people. The great French Enlightenment writer and philosopher, Voltaire said: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Surely, you now have the power to determine and choose the person who will lead our people and our country and it is your responsibility to make sure that you elect a president that is decisive, strong-willed, patriotic, and selfless. A president that is capable of unifying our people and healing the pains and the emotional scars that we have all suffered. A charismatic president that is capable of steering our country forward and that never looks back.

Now more than ever, our people where ever they are in the world are brimming with hope and they finally sense that the old days of lawlessness, chaos and disorder are becoming history. They finally sense that their perseverance, sacrifices and steadfastness  is bearing some fruits. Last but not the least, I just pray to almighty Allah that whoever wins this coming presidential elections in the parliament next week leads our country to peace and prosperity. Amen.

Turkey’s New Interest in Somalia

It took a natural disaster (famine), the worst to happen in the region for nearly 60 years coupled with piracy on the Indian ocean to bring the international community’s focus and cooperation back in Somalia. While the international aid was hindered by severe lack of funds and security fears in the region it was the Turks who became the good Samaritans and sat on the driving seat and led a humanitarian assistance that was unheard of before in the history of the country.

The Turks saw their humanitarian aid and assistance to the Somali people as moral obligation on their side. They organized funds and donations from religious, governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as local citizens so that emergency food, water and medicines could be supplied to the people affected by the drought.

Almost after one month the Prime Minster of Turkey Mr.Racep Tayyib Erdogan arrived in Mogadishu. He was the first non-african head of state to visit Somalia in 20 years. President Sheikh Sharif said the prime minster’s visit ” displayed the determination and will of Turkish people and government to stand side by side with their brothers and sisters in Somalia“. However,his visit was a historic and symbolic one for various reasons. Firstly, the prime minsters arrival showed that Turkey was not just going to deliver food and then leave. It showed that this act was a sign of full commitment and determination from their side and that the government of Turkey will be involved with Somalia for a long time to come.

Secondly, they went against the notion that Somalia was a “no-go-area” which was a very dangerous place to operate in and that the only way to get involved with the country was through the neighboring countries and the offices of the United Nations in Nairobi.

Their long term commitment in the country is holding true till now. They have opened the Turkish embassy in Mogadishu. Today the Turkish government is involved with many projects inside the country such as modernizing Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle international Airport. The Turkish airlines has started commercial flights to Mogadishu twice a week. Under the process is the building of water supply and waste disposal facilities as well as the rebuilding of the war ravaged roads and hospitals. Last but not the least, thousands of Somali students are studying in Turkey under scholarships. What the Turkish government is doing is not only restricted to the drought affected regions in the South. They are now planning to open development and co operation centers in semi-autonomous region of Puntland and Somaliland.

“Turkey has done more in three months than the U.N did in 5 years” -this is what Prime Minster, Abdiwali Mohamed said of the achievements of Turkey in Somalia.

Now, the question is: why Turkey is doing all this and going into great pains to succeed in Somalia?

Apart from the moral obligation that I have already discussed above, Turkey has a strategic vision in the region as they want to become a influential geo political player and a model Muslim democracy. They also have economic interests in the region as Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa which is a strategic location for trade and commerce.

Finally, as Somalis we are very grateful for the great generosity, help and assistance the Turkish people and their government has extended to us.

The Cost of Tribalism

For those who have seen the Earth from space,

and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will,

the experience most certainly changes your perspective.

The things that we share in our world

are far more valuable than those which divide us.

-Donald Williams

Tribalism is the root and fabric of the African society.It is a phenomenon that has been haunting the continent of Africa long before the colonial rulers had arrived. Kwame Nkrumah– Ghana’s first president and one of Africa’s greatest statesman at one time said of the tribal system in Africa as “the main impediment to Africa’s independence, industrialization and growth”. Nkrumah’s words are still echoing in most countries in Africa. From Senegal to Nigeria in the west, to Kenya and Somalia in the east.

It is this tribal system that dominates every sphere of life in most countries in Africa. From economics to politics one cannot rise to level of high authority without the consent and support of his/her tribe. Allegiances are  first given to the tribe one belongs to then to the state. Tribalism also leads the state to commit atrocities against those tribes that oppose them. It also causes divisions, revenge killings and skirmishes between competing tribes for resources. In rare occasions even genocides were motivated and inspired by one ethnic group who saw themselves as victims  and caused the 1994 slaughter of 800000 people in Rwanda.

When the British came to colonize the continent they perfectly understood the social fabric of Africa and the strong importance tribes had in Africa. It is under this context and the lack of unity tribalism created that facilitated and enabled the colonialists  to implement their strategy which was to first divide the people and then conquer them. We all have seen the negative impacts tribalism has in the society. It creates rifts and hatred between the community. It divides and disintegrates the society and makes them susceptible to foreign invasions. Finally if taken to an extreme it leads to wars and horrific genocides.

However, I want to reiterate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming your tribe and being proud of your roots. It is perfectly natural- we are who we are and there is no denying that. The problem starts when one or few tribes think  that they are superior to other tribes and have more right than others. When loyalty to ones tribe leads to favoritism, cronyism and the subjugation of minorities. When politicians play the tribe-card and incite hatred and bigotry. And last but not the least when the benefits that comes with allegiances to tribes outweigh those of the nation.

I strongly believe that we should all appreciate and respect our differences. We all should cherish our diversity and always remember what Almighty Allah has told us in the holy book of Quran:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).Al-Hujurat 49:13

Riding the Storm: Somalia’s Free market.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’

-Plato

In the year 1331, It was  the great Islamic scholar/explorer Ibn Battuta  who described  Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia  as one of the best cities of the world in which to do business. As it is evident from the date, that was a long time ago and Mogadishu has lost that recognition because of the 1991 civil war that caused many deaths, displacements, destruction and  lawlessness .

Despite all the unrest, Somalia has maintained a fairly informal economy without government intervention with a near 0% taxation. This form of free market is mostly driven by investments and finances of the local people and the Somali Diaspora. In 2009, Somalia’s GDP was estimated by the CIA to be $5.731 billion, with a projected real growth rate of 2.6%. Although the agriculture sector is the main engine of the economy and accounts for nearly 65% of the GDP, the other two sectors that can’t be ignored and have surprised many skeptics are the telecommunications and finance sector. The former, in private control has been totally revolutionized and transformed.

For instance,Golis Telecom Group now offers one of the most technologically advanced and fairly priced telecommunications and internet services to many businesses and households across many regions in Somalia. Hormuud telecom accounts for nearly $40 million a year. People are now using mobiles to transfer money and make purchases. It takes just three days to get a landline connection up and running while it takes many months just across the border in Kenya. The tele-density in Somalia is much higher than many countries in Africa and three times greater than our neighboring country, Ethiopia.

Despite the non-existence of a Central Bank for nearly 15 years, the payment system of the country is fairly advanced. This is due to the emergence of private money transfer operators(MTOs). These remittance firms known in the country as Hawalas make sure that trade, transfer of money and transactions are done cheaply and quickly. This sector only accounts for more than one billion US dollar a year.

 On the other hand, the livestock sector which accounts for 40% of the GDP and nearly half of the export earning is now giving a fierce competition to countries like Australia who have a long history of exporting livestock to the middle east. The combination of high quality and competitively priced live stocks and the near proximity to the middle east is helping  grow the Somali live stock industry. Now countries like UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are building facilities inside the country making this sector more competitive and lucrative.

All of this is the upside of the nearly free market conditions that exist in Somalia but at the same it is worth to mention and bring attention to negative aspects this form of free market economics created in the country. Due to the lack and absence of government and regulatory agencies, many businesses and self-serving individuals have taken advantage of the anarchy in Somalia.

In the market you can easily buy and sell illegal weapons. Counterfeit products and fake currencies are in abundant circulation in the big markets of Somalia. Many Pharmacies do not have legal licenses to import and sell life-saving drugs and because of that sell expired drugs to people. This has caused many illnesses and deaths. Deforestation  is at its highest peak because of people illegally chopping  and burning down trees and exporting them as charcoals . This has had a huge impact on the environment. Many businesses and firms are also colluding and forming monopolies which makes the free entry/ exit of the market by start-ups and smaller firms nearly impossible.

This is the dark side of the free market economy we have in our country and I hope our next government will fill the vacuum it has left behind and become a government by the people, of the people and for the people.

Due to the lack of effective government for along time and the exception of these unfortunate negatives,the spirit, entrepreneurship, and business ingenuity of the Somali people have never been lost. In fact it made the Somali people more resilient, hardworking and made them realize the need to be self-sufficient and determine their own future instead of depending on the government.