The Moment of Reckoning

In times of great upheavals and uncertainties, when familiar surroundings disappear, when calm is replaced by chaos; fear takes the place of safety; physical harm and violence become the norm; when surrounded by death and destruction; conquered by madness and insanity; people turn to their leaders for guidance and safety. Unfortunately, today in Somalia, it seems the leaders are the very ones sawing the seeds of discord and propagating the violence by resorting to incitement, poisonous rhetoric and by an outright accusatory lies and rumors against their opponents whenever a political logjam is encountered.

An honest and philosophical disagreement on weighty political issues is a sign of progress. If carried out in a civil manner even under heated exchanges and thru consultations, chances are that the disputes will be resolved peacefully and the resulting consensus will at the end serve the public better. However, if callously pursued in complete disregard to the natural difference in opinion and in pursuit of self aggrandizement driven by personal interest, as is happening at present with our national leaders, it is doomed to fail and worse, prolong the agony of our already suffering people.

 The division in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) on the relocation of the capital city and the invitation of troops from front line states is having a debilitating impact on its viability and raises serious doubts on its ability to rescue the country from spiraling into further violence.  The resulting polarization is also tearing apart the fabric of the society, once again exposing seismic communal fault lines by inflaming healed wounds and subsequently dashing hopeful dreams. It is beyond comprehension to rationalize how these leaders, who can not tackle such minor issues, would sail safely on the troubled waters of the country’s anarchic political landscape and bring Somalia back into the fold of the community of nations. 

On the subject of the temporary relocation of the capital city, the president’s position is that Mogadishu is unsafe and not suitable in its present state of lawlessness to host the federal government. And because of the prevalent insecurity in the capital City, foreign forces are needed to assist and protect this nascent administration take a foot hold in the country to fulfill its duties.

 

The opposition claims that no foreign troops, particularly, those from frontline states and especially Ethiopia, are necessary in pacifying the country let alone Mogadishu. They pledge to remove all road blocks and guarantee the security of the city until a national police or military force is established. They also promise to disarm their militias and remove them to former military bases in the outskirts of the city. 

Objectively but rigorously examining the issue of inviting foreign troops, one comes to the conclusion that in present day Somalia, there is no justifiable need to bring foreign armies into the country for the following reasons: 
 

  • First and foremost, there exists no widespread indiscriminate
    violence or an ongoing blood letting against defenseless civilians in the country which would warrant the need for foreign intervention force.

  • Secondly, there is no mass starvation or an unfolding humanitarian disaster which would justify their need. Yes! If the conditions of the 90s exist, when thousands perished daily under starvation due persistent insecurity which prevented the safe delivery of life sustaining food donations to the most needy, this author would be the first proponent of foreign intervention. 

  • Furthermore, the function of peace keepers is to maintain and act as observers to a pre-agreed peace accords and to report violations. In Somalia today, there is no such an agreement, and the introduction of foreign troops will do more harm than good. Notwithstanding their unwarranted presence, if brought, they will come prejudiced against one party and aligned with the other, hence precluding any contribution to peace and will certainly become catalysts for more bloodshed and renewed hostility.

Therefore, the president’s position is at best untenable if not impossible to justify. Never in the history of nations, has any organization, regional or international, militarily assisted a democratically elected government to establish itself in its own sovereign country. 

Equally indefensible is the insistence on the part of the executive branch to include Ethiopia in these so called intervention forces, for it unequivocally qualifies as the greatest proliferator of small arms and weapons into Somalia. No other nation has hampered the prospects of peace or fuelled the ongoing civil strife and anarchy more than Ethiopia. To excuse or whitewash this fact is an insult on the intelligence of the people and to suggest that the current regime in Ethiopia sincerely seeks peace and stability in Somalia is ridiculous. 

Ostensibly, relocating the capital has recently become a thorny issue in the minds of some sectors of the general public. The premises behind moving the capital city temporarily to another town or towns lies in its perceived insecurity and thus unsuitability to house members of the newly formed TFG. Definitely, there is an element of truth in the prevailing lawlessness of Mogadishu, nonetheless; the alternatives put forward by the president and his prime minister are impractical if not impossible to implement. Here, the following facts could only lead to no other conclusion: 

  • The proposed seats of the government in Baidoa and in Jowhar would present a nightmarish logistical problem which is far beyond the capacity of this infant government to remotely deal with, let alone expect to succeed without massive infusion of foreign capital and manpower of which none is at hand at the present time.

  • Baidoa and Jowhar are more than 200 Km apart without major paved highways connecting the two towns. Separating the functionaries of the government in such great distances would tremendously tax and possibly cripple its efficiency.

  • Communications facilities between the two towns or with the outside world are at best non-existent if not unreliable.

  • Transportation, financial, commercial, banking, health infrastructure or governmental institutions and adequate residential facilities are virtually nonexistent in both towns.

On the other hand, Mogadishu offers the exact opposite of those towns. Most of the former government institutions are for the most part intact and need only minor modifications. Others need to be condemned and rebuilt from the ground up. The communications industry is rated among the best in the continent. Health facilities are abundant and housing is flourishing. Mogadishu, despite hard times in the last 14 years and few months, never lost its sparkle and remained the hub and nerve center of the nation. The nation’s capital is a premier city with a long history, modern and comparable with other capital cities in the world. It is an urbanized, dynamic metropolis with a population of over 1 million and second to none in the country.

On the contentious issue of its insecurity, it has overcome formidable obstacles and its inhabitants continue to strive to improve its safety. Almost all armed militias have been removed into remote bases outside city limits. The campaign for dismantling barriers and roadblocks from major arterials in the city is progressing. It is a Herculean task which could easily overwhelm the best intentions and sincere efforts of the community. It requires substantial financial assistance, expert advice, effective management and delicate handling. It is deplorable and disheartening that the only remaining roadblocks belong to the closest political ally of the president. It is also more hurtful to see the president and the prime minister ridicule those commendable activities while they remain comfortable in their Nairobi hotel suites doing absolutely nothing tangible contributing to the betterment on the lives of their fellow citizens.  Wouldn’t a peaceful Mogadishu make the president’s job go easier? Shouldn’t he applaud and encourage the poor mothers selling their jewelry and meager belongings for a chance to walk to the market safely, for their child to go to the school with no fear?

In all fairness, the president’s hesitation to rush to Mogadishu is understandable but what is incomprehensible is his willingness to take the risk of allowing the government to falter even before it sets foot in the country. Is it personal safety that weighs so heavily in the mind of the president which is preventing him from moving to Mogadishu or is it the fear of the strong men in the capital city diminishing his powers? In a democratically elected federal government, there really should not be so much concern or worry on the erosion of presidential powers by opposition members. There are constitutional guidelines which crystal-clearly define the authority and bounds of each and every legislative and executive position in the government. If it is personal safety, then this author poses the question to the public to come up with an answer that is acceptable to the president. Nevertheless, the president must at least have known the anarchy and lawlessness of the country which he voluntarily opted to be its president. After all, he did not run to head a peaceful nation such as Kenya, France or Great Britain. He ran to be the president of a war torn society called Somalia. Then what is with the obsession of moving the government into a more peaceful city?

It is the president’s divine duty to win the hearts and minds of the public, to build trust and bridge across communities and to steer the country in its entirety to a greener pasture and to a more promising future. Seeking foreign forces and more military hardware to bring the people to their knees and to terrorize them into submission would lead to no where except to doom and more tears. History, if heeded, has ample warning signs going in that path. Mahatma Gandhi was quoted as saying, “It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right”.

 Regretfully, the division in the TFG has once again left its bloody stain on the peoples of Baidoa. No people or community has suffered under the civil war more than the Bay and Bakol residents. No people in any part of the country were inflicted with pain and loss as severe as they were dealt with. Painful memories still haunt many of us of vultures lining punctually in every morning for the emaciated corpses of infants, women and the elderly in front of feeding centers. It is unconscionable, morally repugnant and criminal to subject these innocent citizens to another cycle of violence or to manipulate them take arms against each other for political objectives. Unfortunately, the cycle has already begun. The distinctively familiar clamor prior to the outbreak of the civil war is evident in this heavenly town. The ghosts of distrust, the hush-hush, the ominous whispers and rumors about the intentions of the other, are once again unearthed and are menacingly resurfacing from their grave yards. There is a slow but certain unease and alarm creeping in the psyche of the people. The dark clouds have gathered, the blood letting started and the flight in terror has commenced. There are shadows of older people, women and children in the fringes of the town fleeing in haste after sunset and just before dawn.

We are in a race against time. It is said that “Allah finds a low branch for the bird that can not fly”. This is the moment of reckoning. The Somali people, demand, plead and urge the president to reconsider his options and to weigh the gravity of the situation accordingly, before it is too late. They call him to re-examine the futility of his positions and not to plunge this suffering country and its helpless people into further violence and disintegration.  This is also a defining moment in the history of our nation and for this president, and the choice is his whether to be remembered as the savior of Somalia or goes down in the realms of history as the butcher of a dying nation once called Somalia.

Rashid Ali
Baltimore, Maryland
Rashid_Ali_66@hotmail.com 

 

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