If the three-year rule of President Hassan Sh. Mohamoud is to teach us anything it is this: contrary to the political gestures and the worried-looking face the president portrays to the public, he is not quite serious in keeping his presidency intact. He does not seem to have a plan in place for this battleground nation. In fact, he is not a power-mad creature. Faced with two hard choices, he likely procrastinates on the top 20 percent that could leave a significant impact on him.
Quite ironically, he seems to have confused power with playful diplomacy. When he is receiving credentials from a diplomat, for instance, the world may think that Somalia is picking up. There is nothing far from the truth. We do not want to be lied to by aid brokers and mafia middlemen who supply money and cameras that lead nowhere.
Back in 2012, I argued that he could become an absolute king if he wanted to. And 18 months before the ill-projected, foreign purported elections in Somalia in 2016, I am going to repeat myself and give the poor president a piece of advice. But I am going to come from a different perspective today. I am going to demystify the geopolitical ground for the president. But he’s to divorce the past.
Anyone who considers local geopolitics must also visit other denominators. These denominators are represented by two competing powers all of which contribute to the crisis that the president has to fix. Analyzing these dynamics requires a book and is beyond this piece. I am going to quickly mention the puzzle joints for future goof-ins. We can categorize these powers into three.
The first one is local forces. This type of power has a foreign tone and color because of the outside assistance they receive. When you look at the settings of the current situation in Somalia, almost every group in the country is armed, whether hidden or otherwise. What is means is that they are opted for armed mutiny than any other means of political resolution.
The second one has to do with regional powers. These are, Kenya, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to name a few. National interests ranging from security to economic reserve to geographical swelling, Kenya and Ethiopia have the most immediate interest in Somalia. This is a known fact. The game of the day must balance it out for the betterment of greater Somalia.
Another unavoidable interest-seeking entities are the United States, the UK, Turkey and Iran. Each and everyone of these countries has a direct presence in Somalia. In reality, some of them have military presence there. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If the president cannot tell the public why, somebody else will.
Worse yet, these rivaling powers have somewhat helped him get elected in 2012. Installing a friendly government in Somalia seemed the right choice to many in the West. But how friendly and, ultimately, compromising on national interests can a leader be? To get the endorsement of these powers is one thing; to reciprocate and thank them is another. This is where the president got it wrong in the first place.
If the president is really serious in taking up his armies and die in the hard-course, here is what he should consider, or at least he should have done in the past. But this requires a huge self-transformation. He has to depart from pedestrian, clan-based, thinking and come in terms with reality.
And because he is playing high politics, he should listen to nobody. No matter what the so-called advisers at Villa Somalia are asking him to buy, he owes everything to himself. It is far better to listen to the devil’s advocate once in a while than to be preoccupied by a minimalist. A true leader neither agrees with anyone nor denies facts. After all, these advisers are owned by the UNDP. They are consuming poisonous dollars.
Without belaboring much, here is the basis for my advice–the president should consider a safer place to work from. He should consider moving the presidency to the heartland Somalia. Mogadishu is not safe for the newborn to grow. There is no shame involved. Lots of countries changed their capitals for different reasons. Others still maintain two power hubs, one for the executive and the other for the legislative. Even Russia moved its capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg in the 14th Century and switched it back to Moscow in 1918. Russia did this to get closer to Europe, but we can do it for the purpose of security and political culture. This will give the president time and space to think.
The second strategic move for the president is to publicly admit an absentee fault to Hargeisa. This is the last known second capital of Somalia. It is definitely a yes-yes option for a capital but things went awkward and remedies must be found before anything else. And in my view, the president should set himself at high speed to fix things once and for all. This issue is highly fragile and too sensitive to be handled by egotistical leaders.
As a head of state, he can make deliberate concessions on behalf of our late father, Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre. He should also seriously condemn the actions that followed. He should play this tactic very, very careful as it is so delicate to melt away all his powers.
Once seated safely, the president should mobilize real forces on which he could depend in the years ahead. By real forces, we mean people in uniforms for different purposes. While the declaration of peaceful and progressive statues demand longer term commitment, an iron hand can do more than empty talk does. And if he is going to be remembered as a statesman, he has to value national interest above all else.
One big problem: from Lawya Caddo to Raaskambooni, the country shares long border with hostile neighbors. These neighbors have been the fuel to every internal problem. Securing peace with these neighbors is vital no matter which party runs the business. In fact, a secured Somalia can uplift huge headache out of their pats.
But you cannot have peace with foreigners while your people are not at peace with you. You cannot buy peace. You can only build it gradually with integrity and ethics.
In sum, nations are built with great aptitude and home-grown willingness to confront challenges when they arise. It is all about being prepared for the worst that may not even come to pass. For the president to implement any strategic plan, therefore, there are couple of issues that he needs to buy into: (1) democracy has failed in Africa and won’t work in Somalia soon, (2) donated money never satisfies the politics of gaming and negotiations, (3) all others want you to fail if they can get a dime of interest in the process and (4) there is no single set of honesty in calculated aid. Truth? The ultimate aim of aid is to promote democracy.
The 2016 democratic elections? Drop this idea for good. It really won’t work, at least the way it is preached. Anyone who advocates for democratic elections in Somalia in 2016 is like a blind man driving a car with no lights on. They put a forward gear and asked you to drive it? The chances are you will hit your own house.
Abdiqani farah, founder & manager of The Straighter, a research and public relations firm based in Minneapolis, MN.
Abdiqani Farah, founder & manager,
The Straighter, a research and public relations firm based in Minneapolis, MN.