By Mohamed Abdi
Everyone is taking advantage of Somalia and there is a reason for the exploitation. The country is weak and fragmented, and its people are headed in different directions.
Civil wars, anarchy, and external meddling have ravaged the country for a long time. Somali Civil wars of different forms, ideologies and aspirations have taken a terrible toll on the torn apart country and its divided people. These unholy wars have fragmented the country’s population and divided them based on tribal and territorial lines. The wars did not only occur between rival tribes but permeated every inner level of the society and each part of the country, decapitating hundreds of thousands of people and displacing other countless numbers. Strangely, those who once teamed up to attain a common goal of theirs eventually turned their weapons against each other, slitting the throat of one another. It is madness. It is wretchedness. The wars have never been based in principles. There has never been an official statistics concerning the number of wars and their casualties, but some sources indicate that around a half million Somali people succumbed to the civil wars.
The wars drove out millions of Somalis, most of whom live in refugee camps and overseas. Equally important, there are hundreds of thousands of Somalis who are internally displaced and live in deplorable conditions. For instance, inhabitants of the world’s biggest refugee camp are citizens of Somalia, driven out by varied civil wars in the country. This camp is called “Dadaab Refugee Camp”, and it had housed a half-million refugees up until many Somali refugees opted to return home a few years back. The camp is only one example of many camps in which innocent Somalis suffer.
This influx of the afflicted people is the result of the civil wars. They killed, orphaned, and maimed. Add to this the countless number of widows put in the country’s streets to eakout a living for their fatherless children. Who is responsible for the misery of these widows and their orphaned children? It is the civil war and the mayhem it has created.
The country’s civil wars have given birth to total anarchy and lawlessness. They destroyed and dismantled the country’s infrastructure and its public institutions. In addition, the wars planted hatred in the people’s hearts and hit them against each other. As a result, faith in Somalism, or Islam, if you will, has been lost, necessitating having a country built on tribal boundaries.
In order for Somalia to rise above the ashes, it has adopted a federal system, which is new to the people’s general perception, and how they view things. The intractable civil strife has a profound effect on Somalia’s political landscape. The country’s power sharing principles have been based on a formula dubbed “4.5”. This formula indicates the country has four main tribes, and another collective segment composed of smaller tribes. It is argued the goal of the formula is to revive the country and get it out of the protracted disorder. Hence, the structure of the country’s parliament is based on the 4.5 formula, but it is not an optimal solution.
Somalia has chosen the federal system. With the exception of Somaliland which has declared secession, the rest of the country consists of federal states with complex communities. Each of these states has its own name and is assumingly accountable to the federal central government, headed up by a president and his prime minster. Truly, rights and responsibilities of every state are not clear, as the country’s constitution is still in process.
Therefore, there are always crises and cleavages between the federal states and the big federal government. Without its knowledge and consent, the mini-federal states strike deals with foreign countries and entities, sparking sharp discord among the Somali people. On the other hand, the federal government is said to be unfair when it comes to its dealings in relation to the mini-states.
The country has also witnessed constitutional crisis and power sharing struggle between its executive and judiciary branches, and between presidents and prime ministers. Somalia broke free from its prolonged transitional status when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took over the help of the country in 2012. Now, Somalia was not a transitional state anymore, opening up doors, and dawning new conditions and ample opportunities for the country. The International community teamed up with Somalia, and donated generously to rebuild the shuttered country. Nevertheless, all those opportunities and developmental projects were not utilized, as argued. The country’s president was accused of corruption and nepotism, thereby making the country unable to seize the promised opportunities. “Somalia topped the annual Fragile States Index for six years between 2008 and 2013”.
During President Hassan’s realm, the country also witnessed protracted fighting between him and his prime ministers, culminating in the ouster of Prime Minster Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, who was first handpicked by the president himself. Furthermore, a number of political talks held with Somaliland aimed at lessening its stance regarding Somalia’s sovereignty failed. This statement is not to hint that nothing was achieved during the president’s tenure. There were achievements, but were not proportional based on the time and resources his administration had.
Foreign countries and international agencies have meddled in Somalia. Presently, the country cannot avail itself in terms of resources, be they human resources or otherwise. So both foe and friend countries are taking advantage of the country. Some Arab countries, namely Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have been fighting over the dominance of the country and its populace, bringing the country into disrepute.
Because the country’s public institutions are not functioning, international non-government organizations (NGOS) and their local contractors provide services for the Somali people. Basically, the organizations contribute to the effective running of every service, ranging from education to health to agriculture to security to politics. In short, the organizations and their subcontractors run everything that the Somali government should be providing. Thus, they have taken over the government’s role, and tied the country’s population to their policies and politics. Yes, the international organizations are providing the country’s residents with much needed services and are saving lives, but the organizations and their services are undermining the Somali government in one way or another.
Somalia cannot defend itself. Evidently, some parts of the country are dependent on foreign troops for protection. For example, Mogadishu, the country’s capital, is heavily guarded by Kenyan and other African soldiers. If they abandon it for a day, the capital will turn into a battleground. The capital is a scene for continual carnages carried out by culprits of different ideologies and aims. Both the country’s current president and his prime minster are at the mercy of these foreign soldiers. It is anarchy. It is lawlessness. It is disgrace. But who can blame President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaayo, or Prime Minster Ali Khayre? Theirs is a situation they have inherited. One good thing about these two officials is they have not yet patted heads; and it seems they are committed to working together until the end of their term, perhaps.
If Somalia cannot defend itself, it is not wonder to see countries that exploit it and pit its people’s heads against each other. The country has abundant resources and a strategic location. So many foreign countries are competing for these opportunities. Yet, Somali people are not sober; they are blinded by other things. It appears if they prefer chaos to order and advancement. They are aligning themselves with different foreign countries, as opposed to striving to a unified Somali stance. Yes, Somalia needs a helping hand, but who is that helping hand? It is tough argument. It is true that some foreign countries have individual influence in particular regions of Somalia; and each foreign country is aiming to take the most out of Somalia, in one way or another.
Until Somalia reconciles its people, resurrects its national army, and rectifies its federal constitution, the country will continue to suffer from internal setbacks and external interfering. Sincere reconciliations are very significant for the Somali people, as they mind their differences and heal their wounds. Somali people from all walks of life ought to participate in the reconciliation processes. More specifically, communities’ elders, religious figures, politicians, and intellectuals must play a vital role in the resolution processes. Similarly, the country has to have the ability of defending itself. In so doing, a patriotic, representative national army must be put in place. Having a strong, national Somali army is a far fetching idea, but the aspiration and intention have to be there. Meanwhile, the exploitation of Somalia’s resources and the people themselves is to be mitigated.
Mohamed Abdi is a Somali-Canadian Writer. He can be reached via;