Mogadishu (UM) – It is clear that the youth are Somalia’s future. They make up 75% of the population and are the most innovative and energetic source of development Somalia has and will ever have. The Somali youth have proven time and again their commitment to their country despite them needing the Government’s support more than ever to progress themselves. In this sense, Somalia is privileged to have such vibrant and positive energy to direct future development.
In his most recent speech to the Banadir Regional Administration this week, President Farmaajo emotionally rambled on about the role the youth can and must play in the defense of the country. He is right to call upon them to reiterate the importance of their role as peace builders as the only existing bridge between generations, ideologies and the Government and the public. However, most of the Somali youth not only understand this but are working towards achieving it simply because it is their future that is at stake. Every Somali youth yearns to see a peaceful and prosperous Somalia which protects them from the social exclusion they currently suffer and the plight of dying at sea before being tortured by human smugglers in foreign lands.
What made President Farmaajo’s wide ranging speech controversial was not his focus on the negative impact of the opposition on his Government but that he openly encouraged the youth to put down their pens and take arms to fight Al-Shabaab. While it is the duty of every Somali to protect their country and citizens, one wonders what the near 40,000 combined AMISOM and Somali National Army are doing in achieving their mandate. What would have been a better outcome is if the President acknowledged the importance of education and the struggle for which most young people today go through to attain it in the absence of any functioning educational policy or institutions in Somalia. The President, like those before him, has made youth a key priority without much substance or policy direction within his administration. Asking them to give up education and take up the gun, is one step too far.
President Farmaajo is currently under great pressure to improve the security situation but there are apparatus and a strategy for this which can include the youth as official soldiers and civilian peace builders. However, the Somali youth were not expecting to be told by their President to abandon peace building through education and to only focus on the military fight. Rather, they expected to be offered more public services and employment opportunities to fulfill their potential and that of their country.
The security situation in Somalia is complex. It is not wise to ask all to engage in the military fight because then there will be no peace-builders and future leaders who can guide a secure Somali going forward.
What will make Somalia safer is its security forces and AMISOM doing their job properly. In the future a well-trained, equipped, integrated and led Somali National Army is a must to take over this role. The Somali youth must be given the diverse opportunities by the Government to win their hearts and minds permanently so that they do not undermine the progress of their country. Utilizing the skills, energy and entrepreneurship of Somali youth is crucial for rebuilding a stronger, secure and better Somalia that we can all be proud of. It would be helpful if the Government can finally put its rhetoric into an official policy.