International community must turn sympathy into meaningful action – UM

Somali security forces and others gather and search for bodies near destroyed buildings at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP)

Mogadishu (UM) – Last Saturday’s devastating bombings in Mogadishu exposed some of the great vulnerabilities of the Somali Government, including, health provision, and it provided international partners with an opportunity to express solidarity.

Immediately after the bombings on Saturday, international partners started to condemn the actions on twitter and in the mainstream press. The Turkish Government immediately sent out medical planes to evacuate the injured and the White House issued a statement. Following these, almost all major partners have contacted the Somali Government to express their condolences and pledged support and solidarity. Unusually, the following day, the tragic attack in which nearly 300 people lost their lives was front page news globally. The BBC, Guardian Newspaper, Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today and even the Wall Street Journal, had the incident on their front pages. The international shock and sympathy was clear but this alone will not be enough to assist Somalia to progress towards stability.

The primary duty of Somalia’s progress falls on the elected government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo who was on the front line immediately after the attack donating blood and comforting survivors. He and key members of his government looked visibly shocked during the press conference at the scene but there was a sense that the government was assured that they will not be alone and that international partners will assist.

The Somali people and government must be grateful for the support of all international partners who have responded positively and who, even before this event, were supporting the country and people through diverse developmental and security assistance. However, while the medical assistance after the bombings were evident, much of the rest of the international support is lost in Trust Funds managed by distant bureaucrats with not local knowledge or ties.

Somalia is vulnerable to relapse if the current Government’s priorities of security, economic development and good governance are not realised in this term of office. The Somali Government must do the heavy lifting and bring forward the implementation of their ambitious legislative agenda on all these matters immediately. At present, policy making is still slow, disorganised and heavily influenced by private interest. The public which has invested so much faith in this new administration must not be let down or there is the real risk of this and future government’s losing public trust permanently.

The Somali government has communicated consistently that it is committed to turning Somalia around towards the direction of stability and progress. This message has been well received by all but the challenge remains how to turn this commitment into tangible actions that benefit the public and change the narrative on Somalia globally. The Government has sound ideas on good governance, economic development and security. It also has the political will to see these though but what is lacking is technical expertise and financing for these developments.

International partners have pledged and pledged but very little of this pledged support reaches the Somali people. To make their support meaningful, all international partners need to come on the ground and invest in Somalia directly by helping to build infrastructure, schools and capacity building Somali institutions. The response cannot be direct only when a disaster like Saturday’s bombing happens.

On its part, the Somali Federal Government must continue to challenge partners to make their support effective and to be on the ground. The “we are afraid of security and must operate at arm’s length” excuse is an impediment to development and further hurts the reputation of the country. The government must also look inwards to financing development through domestic revenue generation by enforcing tax laws and encouraging Diaspora and foreign investment in key industries such as fisheries which carry limited risk.

Saturday’s bombings made evident that Somalia and its people have friends in the international community. But, instead of running around like headless chickens during disasters, it is better for these partners to invest honestly with the Somali people and work alongside them for better security, stronger economy and permanent progress. This way, all be benefit from this engagement.

Ummadda Media (UM) editorial on Sunday was postponed out of respect for the 3 days of mourning initiated by the President.  We pray for Allah SWT’s favour and compassion for both the deceased and living victims. Ameen.