Liban Obsiye & Sakariye Hussein
It is approaching the new year and most people in the Diaspora are reflecting on the passing year and contemplating the year to come. Uniquely for most Diaspora, of any nation, the personal is the political and therefore, when reflecting on their own successes, challenges and ambitions, they also tie in their own views and aspirations of the “motherland.”
The Somali Diaspora are among the most innovative, engaged and politically active globally. For them Somalia is personal, political and a source of hope and frustration. The Somali Diaspora continue to demonstrate that they will not sit on the fence nor be strangers to their home nations challenges and progress. In all international meetings, the Somali Diaspora are present, and, in most cases, they are also serving in the Central Government and in Federal Member State Administrations as advisers, civil servants and technocrats.
The Election of President Mohamed Abullahi Mohamed Farmaajo united the majority of the Somali Diaspora in a way never seen before. This is because he defeated a confident, well financed incumbent, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and successfully bridged the divide between Diaspora and Somali Nationals with a message of common progress under the banner of Nabad and Nolol. It is not lost on anyone that President Farmaajo himself is Diaspora alongside, Prime Minister Khaire, the Speaker of Parliament Jawari and many influential Minister’s and MPs. More importantly, it did not bother most Somali nationals that the Diaspora had achieved such prominence in Somali politics at this crucial juncture in the country’s history. In the end, it is widely agreed and accepted that the enormous challenge of moving Somalia forward to a brighter, more secure and prosperous future, lies with every citizen, regardless of where they may reside.
Since the elections, it has become clear that some in the Diaspora feel that the Federal Government has made errors that they feel betrayed in their initial trust and support. Many argue that progress is slow and that “unqualified taxi drivers and coffee shop politicians have been given huge government posts they do not deserve after polishing their CV’s with unforgivable lies.” Some are disappointed that AMISOM has not already gone and that the Somali Government still has strong ties with its neighbours, including, Ethiopia. Among the concerns raised by the Somali Diaspora, the above mentioned are the most relevant and persistent when it comes to their support for the Somali Federal Government. However, the Diaspora, one of the most effective socio-economic and diplomatic asset the Somali Government and People have, must remain patient and put things into perspective.
The Somali Federal Government, born into unprecedented public expectations and led by a popular leader, faces the same challenges as that of its predecessors. The solutions are also not revolutionary as they are universal and only their financing and implementation remain the real challenge.
The pursuit of the Federal Government’s Nabad and Nolol agenda, built on the pillars of security, good governance and economic development, is not only for the Government or to secure the legacy of President Farmaajo but to ensure the future of the Somali people. As an interdependent people, connected by family, culture, land, religion and, more recently, remittances, achieving Nabad and Nolol is the best route to achieving the common progress we all understand is needed to return dignity and hope to the Somali nation and its people, everywhere. Empty nationalism, built on short term personality- driven political excitement and populism is not enough. Understanding this, the Somali people, including the Diaspora, must take ownership and lead the agenda for their national progress. This is an unconditional requirement of nationalism that must transcend petty clan and personality politics for national development efforts to be realised.
The Somali Federal Government has made clear that it is listening to the people. In fact, public engagement within the Government has improved tremendously and the Diaspora enjoy a privileged position among those that are heard and whose ideas make it to the key discussions in the policy making process. The Federal Government can go one step further and announce a public challenge to all citizens to bring forward the great ideas that can address the most pressing development needs of the country. In doing this, the Government should encourage strong partnerships between the Diaspora and nationals at home while also empowering grassroot Diaspora groups like Global Somali Diaspora. This should keep Somalis everywhere busy, while generating ideas for progress for the country.
Sometimes, the greatest tragedy in Somalia is that the most insignificant consideration becomes the make-and-break issue. Many in the Somali Diaspora feel that some in senior positions in Government, many whom they knew, occupy important positions in Government they do not deserve or are unqualified to hold. This could be true, but the Government can only employ those that are present on the ground. Diaspora that feel they can do a better job than the person that “puts them off” should compete with them for the post. In this case, community references alongside professional ones, ought to resolve the matter quickly but given the clannish nature of some communities in the Diaspora, this process can also be very biased and lead to discrimination.
The feeling of disappointment with the new administration in some sections of the Diaspora is not a sufficient response, especially, from those that have a huge stake in the progress of Somalia. The Diaspora are neither bystanders nor commentators on Somalia’s progress and prosperity but active contributors who must unite themselves to engage their government and take their national responsibilities seriously. The latter is not just sending remittances but also engaging and guiding the Federal Government and the Federal Member states, where the Diaspora enjoy major influence given the clan dynamic, to do better. This should also be coupled with patience and continued high visibility advocacy for Somalia and its needs wherever the Diaspora are.
Somalia is making irreversible progress albeit slowly. There are many bumps in the road as the journey is long. However, ‘we are disappointed is not an acceptable response from the Diaspora’. In moments of doubt and disappointment, it is crucial to remember that, the Diaspora, like all Somalis everywhere have rights and responsibilities as Somali citizens. What these are and how strong they are is what continued determined and effective Diaspora engagement will define.
The future direction of Somalia is truly in the hands of the Somali people including the Diaspora.
The authors can be contacted through the below means:
Liban Obsiye: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sakariye Hussein: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ummadda Media.