Editor’s note: I watched Dr Afyare Abdi Elmi making presentation at PDRC Talks last night, and his answers to subsequent questions from the audience. I couldn’t help, but share some excerpts from the book on my take on the subject of federalism in Somalia.
SOMALIA IN SEARCH OF STATEHOOD
AN ESSAY ON THE STATE, CLANNISM AND NATIONALISM
By Ismail H Warsame
AUTHOR’S CONVICTION ON THE SUBJECT MATTER UNFRONT
“The name Somalia as a united entity is relatively a new term, following the beginning of colonial administrations in the country. Clannism in Somalia isn’t the core problem of state building, but a symptom of system vulnerability in governance in regulatory fashion: For example, the separation of state and clan allegiance in public service in the same manner the Western World managed to do on the separation of the state and the church is the way forward. Here you can keep your clan belonging, but don’t mix it with public service. It would be a violation of the state law if you do it. Therefore, there is a mismanagement and lack of regulations on the clan system in Somalia. Tendency in Somalia’s governance to tyranny and dictatorship is fear of losing state control, on the top of selfish interests on the part of the leaders of the day, clan rivalry and self-preservation. Anti-decentralization or anti-federalism is a paranoid of losing central state power. Under these fears, stakeholders in national matters are unnecessary nuisance to central authorities. Nationalism means distraction from difficult issues of nation-building and necessary national development projects expected of state leaders. Patriotism, promotion of Somalia’s cause and learning Somali history aren’t encouraged. Power-sharing is misused to weaken meritocracy and competence, leading to the consolidation of a client state and patronage in public service. Checks and balance of power between branches of the government is perceived in Somalia as a power struggle and a threat to those in executive positions”.
Writing Talking Truth to Power in Undemocratic and Tribal Context, Articles of Impeachment and HAYAAN, The Long Journey of the Nomad Boy (Safarkii Dheeraa Ee Wiilka Reer Miyi), has convinced me that the subject needs further writing and deeper analysis. Hence the title “Somalia In Search of Statehood, An Essay on the State, Clannism and Nationalism, was conceived. Much has been written on the subject, but these works were either produced by foreign writers with limited understanding of Somali culture (literature and language) or by native minority writers whose motivation was to expose their grievances against majority rule to advocate for minority rights in the country. The first group of writers were not adequately informed, but the 2nd group couldn’t escape bias in the subject in their exposition. Both couldn’t adequately reflect on the true picture of what went wrong in Somali politics. Foreign anthropologists and historians of I M Lewis type on the subject were influenced by colonial legacy in Somalia.
There is another group of Somali writers, the diaspora. This group is mostly remnants or survivors of the Somali Civil War. They subliminally believe in strong central government. They interpret devolution of power and federalism as foreign instigations and manufacture with the intention to weak the Somali State. They don’t recognize that federalism is a defacto reality rather than de jure following a vicious Civil War that ended up in clan cleansing in Mogadishu, the Capital City, and elsewhere in the country. They blame Ethiopia for establishing ethnic federalism in that country and managing to replicate it in Somalia, using proxy agents of Somali warlords and politicians. Predominantly, these diaspora writers either had grown up and lived under the iron-fist of the Military Regime of Siyad Barre or had influenced the younger generations in the diaspora. Many of them avoid travel to Somalia and the few who come down don’t venture out beyond, the centre of what is wrong now in Somalia, Mogadishu, where law and order is a thing in the distant past and their yardstick to evaluate current situation of Somalia. They have lost sense of reality elsewhere in the country.
But, most dangerous of all are the ignorant masses who see different heads of state and government of the Federal Member States as something strange and symbol of what was wrong in Somalia as they hear or see strong nation-states around Somalia. They don’t recall that Somali State had failed and to put it back together, it was needed to restore trust among warring clans via decentralized or autonomous regions, the Federal Member States (FMS). Now FMS isn’t cast on stone – they could change over time in a negotiated fashion as the central authority stands on its feet again and expands its influence throughout the country”. Federalism in Somalia could be a temporary arrangement. But, what isn’t acceptable anymore is return to city-state status in Mogadishu”.