Farmaajo: We Have No One Else to Blame
The traditional formula for political reconciliation in Somalia by the Somalis is the reverse of what currently being adopted by the UN envoy for Somalia.
Instead of being subjected to the gaze of clutching cameras and the chiming communication apparatus manned by throngs of expatriate reporters and foreign observes stalking in the hallways, we have in place learned religious exponents willing to lead the agenda of the day and opening the conference with appropriate verses of the Quran, while encouraging participants to sacrifice their personal interest for the sake of peace and political reconciliation.
There are patriotic poets that awaken the inner-conscience of participants urging to forego regional affiliation and clan loyalty and compromise in order to save the country and the people. You see well-wishing women ululating in the background, and spotlight the best stakeholders of the day and urging participants to reach peaceful understanding.
At times, the political discussion can be bumpy and fluid. It is inevitable to encounter oratorical display with marginal consideration, but that is diluted with a dosage of good humor that dampens heated discussions. Quotation of wisdom and pragmatic view left behind by legendary peacemakers are invoked. Vocal women leaders work out the stubborn heads of difficult politicians. But one thing is quite sure. The conference ends with success and all participants hug each other at the end of the day. This is a team effort which has always worked out for Somalia, regardless of the prevailing issue of the day.
Past Reference for Reconciliation
A case in point took place in Northwestern regions of Somalia in early 1950s. It was a bloody inter-clan conflict that caused the death toll of thousands of young victims who fell for a trivial cause, namely:
A coconut adornment wore by a prodigious she-camel was snatched by a camel herder from another clan and put in use by fastening the neck of another she-camel. The little theft grew into a full-fledged war that involved the brotherly clans for months.
The conflicted parties hail from a common ancestor, who never nurtured animosity of such magnitude beyond canning an intransigent youngster because of his willful behavior, or a sporadic water dispute among clans.
A well secured wooded enclave in any part of the country would suffice for mediation grounds. It needs only a few thousands US dollars for operational budget to purchase drinking and washing water, tents, raw food and cooking ware of Boy Scout standard, camp beds, make shift toilets, 1st aid kit, and scores of security staff securing the conference grounds.
It needs committed political participants and awesome presence of observers from all social strata to witness the event. The political antagonists are expected to bury their hatchets and doing things right for the sake of the people and the country without putting one’s ambition and self-interest in the way of unity and stability. The glittering lights and dazzling halls of 12 story hotels in metropolitan Nairobi and Addis Ababa are not the proper, traditional venues for conducting political compromise in Somalia.
Fortunately, whenever a social discord takes place in the land, peacemakers intervene and take over the case by finding a quick peaceful solution acceptable for the concerned parties.
The peacemakers include: Community elders of respective parties, neutral community leaders of neighboring settlements, religious exponents and genuine poets who converge into the disputed zone and restrain the hostility before it spreads out to outreach locations and involving more blood related fighters to heed the call of their brethren and go down to even out with the culprit clan, and thus escalating the conflict to a new dimension.
In this case, it became the most belligerent conflicting issue between two powerful clans in history of the land, who went beyond the ordinary revenge equating system and opting for an open man hunt by killing many more instead of making peace and negotiating for blood reparation, as is the norm after bloody conflict.
One clan was more adamant to stay in course and wreaking havoc to their distant brethren. The pride and the integrity of the two clans was at stake that no one was willing to budge first or compromise for the sake of peace. That would have been taken a sign of weakness, a stigma to the reputation of the first clan that opts out for reconciliation. The shuttling diplomacy of the peacemakers could not change the mindset of the parties, but they never gave up hope, and the killing spree got out of hands.
Finally, the warlike clan posted a weird and challenging demand to their foe, and remarked: “If you bring a shoe in your mouth and deliver to us, then we will accept peace, and everything else is negotiable.”
The request was a moral dilemma to the other clan, and took time and efforts to discuss and find a way to come around with such demeaning challenge. Obviously, the dialogue hit the bottom at several times and became a stalemate. No clan could take such a contemptuous slap on the face.
The solution came by way of a single risk-taking single man. It was unexpected and everlasting! This wise elder from the challenged clan dared to disarm his adversary by delivering a shoe in his mouth, and remarked, “Here is what you have demanded. Let’s bury the hatchets and repair what we have destroyed.
That show of bravery scored by a single wise man neutralized the anger and revenge taking feelings and brought the two parties under one umbrella, which ended the inter-clan hostility forever.
In the social values, taking shoe by mouth is an abject taboo. Shoe per se is a disparaging tool quite unacceptable to hit with someone, or worse to carry it by mouth for any thinkable purpose. This man risked his reputation in the hope of solving the problem, and he succeeded! Dr. Augustine Mahiga is incapable of coming along with a speedy solution like the legendary community elder. Yet the country can thousands and thousands peacemaking elder in every hamlet of the country.
Dr. Augustine Mahiga or the Secretary General of the UN is not familiar with such daring peacemaking efforts brokered by well-wishing community leaders. Respective clans that had lost about two thousand young men in a senseless incident turned an old page by preventing a tragedy that could have claimed the lives of thousands men.
The backlash is quite simple. It is lack of comprehension for the complexity of Somali culture, its intricate peace-making methods, epic poetic reference and historical backgrounds, are unknown factors in the peacemaking corridors of UN convention halls in Nairobi, Addis Ababa or UN New York HQ. UN has a lot to learn from past mistakes before it undertakes peace intervention in Somalia.
Currently, there’s no love lost between the President of the TFG and the Speaker of the Parliament. They are contenders of power struggle for presidential position and no one is willing to compromise and taking a second place.
Each one has thousands of armed and well trained loyal militia in the backyard, plus corrupting dollar cash stashed away abroad in foreign banks, as well as the political back up of Meles Zenawi, a cheap dual loyalty he enjoys quite hard to disregard.
The UN sponsored consultation conference held in Nairobi on 11-13 April drew a wedge between the tenuous relations of the two leaders. The functioning of a government is at a dead end to the best, and personal animosity may lead to worst days to come.
Sherif Ahmed could be in the thought of introducing a motion in the parliament trying to evict Sherif Sheikh Adan out of power- a move that requires a herculean effort of mobilizing enough members of the legislators in parliament to side with Sherif Ahmed. Of course, there should be a substantial budget for buying enough votes to nail down his archenemy. But no one can outbid a canning fox that has the biggest largesse at his reach than any other politician in the country, dead or alive, including his current rival:
Sherif Sheikh Aden may have the edge, but the political arsenal both possess is staggering, and no one can predict the outcome of head on conflict, no matter of the current strength: Corrupting financial possibilities, the loyalty of trained militia, squads of suicide bombers, the backup of al-Shabab, the blessing of Dr. Augustine Mahiga, and the back-scratching back up favor of Meles Zenawi, just to quote the least arsenal each one has in store.
In that respect, Sherif Sheikh Aden has the undisputed edge as the future president of any future government.
Perhaps the two Sherifs are not aware of the political revolution currently taking place in the Islamic world. They both believe that the deep-rooted longevity of Muslim rulers is also applicable to the Somalian political system in many respects.
The longevity of traditional Muslim rulers over-shadow any hope of democratic system to emerge in Somalia, specially, in the absence of grass root movement led by intellectuals and sane politicians who are committed to alter such devious political trend taking place in the country.
The two Sherifs are not aware that a single young man armed with the Internet and Facebook has sucked Hosni Mubarak’s long rein in a few weeks. They do not contemplate the political pitfalls they may face in the long run that could degenerate the southern regions into long lasting clan warfare that could dampen their prospect for succeed political comeback.
The two Sherifs do not know the position of opportunistic Meles Zenawi who could move into the political vacuum of Somalia and carving the southern regions into Satellite regions under the rule of Ethiopia, and thus putting the future of the country into jeopardy.
They are not inclined to predict what would they gain or lose if they engage into a bottomless war, where no one can predict the ultimate winner of such face off power struggling conflict.
They are blinded by personal hatred and hunger for power as they find themselves in threshold beyond reconciliation and compromise. Who will be blamed for such political tragedy then?
The actors who are working hard to witness the demise of the current TFG establishment include:
1) First and the foremost, the current TFG establishment is to be blamed for its dirty political Pickering and lack of leadership quality.
2) The Ethiopian influence of meddling in the internal affairs of Somalia shall be definitely blamed for any future political settlement in the southern regions of Somalia.
3) The lethargic role of IGAD countries shall be blamed for their aloofness and accepting UN counter-productive policies that have yielded no conclusive political solution for Somalia.
4) And ultimately, Dr. Augustine Mahiga and UN power brokering establishment.
Somalia is passing through a historic timeline and no one is backing off to make things right!
By Prof. Mohamoud Iman Adan ( email@example.com ) - keydmedia.net Correspondent
I read your article on Foreign Policy with keen eyes and interest. While whining from public officials does not deserve response from any sensible citizen of the Republic of Somalia, I felt compelled to counter false narrative with more objective analysis.