The Role of Traditional Leaders of Somalia Vice Versa UN Diplomacy

The Status Quo of Traditional Leaders - It is a historical fact that traditional leaders and religious exponents of communities are the gatekeepers of the fate of the country, as well as the social life of the people in every conceivable aspect since immemorial times.
Article Keydmedia Online
The Role of Traditional Leaders of Somalia Vice Versa UN Diplomacy

This democratic platform is in place, and the pecking order is respected. The lower ranks of the leaders discuss the issue of the day and debate on its merits, while the maxims of the group put the final touch ups of the debate and forward the ultimate solution to the public for adoption, which is based on egalitarian consensus.

Being the vanguard of the civil society, traditional leaders play pivotal roles in everyday social life in terms of reconciliation and conflict resolution, as well as taking care of the mundane disputes of their followers. In such settings, you see a full blown democracy at work where even a teenager boy has to voice his concerns and be listened.

“Age does not matter as long as the kid has a valid point relevant to the issue in discussion,” goes the word. Such settings are respected and the outcome is adopted unanimously.

In regard to the local affairs, such culture goes on the same footing as the ruling system of the supreme court of USA.

Political & Social Profile of Traditional Leaders

Since the scramble of Africa in Berlin Conference in 1881, Somalia was the cross-roads of colonial contenders, including: The Great Britain, France, Italy, and the Arab Sultanate of Zanzibar at the time, the Ethiopian hermit emperors, and Germany and Portuguese, to some extent.

Each one of these countries wanted a piece of Somalia, and some of them did succeed in their colonial ventures by fighting the Somalis, and in the event of great resistance by the local people, they had eventually to sit down with the elders under the shade of peace tree, learn their points of views and negotiate as equal parties and work out bilateral treats.

Such well predicated hierarchy is still outstanding, and is unlikely to erode such broad-based traditional system in the foreseeable future by Ambassador Mahiga, the special envoy of the Secretary General of the UN, nor the house speaker and a few of his political supporters.

Promoters of Customary Laws & Upholders of Social welfare

As always is the case, the community leaders formulate and promulgate customary laws between respective clans in the area as the law of the land. When parties disagree on certain issues of interest, the grieving party(s) calls upon the attention of dispute settlers (the community leaders), who prompt a short-noticed meeting and hammering out adequate formula for reconciliation palatable to conflicted parties. In no time, personal enmity, hard feelings and revenge phase out and the conflicting concern becomes a thing of the past. 

This effective intervention is due to timely involvement and impartial gudjment of local leaders, which what avert an otherwise bloody confrontation.

Did the colonial domination affect such respected social values? No. Did the national constitution replaced or down-graded the customary laws of the society? No. Does the UN recognize the validity of such important social tools in order to broker stability and political harmony in the country? No. Do the neighboring East African heads of states or IGAD learn the uniqueness of the Somali character and social fiber? No. In my views, much has to be learned about Somali character.

Ambassador Augustine P. Mahiga VS. Traditional Leaders

As the pre-eminent segment of the Somali society, the community leaders are the glue factor that connects the broken pieces of the country, on one hand, while upholding the legitimacy of the TFG establishment, on the other hand. Since his nomination to serve Somalia, Ambassador Mahiga has marginalized the political and social profile of the maxims of the people.

The elders may not be PHD holders from Harvard or Princeton Universities, but they are down to earth social workers for lifetime and know better how to Shepard their flocks. Now the local leaders find themselves at loss with the interfering works of the UN envoy who threatens the status quo of traditional leaders by undercutting their social standing in confrontational manners.

“As we see him now, the Ambassador handles the southern regions of Somalia in an arbitrary way without sharing the views of the community leaders, admit the elders. “In a thinly disguised way, he encourages the speaker of the parliament to keep the legislature chamber closed for months so that legislators may not get into the house and debate on the merits of the Road Map before the next August, 2012, which marks the end of the transitional period of the TFG,” voice out fuming legislators.

This manipulation by a NU diplomat may sound inconceivable to perplexed civil society, but the subtlety of Mr. Mahiga is the stark truth. In doing so, Ambassador Mahiga may succeed to destabilizing the weak authority of the TFG by putting the legislators in loggerheads with the speaker of the parliament, who has lost his position due to his ineffectual parochial views.

Both ambassador Mahiga and the deposed house speaker are adamant to turn the tide in their favor to the expense of peace and stability and rocking the fragile TFG establishment.

They argue that they are not yet done with the legislators, a situation that puts the President of the TFG in a difficult dilemma, which could lead to the demise of the precarious establishment, and is ticking.

Reflecting to UN past mistakes, Ambassador Mahiga’s role follows the same footing with Admiral Jonathan Howe, the former UNISOM boss that had failed the humanitarian discourse of the UN in 1992-94 by undercutting the political profile of traditional leaders, and going in bed with a given number of favored politicians, while alienating the authority of the majority of the community leaders.

Instead of fleeting with the interest group, Mr. Mahiga has to rally the back up support of social service agents- such as the community leaders and the religious exponents, by undertaking these talking points:

  • Play less with unpredictable Somali politicians who are jockeying for leadership position or promoting clan supremacy on the expense of the Somali population.
  • To give due attention to the dare needs of the civil society by promoting restoration of defunct social services, such as: Clinics, hospitals, schools, drilling borehole wells for the people and the livestock.
  • To help out the banning nuclear wastes and toxic chemicals being dumped in the territorial waters of Somalia as you read this paper.
  • Flagging fish trawling fleets that deplete the ecosystem of potential fishing grounds
  • Restoration of defunct educational system of the country collapsed since the fall of the military regime in1991.
  • Confront the threat of sea piracy.
  • Upholding reconciliation process and conflict resolution

Counter-productive measures

Here is a piece of valuable advice for the handlers of Somali politics-Never, ever dispense unpalatable political measure into the throats of conflicting Somalis. It backfires. Moreover, undermining the role of the traditional elders is a big mistake; but threatening the work of genuine legislators may also escalate conflicting chain-reactions beyond control, which poses dare consequences that can put the efforts and the hopes of the UN and well-wishing world communities down to the drain.

In fact, almost 95% of the civil society and 82% of the TFG legislators would like to see the Road Map policy debated in parliament as a way of normal house procedure. Legislators advocate to see the negative and positive aspects of the Road Map; and ratifying it if need be so, because much depend on its success for the future of the country.

To evade such normal, legal procedure is tantamount to pure trickery and extortion against the aspiration of the Somali population.

The same percentage applies also for the dismissal of the speaker of the parliament and his two lieutenants because of coming short of their responsibilities. In that regard, the legislators voted him out of office a week ago, a step that follows in conformity with the standing laws that governs the country, while Ambassador Mahiga puts all his weight to undo the ruling of the legislative branch and trying to resuscitate the politically moribund house speaker.

But how subtle could Ambassador Mahiga circumvents such arduous challenge, and much less confronting the opposition of the civil society, as well as the traditional leaders and the majority of the legislators? For Ambassador Mahiga and Mr. Ban Ki Moon, there’s an uphill battle to wage and win before the next August, 2012

Different Political tools, Different Results

Ambassador Augustine P. Mahiga gives more attention and privileges to politicians who cajole to remain on the spotlight; while he marginalizes the concerns of 95% of the civil society; and this posture flies right in the face of the traditional leaders, as well as the public masses.

The Somali public wishes all the success for the ambassador’s lopsided diplomacy, but he is not heeding the genuine advice that can carry him through turbulent political storms. True to his policy, it is his way or the highway, and most likely, and it sounds that he could hardly have in both ways. Again, the theory of the “New World Order” is at work, after the UNISOM debacle in 1994, and Somalia happens to be on the altar of sacrifice.

Worst of it, this time we see more spoilers at work than any time before.

Dr. Ayuub A. Aden – Sana’a – Keydmedia Political Analyst -

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Article 21 May 2021 10:14

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.