Somalia’s governance blueprint, Tribal federalism based on 4.5 power sharing model, Somaliland cementing the road to independence, Al Shabaab continuing with its attempt to destabilise and take as many Somali lives as possible, is like a dark cloud hanging over every Somali person regardless where they live or what community they represent.
There is a huge political vacuum in Somalia and in the diaspora.
If you are a young Somali who is progressive and enthusiastic about the current political landscape in Somalia, there is no mechanism that captures or corresponds with your disposition, desired discourse or narrative in Somali politics. We have no say in AMISOM operations in Somalia, foreign international influence and exploitation of Somali resources, whether it’s the United Kingdom, soon to be divorced with European Union, a union which they joined in 1971, or whether it’s Turkey, with a leader who have changed the constitution to acquire more power and crush freedom of press and association. How about the Arabs? who have destabilised their own region, desperately looking for new alliance and proxy wars, setting up unregulated Islamic schools all around Somalia, spreading further divisions of Sunni v Shia conflict – as if we didn’t have enough divisions to deal with already!
You shouldn’t be surprised to know, that most of our youth are collectively against the current military and foreign influence in Somalia. AMISOM´s lack of accountability (a planned demonstration is organised this week in London) We cannot deny or ignore the reality of Somali National Army, its fragmentation along tribal lines and lack of capacity and why at times foreign troops in our soil seems be a necessarily evil, capable of keeping Al Shabaab at bay, but to whose benefit? Who is benefiting from Somalia´s dependency on foreign security?
War is business and it’s a very lucrative business.
As Abukar Arman writes in the hufftington post: “…the plan unveiled by the so-called National architecture seems nothing more than scheme to keep Somalia dependent on foreign security, if it does not sow the seed of perpetual enmity between clans..”
This week the United Kingdom, with its partners the United Nations and the US will hold yet another security conference expected to `accelerate progress on security sector reform and agree on a new international partnership to keep Somalia on its course for increased peace and prosperity by 2020”, with the usual pundit attending this conference, yielding no direct impact on the ground. A get-together that will be offering little hope for the average person, and a step which continues to undermine any future attempts for a Somali-owned process of reconciliation?
How can they expect the general Somali population or the youth to remain hopeful when every similar conference has produced no fruits and no benefits besides to self-serving selective few and their foreign allies? What changes on the ground has the New Deal agreement from 2012 produced? What happened to the general elections promised to the Somali public by 2016?
What is the alternative for many young Somalis who are as diverse in their political thoughts, ideas and future for Somalia as you are? The world of Somali Youth today is different from the world experienced by our parents, we are fragmented yet more connected than ever before, and we seek each other based on our belief, values and political ideas. Anyone calling themselves politicians and are unable to harness this energy is in the wrong profession.
Where are the leaders we were supposed to rally behind carrying the banners of values and ideas we believe in?
Where are the different political parties that we were supposed to base our aspirations, lifestyle and governance on? And the Somalia we envision?
Where is the genuine attempt for justice process aimed at bringing to account the criminals who was key factors, and part of tribal cleansing and war-crimes in Somalia´s civil war? War-criminals, that have enjoyed their lives freely, while their victims are still a crime scene investigation, and the families and communities left behind, have since carried heavy burden of grieve and loss onto their children. Like a wound which never healed, they never forgot a single detail of those horrific crimes which took place.
As Mohammed Ibrahim writes in Hiiraan: ” One should not underestimate the confidence, pride or common shared purpose and self determination Sonalilanders feel about going it alone, recognised or otherwise. As in everywhere in Somalia, they are a young society who can’t remember Somalia as unitary state or what the blue flag means to them…” (https://www.hiiraan.com/op4/2
How can we then expect a genuine breakthrough and process of justice, reconciliation or find a middle-ground?
Peace-building is not just a meeting of men in black suits carrying suitcases, conferences or pledges void of any substance. But a process that is led by those who are in the centre of that vision for peace – Somali youth and the Somalia they want. A mechanism for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights and vote for a process they believe in. We don’t want to elect someone or watch them lead us based on who their fathers were, we want to elect on beliefs, values and political position.
Peace-building requires a grass-root based approach that is initiated, mandated and endorsed by the local communities and the society at large, otherwise it will only be a selective group of usual suspects getting together, expensively ticking boxes and congratulating each other, while the poor Somali on the street or in the rural village sees no impact or effects of those decisions made.
Peace-building requires honestly, compromise, and a political determination to seek fairness, justice and equitable rights for all citizens.
In 2015 I made a visit to Kigali, Rwanda with a group of Somali diaspora diplomas, who was invited to learn from the lessons and the road to sustainable peace achieved by our East African counterpart. It was my first trip amongst many that opened my eyes and mind to the importance and impact of locally led peace-building processes, using tradition mythologies to mend the rifts between communities, neighbours and tribes. Somalis have a rich tradition in locally owned peace-building mechanisms that facilitate any disputes within the community or the society, and we have been able to use those for thousands of years, and it works. Why are we not using them now?
We need to ensure the participation and responsibility of the most influential sectors of our society such as telecommunication companies, religious groups, tribal leaders, landlords and diaspora. We also need to recognise the most vulnerable, impacted and exploited segments of our society such as minority groups, youths, women and internally displaced.
Attending a community meeting last week in London, which was organised by local community leaders, left me baffled. The attendees were current and ex ambassadors and diplomats, that have not been consulted, contacted or had their input valued in “future for Somalia” conference. One of the speakers spoke of his frustration with the organisers and the difficulties he experienced in requiring information on the conference. Which left us with many questions such as who is the stakeholders of this conference, if community leaders, ex or current ambassador/diplomats have no stake in the process?
If the whole process is controlled and organised by foreign government, how will it ever be Somali-owned and have any significant value for me or you?
Lastly It would be unfair to air my concerns and worries without recommendations for urgent policies which needs to be drafted and implemented. Below are a set of ideas of policies which I hope the Somali government will take ideas and inspirations from.
· Creating comprehensive, independent and legally powerful anti-corruption and transparency commissions
· Create a national wide comprehensive youth assembly that is connected to the Somali Parliament, with representation of all segments of youths including diaspora.
· Heavily investing in Peace and reconciliation with special focus on tradition methodologies, techniques and combining it with innovative methods. Ensuring its community led, grass-root and Somali-owned.
· Enforce our Justice system and promote, establish and focus on accountability at all governmental departments.
· Ban the use of tribalism in public spaces, education and job market.
· Ban deforestation and charcoal export industry.
· Create a national environmental policy aimed at preserving and protecting land, sea and air.
· Ban foreign entities fishery in our seas, create a special task force of legal body to Pursue legal compensation with companies linked governmental entities using maritime laws.
· Ban toxic waste business’s legal or illegally. Legally pursue a case against foreign companies who are involved.
About the Author;
Sagal Mohamed Ashour is an active member of the Somali diaspora and currently based in London. She is an experienced social activist and strives for lasting peace in Somalia and its diaspora. She is the executive director of SAVE (Somalis Against Violent Extremism) and Chair-person of Pan African Youth Leaders for the achievement of the SDGs. she focuses on youth, peace-building and conflict resolution. She is also a qualified counsellor and mental health worker.