Dear President Farmaajo, we need to talk.
I begin this prose by first congratulating you on your historic electoral win in Somalia on February 8, 2017. On the day of your election, I remember very vividly the hue of the young men in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, who with thin knees planted on the Mogadishu ground, palms secretingemotional sweat, tears betraying their hardened masculinity, bowing before God for granting us your ascension to the sought-after ‘Iron throne’ in Somalia. I’m sure you know what your win means to your people, so I will spare you the gory details of how we all cried like neglected pre-schoolers, affirmed for the very first time in our lives.
Instead I want to share some advice, gift-wrapped in eight simple policy steps that may aid you in the mandate to effectively govern the nation-state you’ve just inherited.
I know what you’re thinking. What can an insignificant writer tell you, a seasoned statesman, about ruling the nation clothed in the perpetual, media fan-favourite ‘failed state’ moniker for almost three decades. I get it, your mailbox is overwhelmed and fatigued with ‘suggestions’, and this one is most certainty no different. Still, despite your legitimate trepidation about the plethora of advice from self-decorated ‘experts’, I can promise you that these prescriptions are ones backed by pragmatism and dynamic political reform. I’m that confident.
- Fire every head of your security institutions. In an alternate world where you could exercise your political might to try these unconscionable kleptocrats for treason, I would encourage the levelling of criminal charges. Unfortunately that’s an alternative world where Fox News and unicorns live, so I’ll advise from the real life, and encourage you to appoint Security heads who, I don’t know, know a thing or two about security. If you can’t fire everyone, fire the deputies of the ones you can’t fire. I believe this prescription is one that needs little expounding, as you’ve inherited a disastrous security landscape where the need to reform institutions like the Somali National Army (SNA) in promotion of accountability, adherence to the military chain of commandment and operational discipline is at critical mass. Fail to do this, and be prepared to run an administration that sleeps in bulletproof vehicles with a handgun under their silk pillows.
- This step is an addendum to the security prescription above: Re-build NISA from scratch. Break it down and rebuild.Break all of it apart, hammer it, and wash away its remnants in the Indian Ocean to swim along the toxicity it has become. This institution, at worst represents our collective political propensity for nepotism, corruption, and internal espionage. In it’s classical definition, an intelligence institution is meant to serve as a, “government agency responsible for the collection, analysis, and exploitation of information and intelligence in support of law enforcement, national security, military, and foreign policy objectives.” Right now, Nisa primarily serves an institution that hands out I.D cards to any young man reckless enough to be a target of insurgent ire, but risks it anyways to romance young woman at restaurants. Yes president, your national intelligence agency is known for functioning as your enemies feeding ground for information and holding monopoly on bragging rights in Mogadishu’s social scene. Imagine the humiliation that is an institution that functions like a police department where every Mogadishu neighbourhood has one, and it’s members are about as a confidential as a Donald Trump after a security briefing. “Hi, I’m the head of NISA’s Medina District” uttered publicly is a sentence that should embarrass any experts in intelligence and every Somali committed to liberating our occupied territories.
- Employ Pragmatic approaches to Ethiopia, Kenya, and regional powers. While your brand is undoubtedly inspirational and founded on nationalist philosophy that won you the collective political consciousness of Somalis from the shores of Ras Kamboni to Seylac; It will also one day serve as your administration’s achilles-heel. Be mindful that your constituents, hungry for change, might lead you to take political actions that could lead to seismic damage to our recovery efforts. History is rife with examples of nations self-imploding from one’s nationalist fervour. Be clear with regional neighbours on refraining from political meddling, but be mindful that they are your neighbours, who will one day serve as Somalia’s potential markets. No nation has ever thrived in a hostile region. For example, the politics of water in a global context will test the political resolve of many water-stressed nations, including Somalia. Is it wise to instigate diplomatic conflict with the nation that is host to our two main rivers: Jubba and Shabelle. Surround yourself with environmental experts, real-politik technocrats, and well-versed political scientists who understand the complexity of guarding Somalia’s sovereignty, while mindful of a changing global order.
- As for the case of Somaliland, the perpetual elephant in the room, please stay away from incitement and dangerous rhetoric. Somalia has yet to secure Mogadishu, and any provocation will be met with further political turmoil and resistance. In the real world, no functioning businessperson would accept an investor with numerous bankruptcy claims and a lengthy criminal background. We are that unscrupulous investor who must focus on rebuilding one’s reputation before soliciting partners. Somalia must engage Somaliland through collaborative dialogue and a demonstration of change in ways of the South, before one can ever politically entertain the notion of a united Somalia. Let Somalia, as it stands, entice the kin we’ve lost through reform, reconciliation, and economic stability.
- Build a government-backed, national Islamic body. Name it what you will, but build it and fill it with philosophical, moral and learned minds. For nearly three decades, our nation continues to be the powerless hostage of madrasa-educated madmen, fed on petrodollars and a need to enact cultural genocide on all things ‘Somali’. They’ve infiltrated every social, educational, political, economic, and cultural institution throughtakfiri trust-funds, lobbying, and most importantly, a state vacuum.Anyone can a Sheikh in Somalia, irregardless of the seismic educational gaps and poor theological understanding. Like all streams of information, the government has a right to inform, nurture, and lead religious affairs in Somalia. To win the war for Somalia is to take control of the monopoly these fundamentalist cartels. Somalia needs serious theologians, well versed in Islam, rhetoric, educated in institutions that promote academic inquiry of theology, and not back-alley Imams ranting and raving about fake news, girls playing sports, delivering alternative fact fatwas, and sermons on the ‘haram’ composition of vegetable stock in our diets. To fight these philistines, you must counter their ideological legitimacy.
- Fight nepotism in your cabinet, particularly when it comes to sourcing technocrats, tasked with rebuilding our institutions. As it stands, most ‘experts’, and World Bank/UNDP funded ‘advisors’ are the kids, distance nephews/nieces, long-time friends, love-interests, and clan relatives of political appointees, who are about competent as Homer Simpson manning the State Department. Do you know how humiliating it is to see X-ray technicians representing ‘Somalia’ in a global conference on climate change? Scenarios like the status quo amidst our civil service. This is an embarrassment to our institutions, and we can no longer treat our vital institutions as a place to procure a ticket abroad to attend conferences in hopes of curating pictures for Facebook and Snapchat. Start with the men and women you will choose to guide, advise, and represent you. One’s friends are met for cafe shop pontifications not in the halls of our most senior political and civic bodies.
- Challenge the politics of International Aid by 1) ensuring you empower civil servants who can present our national priorities in dynamic, articulate, researched and competent form, and 2) Informing our International partners that while we welcome AID, Somalia will be a stakeholder in setting development priorities and key areas of intervention as opposed to the contemporary standard operating procedure of NGOs running around Mogadishu’s International Airport with recycled concept notes and plagiarized proposals from failed projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, et al.
- Last, but definitely, and most certainty and confidently not least. Catapult Somali women into the highest political and civic offices. Look President, women’s empowerment isn’t some NGO project that can be placed in the back of the assembly line. It is a critical socio-economic and political measure that is paramount to our national recovery. To isolate half of your constituents, in defence of the status quo, will only lead to future humanitarian disasters, and the growing of a grossly under-educated and marginalized populations. Stand by the women who have held our broken nation in an upright position, in the absence of a government. I will also advise that you stay away from certain ‘gender equality’ gate-keepers who only view Somali women as a NGO concept note and means to advance personal interests/political ambitions.
So there goes my eight prescriptions for your administration, which aren’t ground-breaking revelations, but found here simplified and reiterated to shed some light on potential areas of governing blind spots. You Sir, have managed to morph political nihilists and perpetual skeptics to team ‘Africa rising”. Be mindful that your support is with your constituents, who will be the carriers of this nation, while never giving into the men and few women, who will convince you that compromising will grant you staying power.
Compromise, while necessary in small doses, will inevitably reduce your legacy and darken the moral aura of any future politicians who dare campaign in the name of the ‘nationalism’ brand which you have single-handedly revived and monopolized. Tread carefully our beloved president, and Good luck. You will need a bit of that too.