Opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of SW.
"...In a recent interview with Mr. Hassan by Al-Hayat (Arabic paper) reporter he was specifically asked why should the Somali people trust him when he loyally served under a dictatorial regime. The answer he gave did not give us any scrap of comfort but instead made us more dismal about our future being in the hands of these people. He blatantly said "the Somali people must trust, and they have already trusted me" he showed us how complacently he took our trust for granted. What he does not realise is that it will be incomprehensible for Kosovo-Albanians to be asked to trust anyone who loyally served under Slobodan Milosevic's government. Nor will it be understandable for Europeans to trust anyone who was in Hitler's cabinet. For that same reason it will be hard for the Somali people to trust a loyal lieutenant of Siyad Barre specially when he surrounded himself with former colleagues in crimes...." NAS 23 Sept00
A dictatorship of another kind, the worst kind
By: Nuradin Aden Dirie
During the last decade the public opinion in Somalia has evolved, Somalis have learned painfully the hard way that the system of governance that suits them the best is a devolved federal system. It is not something the ordinary people would want to be philosophical about, or wish to continuously dwell on its fine ideology, rather a simple feeling of long-term security guarantees. People's memory is still fresh with what can happen when a civil war breaks out and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Somalis did not yet forget what has happened when a lot of people found themselves in a "non-traditional" region of theirs, despite the strong feeling that it was actually theirs. People would like to be governed within their enclave and have a nationalistic common agenda at the same time. People would like to have their own feel good factor within the confines of their traditional areas in Somalia. People would like to make decisions closer to home and would greatly cherish to contribute to any national issue that will hold Somalia together. One might question how these conclusions have been reached when there is no sophisticated opinion polling system in Somalia? But one would note that these ideas have formed strongly until it has been put in practice in large areas of Somalia, particularly in Puntland and in Somaliland though with different premises. The spirit of regionalism is also transparent from business practices as it is from rehabilitation trends of the people after the civil war.
What we have attained after Arta conference is a set of structures, which aims to return us to those dark days of centralised authority. Dark on intent and dark with content. The days when governmental structures were centralised in order to control the nation with firm hands. The days when you could not get a passport or obtain a visa until you travel to Mogadishu. The days when you could not import anything essential into the country unless you do it via Mogadishu port despite having the longest coastline in Africa. The days when you could not go to a university unless you have a home in Mogadishu or become stranded in Mogadishu suburbs. Some people within these structures could conceptualise the days when Somalia was nothing but Mogadishu, and when Mogadishu collapsed Somalia was nothing altogether and still struggles to be something. The parable seems to be on-going with these people when they still imagine if Mogadishu is something again, Somalia will be something altogether again. The people who are spearheading these hauled structures from Djibouti, have graduated from nothing other that Siyad Barre's academy of dictatorship and control, and have even done post Siyad specialisation in tribal cleansing and looting technology. What they haven't done so far is to ever participate in any representative democratic forum or appreciate any self-governance on the grass roots level.
It is strange to be participating in any debate regarding the conference in Djibouti and its outcome. When such a debate starts and you hint any reservations you might have about the process, its principles and practices, you are confronted with questions like are you against peace in Somalia? It is a big and frightening question as there could be no sane person who will oppose peace in anywhere in the world let alone your own country. Even the media have picked up some headlines like "peace and stability at last". Like it has rained peace and stability in an upstream neighbouring country to swiftly pour on us on a downstream level. In this instance, there are two issues, which are confused intentionally or unintentionally. The first is what has been set up in Arta Djibouti and the second is a lasting peace and a credible government in Somalia. The Somali people who gathered in Arta Djibouti have succeeded in appointing a parliament and electing a president however debatable the method and the process of that election might be, nevertheless that was the end result in Djibouti. It is also worth mentioning that there are a lot of people as well as the sole existing and peaceful regional administrations that oppose the whole conference and its outcome.
What we have to achieve as yet in Somalia is a lasting peace and a credible government in all over Somalia. Instead of declaring peace at last or asking whether someone is against peace in Somalia or not, wouldn't it be more appropriate if we dealt with the more relevant points and asked more appropriate questions such as; would this government bring peace to Somalia? Or will it be credible enough to bring all Somalis on board? Wouldn't it be more relevant if we deliberated about whether we can trust the same people who shackled us with devastating tribal and hate policies for more than two decades? Wouldn’t it be more befitting if we thought about the system in which we handed those people to hit us again hard on where it hurts? Wouldn’t it be more applicable if we reason more about whether this government would work to return the looted properties to its rightful owners and how will it do that? Wouldn’t it be more equitable if we decide what to do about those who committed the crimes of genocide against Somali people and talked about whether it is worth to extend parliamentary amnesty to the people who committed those grievous crimes?
For two apparent reasons, it is difficult to imagine how we can get a credible government in all Somalia out of the current saga as well as from the same familiar faces. For the system in which it has been set up with, the tribal system, which is neither representative nor maintainable in the future. And for the old faces who had everything to do with our misery and where we stand today. In a recent interview with Mr. Hassan by Al-Hayat (Arabic paper) reporter he was specifically asked why should the Somali people trust him when he loyally served under a dictatorial regime. The answer he gave did not give us any scrap of comfort but instead made us more dismal about our future being in the hands of these people. He blatantly said "the Somali people must trust, and they have already trusted me" he showed us how complacently he took our trust for granted. What he does not realise is that it will be incomprehensible for Kosovo-Albanians to be asked to trust anyone who loyally served under Slobodan Milosevic's government. Nor will it be understandable for Europeans to trust anyone who was in Hitler's cabinet. For that same reason it will be hard for the Somali people to trust a loyal lieutenant of Siyad Barre specially when he surrounded himself with former colleagues in crimes.
There has been a public relations campaign for Mr Hassan most of it by the UN information service in Somalia known as IRIN and by the BBC Somali service. It is clear why most of Somali people do not believe whatever public relations exercise these two services comes up in relation to Abdi Qassim Salad Hassan. A lot of Somalis are aware of the fact that the editor of IRIN in Somalia is non-other that Abdi Salad Hassan, Abdi Qassim's own brother. It is not surprising why most Somalis listen to UN's information service with contempt and regard it to be very amusing to hear what spin Mr Hassan can master for Mr. Hassan. Even more Somalis know about the fact that the chief editor of the BBC Somali service, Mr. Garad, is a close cousin of Mr. Hassan, so is the BBC's Somali section reporter from Mogadishu. The Somali people was also made aware of what kind of a man Mr. Garad is, he has even gone far enough to sack most of the experienced Somali radio journalists in the BBC's Somali section and substituted them with three close inexperienced cousins of his. A person who did not shy away to commit the most outrageous nepotism against informed Somali journalists should not be expected to impartially inform Somali public about his close cousin the "elected" president in Djibouti.
Despite the hard work of Mr. Hassan's brother and cousins, and despite the spins they have tried so hard to put on his image and presentation, "the president-elect" has frequently let himself down in the press. That close net media organisations around him must have got to his head when he somehow thought that he can get away with whatever contradicting statements he makes to the press on the first come first serve basis. We are getting mixed messages from the "president elect" in relation to how he will deal with the existing administrations, Puntland and Somaliland, and what system he will be governing the country with. The president elect seems to be amusing everybody who interviews him without much regard for any dismal contradictions his statements might make. He sometimes declares that he will use a dialogue in order to make his administration more inclusive, while, depending on the addressed person at that time, he also declares that he will use force to unite Somalia. He declares to the Somali people that he will rule the country with Islamic Shariah and that he does not want to be punished by Allah if he chooses to rule the country with a different system, while on the same rationale he declares to western journalists that he has absolutely nothing to do with Islamists and whatever he believes in as a person is totally different from what he will rule the country with. He concedes that Siyad Barre's government was a dictatorial regime, while on the same line he shows his delight to have loyally served under that regime.
All those statements can not be right, and Mr. Hassan ought to distinguish which one of them is right and which one of them is wrong. He must tell us which one of those statements were a true conviction of his and which one of them was a joke. I am afraid that Mr. Hassan has to be told that he can not have it both ways, he is either to be using a dialogue or he is going to use force, or he is either going to introduce Shariah law or he isn't. He must courageously stand by the policies he heavily contributed to its making or he must denounce everything he has done in his life for that long years he remained a loyal lieutenant to Siyad Barre. He can't be using force and call that to be a dialogue, as he can not be believing in the sovereignty of the people and call that to be the Shariah law or visa versa. He cannot be calling Siyad Barre's regime to be a dictatorial regime and solely exempt himself from their dark memory. He must at least have the decency to state what his convictions are, if there are any that is. He must state clearly whether he understands the wish of the Somali people to have a devolved federal system or the need for them to sustain and build upon the form of decentralisation they have so far achieved.
The Somali people's wishes to have a devolved federal system is a real one, it is the dream of the people to see life being possible in each one's territory. It is a dream that the people made it closer to reality in the few years in which they started to do it out of desperation. It is the cornerstone of security and stability in today's Somalia and Mr. Hassan must not be allowed to wreck those fundamental rights of the Somali people. While a lot of emphases have been made on the need to make a government regardless of the system it will operate with, it is sad that the central argument on what the people want have been missed in Djibouti conference. What has been done in Arta, Djibouti is an imposition of opinions without really looking down to the practicalities on the ground as well as the strong and genuine feeling of the people in their respective localities. In that sense it could only be described not less than a dictatorship of opinions, and that could only be the worst kind of dictatorship.