Considering the positive trend
of the past eighteen months, Somalia is en route to
recovery, and, in due course, to re-engineer a better state
from the ground up. The caveat being: in the long term, this
could be another squandered opportunity as long as “doormat
politics” shapes Somalia’s political landscape.
doormat politics, I mean the combination of systematic
self/foreign-inflicted aggressions and exploitations
suffered by the nation and the subsequent desperation,
hopelessness, chronic dependency and indignation.
From the cold war proxy geopolitical mortal games, to the
iron fist of the military government, to the ruthless
militias/warlordism of the civil war, to the moral menace of
religious extremism, to the hostile intervention of
neighboring countries and the paranoia-driven global war on
terror, Somalia has been under the exploitative schemes and
the brutal authority of various external and internal
actors. By and large, throughout these periods, the nation
was used either as a camouflage to advance clan-based
exclusive rights or a gambit for zero-sum expedience.
Mutual Interest and Mutual Respect
Today, Somalia is at the threshold of a new era; an era
of bilateral relationships of mutual interest and respect.
However counterintuitive it may seem, a new image of Somalia
is gradually coming into formation.
Aside from its
coveted long and strategic coast, Somalia is a country with
untapped energy and other natural resources and massive
rebuilding needs. Many recognize its potential lucrative
And, as U.S., China, Europe and
India continue their scramble in Africa for resources and
food security, cultivating bilateral relationship with
Somalia as a strategic gateway to sub-Saharan Africa becomes
a geopolitical necessity. This, needless to say, provides
Somalia an opportunity to expand its horizon and cultivate
Recently, a number of old
friends were compelled to emerge out of their diplomatic
ambivalence since the Republic of Turkey has raised the bar
and re-assumed its full diplomatic relationship with Somalia
and opened its embassy in Mogadishu at a time when it was
still being considered the most dangerous city in the world.
Like China, Turkey has successfully been establishing good
footing in Africa based on its method of engagement- soft
“What Africa needs is not pity, but fairness
and opportunity. Developing partnerships based on respect,
equality and mutual interest will go a long way in
overcoming the vicious circle of exploitation, poverty and
underdevelopment in Africa” writes Turkish Columnist Ibrahim
Kalin in Today’s Zaman.
On January 17, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met with
then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reactivate the
bilateral relationship between Somalia and United States.
Though the State Department welcomed “the great strides
toward stability Somalia has made over the past year”—an
effort in which the U.S. played a key role—it made no
commitment to change its Dual-Track Policy and globally
dreaded “Drone Diplomacy.” These are the two sides of a
single counter-terrorism based policy toward Somalia that
has been undermining the legitimacy of the very central
government that US has officially recognized and established
bilateral relationship with.
relations between Somalia and the U.S. would remain a
political mirage as long as the U.S. policy toward Somalia
continues to be driven by counter-terrorism expediency and
its diplomatic gestures are delivered by drone strikes!
Pressure would soon be mounting against both nations as this
policy is getting under intense scrutiny and is the subject
of a new documentary called Dirty Wars that recently
premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is expected to
hit the theaters in March.
“We cannot allow the
extraordinary good we do to save and change lives to be
eclipsed entirely by the role we have had to play since
September 11th, a role that was thrust upon us,” said John
Kerry, the new Secretary of State. Whether or not these
words would prove prophetic per the foreign policy of
President Obama’s second term would remain to be seen.
Challenges and Opportunities of Economic Growth
Statehood is not sustainable without steady revenue and
economic growth and this should not be a shock to a nation
emerging out of the ruins of its bloody history and hampered
by chronic poverty with roughly seventy percent of its youth
being unemployed and nearly two million of its population
being internally and externally displaced.
needs a fresh start. However, as this just resuscitated
state is struggling to find its political, social,
religious, and economic balance, bill collectors are lining
up. Granted, there is nothing illegal about that. However, a
few issues must be illuminated:
Even though it is
still considered a “Pre-Decision-Point country”, Somalia is
qualified for debt cancellation under the IMF/World Bank
Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative.
might even qualify to legitimately invoke “The Odious Debt
Doctrine” (a precedent set by the U.S.) if and where it is
necessary. The rationale driving this legal doctrine is that
loans not made in good faith to non-democratic governments
with questionable legitimacy that then use these monies
against their public interests, or to oppress their
citizens, or for embezzlement and other corrupt overtly
corrupt motives, cannot be transferred to democratically
elected governments that may succeed them. Regardless, there
is a good chance that these international financial
institutions would do what’s right.
That said, a more
profoundly complex issue than dealing with these
institutions is dealing with Hedge Funds profiteers who
purchased some of Somalia’s old debts while the state was on
its death bed, hence the name Vulture Funds. This would have
to be won legally in the courts. Think Congo.
Processes and Sacrifices of Transformation
It behooves the current government to appoint a Debt
Audit and Asset Recovery Commission that includes
economists, international lawyers, members of the Parliament
and civil societies.
Moreover, it should deliberately
avoid any decision that would put this recovering state in a
position to be held as ransom for generations to come. This
includes aid monies that the state is chronically dependent
on. After all, as the old adage goes: “He who pays the piper
calls the tune.” Somalia now has too many pipers playing too
many tunes, all at once; a classic political cacophony of a
The good news is that the current government
already has alternative ways of generating state revenues
such taxation, postal services, licensing the telephone
gateway, licensing banking, licensing commercial fishing,
leasing agricultural lands, etc. in its priority.
Somali people have resiliently rejected the permanency of
failure. They have been responding with an overwhelming
stream of repatriation and investments. By and large there
is a popular march toward the light at the end of the
tunnel. However, the process is not yet complete and
hazardous pitfalls along the way still present detrimental
challenges. So, the current momentum must be guided with
vision, maintained with prudence, and guarded with
vigilance. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the
magically disappearing $ billions in South Sudan and Haiti.
This indeed underscores, among other things, the importance
of having in place effective policies of checks and
balances, also the apparatus and the capacity to invest
these funds into viable projects of critical nature.
So, the prospect of ending doormat politics in Somalia is
reasonably high as the world continues to change and the
political awareness of the average citizens continues to
rise. However, as it is a two-engine phenomenon, it is
utterly naïve to count on it before the Somali people come
to the realization that in the dark pages of history this
lamentation is scripted in blood – if only we were united!.
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