OPEN LETTER TO
THEIR EXCELLENCIES: the Somali President, Prime Minster, MP, Public,
and UN Rep., Dr. Babafemi Badejo
By Abdirahman Gutale (email@example.com)
any closer today than yesterday? Whose corner is the ball now and who
will we blame for failing to score? What is next? These are few points
that need to be underlined as the Somali political climate unfolds quickly.
The Somali politics, however, is more unpredictable than weather in London,
so Somali political analysts must cross their fingers and whish it does
not rain like London weather forecasters.
Is peace any closer today than yesterday? Sure, you bet it is. Burden
me for a second before you judge me for being naïvely optimistic.
I certainly don't blame you for quick reaction to dismiss my claim. We
all accustomed to disappoints from crushed hopes. But conditions on the
ground are very promising this morning. As I dip my pen in ink, I read
that Prime Minster Gedi courageously made some great conciliation to the
demands from Mogadishu leaders (acceptance of March 17 parliament decision,
relocation to the capital, and remaining in Mogadishu rather than going
back to Nairobi). I must commend the Prime Ministers action to compromise
and concede as I criticized his rhetoric in my previous writing No Dissent
Allowed. There are some who already claim that the PM move is trap and
deceit, but I contest their assumption as there is no prove yet. We must
not be the obstacle to hope; pessimism is part of the problem. When I
wrote in my previous open letter after the election of President Abdulahi,
I was very jubilant as many of you. Well, today am as Jubilant as that
day because this is a big win; don't you agree? No, I don't mean a win
is for Mogadishu leaders.
contrary, it is for the PM Gedi and President Abdulahi in particular and
Somali people in general. Why you wonder? This goes to my second question,
so come along and don't loose me in transition.
Whose corner is the ball now and who will be blamed for failing to score?
The ball now is in the hands of Mogadishu leaders. They must make true
of their promise; they must continue collaborating in relocating armed
militia; they must fulfill the twenty nine or so promises they made. Hold
on your sarcastic smile. Don't assume that Mogadishu leaders and their
colleagues are destined to fail. I assure you that you are not the only
one to think so and probably you are right although deep inside you wish
to be wrong. I support your subconscious and hope they made truth of their
word. Whatever their goal was (some say it was tactic to stall the government;
other say it was defensive mode because they couldn't trust Abdulahi;
other say it was economical calculations for they loose their booming
war making business if they accept peace; others say it was purely nationalistic
gesture to reject frontline troops and insist the capital to be Mogadishu;
while others believe completely other reasons than mentioned here). Whatever
their initial goal was; now they achieved it, and certainly they will
be judged for what they do now.
What is next? The President, Prime Minister, and Parliament have a golden
opportunity and certainly history will record what good use they make
of it. It is important that they all realize dialogue is more conducive
to peace than confrontation and harsh rhetoric. As a wise Somali man whose
name escapes me at moment said, "Rag wadayoo wadayoo wuxuu walaal
ku dhaamo waayay." These wise words should be a guide to our leadership.
Somali people today doubt that peace is nothing but "dhaan dabo gaale"
the closer you get to it the father it appears. It is the task of leaders
to make these doubts disappear as Bob Eaton wrote, "A leader is some
who can take a group of people to a place where they don't think they
can go." Most Somali people today don't think that they will see
the return of Somali dignity in their lifetime. It is your Excellencies
tasks to make the Somali public believe there is better day ahead. I must
warn that an empty rhetoric will not convince; what is needed are bold
actions towards more conciliatory tone and peacemaking.
the President and Prime Minster,
Your Excellencies: you can either be the heroes who saved their nation
or the cowards (strength is sometimes foolish) who destroyed it. If you
choose to be heroes, you will be remembered along other great men like
Nelson Mandela (who conceded to give white minority stake in South African),
Mahamata Gandhi (who made the split between India and Pakistan), and Abraham
Lincoln (who insisted the unity of his country at whatever cost). If you
choose to be cowards, you will be remembered along Hitler and Mussolini
whose "superego" destroyed them and their nations.
Your Excellencies: it is recommendable that you move to the capital and
use the Ugandan troops to save guard government installations while Somali
troops are assembled outside the capital. Ask the international community
to send monitors who oversee the resembling process. Also make use of
Somali talent in the diasporas to rebuild the shattered nation. Follow
the constitution and let it guide you. Please, subjugate your personal
ambitious to the needs to the nation. Empower all the branches of the
government and encourage everyone to do their part faithfully.
Former President Ali Mahdi Mohamed said it best that he and those like
him will be more burdened in making this government a success. I am sure
most Somalis share the feeling of honorable Ali Mahdi. Your Excellencies:
you don't need foreign troops make you save at your home; your people,
as attested to all the visitors to Somalia, are ready to welcome you with
open arms. You will be dignified sleeping under skies of your homeland
and discussing under trees than being evicted from hotel rooms in Nairobi.
What is more humiliating death or indignity? Don't get me wrong, we Somali
people are in-debt for the efforts of our neighbors, but it is time we
take responsibility on our own.
Members and Cabinet,
Your Excellences: the task rebuilding is greater now then ever; you have
a lot to prove. Your critics say that you haven't done many great things
to be remembered; you are war profiteers who can't survive without it;
you are not to fit for leadership. With your current record, it is hard
to defend against these allegations. However, now opportunity presents
itself to you. Make the most out of it. Prove your critics that you can
be peace profiteers, that you can lead in peace as in war, that you can
leave a good legacy in returning our honor. Make your supporters proud.
Restore the dignity of Somalia. Raise the beautiful blue flag with the
lovely white star high up in the air. Welcome your President and Prime
Minster to the capital. Let the international community monitor your progress.
Involve Somali expertise in the process of resettling militia outside
the capital. Set clear and achievable goals. Consult with your government
and follow the constitution. It is hard to succeed when most want you
to fail, but Katherine Mansfield said, "Risk! Risk! Anything! Care
no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing
on ear for you. Act for yourself." At this state failure is not an
We the Somali people rightly at times doubt the intentions of our leadership
while we at times wrongly judge your actions. Nevertheless, we are blameless
for we are burning under the heat of war, poverty, despair, and disease.
Time has come to move forward; we must all soldier on. I long for the
day all this will be history and the only way to remember what is happening
will be reading it from history books on library shelves rather than reading
from daily news. That day may be far, but with dedication and patience
we are destined to reach. There is no short of intellectuals who encourage
leaving the bitterness of clan behind and taking the sweetness of nationhood.
Yet, thus far this advice remains to be only a good will. We must make
it reality by acting upon it.
Your Excellency: I don't know if I congratulate or eulogize you because
the task a head of you is as great as rebuilding Germany and Japan if
not greater. With your expertise on Somali issues many Somalis have high
hopes that your contribution will be great asset in road to making history.
Remain neutral and don't get caught in the "politics of the belly",
be vigilant in the advices you receive, be blunt of the decision you make,
and always carry your stick before the carrot.
There are many conflicting opinions on the best approach in conflict management
and rebuilding. Among highly debated issues are disarmament, reintegration
of militia, foreign troops. All these are important issues, but one even
more important role is forgotten - the role of tradition and elders.
Every community has social norms "XEER" that guide the interactions
between individuals and communities. Thus far the role of Xeer in the
conflict management is minimum or not present. It will be wise to go back
to the rich tradition of conflict management that sustained Somali people
for centuries. Elders (e.g. ugaas, caaqil, imam, malaaq, suldaan, and
etc) must be given visible role in rebuilding because the elders are most
respected in the community and their words are almost binding. Also the
elders have the necessary expertise needed for successful conflict management
because their have knowledge of the Xeer. This step is highly recommended
given the stalemate that stalls current peace process. It is even advisable
to create upper house composed of the elder; this house will act as neuteral
mediator between the lower house and the rest of government. The house
will play the role current played by neighboring countries. This step
will make peace closer, and it will legitimize any decisions made by lowers
house whose leadership is questioned by many Somalis.
The elders can better deal with disarmament issue since they are trusted
and respected by clans. As far as reintegration of current militia, it
is taken out of context. It is not as hard as it made to look. If you
give these young men (women in some cases) opportunity to get education
and employment, they will most certainly be integrated. These young men
and women don't carry gun or support their respective warlord for they
love to fight; they do it out necessity because in most cases this is
the only option they have. I say this cause I know from experience as
the Egyptian saying goes, "Don't ask the doctor ask the patient."
For more information on the role of social norms "Xeer"
and elders in conflict management see my upcoming (July 30th )research
on this issue.