OPEN LETTER TO THEIR EXCELLENCIES: the Somali President, Prime Minster, MP, Public, and UN Rep., Dr. Babafemi Badejo

By Abdirahman Gutale (gutale_3@msn.com)

Is peace 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.

To the 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.

To 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.

Parliament 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 option.

Fellow Somalis
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.

Dr Babafemi Badejo
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.

Recommendations
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.