Nevertheless, peace is an important factor for human life but it is not enough for development, thus the debate lies could we do better? I argue that we would be able, and still have the opportunity to perform better. But most of the people are sceptical the ability of Somaliland politicians to bring development.
It is a sad truth that after twenty years of stability and democratic consolidation there is no significant development in the areas of infrastructure, human development and good governance. As a result, our children die for a lack of adequate health care, our youth are extremely unemployed, orphans sleep in the streets, mothers are struggling to feed their children, elderly people have no state care, the corruption is high as it was ever and the whole system is simply sick.
To our regret there is no foreseeable strategy or policy that neither this government nor opposition parties offer to tackle those challenges. Above all, the nation is internally fragmented by the politicians who, for their own narrow interest, use tribes as the mechanics of politics. While this is the fair assessment, we have never critically questioned why certain things linger in the way they are. For example, why we are continuing to drag into the poverty and underdevelopment?
One possible explanation could be that we have a defected political system coupled with a lack of intellectual contribution, but this paper argues that we are victims of leadership deficit, a term recently employed by the noble peace prize winner Wangari Maathai in her book Challenges for Africa to describe the inability of African leaders to develop their nations. To underpin this argument, I will examine the national institutions, political parties and the current administration to shed light on the failure of our leaders.
In our system of governance, we employed the American presidential system, which in the17th century the founding fathers of United States had put in place a complex power sharing system between the Congress and Presidency to protect both the interest of regional states and federal level, and still today it is one of the most complex systems in the world. To begin with, it was wrong in first place to say that our system is similar to that of the United States, because, there is no commonality between our society and that in the United States what so ever.
Yet, we have established a system identical to that of the US in name, and we put in place different institutions which we intended to become the source of power. Two houses of parliament, presidency and higher court, those are the legal sources of power in Somaliland. Unfortunately, those institutions do not exercise their constitutional responsibility accordingly. First, the upper house was established to be a form of reconciliation tool, but it has evolved to as a legislative institution without the appropriate mechanisms, for example members of that house do not have the educational capacity to formulate or evaluate national legislations, and they do not have expertise who could aid them to perform this critical task.
Second, the Lower house is democratically elected, there are more educated members compared to the upper house, but because of their incompetence and corruption they do not have any significant influence in the system.
Third, the higher court is poorly functioning with the fact that it is always in line with the president in office. Finally, the whole power lies at the presidency, but without appropriate checks in the system combined with the lack of vision, advanced age and alleged medical conditions of the current president everything is worsening. For instance, many people understand that there is competing ministers who have different motives mainly tribal and financial interest.
However, the few ministers who could contribute to the better system that we all wish, have been constrained by two factors, first, they lack the cultural and governing experience, second, they did not establish themselves as a team and this worsens the already sick system that we have put in place. On top of that, the constitution is vulnerable for different interpretations which add to the weakness of the system, and as we experienced in many occasions, it is a source of constant conflict.
In addition, the present-day flooded political parties give a wider picture of the deepening political confusion in our country. First, as Haywood writes, “political parties are organized association of people working together to compete political office and promote agreed upon polices.” If we take that definition, one of the characteristics of political party is offering alternative policy, but what we have seen in our political parties both the newly established ones and the three incumbent parties is on the contrary. They do not have polices that can help them to lead the country, and I will argue that a number of factors contributed to this inadequacy.
First, political parties are out of touch as there is no link between them and the wider society since they are based on tribal affiliations. Hence, they are not able to establish energetic membership system that could attract the mass population. Second, there are no proper regulations, procedures, policies, decision making process, effective structure and internal democracy within the parties, so, they lost the trust of the public support. Third, they lack the necessary financial resources which could enable them to employ experts that can help them to conduct researches to produce a meaningful manifesto. Fourth, they do not provide ideological thought to establish the difference between them and the other political parties.
Consequently, both the members and supporters give their loyalty to the leader because he/she has created individualistic drama, and this leads the parties to become short lived.
Historical evidence suggests that our political parties are not able to present themselves as representative national forums. They rather look as the property of individuals. For example, all the current three political party leaders failed to be accountable either to the public or their party members. We witnessed UCID, and their internal disgraceful split, UDUB, where the corrupted ex ministers are still on the show, and on top of that, we remember that the Chairmanship was managed outside the party system in Kulmiye, and that is an indication that they lack the features of political parties.
Moreover, the upcoming political parties have similar problems at hand, and we do not expect them to offer real alternative policy. For example, one day I turned on the TV, and coincidently, one of the leaders of the forthcoming parties was giving a speech to a group of people in a well-furnished hotel. I was listening twenty minutes, unfortunately I did not grasp what he was trying to offer for the nation “This party will implement your dreams, your aspirations and your hopes” he said.
But this is the vague message that someone would come across on daily basis if he/she follows Somaliland politics. However, if anyone tries to put that empty rhetoric into context it tells nothing. That is a clear elucidation of how our politicians today lack the vision, passion, integrity and the basic characteristics of a leadership, because they cannot transcend the manipulation of tribes for their personal ends.
They do not have the prescriptions that are required to counteract the deepening social problems that we experienced for decades. Sorry to say, but we are naive if we anticipate the emergence of politically meaningful parties from this contest.
Similarly, the current administration is another example of the product of leadership failure. It is now 18 months since the current government was in power, and if, in any occasion, their achievement so far is asked, government officials and non-officials including the first lady would play the following answer by default. We increased the salary, changed the Somali shillings from Burao, provided free primary schools and the national TV is on the air, and each minister or others have already provided those answers more than twenty times, so what is next, please carry on.
When it comes to the foreign policy they could not invent new answers but barrowed answers from Egal and Rayale, our trip was successful, the international community are looking at Somaliland, in other words, it is a continuation of old lies and dishonest that we have experienced for the last two decades. The recent trip to Djibouti and what happened afterwards explicitly explains the foreign policy of this government. Primarily, it looks that their actual job is attending different ceremonies that people hold at hotels for a range of purposes, from wedding to student graduation and travelling to world capitals without significant aftermaths of those trips.
Additionally, the issue of Somaliland has recently attracted some academics to consider the shortcomings of the various administrations that we have installed. Most of the scholars have highlighted the inability of Somaliland leaders to deliver the appropriate policies to pursue both locally owned development and coherent foreign policy. For example, a number of Professors from a range of Universities including Cambridge have carried out a research in 2011 and produced a report entitled “African Game Changer” to locate why Somaliland did not manage to persuade the international community to get a diplomatic recognition.
Among the factors they underlined was a ‘leadership deficit’ and they put it in this way “Until now a combination of narrow self-interests and lack of appropriate diplomatic method on Hagiasa’s part has trumped the reality of Somaliland self-determination” This assessment underpins once again, that our problem has its roots in our leadership failure.
In my view, unfortunately we are learning neither from the history nor from our own experiences, and that is why we are trapped into poverty and bad governance, therefore, we should take part of the blame as a society. The division and clan politics is not new, For example, Douglas James was a secretary for the British administration in Somaliland between 1916 to 1921, it is almost a century ago, in an article he wrote in 1925 he described our society as a clannish, divided and primitive, and that observation is factual until today, because our leaders employed tribes as a mechanism to pursue their interest and divided the society, and we as a society did not question why we are locked into this box of tribalism.
To our despair today our politicians are engaged in the same method of politics which hold us behind for centuries, because they have no political ideas or innovations to attract the population. At this point, we are suffering at the hands of those politicians, but only the mothers who lost their beloved sons in the sea, the university graduates who ended up in jails at Libya in their way to seek better life, elderly people who have no care in our cities, disabled people who worry about every morning where to earn the bread and parents who struggle to feed their children can reveal the pain of having leaders who do not have vision to transform the society to the better.
Then, unless we sensibly side-line the failed politicians, combined with the influence of tribal leaders, and democracy takes root, the peace would be increasingly volatile and unpredictable, and above all we will remain relatively weak, poor, ignorant and backward. Furthermore, the persistence of tribal influence in our politics is a further manifestation of the incompetence of our leadership.
The scope of our understanding in the negative implications of tribal politics should be broadened, and we should know that we live in a machine age where the tribe is irrelevant, simply, because people like us are competing technological advancement and exploring what is going on the moon, while we are competing over for instance, how many ministers from our poor tribes should be appointed to a bogus ministerial posts. In particular, the recent events in Erigavo and Sameel are clear indications of the vulnerability of our peace because of the negative implications of tribal politics.
In our modern history, we had over 50 years of dead politics characterized by tribalism combined with reckless incompetent and failed ruling political class. Thus, it is clear that they were not able to deliver the better life that we deserved. Therefore, I would conclude this: both the human experience and history directs us that nations are built by the dreams and hard work of people with vision, honesty, determination, integrity and passion, and we are not in a short supply of such people.
Therefore, we need a bottom up building program to transform our society which starts from intellectual debate to locate the better way forward, and this paper has only underlined the scale of the challenges to lay out the debate. But on the other hand, there are more encouraging signals, for example, the majority of our population are young people under 30 of their age who strongly believe the education as a path to development, and as a result, I hope they will demand their individual rights rather than the ambiguous tribe rights.
Finally, some people may argue that we are on the right route to development, but those people are expected to provide the timeline that our youngsters can wait to get an adequate employment opportunity which is the base of development. In my view, politicians have run out of time, and, I believe that the time has come to challenge the ruling class who could never deliver their promises or carry our collective aspirations. Otherwise, we will go down the dark side of the history.
By Khadar Hussein Abdi
Bristol, UK. Khadarxuseen77@live.co.uk