The Somali people are sick of fighting and all they yearn for is a chance at peace and a normal existence free from violence. To achieve this, however, they need strong leadership with a long term strategy to rebuild the nation.
(BSMG) By Liban Obsiye
Somalia is a country that has been at war since the fall of the last government under General Siad Barre in 1991. It’s a country that has been crippled by civil war, bloodshed, and, generally, mindless violence for nearly 20 years. The analysts at the Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit, a sister company of the international award winning magazine, The Economist, identified Somalia as the worst country in the world. According to the Intelligence Unit, Somalia was at the bottom or near the bottom of the international league table in every category. The categories by which the international countries were judged were many but among the most important were security and safety, poverty and human development. Clearly, coming at the bottom or near the bottom of any of the listed categories should not only cause serious reason for concern but also an immediate change of direction by the responsible authorities within each nation.
However, rather than taking heed and calling an end to all the violence and destruction that has severely hampered the Somali civilians living in the war zone’s ability to lead their daily lives, those involved in the Somali political process appear to have taken this as an opportunity to go around the globe asking for financial support to tackle the very problems which they have created and are the centre of.
The Somali President, Sheikh Sharif, landed in the UK for his first official State visit on Monday, 8th March and as part of his three day visit he has already met the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband and he is expected to meet the Somali Community members in both UK cities of London and Birmingham where a large number of Somali British citizens reside.
During his meeting with the British Prime Minister in London, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Gordon Brown discussed issues related to the current Somali crisis and how Britain could further offer support to assist President Sharif’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to tackle the key issues that are proving to be an obstacle to the achievement of long term peace in Somalia such as Al-Shabaab and the fear of Al-Qaeda making Somalia its new international Headquarters. Mr. Brown also personally requested that Sheikh Sharif and his government work hard on the release of the British couple that are still held hostage by Somali Pirates somewhere in Somalia.
According to the UK TV Channel 4’s Foreign affairs news correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, the UK is about to announce its first aid package for Somalia’s transitional government amid mounting concern that without more international support the war-torn country could become a safe haven for Al-Qaida and this aid package is due to be unveiled during Sheikh Sharif’s visit to the UK this week. According to Mr. Rugman, the UK government is widely understood to be offering around £5.5 million towards improving Somalia’s security. However, the exact amount and the other purposes of the financial support have not been made public. It is certain that, as a result of the UK having the largest Somali diaspora population number in Europe, the UK government will ask Sheikh Sharif to communicate directly with them, especially the impressionable youths, and to ask for their support in tackling terrorism both in Somalia and here in the UK. This coincides with the British Home Secretary, Mr. Alan Johnson, making any membership of Al-Shabaab a criminal offence under UK law.
In his Monday night address to the Foreign Policy think tank Chatham House, Sheikh Sharif complained that there was not enough international support for him to tackle Al-Shabaab. He went on to suggest that all that can be done by him and the TFG is been done but this is not enough. He warned the international community by stating that the danger of terrorism is not confined to Somalia and that it can reach anybody. He went on to conclude by saying that, “The only way to get past this difficulty is to strengthen the government.”
Whilst Sheikh Sharif is right in his above statement, what is quite clear is that neither he nor his crowned TFG are the government that Somalia needs and wants. Nor could they or would they strengthen anything other than their own tribal positions and financial bank balances. The simple fact is that Mr. Sharif, and his foreign crowned TFG which is made up of all the warlords that have collectively destroyed Somalia do not have the knowledge, expertise, skill and the support of the people needed to make any changes. Mr. Sharif and his undemocratic government, who have enjoyed the support of both the UK and the USA in the form of financial aid and weapons, have made no grounds in capturing the capital city from which they supposedly govern Somalia. In fact, it would be reasonable to suggest that the TFG’s control of Mogadishu ends at the so called gates of the Presidential palace which Mr. Sharif occupies as the so called leader of the Republic of Somalia.
The idea that Mr. Sharif can help the UK government convince members of the diaspora to not support Al-Shabaab and not engage in terrorist activities is a joke of epic proportions as the majority of these would prefer Al-Shabaab to his unelected, warlord infested regime any day. As for the Pirates releasing the British couple? Well the Sheikh would need to leave Mogadishu to be able to do this wouldn’t he? So, arguably, the chances of this happening at worst are farcical and at best, nil.
Sheikh Sharif in his speech at Chatham House tries to come across as a desperate reformer who is truly misunderstood by the world but the fact is that he is not misunderstood as the world sees him for what he really is: A weak unelected leader without any real political authority or control.
Since coming to power, Mr. Sharif has increased the popularity of Islamist groups such as Al-Shabaab and Hizbul-Islam as well as isolating some of his key advisers and academic supporters through his dithering and inconsistencies. His policies are nonexistent and his future strategy for governing the Somali nation is limited to going around the globe with a begging bowl for every little problem he confronts. The sad fact is (and the Western world must understand this) that it is as a result of the incompetence of the TFG and its leadership that Islamist groups are enjoying the high level of support from the Somali public and to further support them with aid would be about as good as pouring aid money down a deep well with an intention of never seeing it again.
The key obstacles to Somalia’s peace and stability are far too complex for any individual Somali leader to address, let alone an unelected leader who most of his citizens despise. Sheikh Sharif’s poor leadership should not be encouraged by any welcome or invitation by any government anywhere in the world. He and his TFG are far too insignificant to make any real changes in Somalia.
The foundations of the instability and violence Somalia faces today are as a result of ignorance, poor leadership and blind loyalty to individual tribes.
The will to create change and rebuild the Somali nation is not visible anywhere in Somalia as the politicians and businessmen divide the large aid cake between themselves whilst pretending to their financial backers that all that could possibly be done to better the situation on the ground, is been done. Sadly, it is reasonable to suggest that neither Sheikh Sharif nor his warlord cronies in government care about the plight of those caught in the middle as if they did the situation might have been a bit better now.
The AU troops and the neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya are also in no rush to bring about peace as their nations profit from the misery of the Somali people through aid money being distributed through their countries to the Somali people.
The Somali people are sick of fighting and all they yearn for is a chance at peace and a normal existence free from violence. To achieve this they need strong leadership with a long term strategy to rebuild the nation. However, instead they get a crowned government made up of all those who contributed to their misery and plight. If Prime Minister Brown was to carry out a referendum on Sheikh Sharif’s leadership in Somalia, most would properly vote to lynch him for his incompetence and the part he has played in escalating the violence in Mogadishu.
The only real long term solution to peace in Somalia is to send in well armed and equipped western troops to tackle the Islamist insurgents and then help the people of Somalia to democratically elect a leader that they agree on to lead them to a better future. In addition, this elected leadership should be assisted by members of the educated Somali diaspora who truly are interested in playing a role in the reconstruction of their country. In the short term though, it is important for the Western governments to attach stringent conditions to any aid money given to Mr. Sharif and Co. in the hope that they will deliver what they promise to deliver when they come to their countries with a begging bowl.
Liban Obsiye, Bristol