Somalia’s Dollar Store Variety Leaders-Nur Bahal

They are at it again! There are no shortage of problems to solve, no scarcity of lives to save and improve and no deficiency of nation building tasks to accomplish. The entire country is riddled with poverty, misery and mayhem. Of the millions of problems Somalia is facing, of all the challenges to overcome, Somalia’s leaders choose to fight over a cabinet shuffle. And because failure breeds more failure when the capacity to solve the nation’s problems eludes them, they reach for each others throat. Like the cheap dollar store variety of sunglasses, they buckle under the weight of their mediocrity. Regardless of what each one claims, the issue comes down to the complete absence of conscience, morality and lack of statesmanship. However, in this particular case, the President and the Prime Minister cannot be equally blamed.

The spirit of Somalia’s unfinished Constitution was based on the notion of striking a tribal power balance in government among the country’s feuding clans. The constitution does not define how to achieve this. Instead, it gives the president and the prime minister some overlapping responsibilities. Not withstanding this, however, the conflict at hand is about friendships. Since his election, the President was plagued by corruption perpetrated by people related to the President either by clan affiliation or by friendship or both. These people created a bubble whose main concern is the creation, protection and preservation of ill-gotten riches at the expense of constitutional discretion. This practice has been flagrantly employed many times in the last two years and despite questionable integrity, the president is staunchly defending “his” men because of consanguinity and friendships cultivated over the years.

Although the Prime Minister is directly responsible for the cabinet of ministers, the “super ministers” such as the Minister of Justice and Constitution, who is also the subject of the current conflict, think they are outside the domain of the Prime Minister, a bigoted idea that flies in the face of the prime directive of management – one employee must have one supervisor. Corruption is not only about stealing the national resources; it is also about putting incompetent people in positions of power without regard for sound governance policies. In the last two years, it has been the only thing that President Ulusow has done – the appointment and protection of individuals whose only reason of being in the government is to take advantage of the transition that Somalia is going through and first and foremost benefit their pockets and the interest of their clans. This is the single reason for the stagnant and unchanging status quo in social reconciliation, peace and nation building.

When leaders are devoid of conscience and morality, as in the case of Somalia’s current leadership, the blind can lead the sighted, the uninformed can inform the wise, the unskilled can direct the skilled and the deaf can decide the quality of sound being played. It is not a coincidence that Somalia and many other African countries fail to establish lasting and sustainable governance policies that work for their countries and as a result evolve into full-fledged governments who harness the respect of their constituents and capable of feeding their people.

Corruption is worse than murder. When funds are misused by a politician who buys a villa in a foreign country with enough money to feed thousands of starving kids, that politician has killed all those kids. That is the story of Hassan Ulusow’s government – a government that lacks an understanding of the sacred and the secular; a government that lacks the sincerity and the skills to lead Somalia out of the present chaos.

Corruption and conflict has become a vicious cycle of political environment in Somalia.  It relates closely to the clan fanaticism and the culture of consanguinity, abuse of power and appointments of the most incompetent. It has become a heritage – a heritage that erases the crux of good governance and the essence of humanity. But above all, this type of culture has also sacrificed the interest of the people for the sake of individuals and groups.

Nur Bahal

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