Somalia’s “Fadhiid” State
“Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis,” Wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), America’s preeminent transcendentalist. With this essay, I present my version of a scream regarding the descent of Somalia to the abyss. If the Somali nation and its people have any traces of conscience and forward thinking for the posterity of their children, the July 12, 2013 UN report must be the wakeup call that does the job. Or else, it could mean that Somalis have resigned eternally about their nation’s fate to be described by an endearing Somali concept of “fadhiid.”
“Fadhiid,” a complicated and diminutive child of the nomadic family, eternally refuses to grow no matter how much milk he is fed by his mother and the entire village. “Fadhiid” attains adulthood attributes without ever fully growing to manhood. All the extra resources poured into the “fadhiid” fail to produce the desired results – growth/improvement.
Is Somalia, known in the 1960s as the cradle of world aid, therefore (in its halfhearted and desultory effort to formulate its own governance) the “fadhiid” of Sub-Sahara Africa? Ismail Ali Geeldoon, in his reflective book on Somali, correctly blames the ills of this nation partially on the absence of an educated class at the wake of independence in 1960. Geeldoon argues that the entire nation did not have a single graduate, compared to the rest of Africa where hundreds of well-educated and technocrats assumed the mantle of leadership.
Following independence in 1960, Somalia stumbled in her misunderstanding of liberal democracy. Soon after the Republic was established, over 65 political parties/groups were vying for a limited number of national seats, thus making participatory system of governance a mockery at best and an affair of anarchy at worst.
Thus, as a Somali Qur’an teacher would say to that one pupil who never gets it, it is befitting “Alif kaa xumaadaa, Albaqruu ku dhibaa,” or, not getting right in 1960 must be haunting the Somalis in an era of democratization and economic miracles for the rest of the continent. Whereas Somalia has yet to get the ABC of governance right, it has unfortunately perfected large scale corruption to the detriment of the nation.
Euphemistically put, Somalia lacks to date a strong and unified vanguard class to serve as the custodian of the state. As such, the country is left in the hands of vicious warlords, religious zealots, and a cohort of corrupt clan leaders that are tenacious and entrenched. With this group at the helm of the country, it is nearly impossible to fathom how this nation would come back from the ashes as did the proverbial phoenix, especially without radical changes to the delivery of food and cash aid to Mogadishu. I will advance some radical recommendations at the end of this essay.
A Nation of Waste
The July 12, 2013 UN’s Monitoring report on Somalia is expansively thorough, well researched, and it brings to the open issues that Somalis regularly talk about. In a sense, the report authenticated a nagging and pesky roamer that Somalis knew about regarding the complexity of piracy, the sliding back of the country into conflict and insecurity, and the triangular intersection between Al-Shabab, government operatives, and Villa Somalia in their shared objective to destabilize the Jubbaland region. Thus, the report provides an image of a government at war with itself!
Piracy: Although piracy is squarely conducted as a transnational criminal enterprise mainly by Somali businessmen and unemployed boys, the report does completely ignore the violation of Somalia’s territorial waters by international fishing ships.
Citing a letter President Hassan issued on February, 28, 2013, the Monitoring group suspects that the SFG is trying to oversimplify what it termed “a complex transnational organized crime” to “kingpins” and “young boys’ crime to be solved by local elders. The Monitoring group believes that the letter of the President is nothing more than a diversion strategy to absolve perpetrators of a complex transitional crime commissioned at the high. Having said that, it fair to suggest that the expose of how some businessmen are benefiting from this illegal enterprise in the absence of any trained national coastguard is irrefutable.
Conflict in Jubbaland: The report’s portrayal of the renewed conflict in Jubbaland as “Habargidir/Ayer/Mareehan” vs. “Ogaden” conflict is all the more worrisome. The report finally authenticates the intersection between the interests of the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and Al-Shabab in assisting what it termed the “Habargidir/Ayer Mareehaan” militia. If this accusation is true, then the nagging suspicion that a thin layer separates this government of Hassan Sheikh from Al-Shabab is evidently and undeniably true.
This raises the question of how much of the finances and food aid the West and the UN intended for hungry people inadvertently falls in the hands of Al-Shabab through the SFG, knowingly or unknowingly. The Somali people expect the UN to answer this charge.
Many Somalis have asked themselves the reasons why Prime Minister Shirdoon is not adequately discharging his PM responsibilities. To that end, he has become a constant source for humor by cartoonist Amir Camar, who portrayed the PM as the sleeping creature who misses all the key actions.
Alas, now we know that the PM has been busy, according to the report, directing, financing and managing the internecine conflict between his Mareehan subclan and his distant cousins of the Kablalah Darood.
Although no significant recommendations have been developed around this conflict, it is inescapable that the President, with the help of neighboring countries, the leaders of Jubbaland state, and elders of the Mareehaan clan, bring to bear his weight to resolve this conflict. A government that produces unnecessary conflict inside its own territory can’t by any stretch of the imagination claim to be a legitimate body for governance. Since this conflict is unwinnable by any single side, the President owes to the nation to immediately stop the production of conflict, and start working with the Jubbaland leadership and resolve this conflict in the most expedient manner.
Presidential Legitimacy at Stake: For the first time, in a systemic manner, the report details credible information on the mechanics of how the President won his unexpected land slide victory in August, 2012. President Hassan allegedly won his presidency not because of what he can do for this ailing nation, but because of the largesse he doled to the so-called parliamentarians. The report also unveils the architecture through which a bounty of cash was transferred from Qatar and carried by corrupt acolytes, who were until recently members of the diaspora community.
Paying serious attention to charges leveled against the President’s acolytes who carried the cash would once more add fuel to the eroding faith in and officially discredit the so-called Diaspora. No wonder residents in Mogadishu call them “Dayuusbaro,” (get to know a corrupt and a dishonest). It so seems that even the well-intentioned young returnees are being submerged into the never-ending cesspool of corruption which is thriving in Mogadishu.
With the release of this report, and now that the UN officially admits that President Hassan’s selection was orchestrated because of outside monies in buying votes for him, there is an indissoluble fog of legitimacy hovering over his presidency. The question remains whether his government is technically legal or not. Either way, his fate can only be explained by the following fitting Somali adage: “Hal xaaraani Nirig xalaal ah madhasho,” or a stolen she camel never mothers a legal calf. What one expects from this Presidency, therefore, is anyone’s guess.
Cesspool of Corruption: Only the cozy but corrupt triangular relationship between the Presidential palace, the Governor of the Central Bank and certain powerful political patrons of President Hassan makes possible the stealing of a whopping 80% of the millions of dollars meant intended for reconstruction of this tattered nation’s institutions and infrastructure.
As descried in the UN report in the following graphic terms, Somalia’s level of corruption dwarfs the description of the maze of corruption we so often read in the seminal work of Crawford Young on Zaire
“Notably, the efforts of donors to encourage the deposit of Government revenues in the Central Bank proved a flawed, if technically correct, objective. On average, at least 80 per cent of withdrawals from the Central Bank are made for private purposes and not for the running of Government, representing a patronage system and a set of social relations that defy the institutionalization of the state. The system of fadlan (please) in which key leaders authorize individual payments from public funds is fundamental to the distribution of resources within the sphere of Government and contradicts national budgets or structured spending for official bodies. It is not a system that can be changed easily given the breadth of interests at stake at the centre of power and has simply become the way of doing Government business. However, without a legitimate repository for internal and external revenue, efforts to build an effective public financial management system will be undermined. In this context, the fiduciary agency managed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and intended to serve as a model, was reduced to a transfer agent that could not ensure accountability for funds once they reached the Government of Somalia. Key to irregularities has been the current Governor of the Central Bank, Abdusalam Omer. Indeed, of the US$ 16.9 million transferred by PricewaterhouseCoopers to the Central Bank, US$ 12 million could not be traced.”
NUXUS between Aid and Corruption
As depressing as this revelation may be, two questions must be answered: First, is this biblical proportion of corruption to pass as all other crimes in Somalia (massacres of groups, rape, tortures of civilians) had without a single individual being charged or at least being brought to a hearing? Second, how much did PricewaterhouseCooper know of the monies lost to the corrupt culture of “fadlan,” or what is rather lately called “ii cantob,” (give me in huge amounts). It is just naïve to completely exonerate the only Western entity that is in the center of the Century’s culture of corruption. The report comes short here in not assigning any meaningful role to PricewaterhouseCooper.
The report, however, lays the foundation for a NUXUS between the UN’s aid, corruption and Al-Shabab; it has convincingly established an irrefutable intersection between Al-Shabab, government operatives, and the office and how they cooperate on multiple efforts, not least on the war in the Jubbaland region. If and when findings are made on NUXUS, the UN and its officials could be found guilty for inadvertently financing and feeding a tumor called “fadlan,” and the terrorist war of Al-Shabab’s war in Somalia.
As of writing this essay, Philippe Lazzarini, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, asks for additional US $20 million humanitarian aid for the most venerable and children. Who guarantees that this money will reach Somalia’s children before it falls in the hands of Al-Shabab, patrons of Somalia’s incompetent Central Bank, or the cryptic cash stores where the President keeps raw cash in the millions? If the UN believes its own report, it unlikely that most of the requested additional aid would reach the hungry and the needy in Somalia.
Despite the process in which monies that are ear marked for reconstruction and for feeding the hungry are being stolen, the report says: “as a consequence of both remote management by aid agencies in Nairobi and the culture of “gatekeepers,” diversion of humanitarian assistance by third parties, as well as by staff and partners of aid organizations, continues to undermine international efforts. If the implication is that aid experts are managing the delivery of funding and food for Somalia from afar, that and other inadequacies must be corrected.”
In the short term, the most practical approach to arrest the ever-mushrooming cancerous corruption in Mogadishu and its surrounding Southern districts, where Al-Shaba controls most of the Cities, the following three pronged political and aid delivery must be instituted:
1- President Hassan’s legitimacy as a legitimate President is questioned by the UN report. If so, the UN and donor countries must start helping opposition groups formulate policies that may seek to encourage the establishment of an inclusive caretaker government drawn from those parties that lost the election in August 2012, and from the current leadership of President Hassan’s government. Endorsing the recommendations advanced by former leaders (including 3 former Presidents, 7 former Prime Ministers, and former Speakers of the Parliament) who recently met in Kenya, Nairobi, (their report would soon be released) must be seriously entertained to get out of the deadlock the country finds itself.
2- The sitting President must suspend hostilities in Jubbaland, including propaganda, covert military operations, and financing the “Habagir/Ayer/Mareehan” coalition, and start opening serious talks with the leaders of the Jubbaland (the so-called Kablalax group), after which the government completely endorses the statehood of Jubbaland consisting of Lower- and-Upper Jubba, and Gedo. The government should not make the Jubbaland challenge a make-or break-it policy. Bringing peace and conflict resolution to Jubbaland, with the inclusion of Gedo into the nascent administration, could give the President the very lifeline that he is looking for. Otherwise, he is doomed to fail as the clocking is ticking against him.
3- The UN should consider transferring its operations for delivering aid, including but not limited, to food aid and cash transfers for development and reconstruction as well as military hardware, to Hargaisa (Somaliland) and Garowe (Puntland). A radical shift in aid delivery for needy Somalis would help undermine the rampant culture of “fadlan” centered in Mogadishu, where aid monies are simply distributed to powerful political patrons of the President. Also, by moving the delivery of aid out of Mogadishu to Somaliland and Puntland would undermine the architecture of intersection on which Al-Shabab terrorists and the Somali Federal Government exchange cash and stolen food aid.
By Faisal A. Roble