As the Dubai-Qatar induced crisis engulfs, and potentially erodes the gains Somalis have made in the last twenty years, the leadership at Villa Somalia must look for lessons elsewhere, even if it is Ethiopia. With a heavyweight of guilt on my shoulders, I point out that Ethiopia offers this time an invaluable lesson to Somalia; so does Somalia offer its own experience to its neighbors.
Let me start with what lessons Somalia offers to Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia. All of these countries who military forces are part of the peace-keeping troops, are enjoying political and, to a certain degree economic, stability. In the case of Kenyan, a parliamentary system has survived since Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru Kenyatta’s late father presided its post-independence government. Since then, the country came close to the brink of a total meltdown under the weight of ethnic conflict. The latest crisis was this year when Raila Odinga, a rival of Uhuru, refused to honor the election the crowned Mr. Uhuru. Raila Odinga’s father, Jaramogi Odinga, was a bitter political rival of Uhuru’s father, and in some ways that feud fans the Kikuyu-Luo ethnic conflict. Kenya is not yet out of the woods of ethnic conflict.
Ethiopia has also had its share of ethnic conflicts. Only a few months ago, most of the country’s regions were awash with an ethnic induced bloody conflict. The dismantling and a potential eclipse were on the horizon at any given time. Despite the positive reception Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received from many corners of the country, the history of Ethiopia dictates that the country is not yet free from the pull as in pulling the county apart factors.
Even leaders in tiny Djibouti never sleep comfortably. The clan conflict within the largest Somali family can any day tear the country apart if contradictions are not handled with inclusive politics.
So what is the lesson they could all learn from Somalia? Only one but expensive lesson – having a government that is imperfect is much better than to be a country without a government. Just ask Somalis how it feels to destroy your country and start everything from ground zero. Infrastructure rehabilitation is next to impossible for everything that is important for construction is outrageously expensive; institution building following a civil war, where brain and capital drain took both mind and money out of the country would remain a multi-generational problem. Neither is parching up together a tattered civic culture a guarantee. Worse of all, UN and other international entities will take part of your country’s ownership. In other words, international bureaucracy and their hungry troops, including soldiers and NGO workers will partially own the land that was once free.
The lesson Somalia offers to other African countries neighboring countries, in particular, is not to destroy their respective countries but work to change the system.
But Somalia should learn one small but instructive lesson from Ethiopia in order to save the relationship between Villa Somalia and the regional governments. In accordance with Article 53 of the SFG constitution, Villa needs to be inclusive and invite regional leaders whenever it takes drastic measures that may impact the welfare and public safety of the entire nation.
The administration of Mohammed A. Farmajo is required by law to “consult” regional leaders on some matters. Ending its long-standing relationship with Dubai qualifies for such a moment.
Here is the lesson Ethiopia offers. The new Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed recently traveled to Djibouti for a major reorientation of the relationship between the two countries. Djibouti is both politically and culturally dominated by Somalis. Its economy is also strongly tied to the Somali region in Ethiopia (DDS). For a gesture that embedded multiple messages, the Prime Minister invited the president of the Somali region to accompany him on his trip. Likewise, Dr. Abiy also invited the president of the Oromia region, Lemma Megarsa, to his visit to Kenya. I was also informed that he may invite Tigris if and when he decides to start talks with Eritreans.
Such an expansion of the tent of consultation appears to be a small gesture but has a bigger message embedded in the action. Villa Somalia needs to practice the politics of inclusion and consultation with regional leaders. If you do this at the highest level, goes the logic of governing, so would you at the lower level.
In 2012, when former president Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud was invited to the Busan conference to sign the Somali New Deal, he took with him a large entourage to the complete exclusion of the regional governments. He was riding high on his popularity and failed to look down and see what makes sense in governing a post-failed state. The optics of that trip and his early days of fighting regional leaders came back to haunt him.
The current move of Villa Somalia to sever its relationship with Dubai may or may not be right. Even so, no one should doubt the SFG's absolute rights to safeguard the sovereignty of the nation. Still exercising that right calls for an inclusive and consultative approach to issues of national weight. Instead of fighting the regional governments or even sabotaging them as has been widely reported, Faramjo must reach out to them for a meaningful engagement.
To that end, President Ahmed Madobe of Jubbaland, in his press conference following his return from a visit he paid to both Ethiopia and Dubai, offered a sensible pathway once again to safeguard the unity between the center and the periphery – a crucial unity for stability and unified governance.
Uniting Villa Somalia with the regional governments is a valuable advice that would help and not hurt Villa Somalia. What would certainly hurt it is creating enemy out of the existing regional governments.
By Faisal Roble
A writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region.