Somali government of rhetoric and fatigued citizens
This week Somalia’s top man is in his 17th trip out of the country he promised will bring prosperity to. As usual the speech fatigued Somalis turned up to listen, yet again, to what he had to say as they did for his predecessors, just to hear a new man with an old message, making even more promises of achieving durable peace in Somalia through vague and open ended statements. In the US in a state of estimated 70,000 Somalis, most of whom are refugees from the darood clan, some appeared. But, just like other politicians, devoted fellow clansmen and women gathered from around the US, Canada, and as far a place as EU to populate the conference hall. It was no different in the UK. They have turned up as they do, more or less, for presidents of other Somali states such as those of Galmudug, Puntland, Somaliland, and Ximan and Xeeb.
However, Mr Mahmoud’s travels have a dangerous tone to them. The Somalis are being polarised because of the repeated failures of the current administration to translate rhetoric to actions. As he stood repeatedly telling the audience about justice and the rule of law, Somali woman who reported rape by Mogadisho soldiers has been charged with a crime against the state by a kangaroo court and dodgy witnesses. Nuradin Farah has given us a glimpse of the witnesses for rent in Mogadisho (Of Tamarind & Cosmopolitanism). The fact that the journalist and the co accused has also produced his own witness, shows the scale of the problem we face in terms of implementing justice in Somalia. Of course the witnesses of the one with the gun have more value in these circumstances. Mr Mahmoud also mocked dictators and how they silence people and deny them their freedoms, yet Banadir administration issued a decree to arrest young women returnees in Mogadisho’s Lido beach, because according to him, they were not dressed in a particular way or and have been talking to other young men, reminding many of al shabaabs era.
Like his predecessor, the attendees of UK conference were the in-group; many people were denied access including Somali MPs. Even when people raised their concerns they were terrorised, pushed and threatened further with physical violence, that their faces would be scared and teeth pulled by the organisers. This is in the UK, so the implications for those who the president is calling home can only be left to imagination. However, Mr Mahmoud giggled as he addressed reversed migration amongst other things. Of course, this is a funny statement, since he himself and in the same speech talked about how people live in fear, with even men worrying about the moment they would be mugged of their own skirts (macawis) in Mogadisho.
When he was addressing Jubaland, and as though his thoughts and feelings are relevant here, he suggested that federalism is not about two clans coming together, explaining further that it is about two regions coming together; it is not clear how this statement fits with his position on Jubaland. Yet ironically Mogadisho, since its clan cleansing in early 1991, remains a one clan city. The plans to reverse this has been mysteriously left out.
The most important aspect of his speech though is the fact that he uses them as a platform to attack his critiques rather than talking about a viable way forward. In the US he accused them of spreading propaganda about him, while denying he has ever said anything against federalism and that he would appoint care taker administration for Jubbaland. Of course he is not so bothered of the fact that his speeches are recorded.
He also suggested that the previous corruption charges made by international bodies are unfounded. According to him there have been no measures in place to substantiate these claims and that he founded anti-corruption mechanisms. Yet he did not tell us where and what happened to the millions of dollars that have disappeared in thin air, and where and how the founded wealth of so called politicians comes from. Just like his predecessor, he asked the diaspora for money, most of whom themselves live on state benefits, adding that this will enable his government to achieve what they want, while suggesting that international support limits them, presumably because of accountability. Generally, Mr Mahmoud had many plans for Mogadisho with the rationale that it has suffered for 22 years, attracting cheering from Mogaidsho crowds. No tangible plans for beyond, apart from the fact that it has to wait for the reconstruction of Mogadisho. The future of those responsible for this mess, some of whom are currently in the Somali parliament, is not clear. But we know that Mr Mahmoud wants the victims to forget about what happened to them.
After watching and hearing Mr Mahmoud for extended periods outside his country, he appears to be a person of many characters. That long awaited justice we dreamed of is currently on hold, until one of the persons he is, decides to actually change rhetoric to actions. Do I expect more at this moment, not really. But I hope that we all know that this chance we now have, is the end of a road and a beginning of a new edged one, weather Somalia makes it to safety or falls.
Warsan Cismaan Saalax