Salvaging a Nation in Peril: A Sine Qua Non for Regional and Global Stability  
By Buri M. Hamza* 
December 22, 2008

The poignant reality now is: Somalia is teetering on the brink of total collapse. In the midst of global financial crisis, Somalia will succumb to further neglect. The country’s worsening mayhem, which should by all accounts draw more attention now than anytime before, will be relegated to further irrelevance. The Somali people, despite their immense suffering, will not be able to grab any international attention while the world is plagued by an unprecedented economic challenge and uncertainty. 

      The inaptitude, incompetence, and disingenuousness of the “leadership” in the “Transitional Federal Institutions” of Somalia have exacerbated the deeply disconcerting dilemma of the country. As expected, this “leadership” has failed to deliver. And as expected, it has trumped the national cause for the sake of its own political selfishness The current festering dispute between the “President” and the “Prime Minister” of the “Transitional Federal Government” – paradoxically masterminded and fuelled by the same actors that have created them, nurtured them, and made them legitimate, or illegitimate when deemed essential – continues unabated. And it appears that this wrangling, which is escalating rapidly, will soon lead to a total collapse of the “institutions” incepted at Mbagathi, Kenya.  

      Meles Zenawi – his perceived predilection to one of the two feuding groups notwithstanding – is said to be gloating at the impossible odds that the two “leaders” will soon face. He has previously disrespectfully scorned and belittled Abdullahi Yusuf and his government for failing to achieve “the objectives of the transition period as evidenced in the complete failure to establish institutions of governance only nine month before the end of the transition period.”1 It is, however, hypocritical and utterly duplicitous and nonsense from his part to lay all the blame on his pawns – once very loyal to him and to his government – and plead innocent of the crimes perpetrated against Somali women and children. We beg to differ with Mr. Zenawi. His government is equally responsible for the “political paralysis and hopelessness” in Somalia. 

The Piracy: A Dawn to Savour for Somalia? 

      The attention triggered by the Somali pirates’ activities, at the outset, was minimal. It was barely significant enough to distract the world from the threats posed by the global economic crisis. However, following the hijacking of the Saudi-owned supertanker loaded with more than $ 100 million worth of crude oil, everyone began to feel the pinch. The hijacking has captured global headlines. It has impacted on global oil prices, and wreaked deep fear and havoc in bordering states and in the world’s most important trade routes off the coast of Africa.  

      Many Somalis are being led to believe that the reaction provoked by this escalating piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is a blessing in disguise for Somalia, and a dawn to savour for its protracted crisis. They consider this piracy and the reaction and concern it triggers as a glimmer of hope for a nation shattered by violence and insecurity. For these Somalis, the international community is now poised to take a concerted action to bail their country out of its debacle. The frustration of these Somalis is understandable: Put yourself in their shoes and you will certainly make the same argument. You will seriously contend that if the world wants to stop piracy, then it will have to fix the “failed state”. The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Somali people. 

      But there are those who make a strong case against this exhilarating euphoria. They believe that the optimists are being swept away by a wishful thinking. They argue that the current global financial crisis is more menacing than the piracy that is staged by the “skinny, barefooted, and half-naked militias”. They also contend that the reaction provoked by some of the bordering states and countries such the US, Germany and France is nothing but a prelude to the introduction of a new doctrine: “War on Piracy” to replace George Bush’s “War on Terror.” This new American-led doctrine will pave the way for the deployment of more American and other NATO warships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. This deployment is intended to further entrench Washington’s influence and dominance in the area, enhance Addis Ababa’s political and economic clout in the Horn, and help weaken Somali people’s chance of restoring peace and stability in their country. 

      America’s use of the Somali pirates as a “pretext to geopolitical positioning in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden” is expressively depicted in one of Abukar Arman’s most recent articles.2 While I concur with his contention that the US and its allies do indeed intend to boost their dominance and hegemony in the Horn, particularly in light of the emergence of new influential players, such as China, Russia, India, and Brazil, which are also eyeing on this coveted strategic area, America will have to make a choice: Either adopt a new comprehensive diplomatic initiative focused on building confidence and trust with the Somali people, with the view to finding a lasting solution to the their protracted crisis, or succumb to the consequences of another quagmire, which can be more devastating for the US and its allies. 

The Sources of the Dilemma 

      Somali people and international community’s imperfect understanding of the underlying factors that have led to Somalia’s collapse, or their reluctance to seek to understand them, have a lot to do with the reasons why they have been unsuccessful in coping with the country’s debilitating crisis. Acknowledging the sources of the Somali conflict has been shrugged off by many as being an attempt to revive unpleasant recollections that the people would rather not unearth. Others fear these revelations could lead to the incrimination of certain groups/clans/sub-clans for the atrocities committed during the protracted Somali civil war. But the reality is that for anyone to be able to cure an illness, or prevent it from re-occurring, it is indispensable to identify its root causes. And how can anyone avert a re-occurrence of violence, if the causes that gave rise to such violence in the first place are not addressed.  

      I will attempt, through a series of articles, to narrate my take on the political trajectories that have led to unsuccessful conclusion of the transitional processes. I will present my understanding of how the failed policies of the different Somali political actors, the international community, the League of Arab States, and IGAD have contributed to the abortion of the transitional processes. But I would first start the series with a glimpse of the impacts of the current global economic crisis on Somalia, as a prelude to a more detailed discussion that will follow. 

Somalia and the Global Economic Crisis 

      The global economic turbulence will undoubtedly exacerbate Somalia’s crisis. The world is now racked by a widespread fear and panic of the impacts of global recession. And while the world is busy addressing its ailing economy, Somalia will find itself lurching from a state of total obliviousness to a state of total despair, helplessness and frustration. Somalia will be left out in the cold, sadly under the mercy of the current regime in Addis Ababa, the Heads of State and Government of IGAD, and the new “War on Piracy” doctrine that is about to replace the “War on Terror.” 

      The global recession will not only claim stock and housing markets, it will also affect employment outlooks. Economists predict that because of the deepening recession, job losses will accelerate alarmingly. This will affect the Somali workforce in the diaspora and consequently impact on the flow of remittances to Somalia. In the absence of formal banking systems in Somalia, Somalis depend on the Remittance System or “hawala” in transferring funds into and out of Somalia. This system provides a lifeline for the Somali diasporic communities to send money to family members and relatives who live in Somalia. If these “hawala” operations are disrupted because of the global economic downturns, hundreds of thousands of Somalis will face grave consequences.3.

      The international community – criticized for its limited engagement in the transitional process – will find it more difficult to operate as the world grapples with its worst financial downturns since the Great Depression. The UN agencies and other non-governmental organizations stationed in Nairobi, which are funded by the European Union and other donor countries – allegedly to help war-torn Somalia  – will brace for severe financial constraints and cuts because of the anxiety about the deepening recession. The hefty budgets that were previously allocated for the projects that had delivered very little, and the lucrative compensation packages granted to the international and local staff, would soon be the privileges of the yesteryears  

      Somalia could be in for a more letdown from the United States of America. It is expected that Barack Obama, once inaugurated, will be under intense pressure to get the US economy back on its feet, and put the people back to work. Constrained by the failing economy at home, his administration would most likely defer the Somali issue. It would initially remain focused on the US to tackle the ravages that will be left behind by the failed policies of the Bush administration. This makes sense, given the fact that Obama has raised expectations for change so high. But the new administration will also need to look at the linkages that there are between the global economic predicaments and the lawlessness and anarchy in Somalia. Somalia as a failed state continues to have a devastating effect on regional and global economic stability. Relegating it to a state of total neglect will only exacerbate the already tenuous economic situation in the region and in the world. Somalia is a nation in peril; salvaging it is a since qua non for regional and global stability. 


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