By Jebril Mohamed Domenico
I will start this article by restating an old adage: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it…”
I write neither out of malice or bias against any political party or persona, nor do I intend to promote tribalism. My motive derives partly from my desire to return to a safe Somalia after I shall have completed my studies – my selfish interest – but mainly from the deep concerns I hold about the future of Somalia – my selfless interest.
Critical and dispassionate as my analysis of the behaviour and intrigues of the political parties may be, I must confess to some foreboding about how these machinations can easily be reconciled with a common vision for better Somalia.
Despite Somalia’s transition to federalism, political parties continue to stoke tensions along tribal, regional and party lines to gain supporters for the upcoming election. New commitments to create a peace commission could be the source of hope and optimism, but the government must ensure it remains politically independent to underscore a national cohesion agenda.
It is almost seven years since the Federal Government was formed with six other federal member states. But has the country achieved political peace? While there has certainly been some superficial political commitment to peace and democracy, as demonstrated by two consecutive peaceful elections – in 2012 and 2017 respectively – the country continues to experience political divisions and other issues that threaten national unity and social cohesion.
This threat is predicated on the potential relapse into violence should such divisions and political tensions not be addressed. Even after the 2017 elections, political interactions between the major political parties – the opposition parties and the ruling Tayo Political party (TPP) – is expressed in the form of hate speech and threats the country’s peace and security. This is demonstrated by the recent call made by former president Sheikh Sharif for a violent clash if the government continues making manipulative acts to disrupt party leaders, especially the newly formed forum for national parties – and this after the government postponed a flight for few hours at Adan Adde Airport by the forum’s leaders to Beledweyne who were delivering goods to the citizens affected by the recent floods. This aggravated many tensions while social media morphed into a platform for promoting this and similar hate speech and messages of violence.
Disunity among Somalis is no longer a hidden secret. In explaining local popular responses to decades of disunity, it is widely argued that during periods of electioneering tribalism and regionalism have fuelled disunity among Somalis – a widely shared perception. The regional and tribal voting pattern in subsequent elections undermines our national cohesion. It is unfortunate that tribe plays a salient role in our national politics both as a source for political organisation and a basis for support. The results of the 2012 and 2017 elections clearly depict a pattern of tribal and regional allegiance.
Of particular concern is the hate-driven politics between the Tayo political party and the forum for National parties. Their current political tension is the fodder for future violent conflict. Challenging conditions have added fuel to the fire, as disillusioned party supporters, many of them unemployed youth, demonstrate a willingness to confront the government through social media and as such case they can also perpetuate gun violence in the near future. Instead of seeking solutions to these tensions, some of the educated elites continue to preach divisive messages to the community, conditioning them to go against the government.
Another few independent observers say these tensions can be chalked up to an inexperienced government trying to re-start a country previously run into the ground. The government is trying to provide a clean break from the previous regimes, which means vetting General Gabre loyalists. “If you’re going to dismiss political competitors it should be done in a professional way. Let there be evidence to suggest that the people are guilty or people will interpret it in a different way.”
Good Somalis in the country and abroad are scared about the current political division and spate of violent across the nation. The political wrangling always visible among citizens on a daily basis as the custom of tribal and regional style has been adopted since ancient days. It is heart-wrenching to see descendants of one nation fighting one another to control the country’s wealth instead of embracing unity so that we can love one another as Allah loves us.
Political rivalries have increasingly taken a tribal hue in the country. If left unchecked the government risks alienating a segment of society and laying the groundwork for future problems. Therefore, It is critically important for the government to understand and address the ways mutual mistrust, suspicion, anger and animosity spill over into priorities of national development, such as the fight against terrorism and attracting foreign investment.
While Somalia has made promising strides in its transition from UPD to Tayo, the sustainability of these gains is based on cultivating continued stability nationwide. In this vein, giving peace an address by establishing an infrastructure will be a vital move by the government. But if political parties continue confrontations, they will be the losers. Somalia is a country endowed with so much potentials; the country’s development could be achieved with the cooperation of all political parties.
Establishing Peace and Cohesion Commission by an Act of Parliament to address these aims could be a way out for the current political tensions and prevent violence in the near future, the government should realize that such a commission can only thrive with inclusive participation, devoid of political interference.
Here is some food for thought: are you a leader dedicated to the advancement of Somalia, or are you a tribal card holder dedicated to the destruction of our society?
Views and opinions expressed in this publication are of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Warsan magazine