Somalia at 61: Struggles, pain and hope
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Exactly 61 years ago today, the Blue flag was hoisted in several parts of Somalia, with citizens thronging into streets to celebrate independence after Italians gave up and returned to Rome, but leaving behind traces of colonialism.
Already, messages of goodwill have started to pour in, congratulating Somalis for their independence, some from politicians and others from foreign nations, specifically pledging long-term relationships and a possible partnership.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad and his deputy were notably the first to send their message of goodwill to the people and outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who is struggling at home due to simmering political tensions.
In his message, Farmajo hailed founding fathers for their sacrifice and asked the current generation to have faith in the vision and continue inspiring others for the sake of building a stronger democracy and economically viable nation.
"Our brave forefathers liberated our lands and freed us with the firm belief in our potential and greatness within us. To every Somali, everywhere on earth, as we celebrate SomaliaAT61, let's be inspired by the very same vision and purpose we inherited to leave a legacy for the future," he said.
A number of international partners led by the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM], which is responsible for peacekeeping, have also sent their message of goodwill to the people, stressing the need for adhering to independence virtues.
“On behalf of AMISOM, I wish the Somali people and its Government at all levels a happy 61st Independence Anniversary and a bright and prosperous future. It is wonderful to see so many young Somalis passionately celebrating their country’s independence, for it is in them that the country’s future lies," AMISOM chief Francisco Madeira said.
"Every country is built by the vibrancy and energy of its young people. Somalia has a bright future ahead of it, and we wish to once again reiterate our utmost support in helping the country achieve greatness. [Soomaaliya ha noolaato], Long live Somalia,” said Ambassador Madeira."
Political instability in Somalia
For decades, Somalia has struggled with political instability which has often threatened national integration and cohesion. This has been witnessed for over years since the ouster of military dictator Siad Barre, whose regime was also overshadowed by bloodshed.
Clan militia has emerged as various groups seek shortcuts to power, leading to the current peace mission which is largely funded by external actors. In other words, Somalia has never had a democratically elected government through a secret ballot.
Instead, the country has often depended on indirect polls which are often marred with voter bribery, propaganda, and rigging, thus tainting little gains made by the stakeholders. Such elections are often opaque and questionable.
Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the official opposition leader, noted as such in his independence message, adding that the country is largely divided with little gains made so far even in defense of the country's sovereignty.
"After 61 years of independence, our country remains divided, terrorists are massacring its people, foreign forces are deployed to assist, and we are still searching for unity and sovereignty," he said in a tweet.
"The anniversary of the independence is supposed to be an opportunity for us to initiate critical debate and deliver crucial messages to figure out what went wrong and why we r not reaping the fruits of the struggle for independence. It is not bad to celebrate, to wear clothes emblazoned with our flag, to hold ceremonies, to sing," he added.
A few months ago, even the army split into two, with the majority staging a brief mutiny in Mogadishu, accusing Farmajo of a hidden plot to stay in power even after his term ended. A deal has since been signed but usual suspicions have often existed even after the signing of such deals.
For the better part of Farmajo's administration, opposition leaders have decried the use of the military to suppress them or their activities. This has often been contested by Mogadishu, but the actions of Haramcad and Gor Gor troops have often betrayed the state.
Al-Shabaab threat and future elections
The common enemy for the country has been Al-Shabaab but the infighting among politicians and discrediting of the international community's efforts often give the militants room to continue holding the country hostage.
For almost a decade, Al-Shabaab, which controls large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia, has heightened campaigns to overthrow the fragile UN-backed Somalia administration. In most cases, innocent civilians and the security forces are targeted.
The group still collects taxes in several strategic towns and there are claims of its clandestine cooperation with the current administration. In fact, there has been more loss of human lives from 2017 to date compared to ten years ago when the group first struct.
With such disorganization in government, a number of militants and their sympathizers have often made their way to government, making it difficult to vanquish them. Their infiltration is so alarming that even the United Nations has often warned about it.
However, the country has registered progress in the war against Al-Shabaab thanks to invaluable support from AMISOM, the US, Turkey, UK, and other nations that have invested in the country's military. A few weeks ago, SNA troops managed to kill over 300 Al-Shabaab militants.
But the most notable progress is the deal that was signed on May 27, which now paves way for elections in the country. Early this week, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble led other stakeholders in crafting the country's elections calendar.
In the calendar, the country will hold Upper House elections by July 25. Thereafter, MPs will be picked by September 10 before electing a president on October 10, a move that will effectively end political tussles in the country.
Despite the milestone, there are lamentations from the opposition team that the elections won't be free and fair. The team has been pushing for the removal of a number of elections committee members over their alleged association with the state, specifically the National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA].