Somalia: A Little Advice for President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud!
By Hassan Zaylai
Under normal circumstances, in peace and prosperity times, the burden, I can only imagine, must be great for any one man or a woman anywhere to be the leader of all his or her people. Any position of responsibility for others is in a way a curse, as Somalis noted in one of their innumerable wise proverbs: Nin xil qaaday, eed qaad (to be a leader is to be blamed).
Mr. President: In your case, no one shall envy your job, for yours is perhaps the most difficult job of any head of state in recent history. After all, you are presiding over a carcass of a nation so thoroughly devastated for more than 2 decades. Of all the things which could have gone wrong with any country, you name it, it did with Somalia—and in the hands of Somalis no less!
And so, it is your solemn duty to lead a dazed, confused and tired people into the way to the “promised land,” that place, where peace and progress reign. It will take many presidents and others of prudence and sound vision, to be frank, before Somalia overcomes its self-inflicted deep, deep wounds!
Mr. President: Your presidency is very crucial, however, in the sense that you could be the healer-in-chief of your people, who are in desperate need to heal. I believe “healing’” is the right word, much more so than “reconciliation” for what Somalis need. And if the healing of wounds is to commence, you, Mr. President, must dispense the greatest disinfectant of all time, without which there will be no proper healing, and that is the “truth.” You see, all Somalis need closure on the misdeeds of past 23 years in order to move on forward.
Often, people, Somalis and non-Somalis alike, mischaracterize the tragedy of the last 23 years of Somalia. Because clans were involved, therefore, many think there is a need for clans to reconcile. That implies clans fought each other. I beg to differ. In fact, according to me, there should be no one clan apologizing to another clan at all.
After Mohammed Siyad was ousted from Mogadishu, were there people murdered, raped and property stolen from because of their clan? Yes, but that was part and parcel of unchecked anarchy. Naturally, in the absence of law and order, armed clan militias went on killing, raping and pillaging. Later on, the same clan militia would turn the heavy guns they inherited from the Somali National Army on each other, right in Mogadishu of all places. None of these and the military campaigns from Mogadishu into deep south would have had happen if there were law and order by the United Somali Congress (USC), who by intent inherited Somalia governance by their ouster of the sitting government from Mogadishu.
Mr. President: Yes, a big crime was committed in Somalia, the effect of which still devastating for 23 years and counting. This shattering crime was not committed against this or that Somali clan. It was committed against all Somalis and all clans. It is committed against Somalia soil, airspace, seas, environment and wild life! It is essential to say the truth and nothing but the truth, so help us Allah.
President Hassan Sheikh, you are my president. As a Somali who enthusiastically wishes you all the success, I offer you a humble and simple advice which, in my heart of hearts, I know is imperative for the healing of the nation. Even more importantly, you are the right man for it for who you are in more ways than one. Firstly, you, as I underhand, were there. You saw the anarchy which ensued—the looting among other things. I am sure you and others spoke against the disasters you saw or heard about in the city right after the ejection of the government and after that. In addition, since we are still under the 4.5 formula, you hail from the great Somali Clan of Hawiye, to which USC belonged. You were also there, were you not, when your clansmen used artillery against each other in Mogadishu? Lastly, I believe you are an honest man, who very much values the truth.
Mr. President: You see, it is your clan, Hawiye, which has been front and center of the anarchy which resulted in Somalia as a “failed state.” You can literally put every disaster in, of and by Somalia in the last 23 years by the inability of USC leaders to continue governance after Mohammed Siyad. It is simple cause and effect. No government, no law and order. No law and order, everyone and everything suffers, including even the trees and animals. That is Somalia of the last 23 years.
My advice is this: Denounce your clan for their great part in Somalia’s shameful and costly disaster of the last 23 years. Preferably, you should do it in front of a gathered Hawiye elders. This would mean that you had openly chose to choose All Somalis and the nation over your own clan—something a great statesman would do in a heartbeat. Your clan, as the president, is all Somalis, is it not? I believe such an act will have a reverberating positive consequence both in inside and outside of Somalia in the various diaspora! It would be the healing truth. Because if you do that, you would have risen above clan thing as a necessary example to move Somalia and Somalis into the sphere of nationhood beyond handicap clan box.
Although painful for some of your clan to hear that, it is a necessary redemptive act for a clan which, until 1991, had shown great nationalism—from being soldiers of Imam Ahmed Guray along other great Somali clans of Isaaq, Gadabuursi and Darood to General Daud and President Aden Adde (both beloved and respected by all Somalis everywhere).
In conclusion, for those finicky individuals who will dispatch an angry email to me, who will charge me of gross unfairness to a whole clan (among whom are saints and innocents of this), I say rest assured that no innocent needs to worry about the misdeeds of should have been leaders rather than misleaders, like general Aideed and others. A true honest and a nationalist Hawiye would be disgusted by what was done to the nation of Somalia. It is the whole Somali nation and the people, including the multitudes of decent and innocent Hawiye, which deserve an apology and accounting for the crime of unleashing anarchy in the nation that was Somalia. If anyone has any doubt about the validity of my understanding of events in Somalia, then look at the following contrasting examples.
In the mad-dash of getting rid of Mohammed Siyad rule, there were militias of other clans also. Did Somali National Movement (SNM) allow looting and anarchy in Hargeisa? Absolutely not. Because had they allowed lawlessness, the North West would be smoldering in disaster, just like in the south. On the contrary, in Hargeisa, to the credit of leadership there, they are perfecting governance based on rule of law! Did the SSDF do that in Garoowe or Bosasso? Absolutely not again. Look, people make mistakes, sometimes without intending it, but admitting and apologizing for one’s mistakes is the right thing to do. It is the grown up thing to do. It heals festering wounds. After all, if President Hassan apologizes to all Somalis about his clan’s hand in the “failed state” of Somalia” catastrophe, it does not mean that he and multitudes of innocent Hawiye like him had taken part in this crime against Somalia nation. Nevertheless, it was Hawiye USC leadership which could not continue law and order after they had taken over Villa Somalia. It was not the British or the French, was it?
Hassan Zaylai, email@example.com