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Dr. Abdurahman Baadiyow

Somalia is in a very precarious condition which demands a search of a new course and rethinking outside of traditional box. Our state is far beyond to stand in its feet and to use of its potential material and human resources after 27 years of collapse. In spite of that, our people demonstrate success stories in the globalized and competitive world as well in different regions of the Horn of Africa. Somalis are known for their resilience and business entrepreneurship. They have survived in the prolonged stateless condition and brutal civil wars with high copping mechanism; and established functioning social institutions and competitive business companies. Thus, we can comfortably acknowledge that Somalis are in general successful in all aspects except in governance and state-building ventures. In this part, we have scored inexcusable failure which requires to be boldly recognized and addressed prudently and professionally.

Indeed, we must acknowledge that we did not master yet the art of governance, seemingly a difficult subject matter for us without which our societal successes will not reach their potential.  Thus, at this junction, we must have courage to take bold steps and change our political discourse. We have to change our way of thinking and question our direction, review our vision and national aspirations.

Briefly describing our current affairs, our national leadership continues to recycle failed approaches to governance, and national institutions remain toothless and dysfunctional. On top of this, most of our political elites are predatory, divided, and self-centered. Addressing common interest of the nation and concerns of the citizens is rhetorical and occasional, let alone coherent programs.  Political class lacks conception of the modern state and capacity, plus the culture required to administer the state. Moreover, most federal member states have been formed haphazardly and remain shaky in conflict with the center in violation of the core constitutional principles of federalism.  Our security apparatus is weak, under trained, under-equipped, and under-paid. Our economy is instable and depends on foreign donations and handouts. This is only a sketchy description of our catastrophic condition which is unbearable and demands astute understanding and practical action from organic intelligentsia and genuine nationalists.

To establish common understanding of the Somali enigma, it is essential to come to an agreement that the core problem of Somalia is located in its organizational deficiency and inability to synthesize tradition and modernity. This implies that the problem lies squarely with the Somali political elites and the political leadership who have failed to organize themselves into effective political parties and prudently synthesize tradition and modernity.  As a consequence, the only avenue available for the Somali people was to turn to their traditional bonds of clans, which was agreed to share power on the basis of the clan quota power sharing formula commonly known as 4.5. Indeed, the problem of Somalia does not lie with the people of Somalia who are hard working, resilient, and entrepreneurs. Moreover, the problem of Somalia does not lie with the Somali soil, ocean, climate, or Allah-given natural resources.  In fact, Somalia is very rich in agricultural land, livestock, unexploited minerals, marine resources, and oil and gas reserves among others. Finally, the strategic location of Somalia, which connects Africa, Asia, and Europe, in addition to being adjacent to the oil rich Gulf states and its linkage with Suez Canal waterway, is another immeasurable national asset.

Disgracefully, the Somali political elites have failed to take the responsibility of restoring the Somali state. They keep repeating old jargon of blaming people of Somalia for being clannish, poor, ignorant, and lacking Islamic morality. Plus, these elites also blame negative roles of external actors; chief among them being Somalia’s neighbors, namely, Ethiopia. Although external and internal societal challenges constitute part of the problem, they remain secondary. Addressing these challenges is the function of leadership and responsibility of the political elites. That being said, in belief that leaders can make or break nations, however, they can not emerge and succeed without surrounding themselves with strong political team (political party) and qualified bureaucratic leaders. In light of this, the failure of Somalia is indeed a failure of leadership and lack of political parties that nurtures and produces leaders. However, the objective of these political parties should not be seasonal or sectarian (regional, clannish, and religious), but should be open to all citizens and aspire in rebuilding democratic state and society.

Certainly, the problem of the Somali political elites lies with their predatory political culture widely developed through years of postcolonial era. The concept of state, which is based on citizenship and institutions, including political parties and civic organizations, is not well entrenched in the Somali political culture. Obviously, it would be expected that formation of civic organizations would consequently face challenges that include organizational frailty, the fluidity of ideology, and traditional alignments. This culture could be summarized by the predatory political culture, as well as the deficiency of national vision, weakness of organizations, and rent-seeking. Internally, most of these elites are nominally segmented into clan-lines, Islamists, and non-Islamists. Even few available nationalist elites, whatever ideology they adhere, are scattered and have not sufficiently developed trust among themselves, a very rare commodity in Somalia. Moreover, such parasitic and individualistic culture of the elites has led to the indigenization of Somali politics. Furthermore, political elites have accustomed to clannishness, corruption, and foreign rent-seeking.

Evidently, these elites have failed to keep the Somali state intact before its collapse, and to restore it following the outbreak of the civil war. For more than 17 years since the establishment of the first national state in 2000, which was founded on the clan quota formula 4.5, the Somali state remains in the mercy of the foreign forces and the international community. Since 2000, the same process has been repeated of clan power sharing, which was thought to be temporary at the beginning. However, it seems now that some interested states and local groups are happy with clan power sharing formula and are adamant to keep Somalia frail and arrested.

To reverse this destructive political culture, political elites with national vision have to shoulder responsibility of organizing themselves into national political parties with clear principles and programs. These political parties have to save Somalia from collapsing again and work for holding national and regional elections by 2020. The era of masking behind clan or Islamic slogans, which have been tested, lost enthusiasm and meaning.  Likewise, empty rhetoric of nationalism without substance and implementable programs has no attraction. Thus, matured, educated and experienced nationalist elites are tasked to take new direction, adopt new vision, develop new programs and espouse sensible organizational culture to save Somalia. In taking this new direction, they should not categorise themselves, demonize each other, and simply call themselves as “responsible citizens of Somalia.”

Dr. Abdurahman Baadiyow


Dr. Baadiyow holds PhD in Modern Islamic History, socio-political activist and writes on the topics of Islamic movements, traditional authorities and state-building of Somalia. He published a number of books, book chapter and papers, could be reached on:  


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