Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Every society has elders who safeguard the wellbeing of the nation and there is always a positive role for them in forwarding the interests of their people. In the United Kingdom, senior citizens who have distinguished themselves in the service of the nation (both in the public and private sectors) are appointed to the House of Lords not to lead but to check legislation passed by the elected House of Commons and apply brakes when necessary. Unfortunately, our elders have not done much to establish good and lasting governance or to save the nation from a ravaging civil war, which consumed tens of thousands of Somali lives and resulted in the destruction and pillaging of cities, towns and villages. They have lacked the initiative, the enlightenment and the will to establish good governance or salvage the nation from self-destruction. Ours is a society in which awareness building is everywhere needed. Much of the problem stems from our past generations who led a simple nomadic life. In the open savannah there are no universities or other perimeters to determine talent, skills and level of knowledge. Among nomads, where there is little other than age to differentiate men, an 80 year old will tell a 79 year old to shut up because he is a child. Under the wide open skies of the Somali peninsula where age is the only university, the fact that the 80 year old was born one year before the 79 year old may amount to a big difference, but this is not how the modern world conducts itself. There is a time to serve and a time to retire and reflect. To rebuild a stateless nation such as Somalia will call for a lot of dynamism. Much needed vigour cannot come from those in their dotage. The question for those who wish to serve is, how to be of use to their nation at a time when they are in their best form, mentally and physically. It will not be when they should be rested from the hustle and demands of active duty. Even so, there are important things our elders can do at this critical moment of our nation. For instance, using wisdom and experience they can help the nation to emerge out of many years of civil strife. One of the ailments of our nation, which our elders could have helped remove from politics, is clannism. The Somali people are fed up with the bankrupt system of clannism. Because of clannism and bad governance, 50 years of development and progress have been stolen from the Somali nation. As a result, many of our compatriots know no system other than clan-based mayhem and underdevelopment. During the civil war era the clan system became an archaic structure where clan members support and service disastrous leaders. Like in the mafia whose members are required to provide support and filial loyalty to their don, our people cannot give loyalty and support to any leader simply because he happens to be from one’s clan. If clan is race, clannism is racism. A system which is based on favouritism and discrimination among its own citizens is a system which is doomed. What we need is a government that is not only free from clannism, but one in which the citizen is the most important thing. Like the membership of a club, one’s clan is one’s private business. Every nation has different sections, tribes and other stratum but such social formations should not hinder or become an obstacle to governance and development. In Somalia too it should not be a problem that socially there are clans. In India there are myriad ethnic groups and nationalities. With a large population nearing a billion they live and work together for the sake of their nation. In the United Kingdom there are four nations: the English, the Northern Irish, the Scottish and the Welsh. Within the English nation who number over 50 million there are different local segments such as the Cornish, the Cockneys, the Geordies etc. They are equivalent to our clans and sub-clans. But no one brings such differences into national politics or daily life. In government everyone leaves behind such divisions because governance is not a private matter: it is the service of the whole nation. In governance we too should be able to put clan and clannism aside. During the formation and development of our state there should be inbuilt mechanisms in the political system to root out maladies such as clannism. Those who love their nation will never use clan to advance themselves. When one looks at what happened in Somalia, one sometimes draws the conclusion that what was sought was not a better system of government but merely the replacing of individuals with other individuals and one clannish system with yet another. To conclude, during the past fifty years since the first Somali self-government in 1956, the types of administration provided for the Somali public have invariably been the same: all marred among other things by the three dominant evils which underlie our state failure: clannism, greed and ineptitude. The political culture of Somalia has been based on: me first, my family second, my sub clan third, my clan fourth and my nation a poor fifth. The political culture of a new Somalia should ensure that the nation is given priority over clan, family and personal interests as the primary purpose of politics is to serve a nation and its interests. Only then will the rivalry and competition for position and influence stop and only then will Somalia achieve the type of service and politics our people need and deserve.