Somalia: The Instinctive Truth
September 3, 2010 2 Comments
You would never imagine the serenity that surrounds the beautiful Mogadishu skyline in the early hour of the morning. Standing at the balcony this morning and watching the rays of the rising sun shimmer across the great blue ocean, plunged me into a reverie that looked, well, more presumption than a possibility. There was no rattle of gunfire in the background or the sounds of mortars landing or even the clamour of voices in the crowded streets of Mogadishu. Everything seemed peaceful and calm; a feeling that is hard to come by in this part of the world. A gentle breeze whistled through the silent streets, playfully breathing life into the old cardboard boxes and plastic bags lying around in the dust. Even the melodious notes of the chirruping birds seemed to be quite in harmony with the tranquil setting for once.
Amid the stillness of the surrounding, the loud clanking of metal coming from a shop across the street immediately distracted me. A young shop owner was receiving a delivery of some stock. Three sturdy men unloaded the goods and carried them on their backs and stacked them inside the shop where the owner had instructed them. For a while it was somewhat pleasant to watch their neatly choreographed movements in the way they organised and unloaded the goods. They’ve nearly emptied the truck when another car, a Toyota 4×4, zoomed in from the distance, horns blaring. The delivery truck was blocking the road and the three men hurriedly tried to unload the last few remaining items in order to clear the road for the approaching car. But they couldn’t manage that in time. The car, which was driving at quite a speed, soon approached and forcefully hit the brakes at the delivery point, still beeping the horn.
‘We are done, brother, we’re done,’ shouted the driver of the truck as he signaled his colleagues, who were negotiating with the shop owner for their money, to hurry up. The impatient driver of the 4×4 shouted some insults at the truck driver in front of him, ordering him to clear the way. Enraged, the truck driver too hurled some insults back and that was when it got bitter. The driver of the 4×4 was a government soldier. Wearing an army camouflage and a carrying a gun in one hand, he furiously headed towards the truck. The situation escalated and a fierce argument ensued when the soldier slapped the truck driver across the face. The shop owner and several other people who have been diverted to scene by the uproar surrounded the soldier, trying to diffuse the situation. Overwhelmed by the crowd, the soldier cocked his gun and fired several bullets into the air. There was silence. No one moved. Only the empty shells landing near by.
‘Move this car NOW!’ bellowed the soldier as he pointed the gun towards the truck driver, ‘or I swear to God I will pierce you body with bullets.’
The truck driver was still adamant but his colleagues, the shop owner and the small crowd persuaded him to leave the scene, otherwise he would have been probably dead by now. Scenes like these are a common occurrence here in Mogadishu and the government soldiers have bee blamed for a spate of shootings. And therein lies the rub. Largely condemned by the public for their violence and undisciplined ways, the government soldiers, instead of facilitating the institution of law and order into the society, are often themselves an impediment to the stability that the nation aspires to achieve.
Though the issue has been addressed quite a few times to the senior segments of the Somali government, yet the prevailing sense of insecurity within the government-controlled areas, demonstrates the lack of willingness by the government to review the conduct of her soldiers and revise the disciplinary methods. Most of the government soldiers I’ve talked to say that the only thing that keeps them in the government is the money. Abdi Dheere seemed surprised when I asked him why he became a soldier:
I have my eight kids, a wife and my elderly grandmother to feed. Where am I going to get money to feed them all? I don’t have a job so I have no choice. I know the risks involved and I might get killed, but are we al not going to die one day?
But when the government fails to pay the soldiers, as has happened in recent months, many of them defect to Al-Shabab. Within the last few days only, several soldiers, including the head Bay & Bakool region for the Somali government, have all ran away with their weapons and surrendered to the Islamists.
Since the fall of the Siyad Barre regime in the early 90s, all the Transitional Federal Institutions established by the international community to resolve the Somali crisis have failed miserably. But yet the Somali population, particularly in the Diaspora, remains full of optimism, with their ears anxiously attuned to anything that resembles a government. It is the notion that any form of governance, however corrupt and insincere, ought to be better than this lasting anarchy which is deeply rooted within many hearts. But it is this very notion, coupled with the blind acquiescence to the initiatives of the ruling elites and the explicit endorsement of their lavish agendas that has left the Somali quest for peace even bleaker.
In Mogadishu, the few bocks of land currently held by the government remain highly volatile. While desperately trying to repulse the Islamist onslaught, the weak government is internally crippled by the ineffectiveness of her soldiers and the uncontrollable bickering of the parliamentarians. And as the situation continues to escalate on the ground, the impotence surrounding the Somali government becomes all too evident and unless a unified and a monolithic movements for change appear across the horizon, the Somali government has a very little chance of success.
Generally, the notion of a greater Somalia or perhaps even a stable country that unites Somalis from far and wide seems, instinctively, agreeable to all. But these instinctive beliefs, though seemingly quite palatable to the greatly disenchanted Somali population around the world, remain inconsistent with the reality here on the ground. The Somali government, debilitated by corruption and politicians who have a vested interest in the ongoing turmoil, is a government that exists only in name, falling short of the perceived instinctive beliefs of the majority. But the mirage of hope is the one thing that the Somali population, as well as the United Nations, thrive on, despite the hopelessness of the situation on the ground
Instinctively, the Somalis know that the infertile terrain may not be fit for cultivation, yet they continue to plough the barren fields and sow their seeds, in the hope that they will somehow bear fruits. And when this instinctive knowledge clashes with their optimism and dreams, a problem is at hand. Soon it all goes back to square one again.
The instinctive truth, however, remains that unless a shift in perspective is achieved or a paradigm shift to eliminate the old stagnated minds that lacked the necessary fecundity of creative imagination, the misguided political pandemonium that shapes the current regime in Mogadishu will bear no fruits and that notion of an effective Somali government will still be implausible for many more years to come.