old friend, with whom I started exchanging the previous
night's dream about the gloomy situation in Somalia, came
up with a jewel of a dream the other day. He said he wake
up in the middle of the night screaming "Goodbye
forever tribal war, cause of our ruin!" But my own
dream is not necessarily bad or good. Still it has a dark
side-a stormy scenario. It says that Somalia would soon
have another dictator reminiscent to General Barre's heydays.
Then my friend looked at me in disgust and said: "That's
very bad dream."
"Well, we're not there yet," I said. "But
the probability of electing one of the warlords are bringing
us one step closer. This says a lot of the ongoing third
and final phase of talks in Mbagathi," I envisaged
dictator! Over my dead body," my dream partner muttered
under his breath and stormed out of my apartment-cum-office
and swore never to exchange dreams with me again.
brings me back to Abdirizak Haji Hussein, former prime
minister in the civilian regimes of the 1960s, who said
at one of the earlier aborted peace talks in Addis Ababa:
"A bad government is better than no government."
Of course I am not for a bad government or another warlord/military
dictator. But any presidential candidate, dictator or
no dictator needs to resolve internal intrigues and senseless
squabbles before he wins the trust and confidence of the
Somali people. He has to get it out of the system that's
stinking, including corruption, nepotism, clan adoration,
rumour mongering, political brokers (popularly known as
Afminsharism) and a nation for sale mentality, so something
new can come in.
important, he, as the servant of the people, must see
to it that Somalia should rejoin the family of nations,
because if there are people in this world who deserve
peace and stability it is the haunted people of Somalia.
The catch phrase is: peoples' welfare first and choice
to the many and not just for the few. A president should
make good connection with the people and deliver what
he had promised to them in his platform, and less on arcane
disputes with the opposition. Simply put, the new president-elect
should not emulate the heartless thugs who are simmering
their own greed, but man of the people, the downtrodden
masses. He must be at his best when the pressure is on,
articulate, resourceful and relentless. And of course
with clean track record in past performances.
new president should accept constructive criticism and
avoid detaining his opponents on flimsy charges.
it is too ambitious, and the risks are high, but the country
badly needs such person to stitch it together Here I completely
disagree with Abdirizak Haji Hussein's theory that a bad
government is better than no government. No, Abdirizak,
we will never swap a bad government with those thugs who
massacred our people and ruined our country. Just dump
them all. We want people with talent, vigor, and charisma;
free from clan ties, and of course no disciple of the
late military despot.
is one of the most powerful of all political forces,
and we often underestimate its ability to distort
truth and mock reality. A recent survey by an independent
local NGO, for instance, showed 60 per cent of Somalis
in the South would vote for Mohamed Siad Barre, if
he were alive and running for President today.
experiencing the bloody instability in the country during
the last 13 years, many people who celebrated his downfall
now actually miss him. However, the same survey in Somaliland
came up with 0% even though they're fully conscious that
their current leaders are disciples of Siyad Barre who
carried his orders to the letter.
"The Somali people in the South became ungovernable.
They need a benign father-figure dictator," a 50-year-old
woman, who had witnessed her city, first destroyed by
General Barre's multiple rocket launchers and mortars
under the command of general Morgan and was later finished
by the warlords, told the surveyors, making the Mediterranean-style
city of two million inhabitants look like Nagasaki and
Hiroshima after the pilot of Enola Gay dropped his first
atomic bomb on the twin Japanese cities.
looked back on a long-past age of glory, of Somalis having
spent long as the satrapy of British, French, and Italian
colonial administrations, followed by corrupt civilian
regimes, but Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre crossed
these colonials and corrupt civilian regimes to find his
precursors Mohamed Abdulle Hassan and Ahmed Gurey, whose
glories he meant to relive and restore.
do Dictators win the admiration of their people? Dictators
always promise that they alone can deliver stability,
and like to pose for the cameras, cuddling babies to get
that message across.
his tenure, it is the promise of stability that led people
to embrace him, often overlooking terror, atrocity and
the cult of personality. Later, after he is gone, he is
missed for the same reason: for the stability he had introduced
with the help of a host of dreaded security agencies,
and his crack Red Beret bodyguards.
One of his lasting legacies was the introduction of the
first Somali script in Latin; despite behind the scene-heated
opposition by religious zealots who wanted that Somalia
as a Muslim country should adopt Arabic as the official
language. After stern warning, no more single word was
heard from them. They knew that to confront him was tantamount
to committing suicide. Many of us still recall Ololihii
Far-barashada, the nation-wide relentless campaign to
introduce the new script to the nomads and farmers.
UNDER SIEGE AGAIN!
a hiatus the Somali remittance companies are under siege
again, accusing them of money laundering and devious links
with terrorist organizations in the Middle East and in
different other places. One newspaper in Texas went as
far as saying that the Somalis who run these companies
employ Machiavellian strategies to send millions of dollars
to shadowy characters in the Middle East under the pretext
of sending the money to needy families in war-torn Somalia.
The amount given by these editorial writers is staggering-billions
one of my past Talking Points I had pointed out that Xawaala
is an informal banking system based on trust and it is
so old that even Chris Colombo did not yet "discover"
Americas when the Xawaala system was in full gear in the
Muslim World, longer than when Chris's sailing ship landed
in the "New World" and wrongly thought he was
in India, calling the natives "Indians".
was first developed in India and the Middle East before
the introduction of Western banking practices, and is
currently a major remittance system used around the world.
The operators of the system transfer money without actually
moving it. Money transfer without moving is a definition
of Xawaala that was used successfully in countries like
Somalia whose banking and other financial institutions
have been destroyed in the civil war more than a decade
ago. In this cyberspace age, the operator sends the money
by Internet, charging the sender few dollars, and presto,
the beneficiary receives it in a matter of minutes.
don't know about the alleged millions of dollars going
to international terrorists, or what the Western media
prefers to call "Muslim terrorist" organizations,
such as Osama's Al-Qaeda (The Base) network. What I do
know, however, is that the 100 or 50 dollars from economically
hard-pressed Somalis in the Diaspora regularly goes to
skeleton-looking mothers, grandmothers and malnutrioned
kids in war-ravaged Somalia, and to others languishing
in squalid refugee camps in neighbouring countries, such
as Utanga, Kakuma, Dhoobley, Harti Sheikh etc.
Somalis are not alone. Immigrant workers, from Mexico
and the Philippines, for example, have gone through the
mill of "illegal" money transfer system in the
1960s and 1970s until the operators transformed their
money transfer systems into fully licensed thriving-money
spinning agencies. The difference is that the Somali operators
happened to be Muslims, and that might have really caused
the problem with companies like Al-Barakaat for example
in post 9/11.
Omar, who prepared a significant report for the UNDP,
Somalia, on the subject of Xawaala had recommended that:
"The operators of this system must undertake to transform
their operations into legal, efficient and viable organizations
that comply with recognized international financial standards
in order to meet the needs of their customers for years
short, they must be transparent and cooperative with the
panic-stricken law-enforcement authorities in the United
States post 9/11 and open their books. This is not only
good for their businesses, but for the hungry and neglected
people at home as well. Also the operators must respect
the laws and regulations of the United States and Canada,
because it was North America where they made their fortunes
and enjoy relative peace and freedom, thousands of miles
away from the brutal warlords and their militia gunmen.
On the other hand, the money remittance managers should
be given the benefit of doubt until proven guilty, and
not demonize them.
By M.M. Afrah©2004