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By: Abdalla A. Hirad
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It has been disheartening, indeed, humiliating, to many Somalis to hear their President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed of the Transitional Federal government (TFG), saying, over the air waves, that he heard the news of US planes striking places within his country's borders, over the media. Ironically, the President uttered these words in a press conference in Mogadishu-the Capital-as he was ushered in to Villa Somalia, the Presidency of Somalia, 26 months after his election for the post in Nairobi, Kenya. Needless to emphasize that he was given that opportunity through the courtesy of the Ethiopian government. It has been even more demoralizing that his Foreign Minister was giving a different position on the situation to an Arab TV station-that it was the "TFG that had asked for the US assistance" in this situation, including for "hunting militant Islamists who were on the run".

The reality remains that it would not matter whether Abdullahi Yusuf knew of what was going on or not, or whether his government initially asked for the US assistance or not-given the current situation of the nation and the US policy towards the militant Islamists. The US government would have done it this way, any way, with or without the government's immediate consultation. And, perhaps, it would be done "rightly s by the US", as Abdullahi Yusuf said in the same interview. Two things are, however, at issue here. One: Abdullahi Yusuf admitted to this amid widespread allegations by his opposition that Ethiopia among others has been running the show in the beleaguered TFG. Two: it reeks of a shameful degree of disorganization and lack of policy and media coordination between the various actors in the government. One, therefore, hopes that these incidents are not a sign of things to come as part of the daily occurrences from the TFG in the future.

It is a given that the TFG, Ethiopia and the USA are allied, at least, in as far as the campaign against the militant Islamists is concerned. It is also a given that the TFG needs the assistance of both governments and others to eradicate the foot holds of militant Islamists-especially the foreigner elements among them-from the country, if the TFG must build on its victory over the UIC and bring about peace and stability to the people. Governments supporting the TFG in this endeavor should as much as possible, therefore, avoid acting in ways embarrassing to the fledgling government or humiliating to the Somali masses. Such acts would only embolden the opposition including the attenuated, but recoverable, Islamists and warlords. Acts of this nature can only render the hard won foreign assistance only counterproductive. If those embarrassments repeat themselves often enough, the TFG will not last for long, and that will be costly for Somalia, as well as the TFG and its friends elsewhere.

The TFG should, on its own, also improve on coordinating between its Ministers and other actors. The President should provide those interviews in consultation with the members of his Cabinet under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Mr. Ali Mohamed Geddi. Another example of such lack of coordination which may have been confusing to the nation and to the world has been that, while the Spokesman of the government had earlier pronounced that the government was prepared to talk with all the relevant parties, the President only yesterday said that his government was not ready to pardon the leadership of the Islamists. In essence, this also means they would not be willing to talk to them. Whichever way ends up to become the right policy, the government must avoid giving mixed signals to its people.

The Government ought to avoid talking down to the nation. For example the President has asked the "people" to surrender their arms to the government because they were "the" "people"-"shicib"-as the President put it in the said interview. In that same breath, the President has failed to explain that the requested action is in the interest of internal peace, security and stability in the country. For this policy to be implemented as smooth as it must be effective, the government must assure the public some peace and security in due course, by promulgating well thought out policies and plans on the matter, rather than making cursory promises here and there. And even if that was the point, it was not articulated cogently well. The President must also assure the nation that Somalia shall be free from foreign presence as soon as an irreducible minimum of stability is regained-which should be sooner than the later.

Over the years, the western media has called the Somali people as "ungovernable". That is a very bad characterization of a great nation. It is true that Somali masses have missed the right leadership for a good government over the years since independence in 1960, and have remained leery to the designs of its political elite since the ouster of Barre's regime in 1991. They have feared, and do still fear, the repeat of the despotism, nepotism, cronyism, corruption and tyranny which they had experienced under previous governments. Thus they have been slow to usher in any form of government, without having tested it, first. The nation though gave a chance to the earlier TNG to prove itself. But then they removed their support for it when it could no longer work. I hope the current TFG can make a difference for the sake of all-the Somali people, the international community and for the leadership within the TFG. Otherwise, the consequences will be bitter for all sides.

In the mean time, and in the interest of forward progress, an apology to the nation is in order, on the part of some of the leaders of the TFG for their gaffes, if to assure the nation that they are learning from their mistakes and that they are willing not to repeat them again.

The President must apologize for his blunder by declaring that he did not know that US forces were conducting air raids within the borders of his country.

The Minister of Interior, Mr. Hussein Mohamed Farah Aideed, should, like wise, apologize for his uncalled for remarks, in relation to which he later admitted over the BBC, Somali Service, and contrary to his earlier utterances, that there were no TFG plans for integration with Ethiopia. Despite the admission, the Minister had failed to apologize for his blunder, and should, therefore, immediately do so.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ismail Hurre Bubba, has to apologize for misspeaking to the international media without coordination with his government, as is evidenced by the contradiction of his message with that of the President in the case of the American air incursion within the borders of Somalia. For now, it does not matter which assertion-his or the President's-was true.

The PM, Mr. Ali Mohamed Geddi, should apologize as publicly as he had earlier (spring/summer of 2006) uttered the remarks that his government would not mind if the international community had recognized "Somaliland". Although the matter was discussed in the Parliament earlier on, a public apology is still in order to set the matter on a new foot, now that he is in the Capital. .

Finally, I also hope that Somalis everywhere will take my criticism for what it is: honest in its intent, positive in its content and constructive in its outlook. I wish to impress on all, that by avoiding those above mentioned gaffes and blunders sooner, could we only speed up the process of reconciliation and bring us all to witnessing new and renewed functioning government institutions in Somalia. One also hopes that calls for renewed reconciliation by some quarters, does not mean a repeat of the Embagathi Process. All must remember that this government is represented by all clans and segments of the society, which was the point and purpose of those two complete years spent on patching it up. Yes, indeed, there is need for reconciliation between the parties within the Parliament, which has hitherto remained divided over many issues. Hence, replacements as per members of the Parliament on the basis of decisions made by relevant constituencies are possible; but new additions to the Parliament from outside can only disturb the balance on which those fragile institutions were built-no matter how crooked or unprincipled some may deem it to be. However, major revamping and adjustments of the arrangement could only be deemed necessary, if an agreement in principle can be reached with "Somaliland".

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