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11, Oct. 2004
M. M. Afrah

 “They were too deeply entangled in their own past, caught in the web they had spun themselves, according to the laws of their own twisted ethics and twisted logic; they were all guilty, although not of the deeds of which they accused themselves. There was no way back for them.”
Arthur Koestler.Darkness at Noon

              “It doesn’t take a hero to send people to war.”
General (retired) Norman Shwarzkopf.

In today’s Somali politics there’s lots of stones left to turn over and see what crawls out. For a starter, none of us can gauge what are the intentions of those who lost the recent acrimonious presidential race, which the great Somali cartoonist, Amin Amir depicted in his latest cartoon, showing four men (no woman) each trying vigorously to possess the seat of power at Villa Somalia, the old Presidential Palace (now in ruins).

This tug-of-war demonstrates the old petty politicians’ disease that makes them ravenous with a desire to be inside the nucleus of power, or better still to become a president of a country they had helped to destroy.

 “Once you get to the top office you’re hooked, you’re infected. You relish the secret exercise of power, out of the daylight, away from public scrutiny, that’s inside the Presidential Palace flanked by your yes-men. Remember General Barre during the dying days of his autocratic rule?” a long time observer of Presidential elections in Africa told me the other day.

He cited men like Dr. Hastings Banda. Mobuto Sese Kuku, Charles Taylor, Robert Mugabe, Sani Abache as an example.

He predicted that even after the election of a new president a bunch of  losers and war criminals will be just waiting in the wings to reclaim what they perceive is rightly theirs. They will not shake hands with the winner and give up their power without a fight. In a more politically mature society, the losers shake hands with the winner, a dry handclasp and a plastic smile, and nurse their grudges privately as soon as they’re out of the limelight again. Al Gore is a case in point others were rewarded with lucrative employment in the private sectors.

In Somalia the struggle for power is like tinderbox. A very good example is the track record of the warlords, relics of General Barre’s heydays. Almost as soon as they signed a peace accord all the warlords that solemnly laid their hands on the Holy Quran and renounced (forsworn is the appropriate word) clan warfare began to rearm themselves in order to take up the fight where they had left off.

They had mobilized their drug-crazed militia in a bid to resettle an old score against their foe across the killing field, otherwise known as the Green Line while they lived in highly guarded fortified luxury villas. Hence, General Shwarzkopf’s line that it doesn’t take a hero to send people to war.

The newly elected speaker of the fledging federal parliament has pledged there will be no vote shenanigans with people with money in backroom deals. Also, the transparent ballot boxes already sent strong message to those who have a tendency to stuff ballot boxes long before the voting even started.

But civil liberty groups and civil rights organizations have been virtually mute about the registration fees, which only people with money could afford to cough up. Only few individuals have protested about the so-called registration fees, but did not mount any sustained lobbying to get the discriminatory voting laws be scrapped.

One of the opponents of the registration fee spewed venom over the subject and said: “IGADD is running roughshod over little people with no money to burn.”

When the news came in for the election of a military strongman, I sat very still in front of my computer, trying to think of some intelligent thing to write about the Colonel. But for the moment words fail me.

However, it is difficult what to expect from a man who banned political parties in Puntland, who refused to relinquish power after his three year term expired and Jama Ali Jama was elected by the Council of Elders to replace him. News agencies report that the Colonel seized power with the help of the Ethiopians, claiming he was fighting terrorism. Let’s hope that the colonel fights homegrown terrorists, locally known as Mooryaans. Only then, we would give him our full support.

The real journey begins now, Mr. President.

As we went to the press, the people of Puntland were celebrating on the election of Col. Abdulahi Yusuf but there are mixed feelings in Mogadishu - the capital.


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