By Abdirahman Yusuf Ali
Somalia is continually facing a host of challenges as it struggles to emerge from years of internal turmoil and misrule. Despite concerted efforts by local and international actors, the country still finds itself in a rut unable to shake off the shackles of its accumulated crises.
Our efforts toward a peaceful and economically have largely remained unrewarded given the country’s fragility level.
In this article anchored on the concept of Uistaag Dadka iyo Dalka (Stand up for the people and the country), a social movement through community building platform for nation-building, I argue that Somalia’s inability to leap from its state of underdevelopment and stagnation is the absence of social trust in Somali governance system . This article also proposes some measured necessary to rebuild social trust in Somali governance system and engage all citizens in active and genuine state-building.
Social trust and acceptance
Social trust and acceptance are what make the governance systems legitimate, allowing social cohesion and the functioning of democracy. Social trust and acceptance also create the necessary environment for investments and economic development.
Over two decades since the advent of the Transitional National Government (TNG), Somalis are gradually warming up to the government and acceptance of life within a framework of law but a sense of incredulity still prevails.
Somali’s social trust in public institutions is vital for the government to respond to insecurity and earn community confidence to participate in tackling the social, economic and political instability – allocating well-streamlined resources to build social trust at the Federal and state levels is the bottom line to build an effective governance system. Trust in government dissuades the citizen from clannism as it rallies them around a common interest and belief in the supremacy of the state and not the clan.
The election of a new President in Somalia on May 15 presented the country with yet another opportunity to assess the social contract between the citizen and the state, and recalibrate missed milestones toward rebuilding a productive and mutual relationship between the two entities.
Accountability and Transparency
Theft of public resources remains pervasive in Somalia and kept the country in the ‘most corrupt’ club longer. By failing to tackle graft, citizens cannot entrust the government with the management of their affairs and that can be demonstrated by public aversion to tax payment, reliance on Al-Shabaab for justice, use of violence to address disputes and lack of commitment towards the protection of public resources.
On account of group and personal interests, Somalia is stuck in a lack of accountability and transparency: The incessant fights between the President and Prime Minister due to personal interests, lack of constitutional clarity on the powers and responsibilities of the two officers and commercialization of the vote of confidence by parliament have adversely eroded public confidence in government.
This constitutional ambiguity and opaqueness have also set a breeding ground for corruption since it is not clear which institution ought to hold the other accountable. The two chambers of parliament have for example feuded severally and failed to hold the executive to account but instead, have pegged their vote on the dollar.
To address these issues and restore Somali’s missing power of Social trust and confidence in government the new President should consider the following remedies:
- Fast-track the establishment of government institutions with clear-cut mandates. This could include the definite relations and powers of the two houses of parliament and the role of the judiciary in arbitrating constitutional matters when parliament fails to resolve certain matters.
- Creating a government accountability office that fights against corruption, and group and personal interests
- Opening up the government for public assessment, public participation in decision making, public resources allocations and utilization.
- Ensure public safety and protection of lives and livelihoods and fast and equal access to social justice
- Promote open governance. Somal people are strongly need to fully aware of and participate in planning of how every dollar of the recently approved $917 million national budget is utilized.
Fix the elections-One-man-one-vote
One of the overriding factors for lack of citizen trust in government is the inability to directly choose the leaders who can adequately represent the interests of the people. Although the 4.5 clan-based system has addressed a challenge during the country’s most trying moments, its usefulness has been overtaken by time. By placing the responsibility to elect in the hands of the individual electorate, Somalis will be motivated to associate more with and establish trust with the government because they have taken a direct part in its constitution. They will no longer see it as a government forced down their throats by a few individuals. To attain a functioning democracy in Somalia, the government should consider:
- Set priorities right. There is no need of putting up huge shining buildings with skeleton staff or idling officials. Therefore, human capital must be maximized vis-à-vis infrastructural spending.
- Accessibility, public safety and protection of lives and livelihoods are most critical and should be given priority.
- Expedite the process toward one-person-one-vote elections. There should not be any further excuses on this matter. We are used to the government sitting on its laurels until the last year of elections when it announces that a universal vote is not possible because of inadequate preparation.
- District administration empowerment: Federalism is new to Somalia and yet has to be implemented to realise a functional democracy. Adequate resources must be allocated to the regional governments to bolster economic inclusivity and hence citizen participation in governance.
- An effective governance system is to be initiated by the district administration and well-implemented at district administration. This is the closest government unit to the citizens and they have a direct say over it. If well resourced and capacitated to meet citizen expectations, the journey towards robust democracy and citizen social trust in government can earnestly commence.
Robust social activism that unites people’s thoughts, and voices and jolts them into action is sorely needed in Somalia; the kind of activism that no anything other than the common good, filters group and self-interest and champions for prudent leadership.
We should highly consider peace and development activism that offers:
- Continually holds the government accountable demanding protection of lives and livelihoods, inclusive public participation in public reforms and building relationships between state and citizens
- Co-shaping common good mindsets to benefit every Somali citizen and filters out negative ethnicity and wrong group idealogy that hates destroys and kills among us.
Abdirahman Yusuf Ali
Social and Peace activist