This article was written by Nur Bahal in 2013 during the conference on Somalia in London, UK
Justice and Fairness are the Basic Blocks of Nation Building
Just like we cannot build a house from the roof down, we cannot build a nation without attending to the intricate internal issues that ails her. Justice and equality are the basic elements and the building blocks of a nation trying to get out of a civil war. Without these elements, the healing process will not begin and a nation will not be born regardless of how much investment it receives from the International Community.
In the case of a tribal society, the basic elements of nation building – justice and fairness – become even more pronounced; they are the measure of a government’s willingness to foster tangible peace. Lack of justice reaches deep into the fabric of society; it affects every facet of its existence; it changes a society at the core and alters their view of themselves and the rest of world. Social relationships, as a result, become precariously affected by a government’s policy on the implementation of the nation-building factors.
In his opening statement at the London Conference on Somalia, the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, used the example of a young sapling he planted in Villa Somalia and emphasised the support and nourishment required by the young sapling in order to grow into a shady tree. He equated Somalia with that sapling. The example is outstanding. Yet, the President disregarded to comprehend his government’s failure in nourishing the sapling that is Somalia. He continues to overlook justice; his government continues to sideline other tribes and is loaded towards Hawiye domination. Darood comes in at a far second and the rift between Darood and Hawiye continues to grow every day which also causes a drift away from peace for the entire Somalia. The hands of Somalia’s future are tied because of the sour relationship between Hawiye and Darood or the lack thereof, and every Somali government’s disregard for the remaining Somali citizens.
Those that have been trampled upon for decades continue to be ignored; their land continues to be grabbed and their cries for justice unheard. Culusow’s government continues to load power on those whose hands brought the ruin of a nation. With that unfair power secured internally and internationally, the government is now seeking international investment to solidify it forever. A clear example are the appointments for Somalia’s foreign offices and every important nomination inside as well.
International investment and support will not build a nation in the absence of justice. You can try to fill a bottomless barrel with water but the futility of such an effort is obvious to the sane. All nations need legitimacy from their societies before they can attract the international community. Legitimacy is gained through the implementation of justice and equality among the citizens of a nation.
The ailment of the Somali Society is not poverty; our country is rich. Somalia abounds in livestock, fish and agriculture; industrialisation is slowly taking root; Somalia has untapped reserves of numerous natural resources, including oil, uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt and natural gas. The CIA’s World Fact Book puts Somalia’s GDP at $600 US, higher than that of any of the neighboring countries with stable governments (Ethiopia – $100, Kenya – $350, Eritrea – $190, Tanzania – $280). Somali businesses have become the driving economic power in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. Still, the missing link to a stable Somalia – the crux of the conundrum – is overlooked by the Somali government and the international community. The president’s deliberate reluctance to implement a comprehensive social justice is disheartening and dishonest to say the least.
The successive Somali governments have overlooked justice in favour of international investment – which really could be a purposeful plan to create a nation loaded on one side; biased towards some tribes; biased against others; Biimaal, Galadi, Bagadi, Ma-Dhibaan, Barwaani, Tunni, and Jareer wayn to mention a few, continue to watch from the sidelines as a nation’s decision-making falters again and again with their input and without the minimum consideration for their concerns. This major inequality within the society coupled with a weak national identity is a ticking time bomb that can derail nation building in Somalia. Above and beyond these two factors, the composition of the National Army will affect nation building negatively. In the absence of the requisite comprehensive and unfeigned national reconciliation, the current move to incorporate tribal militias into the army is counter productive to nation building.
The International Community views Somalia from an economic blind spot. The boiling pot of social injustices cannot build a durable nation. And as usual, the International Community will be forced to re-evaluate its actions again in the face of continued social chaos. Would it not make sense to take a deeper look now rather than regroup later?
10 May 2013