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Somalis shrug off failed state tag


Monday, May 07, 2012
WISDOM MDZUNGAIRI

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The Somali civil war, centring on the capital city of Mogadishu, began on the morning of New Years Eve in 1991 and has evolved into a huge life-sucking black hole, from which there seems no escape. But, thats what black holes do; they devour everything around them, and nothing gets out.

The Horn of Africa country was reportedly put on the list of countries associated with terrorism by former United States president George W Bush after labelling it a failed state.

This meant any country that risked relations with Somalia was subject to US sanctions.

As a result, the international community was dissuaded from having dealings with Somalia, and it became isolated.

But, former ambassador of Somalia and the Arab League Mohamed Sharif Mohamud recently argued the USs attitude encouraged north-east African powers to perpetuate their strategy of destabilisation, giving them licence to settle accounts with Somalia under the pretext of combating terrorism.

This, Mohamud avowed, the countries hoped to demoralise the Somalis, to plunge them into a state of despair from which they would never again try to rise.

A recent visit to this strife-torn country showed it is not yet a failed state. Of course it was defeated by the weight of the resources at its adversaries disposal, but never succumbed. And it is still fighting for emancipation and self-determination, thanks to the African Union (AU)s timely intervention.

Al-Qaeda-sponsored Islamic insurgents Al-Shabaab had taken over control of strategic points, including Mogadishu itself, occupying every building and controlling all aspects of the economy.

Slowly though the militia group is now operating from outside the capital city after having been forcibly driven out by Amisom troops and residents are heaving a sigh of relief hoping peace and tranquillity will be sustained at least.

Evidently warlordism, terrorism and piracy are still very rife to the extent that any foreigner who dares stroll on the streets or the main Barkara Market does it at owners risk.

In the absence of Al-Shabaab in the capital, suicide bombing has remained the sole weapon with which the Islamist insurgent operatives have at their disposal in their quest to dislodge the TFG forces and Amisom troops.

Suicide bombers have defeated the whole essence of trust and sporadic gun fights continue unabated during the day as well as night.

Displacement, refugees and a lack of state authority are still problematic, and Amisom police commander Charles Makono says they even have difficulties recruiting police members because almost everyone at some point could have been part of the insurgents.

Could these issues be a result of sustained foreign intervention or the deliberate fragmentation of the country into fiefdoms, enclaves and tribal territories?As disclosed during my sojourn, traditional and religious leaders still play a huge role in the running of the country.

Hence the Somali conflict has a local dimension rooted in oppression, nepotism, exclusion, injustice, lack of economic opportunity and civil disobedience and it is not impossible to ignore.

Irrespective of the lack of government regulation and protection, Somali diasporans have formed networks both within the country and across borders and continents that are bound together by ties of family and trust.

Two major financial institutions that emerged out of the ashes of the destruction are Dahabshiil International Bank and Salama Bank. Their services cover all Somalis and all regions to the tiniest village, a feat that would have been impossible under the circumstances.

British politician William Hague said in a speech at Chatham House: Somalis worldwide provide more than $1bn in remittances back to Somalia each year more than the international community provides in aid.

Whats more, Somalis inject $1bn annually into the economy of Kenya. This is variously due to the high returns offered by Kenyas economy, partnerships with Kenyan-Somalis, the sharing of 800km of common border, and Kenyas role as an outlet for Somalias informal economy.

Livestock and agriculture were the mainstays of the Somali economy before the collapse of the state, accounting for around 50% of GDP.

And despite the lack of regulation and government protection and the chaos, natural disasters and fierce competition from highly advanced economies such as Australia and Argentina Somalias livestock exports have doubled in comparison to 1990 levels.

Yes, despite the challenges encountered by Somalia over the past 20 years, the country has a lot to offer. It is capable of a rebirth and will one day stand on its feet again to pursue the march of progress, restoring its dignity and assuming equal status with other members of the international community.

After the defeat of Al-Shabaab, can the world put Somalia into the AU trusteeship for the better?
Now confined outside its major revenue stream Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab cannot battle on without costly ammunition and weapons.

So this is Amisoms opportune moment to break the cycle of internal war and troubled peace. Somalis must be given time to move on.

Africa needs to assume responsibility for Somalia and to delegate the task of trusteeship to its more advanced and better-governed member states.

Definitely, rising from the ashes of Somalias devastating civil war is an image so powerful, and it could help provide a solution to the never-ending devastation.

This is the time for change!



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