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In Search of National Leaders in Somalia; the Misery of Khat Misuse in Somalia

by Abukar Awale
Thursday, November 1, 2018

In my humble view, national leaders by nature must possess the foresight and ability to articulate a vision to strategically solve critical challenges facing their own respective societies. I’m sure many people are fully aware of how much I have trumpeted for years how Somalia has long been struggling with historical khat misuse and abuse; I’ve done so because as a former khat addict myself, it’s clear to me that this has long been a national epidemic that is proving to be a drain on Somalia GDP and is wasting the human capital and health of millions of Somali citizens. As you can imagine, this campaigning has come at a personal cost to me in several ways, but in the absence of political leadership on the issue from our elected representatives, this campaign (while successful in banning khat in Britain) has perhaps been the only way to keep the issue in the minds of the public and by extension, a way to exert some form of pressure on our leaders to do just that; assume leadership on the issue.  Yet the response of the Somali government under Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire has been found wanting and confused.

In fairness to him, this floundering approach is much in keeping with several of his contemporaries and illustrious predecessors, many of whom were plucked from obscurity as laypeople before being thrust into the political arena. As is often the case, the unsuspecting Somali public were served up with popular campaign slogans and empty platitudes that promised much. Again as is often the case, assuming reins of power somehow seems have brought about a collective bout of amnesia on the part of our leaders with regards to their bombastic campaign promises. What will it take to buck the trend and make the political class sit up and take notice?

What we have witnessed is inability to fully comprehend the key dangers facing our nation and societies. In my view, a society that is slowly wasting away through completely self inflicted wounds, undergoing a slow painful death – without the desperately needed leadership concerned with formulating a credible comprehensive plan to respond to these dangers facing our nation.

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In my experience there has been more focus given to the concerns of khat cartels in Somalia and Kenya; hijacking our national policy and with it the future health and prospect of nation and our vulnerable citizens. In most recent 2018 President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya personally flew into Mogadishu to lobby on behalf of Meru County and Kenyan Khat cartels to have a temporary khat ban reversed quickly in Somalia to protect his country’s khat traders. While these leaders act on behalf of their citizens robustly, our leaders fail our citizens miserably by succumbing to diplomatic pressure from others, guaranteeing a continuation of national misery on our country and societies. It therefore begs the following questions: in whose interests are our leaders working in? If not the very people they took an oath to protect, who or what exactly are they afraid of?

The irony is that the Somali Governments mantra has been Nabad iyo Nolol and the availability/usage of Khat is completely counter-productive to this vision – yet our leaders have so far failed to connect the dots between their vision and the instability associated with Khat usage across our society: It is self evident that khat usage is counter-productive to our nation’s health, stability and prosperity of the nation.

It is therefore relevant for President H.E. Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and H.E. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire to the use this historical opportunity of Nabad iyo Nolol to re-focus their agenda on the issue of Khat use and abuse in Somalia: Such timely intervention will no doubt have a profound effect on our peace buildings efforts, our economy and beyond

Our nation’s leaders must envision and articulate actionable national plans that can cement a lasting legacy for our society. They must use the political capital at their disposal by channelling the will of the Somali people to inspire historical change. For this happen, they must go empty, vacuous political slogans and re-focus their commitment to a national social policy that once enacted, has the potential to realise a monumental change in Somalia. If the wheels can be put in motion towards taking real steps to deal with khat abuse in Somalia, I will be the first to happily eat my words and admit that Messrs Farmajo and Khaire have taken real tangible steps towards the very Nabad iyo Nolol for which Somalia continues to yearn after so long

Abukar Awale
[email protected]

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