Opinion

Somalis still the losers in farce of poll that will not mend state

DAILY NATION — Somalia’s much-anticipated presidential and parliamentary elections are proving to be a farce and are a sign that the people of Somalia will once again be betrayed by their leadership and should not expect much from the new government that will be elected.

None other than Somalia’s Auditor-General, Nur Jimale Farah, has told the Voice of America’s Somali service that the ongoing elections have “no credibility because of vote buying, fraud, intimidation, and violence”.

Farah claims that the more than 14,000 so-called “Electoral College” delegates who are voting for members of parliament are voting for the highest bidder; votes are apparently being bought for between $5,000 and $30,000 each.

It is likely that, as in past elections, very few of the candidates will be parting with their own money to pay these bribes; funds for bribe-giving are usually solicited from rich Arab countries that are known to sponsor their preferred candidates.

Somalia did not hold a one-person-one-vote election as the outgoing government was not equipped to carry out such an election, given the countless challenges facing the country, including lack of a voter registration system and the fact that much of the country is “governed” through a mix of regional and clan-based groups, customary laws, informal networks, and militias, including Al-Shabaab.

Some of the candidates for the 275-member Lower House of Parliament and for the 54-member Upper House of Parliament are also known warlords who believe that getting a parliamentary seat will offer them immunity.

Interestingly, the international community, including the United Nations, is acting as if the elections are above board.

SOMALIA’S WOES

Apart from a few cautionary notes about vote-rigging, not much has been said about the fact that the votes are being rigged even before voters cast their ballot.

The problem with Somalia, which the international community is reluctant to acknowledge, is that any government that is put in place in Mogadishu under the current circumstances will remain a puppet administration with no real authority and no capacity to carry out governance functions or to provide services.

Since the UN-backed transitional government was installed in 2004, no transitional or post-transitional Somali Government has had a credible revenue-collecting authority or well-functioning ministries.

Most Somalis rely on charities or entrepreneurs for services such as health and education.

Somalia does not even have a national curriculum for its schools.

Somalia’s army is weak and underfunded, and since 2007, the Somali Government has relied almost exclusively on African Union forces for security.

The first post-transitional government, of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in 2012 amid much hope and optimism, but like previous governments, was mired in corruption allegations.

President Mohamud did not manage to unify the deeply fragmented country.

On the contrary, regional entities operate largely without any reference to Mogadishu.

Some of these so-called “federal states” are nothing but clan-based enclaves run by thugs or warlords.

NO SUCCESSES YET

The new constitution, which reinforces clannism by insisting that power be distributed among the four major clans, has disenfranchised minority groups (the so-called 0.5s) that have historically been discriminated against.

The self-declared independent state of Somaliland has boycotted the ongoing elections altogether as it does not consider itself to be part of Somalia.

Somaliland has been seeking to gain international recognition since 1991, but without much success.

So, how can Somalia emerge as a country that has a functioning government that delivers peace, unity, stability, and services to its people?

If I had the answer to this question, I might have won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

What I do know is that, left to their own devices, without foreign interference, the Somalis may just come up with a home-grown solution.

However, let us also not forget that the last time Somalis tried to come up with a home-grown solution in the form of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), it was quickly ousted from Mogadishu by US-backed Ethiopian forces.

The ouster of the ICU led to the formation of Al-Shabaab, which has since wreaked havoc in Somalia.

Even when the former head of the ICU, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was anointed as the president of Somalia in 2009, Somalia failed to rise from the ashes.

Therefore, the elections this year are not likely to significantly change the fortunes of this shattered country because Somalia remains broken at so many levels.

rasna.warah@gmail.com

Somalis still the losers in farce of poll that will not mend state
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