On February 6, when talks in the city of Dhusamareb, Somalia broke up without an agreement between the federal government and the states on the date of the next elections, international observers were alarmed at the intransigence of some Somali leaders and sent a strongly worded letter to the two parties.
Somalia is a divided country with a long history of civil wars, famine, and failed local leaders. The country is trying to gradually return to normalcy and any political deadlock is a setback for the fragile political system. Some Somalis, angered by the conference’s disappointing results, took to a virtual parliament to hurl online abuse but oddly enough most of them were supportive of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.
I am astonished that most of my acquaintances, friends, and fellow students support Farmajo, and I always ask them why. Here are a few of their answers: “We want to get out of the maze of warring leaders,” “Farmajo brings back the glory of Somalia,” “He pays government employees’ salaries smoothly, unlike his predecessors,” and “He wants to put an end to foreign interferences.”
By and large, Somalis who support Farmajo are typically ambitious, non-tribal, and less politicized who want to live with dignity. But upon dissecting the issue and logically deducing their responses, here’s my take.
Somalis suffer from nostalgia, but the truth is that the past was not innocent. Somalis have suffered from dictatorship and civil wars for decades.
They misunderstand the concept of the federal system. The federal system is a flexible, bifurcated system that gives wide powers to the states, but it is not a system of personal glorification or blind trust.
What I would like to say is that nationalism is a good thing that motivates a person to love their country and help build it, or rebuild it in the case of Somalia, but two things are worth mentioning. Nationalism needs to be controlled, revised, and directed, like any other concept, so that it does not turn into a destructive force. We must educate our generation on healthy nationalism because there is no doubt that they are the future leaders of the country.
Further, some thinkers question its usefulness on a global level. Because if everyone cares about their country only and does not pay attention to others, then how can life and cooperation exist in an isolated world especially when the world has become so interconnected and globalized. We do not want Somalia to be closed in on itself again, openness is the future.
Why do Somalis prefer the idea of a “strong leader” over “successful politics”? This has to do with Somali traditions that glorify individual leadership in poems and myths and negate the importance of accountability and participation, also this phenomenon is shared by some developing societies, which arises more in situations of despair.
Will Farmajo be re-elected? The return of Farmajo is difficult. A Somali president has not returned for a second term in decades.
By: Ibrahim Suldan is a progressive Somali journalist, writer, and advocate for social justice. He is the Founder of Somali Progressive Initiative.