The President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, who was elected in September,2012 by a proxy vote, is visiting the US. Although the objectives for his visit are not clear, it is certain that he would come to a divided Somali diaspora community.
Despite that his country did not have a central government for the last 21 years, President Hassan’s government enjoys support from the international community and the United Nations as far as Somalia’s territorial integrity and membership of the United Nations is concerned. Both Somaliland and Puntland are still sitting on the sidelines, even though they are more stable than the seat of the President, Mogadishu.
Outside a diminutive relationship, including permission for American Drones to go in and out of Somalia in their hunt for the Al-Qaed- affiliated Al-Shabab fighters and the presence of about three hundred CIA spies inside Mogadishu, there isn’t much noteworthy diplomatic relationship between the USA and this failed state.
One key objective which the new president would like to sell and seek support for is the lifting of arms embargo so he can freely buy arms. The
question is: arms for what and to fight whom? If his argument is that he wants to fight Al-shabab, well, the world, including the US government, is already helping out the AMISOM troops who are engaged in the war theater.US policy makers need not be trigger-happy and should not favor lifting of arms embargo without first seriously assessing if the current administration can be trusted and accordingly deserves to be armed.
Many Somalis are not yet convinced that it is the right time now to pour in arms and weaponry into an unstable furnace, which is what Somalia is.
Also, the degree of knowledge about who is who in the ruling clique of Damul Jadid sect is limited. America had erred in the past by arming the Mujaahiddin in Afghanistan, and it is paying a heavty price for that mistake; the same mistake should not be repeated in this African context.
Somalia has not yet reconciled its warring sides. The pains of the civil war are still looming large; the looted properties in Mogadishu are not being returned to their legitimate owners, hence this is breading a heightened mistrust among different clans and regions of the country. A case in point is a recent gathering of the clan elders of Puntland, a powerful and stable region, where a petition calling for the unconditional return of real estate properties in Mogadishu to their legitimate owners is completely ignored by this President.
Adding an insult to an injury is the President’s misplaced audacity to commandeer and sabotage the liberation of the Jubba regions by the allied forces of Ras Kamboni, his own government troops and Kenyans who are members of the AMISOM troops. Many are baffled at his abrasive pick and choose approach between AMISOM in Mogadishu and AMISOM.
Unfortunately, Somalis have their own way of understanding this type of duplicity in politics as much as a black American is apt when s/he sees or feels racism. The picture painted about the President’s actions isn’t pretty.
The combined effect of this, coupled with issues of control of local resources and his ambiguous stance on the federal structure are all challenges that seem to be taking big bites on his office’s legitimacy. It is unsettling when the very president of the country, Hassan Mohamed, disagrees with his own federal constitution to the chagrin of regions such as Puntland, which has enjoyed better governance since 1998. As a result, the tension between Mogadishu and other centers could not have been higher.
Worse yet, the prospect for a renewed war over Kismayo and the Jubba region has lately been a source of serious concern in many circles.
Before the President wraps up what is his first time to visit the Beltway, reports coming from his organizers confirm that he would pay a quick visit to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, where an estimated 60,000 Somalis live and work.
Paying a visit to the Twin cities is both good and bad. It is good that he would see a concentration of Somali Diaspora community that has both negative and positive contribution to the society that hosted them since the yet-to-end civil of his country created millions of indigents across the globe.
In his visit, he would intimate himself with stories about “Little Mogadishu” in the city; he may also pay a quick visit to one of the budding mosques where Somalis pray and teach Quran to their little ones. He would for sure hear stories of successful and prominent Somali Americans such as Dr. Mohamed Abdiraxman Hassan, a leading hematologist and liver transplant doctor at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Ahmed Samatar, Dean of Macalester College, Dr. Mohamud Dahir Afqarshi, a prominent Internist who runs a private clinic, and a host of prominent businessmen and women. But he would also learn the burgeoning one or more things about Somali under-class and the mushrooming unemployed youth who have recently been a fertile ground for Al-Shabab recruitment.
A significant portion of the Somalis do not favor his policies and may not afford him warmth welcome to the state of ten thousand lakes. Worse off all, he would hear an earful of stories about an extremely divided Diaspora community.
As a matter of fact, political observers attribute the recent sharpening of the community’s internal strife to his animus rhetoric on Kismayo and the Jubba regions. The President’s critics say that he smells, talks and walks like the divider we have not seen for some time know.
Without a comprehensive reconciliation program at a national level, including a final resolution to the Somaliland secession case, a full autonomy given to the people of Jubba land to form their own local government and a clear political path for the question of Khatumo state, arming Hassan Sheikh or any other player in Somalia landscape is imprudent.
Unfortunately, coming to America to a divided Diaspora community is not going to be that amusing at all for Hassan Sheikh Mohamed. He could not have come at a more inopportune time.
Faisal A. Roble