2 December 2012

Somalia: A Smiling New President for a Country in Desperation


President Hassan's "Manifesto" provides no vision for a national political system that has matured and benefited from the wise counsel of the bitter lessons of Somalia's troubled past.

Somalis are famous for attaching nicknames to each other. Within a few weeks of his election via parliamentary vote as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, held in Mogadishu on Sept. 10, 2012, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was nicknamed Hassan 'Qoslaye', or Hassan 'Smiley' in English.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud - President of Somalia

Photographs posted by state-run Radio Mogadishu website highlighting President Hassan's trip to Ethiopia last week include a revealing photograph of President Hassan sitting in the cockpit of an Ethiopian Airlines jet, smiling back at the camera. One hopes that, President Hassan is not as ill prepared to fly an airplane, as he is to lead a nation.

Recently, President Hassan was visited by a mission dispatched by the U.N. Security Council to conduct an assessment of the U.N. mandate in post-transition Somalia. President Hassan undiplomatically handed the visiting U.N. team a 5-page document referred to as the "Manifesto" that he first published during the runner-up to the Sept. 10 election. The Manifesto contains President Hassan's vision while he was a presidential candidate; the "Six Pillar Policy" aims to "outline a public policy framework that sheds light on the top most priority issues and lay strong foundations for building reliable and functioning state institutions". By promoting that same document as President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has stamped his national vision for Somalia - a vision that, while it enshrines principles of governance and humanity, lacks the political depth that can deliver even a part of that vision and help Somalia recover from the ruins of war.

No wonder President Hassan has been obsessively preoccupied with issues relating to the formation of 'Jubaland' administration in southern Somalia or receiving foreign delegations in Mogadishu, thereby sidelining the Prime Minister, instead of widening his focus to tackle priority national issues.

The "Manifesto" includes clauses on security and national political system that seem to apply to all levels of government, and to all parts of Somalia. Naturally, any policy that aims to apply in parts of Somalia is shortsighted, impractical, and is more than likely to produce counter-productive results. His Manifesto calls for "establishment of regional and district security committees" from the center - or in this case, from the federal government in Mogadishu. Some have speculated that ex-President Abdiqassim Salat Hassan is a "close adviser" of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. With such centralist line of thought, one ponders the validity of the speculation.

More over, President Hassan's "Manifesto" provides no vision for a national political system that has matured and benefited from the wise counsel of the bitter lessons of Somalia's troubled past. For example, the Manifesto makes no mention of federalism, and fails to posit propositions on how to deal with the secession of Somaliland, equaling the dismemberment of Somalia. Instead, President Hassan was caught commending the "Somaliland government and its people" for last week's local elections. While Somaliland should be commended for holding local elections, Somaliland should be equally criticized for using "military democracy" in Sool and Sanaag regions that support Puntland and remaining part of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Somaliland is well-known for sending election teams carrying ballot boxes, accompanied by military forces.

President Hassan's message is similar to a message that a Somali President would express for elections in Kenya, or France. Are "Somaliland and its people" the same people Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is the President for, or has Hassan forfeited his authority as President of Somalia?

Many things remain unclear, but President Hassan's smile will not save Somalia. Long gone is the euphoria of a peaceful election on Sept. 10, and now, the country needs visionary leadership to steer Somalia on the path towards national reconciliation, recovery, and rebuilding of a new Somalia, and deliver tangible results before public confidence dissipates.

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