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Ending Doormat Politics In Somalia
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“More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy. The world is competing for resources and global markets.” John Kerry Considering the positive trend of the past eighteen months, Somalia is en route to recovery, and, in due course, to re-engineer a better state from the ground up. The caveat: In the long term, this could be another squandered opportunity as long as ‘doormat politics’ shapes Somalia’s political landscape. For Somalia, doormat politics mean the combination of systemic self/foreign-inflicted aggressions and exploitations suffered by the nation and subsequent desperation, hopelessness, chronic dependency and indignation. Over its history there have been the Cold War’s proxy geopolitical games, the iron fist of the military government, ruthless militias/warlord-ism of the civil war, the moral menace of religious extremism, hostile intervention of neighboring countries and the paranoia-driven global war on terror. Each time, Somalia has been under the exploitative schemes and the brutal authority of various external and internal actors. By and large, the nation was used either as a camouflage to advance clan-based exclusive rights or a gambit for zero-sum expedience. Mutual Interest and Respect Today, Somalia is at the threshold of a new era; an era of bilateral relationships of mutual interest and respect. However counterintuitive it may seem, a new image of Somalia is gradually coming into fruition. Aside from the nation’s coveted long and strategic coast, Somalia is a country with untapped energy and other resources, but with massive rebuilding needs. Many recognize its potential as a lucrative emerging market. And, as the US, China, Europe, and India continue their scramble in Africa for resources and food security, cultivating bilateral relationships with Somalia as a strategic gateway to sub-Saharan Africa becomes a geopolitical necessity. This provides Somalia an opportunity to expand its horizon and cultivate diverse friendships. Recently, a number of old friends were compelled to emerge out of their diplomatic ambivalence since the Republic of Turkey has raised the bar and reassumed its full diplomatic relationship with Somalia and opened its embassy in Mogadishu. Turkey’s actions came at a time when it was still being considered the most dangerous city in the world. Like China, Turkey has successfully been establishing good footing in Africa based on its method of engagement- soft power. “What Africa needs is not pity, but fairness and opportunity. Developing partnerships based on respect, equality and mutual interest will go a long way in overcoming the vicious circle of exploitation, poverty and underdevelopment in Africa,” writes Turkish Columnist Ibrahim Kalin in Today’s Zaman. Somali/US Relations On January 17th President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reactivate the bilateral relationship between Somalia and United States. Though the State Department welcomed “the great strides toward stability Somalia has made over the past year”—an effort in which the US played a key role—it made no commitment to change its Dual-Track Policy and globally dreaded “Drone Diplomacy”. These are the two sides of a counter-terrorism based policy toward Somalia that has undermined the legitimacy of the same central government that the US has officially recognized and established bilateral relationship with. Sustainable bilateral relations between Somalia and the US will remain a political impossibility as long as the US policy toward Somalia continues to be driven by counter-terrorism expediency—and its diplomatic gestures are delivered by drone strikes! Pressure would soon be mounting against both nations as this policy is receiving intense scrutiny and is the subject of a new documentary called Dirty Wars. “We cannot allow the extraordinary good we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely by the role we have had to play since September 11th, a role that was thrust upon us,” said John Kerry, the new Secretary of State. Whether or not these words would prove prophetic indicator of President Obama’s foreign policy in his second term remain to be seen. Challenges and Opportunities of Economic Growth Statehood is not sustainable without steady revenue and economic growth. This should not be a shock to a nation emerging out of the ruins of its bloody history and hampered by chronic poverty, with roughly seventy percent of its youth unemployed and nearly two million of its population internally and externally displaced. Somalia needs a fresh start. However, as this fledgling state struggles to find its overall balance, bill collectors are lining up. Debt repayment is in the normal course of affairs, however, a few issues must be illuminated: Even though it is still considered a “Pre-Decision-Point country”, Somalia is qualified for debt cancelation under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. It might even qualify to legitimately invoke “The Odious Debt Doctrine” (a precedent set by the US) if and where it is necessary. The rationale driving this legal doctrine is that loans not made in good faith to non-democratic governments with questionable legitimacy that then use these monies against their public interests , cannot be transferred to democratically elected governments that may succeed them. Regardless, there is a good chance that these international financial institutions would do what’s right. An more complex issue than dealing with these institutions is dealing with Hedge Funds profiteers who purchased some of Somalia’s old debts while the state was on its death bed, earning the name Vulture Funds. This would have to be won legally in the courts (Think Congo). Processes and Sacrifices of Transformation It behooves the current government to appoint a Debt Audit and Asset Recovery Commission that includes economists, international lawyers, members of the Parliament and civil societies. Moreover, it should deliberately avoid any decision that would put this recovering state in a position to be held as ransom for generations to come. This includes aid monies that the state is chronically dependent on. After all, as the old adage goes: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. Somalia now has too many pipers playing too many tunes, all at once; a classic political cacophony of a sort. The good news is that the current government already has alternative ways of generating state revenues such taxation, postal services, licensing the telephone gateway, licensing banking, licensing commercial fishing, leasing agricultural lands, etc. in its priority. The Somali people have resiliently rejected the permanency of failure. They have been responding with an overwhelming stream of repatriation and investments. By and large there is a popular march toward the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the process is not yet complete and hazardous pitfalls along the way still present detrimental challenges. So, the current momentum must be guided with vision, maintained with prudence, and guarded with vigilance. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the magically disappearing $ billions in South Sudan and Haiti. This indeed underscores, among other things, the importance of having in place effective policies of checks and balances, also the apparatus and the capacity to invest these funds into viable projects of critical nature. So, the prospect of ending doormat politics in Somalia is reasonably high as the world continues to change. However, as it is a two-engine phenomenon, it is utterly naïve to count on it before the Somali people come to the realization that in the dark pages of history this lamentation is scripted in blood – if only we were united! Abukar Arman is a Somali diplomat whose political analysis is widely published.

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Tue, May 14, 2013 12:56 AM (about 92463 hours ago)
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