Dehai News The Horn Of Africa States: Somalis Cannot Rein In Their Leaders – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Sunday, 19 November 2023


In less than a week, Somalia is expected to be plunged into a new lake of trouble. It is to join the EAC, a Swahili world organization that is to transform itself over the next several years into a new country to be called the East Africa Federation (EAF) with a new central government, a new constitution and a new all. Somalis have not been told of this and they have not been able to stop their current leader from embarking on this perilous journey, which would in the not-too-distant future make Somalia, a minor region in a Swahili world of some 300 million people and area of some 5.8 million square kilometers spanning from ocean to ocean – the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.

The current leadership of the country emerged from an election process that lasted for more than two years, a unique kind of election that was mostly based on horse-trading, corruption and ethnic/clan processes that were encouraged, financed, and steered by outside forces that did not wish Somalia well. The current leadership was elected through an indirect election process of a few prepaid parliamentarians.  It was, indeed, a fraudulent and fractious electoral process, as some describe it, in general.  

The President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, knowingly embarked on the process of joining the EAC. It started with his previous mandate when he filed an application to be admitted into that EAC club and in his new mandate which started last year, it remained one of his prime activities so far. 

Perhaps, the President knows things that other Somalis do not know, but Somali leaders have never been able to choose well in their partnerships of countries, be it economic or political. In the early days of independence, they opted for the communist bloc headed by the ex-Soviet Union, which collapsed over thirty years ago, which also partially prompted the collapse of the Somali state. They also erred in joining the Arab League which remains a dysfunctional organization, when Somalis are not Arabs, and where Somali delegations find themselves in embarrassing situations when attending its conferences, as they do not speak Arabic, the main medium of such conferences. The current one is leading headstrong to join the EAC which is a Swahili world, where Somalis would find themselves sitting at conferences conducted in that foreign language, Swahili, the future lingua franca of the EAF, which Somalis do not speak – another milestone in Somalia’s erroneous choices of friends and partners.

But is this his fault? We guess not, for Somalis support their leaders on ethnic/clan basis, although the clan members may never benefit from the men they choose as leaders. In Somalia, there is no democratic governance and only clan governance. There is no popular election but restricted participation through a few so-called elderly statesmen who are bribed to make wrong choices. This has only encouraged leaders of the country not to be accountable to no one, including the parliament that elected them or any other institution such as the judicial system, where currently no constitutional court even exists in the country. The country does not have a constitution ratified by the population for the Federal Government of Somalia and the government is not in full control of the total territory of the nation. Yet it is being pushed to join another bloc, with which Somalia, other than the African continent, shares little.

Yet the President of the country is moving ahead making the country join that organization. Some issues they share are related to matters involving one of the countries of the EAC, Kenya, and these are territorial and maritime disputes, which remain unsettled. Other than that, two other members, Uganda and Burundi, have sent their armed forces to help Somalia battle terrorists introduced into Somalia from outside the country and this remains to be a primarily African Union mission in the country but nothing beyond.

The citizens of Somalia, which are organized in clan structures are not generally involved in national affairs, and accordingly, leaders of the country do not see themselves accountable to them. They know they have the undisputable support of clansmen who would come to their aid irrespective of whether they benefit from his leadership or not. Accordingly, conflicts and clan competition for power remain a paramount feature in the country’s political activities, which leads many of its leaders to err and the present leadership is no different. The President is erring in making Somalia a member of the wrong African grouping. In a number of years henceforth, Somalis would be pushing their leaders to exit this grouping just as Britain did to the EEC some years ago to regain its sovereignty. At what cost, only time will tell.

Currently the resources and power in the country is concentrated in one person, the President and not even his government. It is the President who currently seems to be acting as his foreign Minister, as his finance minister as his interior minister, as his trade minister, as his agricultural minister, as his security minister, as his other… and his other…. and, indeed, his everything. No wonder, he employs envoys instead of the government ministers, for every conceivable activity. He roams around the world and appears in every conceivable conference where Somalia participates. In just ten days, the president was in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Burundi. Maybe he would be travelling to another country before returning to Mogadishu. Is he a salesman, the foreign minister and/or a President of the country, a fragile one, at that? What could Somalis do in this regard – perhaps just watch until the president grinds down the country to dust?

The country, other than the security issues involving the foreign-inspired and imported terror groups, also suffers from one its other recurrent problems – heavy rains and floods which seems to have affected most of the south of the country, displacing many, from their already precarious homes, in the fringes of rural life and even in many of the country’s cities and towns, including Mogadishu, the capital. Yet the President who is supposed to be administering the country is not there!


Dr. Suleiman Walhad

   *Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at


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