Thirty years on, Somalia is still grappling with peace building and state building efforts with some extent of technical support by the international community. There is, however, a debate as to whether the national agenda is Somali enough. It is also high time to rethink governance in Somalia. This means that rather than work under political pressure by members of the international community it is good to be independent and work along the lines of Somali national interest and values. It also means that there is a need to start with the ideals of governance, in other words basic public management and administration, as opposed to good governance or effective governance or even ‘democratic’ governance; if such exists.
Along the same lines, this means that the next government will have to develop a comprehensive PCR model for the country; put together an elders’ council to advise on governance; and most important of all identify and work on key national priorities as opposed to the political bickering of the past. It also means that Somalia is at crossroads and that, with good leadership and rethought governance, the Somali people can make it this time.
Based on the above background and assessment, which derives from a 3-month, targeted pre-election research exercise, and in the form of a reflection, on where public opinion stands on these issues, there are a number of observations-turned recommendations one can make:
External efforts to reconstruct the Somali state like the ‘federalist’ project, have proven counterproductive, as they reinforce what divides Somalis rather than what has historically united them.Footnote 9 As Somalis, we need to explore developing and maintaining an unyielding focus on good governance, in a rethinking model and based on a national vision centered on a service delivery orientation; while pursuing our geopolitical ambitions in the region and further afield. As part of this, there must be a national dialogue over the importance and the need to jointly cultivate a decentralized unitary state system;
Since the Arta peace process, and with the era of transitional arrangements gone as from late 2012, various Somali governments have been contributing immensely to ongoing peace building and state-formation processes. Incrementally, this needs to continue. There is also the need for an elders’ assembly to help steer effective governance as well as a PCR model for Somalia (Farah and Handa 2015);
Many believe we have come this far and we cannot, therefore, afford to lose ground once again. This means there is a call for Somalia’s political actors, and more importantly the youth, to play a major role in providing national leadership by waking up to the challenges of the existing decades-long leadership crisis;
With ‘elections’ round the corner, Somalia must in no way be a country pervaded with regime paranoia and/or directionless opposition; as the two—coupled with the absence of a constitutional court and an independent national human rights institution—can lead to extreme domestic repression and other human security-related pressures, man-made poverty of all kinds and, worst of all, isolationism. This will only emphasize the fact that future strategic partnerships and the not only necessary, but required leverage on partners are both important for today’s Somalia; and, finally,
There is a call for pre-election, policy-oriented academic debates and discourse—including live presidential candidate TV debates—as they shall open up to more in-depth conversations and dialogue that can offer insights, help cement the fragile Somali political system, and create space for all.
In conclusions, recent developments in Somalia, with the technically-delayed elections still not visibly on the table, the administration in Hargeysa still not being part of the process, and the Punt region and others pushing for the full implementation of the clan-based ‘federalist’ agenda, it is high time for Somalia’s visionary leaders, particularly the youth, to stand up for the nation. It is time to wake up, call for an inclusive process, and have the country move onto the Somalia we all want; one that is peaceful with itself and that can, at the same time, reclaim its traditionally, sacred position in the international community of nations. Somalia, 30 years after, is, unfortunately, again at cross-roads; but it can go over the hump. As a result, it is within the premises if rethinking ‘governance’ that gives the much-needed currency. And, in the case of Somalia, it is not only free and fair, but also peaceful, elections that matter most as the rest will come at their pace where genuine post-conflict reconstruction and development shall, insha Allah, begin.