Isaac Muhammad–In 1991, Somalis experienced the collapse of the last effective government and the end of the dictatorship. But this also instigated the outbreak of one of the most devastating civil wars in the nation’s history.
In the absence of central government, warlords, clans, sub-clans and Islamist movements took to the floor in an apparently never-ending fight for power and resource control.
To understand the power struggle and sensitivity of Somalis to dictatorship, one needs to return to the nation’s political context and review how it arrived at its current destiny. Ever since 1960, power and access were pursued as an opportunity to promote stakes of many clans to which the central leadership belonged to, or elite group of leaders belonged. Competing clans advocated for factional rights, benefits, resource partition, oppression, promotions and demotions from the central government.
Consequently, consistent patterns of political imprisonment, torture, and political assassinations have become continual highlights. No one could dare to author a single anti-government sentiment or disagree with its course. Without a doubt, it was a flawed system, which has replicated itself ever since independence. It was the impact of this system that inspired the uprise to oust the Siad Barre government and to seek a more democratic and inclusive decentralized federal state in which the Somali citizens feel safe and entitlement.
On December 17, 2017, the Somali Attorney General held a press conference and made a statement to seek prosecution of two lawmakers and requested the Somali Parliament to strip them the ‘Immunity’. An overnight raid by the Somali security forces who have arrested Abdirahman Abdishakur, a former minister and outspoken critic of the current government followed this announcement.
Abdishakur was a rival candidate in the last presidential election won by the current President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. According to a spokesman for the Internal Security Ministry ‘Abdishakur was arrested for treason’. After this statement came to light, many begun to ask the characterization of the term—Treason.
By definition, the term means—The betrayal of one’s own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies. As stated by the Ministry of Internal Security and the Attorney General, the current Administration views opposition MPs and politicians including Mr. Abdishakur to be engaging incitement and subversion to create public disorders by using foreign funds.
As enshrined in the Constitution, Article 12—the Application of the Fundamental Rights “It is the responsibility of the state not only to ensure it does not violate rights through its actions but also to take reasonable steps to protect the rights of the people from abuse by others.” Article 16 of the Federal Constitution on the provision of ‘Freedom of Association’ states, “Every person has the right to associate with other individuals and groups. This includes the right to form and belong to organizations, including trade unions and political parties. It also includes the right not to associate with others, and a person cannot be forced to associate with any other individual or group.”
Article 18 of the Constitution affirms,”Every person has the right to have and express their opinions and to receive and impart their opinion, information, and ideas in any way. Freedom of expression includes freedom of speech, and freedom of the media, including all forms of electronic and web-based media.” Further, Article 20—Freedom of Assembly, Demonstration, Protest, and Petition asserts,
“Every person has the right to organize and participate in meetings, and to demonstrate and protest peacefully, without requiring prior authorization. Every person has the right to present petitions to State Institutions.” In Title Duties of Citizens Article 42enacts the following clauses among others: “To be patriotic and loyal to the country and to promote its development and well-being. To promote accountability and the rule of law.” So, would it be deemed ‘patriotic and loyal to the country’ if one views the present leadership as flaws and wants to fix? The government allegedly accused its opposition of receiving foreign funds with intent to unseat the leadership.
Assuming the government assertions against Mr. Abdishakur and other oppositions are accurate and that funds from foreign powers are indeed in play to oust the current government leaders through a motion of no confidence as practiced endlessly in recent Somali politics, one would ask when did this become an illegal act in Somalia?
Was Farmajo himself not stripped from the Premiership in Kampala Accord, Kampala? Was that not a foreign interference? What about the late Abdullahi Yussuf and then Prime Ministers Ali Mohamed Gedi and Nur Adde or the case of suffering ties with Iran in an attempt to secure Saudi aid–the list is very long. In fact, many believe international finance had a hand in the February 2016 elections, and President Farmaajo’scompaign used funds solicited from foreign powers. So, is there a double standard here? Admittedly, there are no campaign finance regulations in the country, and corrupt election practices are all normal. Further, there is no precise definition of the term ‘Treason’ nor there are applicable laws on books.
Many see this doing as a political suicide in the government’s part, which can result in the immediate dethronement of the current leadership—not to mention that many MPs are already on the fence angered by other political fallout from previous government maneuvers such as the case of AbdikarimQalbidhagax and the bombing of Barire. Others see this act as a deterrent to what has become an endless cycle of cat and mouse political fight by the Federal Parliament and other political aspirants on one side against the sitting leadership in an attempt win power and financial concessions.
As HussienBulhan said in his book ‘Politics of Cain’ when describing the cycle of hope and disappointment in Somali politics and leadership: Often, the leaders and the led forget the rhetoric of revolution and promises of change after the victory. Unanticipated problems emerge and draw attention away from realizing the promised change. Gradually, the old habits of misrule, corruption and tyranny return in imperceptible ways until they become as blatant as practices of the earlier regime, giving rise to another call for regime change.
Regardless of any consequences that might arise from this latest government act, it is clear that in today’s modern history, Somalia has failed to produce leaders who genuinely are capable of rising to the issues at hand and successfully address the numerous security, political, social and economic problems facing the nation. If the government sees the threat of collusion real, as seen by many Somalis, then it should pass a Collusion of Foreign Government Act, and then persecute those who commit such crimes. In the absence of such laws and a due process, the mater might more destabilize the nation and create additional chaos then it resolves.
Isaac Muhammad is a writer and political analyst based in Minnesota. He can be reach at Isaacmuhammad@gmail.com