Somalia’s politicians have long been at odds with each other with only one thing to have in common— their strong fight against whoever sits on the country’s top leadership position (the presidency). This mindset has prevailed since the end of the dictatorship era in 1991, when dominant political actors from the armed rebels failed to reach any agreement on rebuilding the country after the regime at the time led by Mohamed SiadBarre was ousted— a move that had been viewed as the only thing on which all oppositions were of the same mind.
With that sterile struggle over the leadership, the country’s government seemed as a piece of cake put on a table surrounded by certain groups whose main objective is to stay there until others arrive to swap with them— a mindset that left the governance to suffer.
The current situation in the country is proof enough to reflect the disheartening reality of our politics in the push and pull that seems to be on the same track as usual. Today’s sitting president of Somalia, Mohamed AbdullahiFarmaajo was once in opposition to former leaders, and he came into power as the result of his scramble to win the leadership. During his time as an opposition, Farmaajo was in close cooperation with other politicians who might now be on the opposite side. Their unity of yesterday related to the fact that their objection was solely targeting individuals, not ideas. The exact same thing is what divided them today as nothing is changed about the country’s state of affairs but individuals in authority.
In his presidential bid, Farmaajo’s main focus was on the mistakes done by the former government under the leadership of president Hassan Sheikh. Not only that, but Farmaajo has also come up with plenty of promises, seen by many as impetuous, for leading the country into the path of prosperity and progress if he would be elected as the president. He’s been elected and given the chance to lead the country. Two years into his term, he’s yet to turn his pre-election promises into reality, and no much hope that any of them will be fulfilled in the rest of his tenure owing to the fact that Somali people are accustomed to seeing leaders making pledges beforehand and doing nothing after holding offices.
The politics that is based on opposing to individuals in authority is common within Somali political figures, but what is lacked on the ground is any possibility to see changes made by those politicians who contest for the leading positions of the government. This clearly indicates that Somalia’s politicians exist to hold power without having any agenda to implement by utilizing the power accorded to them. This might differ with what opposition means to some other societies who perceive it as instrumental in making concrete improvements in both the social and the political life of their countries.
From what we can see many of today’s prominent opposition figures in Somalia, it’s abundantly obvious that effective opposition with clear and coherent strategies is noticeably absent on the ground, and this gave way to the limitless irrational and unjustifiable political mistakes done by the current government over the past two years.
When explaining the role of opposition within democratic political environments, the former opposition leader in New Zealand, Dr. Don Brashol suggested that the Opposition represents an alternative government, and is responsible for challenging the policies of the government and producing different policies where appropriate.
By comparing what Dr. Don described to be the role of the real opposition to the kind of opposition we have in Somalia, we can find out that the behavior of those who claim to be oppositions demonstrates their unsuitability for the role they’re meant to play in the existing messy political conditions in the country.
It’s strange to see opposition figures embroiling in meaningless arguments on social media platforms focusing on minor issues such as a religious man preaching at a huge public gathering in Mogadishu, a clip showing a Somali police officer assaulting his wife in the public, and some other topics circulate on social media networks on daily basis.
Although the aforementioned issues might be of interest for some people, but it’s below the level of politicians of the stature of MPs, members of opposition parties and other high level personalities who are expected to pay attention to the broader social and political problems in the country.
Opposition leaders should use their presence on social media sites as a means to communicate their policies and strategies to the public so that it can help citizens to easily spot the differences between the now leaders and those who are scrambling to take over the leadership.
If we take the term of opposition to only mean exposing what government does wrong, we will certainly fall into the same trap as yesterday. Being able to understand mistakes of the government shouldn’t be seen as a leadership quality that can enable someone to set the country on the right path. This is what we’ve learnt from past experience with former opposition leaders.
My advice to the opposition groups is to have their current political involvement reviewed in order for it to become more effective than now. Whilst it is imperative that they shed light on government’s shortcomings, oppositions also need to make people aware of alternatives and how they’re going to be different if elected.
The sensible way for oppositions to use the social media platforms is to seize that opportunity for delivering their political messages to the public. The fight against the government on the social media shouldn’t be similar to the government’s propaganda campaign that is designed to mislead public opinions. The role of opposition in today’s clumsy political movements must not be confined to responding to the government’s deceptive ways of communication that aim to dominate public opinion. Instead, oppositions have to pay endless efforts to awaken the political consciousness of Somali people and provide them with the right apparatuses to understand their interests and repel any attempt by the government to mislead them.
Mohamed AbdullahiAbubakar (Dhaaley)