Image via Wikipedia"When I came to Mogadishu... [t]here was one road built by the Italians. If you try to force me to stand down, I will leave the city as I found it. I came to power with a gun; only the gun can make me go"-Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre, former President of Somalia.
After decades of horrendous struggle with the forces of European colonialism, Somalia became a sovereign republic in 1960. Former colonial masters England and Italy left Somalia in haste leaving behind a potpourri of baffling and undecipherable political condiments that instantaneously generated ripple effect in a society used to pastoral and nomadic lifestyles. Somalia may have been the first African country to grasp the values of liberal democracy albeit the redundancy of its improvised political elite, clan configuration, and the explosion of nomenklatura retarding the propagation of an inflexible political philosophy that would serve as the structural foundation for the immature and fragile emerging nation-state.
From its inception, Somali leadership was reminiscent of a kindergarten without a guardian. Of the thirteen founders of the Somali Youth League (SYL), only three had college degrees. Shortage of educational institutions made governance a recipe for disaster as emulsification of tribalism and preferential treatment widely practiced by the authorities eroded cultural homogeneity and social cohesion. Instead of embarking on streamlining the values of social equality and economic emancipation, the nation’s leaders sought to engage in unnecessary quandaries of political irredentism by igniting a regional confrontation with neighboring Kenya and creating restlessness for the regime in power in Ethiopia. Lack of guiding philosophical thoughts, inherently aggressive behaviors, and the application of unworkable approaches and obsession with the fundamentals of defensive realism brought about an overarching security dilemma for the entire Horn of Africa region.
The assassination of President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke in 1969 shepherded contention and strife among a pastoral and orally effusive nation. On October 21, 1969, a day after Shermarke’s funeral, Somalia’s hybrid democracy was thrown overboard when a group of military officers headed by Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre, took over the reins of power in a bloodless coup. Drawing heavily from the traditions of China, the military junta adapted scientific socialism for the governing of the nation. Theoretically pioneered by Karl Marx, the term scientific socialism was used by Friedrich Engels to refer to social-political-economic developments and is largely determined by material (economic) conditions. The military junta under Barre nationalized almost all industries, banks, insurance companies, oil distribution firms, and businesses while cooperative farming received a big boost.
Akin to the communist system of volunteer work, unpaid laborers built roads and hospitals and planted and harvested crops. As he predicted during the early years of his presidency, Barre was forced to exit the political spectrum in 1991 by a ragtag militia using the barrel of the gun thus bringing to an end a repulsive political theory not in agreement with Islam. Barre passed away peacefully in Nigeria in 1995. His remains were buried in Garbaharey-the same town he claimed to have been born during his early quest for enlistment into the Italian administered Carabiniere (Carabineer).
Despite holding elections, the initial republic lacked fairness and equal justice. The few registered electors voted along tribal lines. Barre was the type of leader who, despite embracing scientific socialism, applied wise sayings to win the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens. A form of rule entailing the use of words and known as logocracy could best describe Barre’s governance from a broader perspective.
After Barre’s departure Somalia descended into chaos and civil disobedience. The line-up of notable figures that ascended the throne include Ali Mahdi Mohamed (January 1991 – 15 June 1995), General Mohamed Farah Aideed (15 June 1995 – 1 August 1996), Hussein Mohamed Farah Aideed (2 August 1996 – 22 December 1997) Abdiqasin Salad Hassan (27 August 2000 – 14 October 2004), Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (14 October 2004 – 29 December 2008), Adan Mohamed Nur Madobe (interim) (29 December 2008 – 31 January 2009), and the incumbent Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (31 January 2009 – Present). From 22 December 1997 to 27 August 2000, the post of president remained vacant.
From July 1, 1960 until 21 October, 1969 Somalia was officially known as Somali Republic and that the governing party was the Somali Youth League or SYL. From 21 October, 1969 until 27 August, 2000 the official name for Somalia was Somali Democratic Republic and that the succession of ruling parties included the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), the United Somali Congress (USC), and the Somali National Alliance (SNA). Somalia changed name again on 27 August, 2000 with the rise of Abdiqasin Salad Hassan when it was baptized Republic of Somalia. Abdiqasin, Abdullahi Yusuf, and interim president Adan Madobe were not affiliated with any party and that the official name of the government was the Transitional Federal Government or TFG. The current president, Sheikh Sharif, belongs to the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).
A thorough and accurate research on the metamorphosis of government types and governing styles Somalia has been through from the day the flag of independence was hoisted on July 1, 1960 could fill volumes. From 1960 to 1969 a flawed form of democracy devoid of conventional representation existed in name only. Even to this day, many countries exist that claim to espouse real democracy. But that is not the case; in fact they are defective democracies because they lack the right attributes of democracy. These are nations that lack social and economic modernization; they do not have class culture; and there is the absence of a political culture that is the embodiment of cultural beliefs, norms, and values relating to politics.
Economic giants Brazil and India are partial democracies because ethnic inequalities and social prejudice exist. Brazil is home to the largest population of the blacks outside Africa yet the minority white population control almost all of the economy. On the other hand, India has millions of Harijans (god’s Child) who lack basic social amenities. Nations like Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Chile, and Indonesia are partial-democracies.
World War One instigated the implosion of World War Two. Likewise, the end of World War Two set pace for what became known as the Cold War. The tremors of the Cold War made many African nations incline to communism and thus began the explosion of authoritarianism. A greater percentage of the nations that adapted democracy as their preferred mode of governance ended up resorting to communism after successions of coups engineered by disgruntled military cadres imposed Leninist-Marxist forms of governance that retarded their forward match to economic developments. The rule by central committees, collectivization, militarization, and nationalization of economies resulted in a backward match to despondency, poverty, and general decline.
The taking of hard to digest counterfeit political prescriptions has been the major cause of Somalia’s current statelessness and disintegration. A complete democracy requires the hallmarks of liberalism and constructivism/idealism to advance forward to a brighter future. And for a democracy to succeed, it has to be substantive in general context. All citizens must have equal access to education, healthcare, and other available social amenities without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, gender or national origin. Liberal democracy leads to substantive democracy. Nations that exercise ostracization and marginalization of minorities, suppress the press (media), arbitrarily arrest opponents, and harass the opposition are doomed to fail. And that is how Somalia measured in the Democracy Index in its heydays. It was a nation with too many conflicting theories and superfluous governing styles.