Saturday, December 4, 2010

Somalia: Proliferation of Cantons and the Quest for Tribal ‘Lands’

Somalia's states, regions and districtsImage via Wikipedia

All of Somalia’s so-called leaders share one mindset: the dismemberment of the country into cantons ruled by ruthless tribal chieftains whose goal is to ensure the security and protection of their clans. Previously, it was Somaliland that seceded in 1992 though not recognized by the international community.

In 1998, Somalia’s former Eastern region, declared autonomy with established governing institutions in place headed by a president and seconded by a cabinet. During the colonial era, this part of Somalia currently called Puntland was known as Majertinia-a reference to the Majertein clan that is the dominant clan in the region. Now we have proliferation of cantons led by politically inexperienced former cabdrivers from the Diaspora-each drawing governing styles from Somaliland and Puntland.

The current transitional government of Somalia has no mandate over the rest of the country because it is surrounded by hostile Jihadi forces determined to enforce sharia law by sheer force. With his mandate restricted to an area the size of the Vatican, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the current transitional president, relies on African Union forces for protection. There has been mixed reactions among Somalis at the selection and endorsement of a Somali-American prime minister. With the mandate of the current transitional government ending eight months from now, one wonders how he can work miracles within such a short time.

The inhuman expulsion by the Puntland autonomous government of internally displaced persons from central and southern Somalia to the unforgiving city of Galkayo demonstrates the sadistic and appalling behavior of Somali tribal leaders and their total disregard for harmony and coexistence of Somali tribal groups. The subsequent arrest and marginalization of internally displaced families fleeing the unrest in the south by Somaliland and Puntland sets a bad precedent. Increased harassment of displaced families and the explosive territorial divisions currently visible in areas outside of the Islamists’ domain will set the stage for a future federal government based on tribal demarcations.

The current sorry state of Somalia is synonymous of an overflowing cooking pot being stirred by many unqualified chefs each struggling to set a nutritious meal on the table. Having too many cooks prepare one dish leads to poor results. Somalia has become a testing and breeding ground for a plethora of political theories and conflicting ideologies.

The boosting of AMISOM peacekeeping forces with an extra battalion from Burundi is to some, a way of accelerating peace and stability and the best approach to tranquilizing the powerful Islamists. To the contrary, more peacekeepers from African nations will open a can worms including escalation of hostilities, increased human displacements, and rapid dismemberment of the entire nation into ungovernable cantons.
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