EDITORIAL: 2020 is over, can Somalia have fun

EDITORIAL | There are a lot of bad things we can say about 2020. But as the year turned to 2021, maybe there was some good in every bad.

Last year had started with many expectations: most Somalis hoped for a healthy and safe year. They hoped for universal suffrage, a weakened al-Shabaab, and a more united country.

Well it turned out that the country had none of that. The covid-19 pandemic has arrived and has reduced Somalia’s main source of income for many families; foreign remittances from the diaspora, to a net. It made life more difficult, with fewer school days, more poverty, and a nationwide headache on how to control the never-before-seen monster.

Then, Al-Shabaab refused to be defeated, mainly by policy errors on the side of the authorities, but also by circumstances: the lack of opportunities encouraged radicalization.

In the end, Somalia’s plan to hold elections on time failed and what followed was a game of bickering and blame. It was all the failure to meet delayed constitutional review deadlines, delayed elections and another round of indirect voting that everyone thought would be a thing of the past.

Amidst the chaos, Somalis, as before, learned that dialogue was an essential pillar of problem solving. There were Dhusamareb conferences, a not-so-perfect solution to the lingering political differences, but which offered us the first chance to discuss and agree on alternatives.

At the end of December, Garowe hosted the Annual Ideas Conference. It was the fourth edition organized by the Heritage Institute. But above all, it was the very first forum in the series to be held on Somali soil. While this was a publicity stunt, appearances by politicians from different factions, most of whom had differed in plain sight, helped appease a country. It also helped to indicate that political leaders can sometimes discuss Somalia, without necessarily focusing on their own ambitions.

Indeed, the year 2020 has not been so bad. Somali economists have succeeded in putting the country back on eligibility for borrowing and a number of legal instruments have been adopted to create important institutions. The country has a nascent but functional aviation authority and parliamentarians also passed a statistics law and policymakers created a new national development plan, which may however require some harmonization.

As we start in 2021, we fear we will face the same issues. After all, Somalia has been in this mess for 30 years now. But there is real hope that we could learn from previous mistakes and missteps and make the country a better place by taking different but better routes.

There can be a lot of challenges, but at least there is something Somalis agree on. They want a peaceful country. They want a place where they can feel at home today without looking over their shoulders tomorrow. Certainty is the desire of every human being to live, work or sleep in a place of their choice. Because that’s what civilized societies seek to have.

We can curse or try to forget 2020. But Somalia could better learn from the lessons of the past to improve the future and make Somalia a better place. And that could be everyone’s wish.

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