EDITORIAL | Somalia may be keeping its heart in its mouth for the upcoming election, whose calendar was only secured last month after leaders agreed to speak in the eleventh hour.
And there could be various reasons to be concerned, because the country’s challenges seem to depend on what the next polls produce. Of course, Somalia’s choice is not expected to be perfect, and the fact that it will be an indirect choice means that the hope of millions of Somalis will be placed in the hands of very few individuals.
So how do politicians honor the people they want to represent? There will be many tasks, but we urge delegates and legislators coming out of the elections in December next year to remember that the future of the country will no longer rely on its past challenges, but will rest on the newly elected.
Firstly, we hope that the delegates and representatives to be elected will create a pool of qualified people with impeccable credentials. There have been a number of conditions attached as to who will actually qualify to be elected. We hope that apart from the money needed to register, there should be a category that one is Somali.
For a number of years, the criticism has been that politicians are simply flying in from the diaspora with huge chunks of money as they bribe the elders and get elected. Then they fly out after securing a coin position.
We hope that the next Somali legislature will have people who think of Somalia more than their hiding place abroad. In truth, there is a weakness in the law, as it allows dual nationals to continuously compete for electoral positions in Somalia. In common practice, even countries that allow multiple nationalities to have restrictions on state positions should not be in possession of persons with multiple passports.
This anomaly in Somalia actually brings us to the next call. Somalia urgently needs a new constitution that can cure various ailments the country is facing. A new constitution should clarify the powers, functions and even titles of heads of federal government and federal member states.
Much of Somalia’s cyclical chaos has come from vague rights and unnecessary rivalries between the federal government and the federal states. As it is, there is no law uniting election calendars at every level of government. The country has relied on a provisional constitution for the last eight years, and we believe that the next parliament must ensure that the four years provide the necessary resources.
This means that legislators must vote for the right president with this ambition in mind. The outgoing administration had a duty to deliver the new constitution, which would also have governed the attainment of universal suffrage. Both could not be obtained and politicians poured over who should take the blame.
We may be tempted to go the same way and perhaps blame all people in leadership positions. But Somalia should use this experience to turn its future around. Legislators elected from next month have a duty to elect a president who sticks to the top priorities.
They include the completion of the new constitution, the adoption of a legal system to achieve universal suffrage, and the empowerment of the federal system, which has clear mandates. What’s more? We need a president and a parliament that will continually strengthen the national army to target the biggest threat that Somalia faces today: Al-Shabaab.
As is common around the world, a country that comes from years of conflict can be weak. Somalia is still weak and needs stronger partners to support it again. What the country has so far been exposed to is a mix of foreign entities, some eager to help, while others focused on sharing and ruling.
The next president must be able to target friends from hypocrites and establish a foreign policy that will centralize decisions about Somalia’s, not personal, interest.
We believe that Somalia can be stronger if it has supportive partners, those who channel their support into areas most needed to develop. We hope that Somalia’s partners will not be those who see the country as war – torn and therefore in need of spoon feeding, but those who will willingly help it support its own destiny.