According to the dictionary definition, patriotism or national pride refers to the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects. When citizens of a nation are patriotic, they bring national interests before personal desires and work in the interest of the nation for a peaceful, prosperous and developed nation.
Some even go further and sacrifice their lives in the interest of their nation, and for the integrity and sovereignty of the nation. However, on my personal feeling of which many others may think likewise, the case is not so true in Somalia where conflict and disasters have bred for 30 years without any solutions for everlasting peace and stability.
Patriotism is compromised in Somalia and is brought after personal interests as based on my observations and research over the years I have been in Somalia since the collapse of the military regime led by Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Somalis have been deeply divided along ethnic and tribal lines since the civil war started in Somalia and fought tribal wars that killed hundreds of thousands of people and maimed many others. The tribal divisions and wars uncovered citizens’ true colours of nationalism and love for tribalism more than national pride.
As early as the 1990s during the peak of the civil war in Somalia, there have been efforts to reconcile the Somali people ravaged by conflict and find a final solution to the bloody conflicts that destroyed the social and economic activities and left many citizens without governmental care for more than a quarter of a century.
In 1991, a multi-phased international conference on Somalia was held in neighbouring Djibouti to resolve the devastating civil war in Somalia that saw thousands of people die of starvation in the Southwestern district of Baidoa, labelled as the “City of Death” then. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, an entrepreneur and a Somali politician, was elected as the President of Somalia to lead the nation. However, General Mohamed Farah Aideed, who eventually became his arch-rival warlord, boycotted the first meeting in protest and waged war against the first reconciliatory government in one of the deadliest conflicts in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. Aideed’s opposition was based on tribal interests than national pride and true was the same as the elected president himself both engaging in four months of the devastating war in urban Mogadishu. National pride was not a key factor in Somali politics then; tribal interests prevailed and national properties were destroyed, and citizens were made to be internally displaced and cross borders to become refugees in neighbouring countries and far beyond.
All of these problems were happening due to the lack of patriotism and national pride expressed by the Somali politicians and their followers who viewed their tribal feelings more important than the national pride. A transitional national government succeeded Ali Mahdi’s government with Abdi Qasim Salad Hassan elected as the President of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in 2000 following rigorous Somali National Peace Conference held in Arta of Djibouti in 2000. Abdi Qasim was also encountered with challenges based on tribal interests of communities not linked to his clan or even by his own clansmen, which is another indication that tribalism was more important than national pride in Somalia.
From 2004 to 2012, two transitional federal governments led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Shariif Sheikh Ahmed, were established when the federal system was considered to be the right option of a political power-sharing based on a 4.5 system, a system that classifies Somali people on five major tribes. The federal system was seen to bring a lasting solution to the conflict of a country whose people were divided along tribal/clan lines and have lost sense of national pride. These governments, though transitional federal governments, had their share of challenges stemming from people who were brainwashed by the feelings of tribal esteem and pride, and many of who were born and raised in tribal conflicts.
Though the challenges due to the lack of national love for own country coupled with internal rebellion itself claiming heavy casualties on citizens, the first-ever official Federal Government of the Republic of Somalia was formed in 2012 when Hassan Sheikh Mohamud won a ballot vote parliamentary election against outgoing President of the Transitional Federal Government, Sheikh Shariif Sheikh Ahmed. Many citizens saw the move as the final step toward a peaceful Somalia that could stand on its feet after 20 years of conflict, disasters and displacement.
However, it turned to become another starting point of endless conflicts following the establishment of federal member states and the introduction of regional presidents. As the federal system was a new phenomenon in Somalia and citizens had no civic education on democracy in a federal system, confusion broke out which intensified the lack of national pride and patriotism that has already existed.
In the first few years of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s term, disagreements, disputes and political deadlocks emerged between the central federal government and the federal member states on constitutional issues that were not clearly stipulated in the draft constitution. These issues mainly revolved around the lack of understanding of the separation of powers between a federal center and federal member states and the sharing of national resources.
As the power-sharing was still based on the clan-based 4.5 power-sharing system, Somali citizens and their leaders were now more oriented to personal interests than national pride and patriotism and saw the nation further disintegrating along regional and tribal bodies vying for personal gains than upholding the national pride.
In 2017, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo, a famous politician who briefly held the position of Prime Minister in the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia led by Shariif Sheikh Ahmed from November 2010 to July 2011 was elected in sweeping ballot votes in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia as the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Loved by the majority of the Somali citizens and seen as the true saviour of Somalia, President-elect Farmajo pledged that during his term in office, he would take the country to universal suffrage elections in 2020/21, develop the nation and return national pride of Somalia on world stages.
Hopeful of his ambitions, the president took credible steps to actualize his dreams and, for the first time in 30 years, Somalia was back on the international stages recognized by world powers and took part in international forums. His government also saw some of the debts owed to Somalia relieved by the World Bank and other international financial institutions globally. Farmajo showed some success in international relations and diplomacy and reviving Somalia’s pride in international relations; thanks to his diplomatic efforts on that front.
However, President Farmajo, whose term expires on 8 February 2021, has not succeeded in handling internal affairs and failed to implement his pledges of direct elections in Somalia and stabilizing Somalia. He was bogged down in internal conflicts with some of the leaders of the federal member states over electoral and power-sharing issues and management of internal affairs of the federal member states.
Political differences and deadlocks with the heads of the federal member states saw Farmajo ending his term without holding initially the agreed one man one vote elections, and now the indirect elections as agreed on 17 September 2020.
Many times, mediation and negotiation efforts were held in Dhusamareeb, Mogadishu and other towns of Somalia between the central president, the heads of the federal member states and other political stakeholders to break through the impasse and save the country from sliding back into conflict. However, all those efforts have now failed.
The last effort for a breakthrough to stalemates was Dhuusamareeb 4 conference held from 3rd to 5th of February 2021 brokered by the UN and other international partners, which concluded in failure and without agreements with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo returning to Mogadishu and addressing the Lower House of the Federal Parliament on the impasses.
Some of the contentious issues in Dhuusamareeb 4 meeting was Gedo region of which the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, and Jubbaland President, Ahmed Mohamed Islam who is also known as Madobe could not agree on the electoral process in the region.
As my article was about citizens bringing personal desires before national pride, the Gedo issue was more of personal needs and clan-affiliated drive than vying for nationalistic affection of the region and the greater Somalia. Patriotism was not involved in the Dhuusamareeb 4 meeting of the federal president and the regional presidents, and the leaders showed personal desires were more crucial than national interests.
Hence, the citizens of Somalia are again faced with the risk of a return to a conflict in a country reeling from the effects of more than 25 years of civil war.
To conclude my article, the lack of national pride by Somali citizens is the main root cause of political unrest and conflicts in Somalia.
Somali citizens are lacking patriotism!
B.A. in Development Studies
Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA)