Rebuilding Somalia: Issues and perspectives (GHQ1)


In this second issue of the Greater Horn Quarterly (GHQ) the Futures Program of the Society for International Development (SID) continues monitoring debates, highlighting trends and offering insights on current issues under its Trend Monitoring Report Series. Focusing broadly on the Greater Horn of East Africa - from Djibouti through to Tanzania, the Eastern DRC, the two Sudan's and everything else in between - the report hopes to capture current or alternative voices and perspectives in developmental issues concerning the region.

The Greater Horn of Eastern Africa tries hard to radiate a bright future. But there are also moments of darkness. Often countries within the region seem to be dodging bullets, real and proverbial, rather than creating conditions to guarantee a permanent absence of fear.

Achieving state stability is a primary preoccupation of governing elites. Sadly, deep structural issues that shape poverty and inequality in the region seem to be ignored. Polices designed to perpetuate the status quo are ultimately eroding citizen-state relationships and put into question the legitimacy of governance processes beyond the ritual of periodic elections.

This issue explores Somalia and the progress being made by its government to return the country to the community of nations after a prolonged period of conflict and other natural calamities. As elections approach in 2016, what will the legacy of the current government be?

Is it on track to deliver enhanced well being for its citizens and deepening state legitimacy? GHQ interviews two experts on Somalia. Ali Hersi, SID's Associate Director and Head of its Nairobi office was recently in Mogadishu on a scoping mission. Abdullahi Boru is a Horn of Africa specialist with a keen eye on the region. We review Rasna Warah's recently launched book titled War Crimes: How Warlords, Politicians, Foreign Governments, and Aid Agencies Conspired to Create a Failed State in Somalia. Ms. Warah asks whether development is pursued in the name of the citizens. She charges that Somalia has become a lucrative opportunity for many of the external actors intervening for either humanitarian or security purposes and this in itself has become an impediment to finding lasting solutions to the conflict there.

Rwanda's development model has attracted many admirers. Twenty years after what could be called a second liberation, it shows signs of maturing and the moment is right to shine a penetrating spotlight on it. The question at the heart of this scrutiny is how durable its reconstruction in the context of surprisingly deep inequalities and tentative political discussions about presidential succession. The regional and global atmosphere is changing. Can Rwanda continue its transformational trajectory with a new or different praetorian elite at the helm?

Our correspondent from the future, François Arine Makanze reports from 2024 about increased detentions and self imposed exile across the region. Growing insecurity and frequent outbreaks of deadly disease have led to the establishment of prison camps and quarantine centers to host the wayward and the sick. Given contemporary concerns about insecurity in Kenya such a future is plausible.

Gangs are multiplying rapidly in the urban spaces from which the state has withdrawn in order to cater for the wealthy. As the state retreats, there has been a phenomenal growth of private security firms in the region. Can they deal with gun wielding, 'gangsta-ragga' music worshiping youths with a penchant for social media? Even more confounding is when governments contemplate setting up private companies to offer security for hire. Kenya is a case in point. The risk of conflict of interest and potential abuse of power are high. Should the state not protect all of its citizens, regardless of whether some pay taxes or not?

Deeper questions can be asked about the nature of the social contract between the state and the citizen in the Greater Horn of Eastern Africa. What is the basis for a citizen's loyalty to his state, its policies and programmes? Is it a fervent belief in the symbols of national unity? Or simple acquiescence to the raw power embodied in state apparatus? What is the common good in our countries? Should political promises and the expectations they raise be moderated? What kind of dialogue can allow for the state to build its legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of its citizens?

Quick improvements in social service delivery and results are highly prized by most governments. In Tanzania, a newly formed President's Delivery Bureau (PDB) Tanzania seeks to improve the performance of its public service. However, the public has been skeptical about this initiative, with some suggesting that it might all be about 'better results not forthcoming'. Given such cases, how do expectations get managed?

The skeptical public has a point. It has become common for governments to proclaim near miracles; poverty vanquished, sharp improvements in school exam results, economies growing by leaps and bounds. But there is little evidence of the structural transformations that have been undertaken and that would guarantee the durability of these results. A closer examination of the PDB in Tanzania and the achievements in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) goals in Uganda brings some of these contradictions to the fore. Success is worth celebrating, but citizens should be relentless in their search for the evidence of that success.

Change is difficult, slow and expensive. One of the best ways to generate positive change is by becoming part of the conversation on what needs to change, how to do it, and how to measure its effects. For many, it is far too easy to criticize from the touchline or to cheer from within the 'victors' bus and ensure that fundamentally nothing changes.

Taking a look at the situation in Uganda with respect to performance on the Millennium Development Goals, we are reminded by Ruth Aine there is still much work to be done even as we gear up towards a Post-2015 development agenda. Ultimately, the Greater Horn of Eastern Africa finds itself between the Scylla of mounting citizen expectations and the Charybdis of eroding state legitimacy. Change will not be easy, and that is the most important reason to try to do the right thing.

Download GHQ2 Rebuilding Somalia: Issues and perspectives

The Greater Horn Quarterly | Futures programme