Sunday, 11 October 2009

President Sherif missed opportunity to attract support from Somalis in the Diaspora

It’s unfortunate and sad that in less than a year, Somalis will celebrate 50 years of Independence with no widely-supported government.

Despite the hopes, which many had in the prospects for the independence, the reality was that hope was replaced with hatred and backward mindset. Somalia’s civil war has dragged on now for two decades with no hope of an end. The situation in Somalia is troubling for all Somalis around the world. The only time we were close to a sustainable peace was when Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed, the current president, teamed up with other locals and came to power without the support of outsiders.

They managed to return law and order in the southern parts of the country, the city of Mogadishu became a very peaceful place and residents started to rebuild their lives, shattered by many years of unrest. The life in the city became normal once again after 16 years of lawlessness, however outsiders took that peace from us.

Three years later Sheikh Sharif is the president of Somalia, I welcomed his election in 2009 with unwavering support and joy, expecting his leadership would inspire other groups to join the peace process. He gained unprecedented international and Somali Diaspora support, but fell short to deliver the promise he made.

It has been ten months since the president came to power and he has nothing much to show of tangible and concrete achievements he did while in power. It’s hard to swallow that he is asking for two more years while he hasn’t done anything yet.

President Ahmed disconnected himself from his previous colleagues who were part of the 2006 groups, who restored peace in the country.

Ironically he sided with few self- interested individuals and same outsiders who destroyed the peace regained in 2006. Despite the 4500 AU peacekeeper with a budget of $150 million annually, money Somalia begged from international community his government is confined in one block at the presidential palace. President allocated only one million dollar for entire Somalia`s security forces, who take direct hits from better equipped insurgency.

The internal displacement in Somalia in his term is at the highest peak, the killing, suffering and anguish of innocent civilians is still rampant. Recently President Ahmed was in Columbus, Ohio and he talked to the Somali community. I was among the people who went to the Villa Milano as early as three hours before the president was set to deliver his speech.

I was expecting the President to be well prepared and straight to the point, however his speech was deeply disappointing and troubling, He appeared angry and unorganized person, He was speaking like Odeyaasha at Tim Horton with no clear convincing ideas.

Several times the President went off topic and I wondered if he took time time to rehearse his speech or he just needed a well trained speech writer.

Everywhere the President went he mentioned that his door is open, but what he forgot was that no one enters an empty door that’s lacking a constructing substance and an array of hope. He has yet to propose his agenda and mission, let alone try to convey his message.

To bring Somalia back to its previous glory would require more than leadership and President Ahmed has proved not to be the right person for the task.

I thought his trip to the United States would be the game changer for him, knowing the current conditions in the ground is slipping way, but instead it was a disaster. There is no doubt in my mind that every Somali believed that Al- Shabaab and other groups offer no better solution for Somalia than destroying the image of Islam and Somalis. However the President missed the opportunity to expose the true identity of those groups.

He also missed to cross the aisle and win the hearts and minds of Somali youth. The President mentioned countless interest of America in his 40 minutes speech and missed to mention even a single role the Somali youth could play in reconstructing Somalia.

Not to be biased, but brother Mohamed Diini’s one minute speech was very articulated, inspired and touched the audience, Diini taught us that our flag has more than our identity.

I looked around while Diini was giving his speech and I observed the majority of the audience holding the Somali flag in tears , as if this was the first time they ever had the chance to hold the flag.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic about the future of Sherif’s government, but I have doubt on his judgment skills. Martin Luther King said that “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. So instead of stepping aside and watching Sheriff’s boat sink, just like the past administrations, I stated my friendly voice against his current policies as unworkable and he needs to change the course before its too late.

I have no doubt in my mind that Sheriff is a good man who loves his country more, but his policy is troubling .

Honestly I will have no problem if Somalia was a stable country, and the whole government system is working well and people lived in peace and harmony , however that is not the case and President Ahmed knew before he stepped into the arena.

By: Yusuf Ahmed
Columbus, Ohio

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