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The land of Punt beyond loss and indignity - Africa’s stagnation and its evolution By: Warsan C. Saalax PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 April 2011 01:19
There are many contrasting theories about who is to blame for the current state of the Dark Continent. The Pan Africans blame and rightly so, colonialism, I even made my own palpable contribution to this debate, in my article “I. M. Lewis: the godfather of Somalia’s darkest era.”
I demonstrated how the West’s clique of the old school is holding the continent back.  However, Western theorists like, Collier’s(1), claims that it is all Africa’s fault.  According to him the IMF policies that impaired Africa’s economical and political functioning was attempted to aid Africa’s recovery.

“in the 1980s the international financial institution tried to coerce governments into reform through conditionality, a government could get extra aid only if it agreed to change some of its economical policies.  ….conditionality turned out to be a paper tiger; governments discovered they only needed to promise to reform, not actually do it…..as a result reforms that should have been popular with all except corrupt elites became toxic in the media both within and outside Africa. The essential struggle between villains and heroes within the bottom billion became twisted into one between Africa and the IMF”.

In reality we know that these policies were not as innocent as he is painting them to be.  These claims, in fact, make Collier’s propositions to reverse the status quo implausible.

Yet logic says that the answer one is looking for is somewhere in between.  The cold war and post cold war experiences were compounded by the preceding colonial heritage that continued to haunt the continent and tainted its relationship with itself and also with the world.  Post colonialism was an important transition period in the world.  Instead of embarking on that crucial journey of recovery, Africa immersed in subversive politics and defensive conundrum.  This is because Africa’s loyalties were questioned, forcing it to take one side of the fight or the other.  These politics, toxic maybe, nevertheless they were necessary at the time for Africa’s survival.  This process interfered with the natural social, political and economical evolution of Africa.

The collapse of communism as a competing ideology left an identity vacuum in the world but was even more so for Africa.  Africa found itself in loss-loss situation, where those who embraced liberal democracy, which was always synonymous with free market ideals, set the continent on the path of perpetuated levels of poverty.  These free, unregulated and lucrative ideals meant that the production of basic and necessary goods were abandoned in favour of luxuries cash crops such as coffee, cigarettes, flowers and most recently drugs such as khat, making the decades of bloody conflicts and political uncertainties that followed, inevitable.

However, one must accept that the problem is complex.  At the heart of the problem also is Africa’s repeated failure to find inner peace, partly because of some of its leaders’ insistence on breaking the law by tempering with their own constitutions; their lack of creativity for economical renewal; and perseverance of the policies they followed which deskilled Africa’s population and made them so dependent on aid.

The sad news from Somalia is a prime example of these failures, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) continues to disrespect the ethos by which the Transitional Federal Charter was found and by so doing undermine the national and international efforts to move Somalia beyond transition.  The TFG as it stands is bungling not because it has failed to achieve political inclusivity or the inability to come up with a coherent vision, but because of its incapability to engage in critical analysis in order to plan ahead.  In my article “the Land of Punt beyond loss and indignity – a call for reorganisation” I mentioned only what was obvious to everyone else apart from our politicians, the inevitability of confrontations if we derailed from the decentralisation agenda and I suggested embarking on “triangled dialogue”.  The confrontations has happened, yet the opponents of Somalia’s federation agenda, accuse this initiative of being one that threatens Somalia’s territorial integrity, while offering no explanation as to how this is so.   The TFG also ignores the revolution against the centre that culminated in the collapse of Somalia’s last centralised government.  Today and after twenty years from this process, it does not need exceptional intelligence to realise that time has no reverse gear and so is the Somali “kacaan diid”(2)!  The centralists fail to convince anyone as to how applying the same method that brought havoc on Somalia, would lead to a different result now!

I am also aware that the term I coined as “triangled dialogue” had left some lost in translation, “triangled” used to mean “triangulation”.  While I accept that our relationships can be mathematical in nature which may, at times, necessitates borrowing some of its formulas to help untangle things, the idea of “triangled dialogue” I proposed is based on Psychology’s Systemic theory intervention which was forwarded by Murray Bowen in 1978.  This, if anchored, would help in post conflict recovery efforts.  The theory proposes that the basic unit of a relationship is a triangle, and that there is no relationship that involves only two individuals or sides.  Bowen, argued that there are always other things and people who are party to these relationships.  The mediation becomes rarely productive if mediators get drawn into these triangles.  Successful arbitration requires avoiding giving in to anxiety provoked by these negotiations and resisting the temptations to delve in to resolving others disputes.  Instead mediators should stick to the role of bringing calm to the system, reducing anxieties and enabling others to accept responsibilities for their actions, while embracing transparency in all its dealings.

Whatever the Somalis get up to, one cannot ignore the urgent need to take responsibility for our actions, our failures, and the crimes committed and we still continue to commit against Somalia.  Somalia’s political stagnation and the subsequent social regressions are due primarily to the denial of the history between the people.  It is aimless to talk about third parties’ ill intentions and renewed colonial interests when we fail to deliver and live up to all that we propose to want to achieve.  This is Somalia’s future which is at stake, egos and personalities should be left at the door for the sake of objectivity.  I hope that the TFG officials would come down from their ivory towers, and join forces with their brothers for Somalia’s sake, instead of this futile effort to cling on to something that is not real.

Warsan Cismaan Saalax
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(1) Collier, P (2008) the bottom billion- why the poorest countries are falling and what can be done about it, oxford University Press :Oxford

(2) A term used by Somalia’s former dictatorship regime to refer to the opponent of the principles of its revolution.

Written by Diirad Desk