EDITORIAL: 2020 is gone, can Somalia get some cheer in 2021?
EDITORIAL | There are many bad things we can say about 2020. But as the year turned its leaf over to 2021, perhaps there was some good in every bad of it.
Last year had begun with many expectations: Most Somalis hoped to have a healthy and safe year. They hoped to have universal suffrage, a weakened al-Shabaab, and a more united country.
Well, it turned out the country didn’t get any of that. The covid-19 pandemic came and cut down Somalia’s main source of income for many families; the foreign remittances from the diaspora, to a trickle. It made life most difficult, with fewer school days, more poverty, and a national headache on how to control the monster never known before.
Then Al-Shabaab refused to be defeated, mostly through errors of policy on the side of authorities, but also through circumstance: Lack of opportunities encouraged radicalization.
In the end, Somalia’s plan’s to have an election on time faltered and what followed was a bickering and blame game. It was all missed deadlines of delayed constitutional review, delayed elections and another round of indirect polls which everyone had thought would be a thing of the past.
In the midst of the chaos, Somalis, as before, learned that dialogue was a key pillar to problem-solving. There were Dhusamareb conferences, a not-so-perfect solution to the sticking political differences, but which offered us the first chance to discuss and agree on alternatives.
As December ended, Garowe hosted the Annual Conference of Ideas. It was the fourth edition organized by the Heritage Institute. But it was crucially the first-ever forum in the series to be held on Somali soil. If it was a PR stunt, the appearances by politicians from different factions and most of who had differed in plain view did help soothe a country. It also helped indicate that political leaders can sometimes discuss Somalia, without necessarily focusing on their own ambitions.
Indeed, the year 2020 wasn’t all that bad. Somalia’s economists managed to get the country back on borrowing eligibility and a number of legal instruments were passed to create important institutions. The country has a nascent but functioning aviation authority and MPs also passed a law on statistics and policy-makers created a new national development plan, which though may need some harmonization.
As we begin in 2021, there are fears we could face the same problems. After all, Somalia has been in this mess for 30 years now. But there is genuine hope that we could learn from previous mistakes and missteps and make the country better by taking different but better routes.
There may be plenty of challenges, but at least there is something Somalis agree on. They want a peaceful country. They want a place they can call home today without looking over their shoulders tomorrow. Certainty is every human’s desire to live, work, or sleep at a place of choice. Because that is what civilized societies seek to have.
We may curse or try to forget 2020. But Somalia may do better picking lessons from the past to improve the future and make Somalia a better place. And that could be everyone’s wish.