Somalia: On foreign policy, the warning signs Mohamud must heed


EDITORIAL| President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, no doubt, faces the daunting task of restarting our country’s rebuilding project. But perhaps his first steps may be watched keenly in how he related with foreign partners.

From the outset, we think any relations must be based on Somalia’s development, not mere alliances that have brought little fruit or only acted as avenues for interference.

And President Mohamud may know a thing or two about interference. After all, he is the man who took Somalia’s border dispute with Kenya to the International Court of Justice, seeking clarity on where each country should stop. Our point today, though, is beyond dispute resolution. We think President Mohamud’s government must make it clear to partners that only Somalis will be in charge of the government.

In the recent past, Somalia was the victim of external controls, whether, by design or default, it hurt the country from the core. It began at the fall of Siad Barre’s regime. Warlords picked cash, weapons, and instructions from foreign entities, making it difficult to reconcile. That malady did not disappear when Somalis later attempted a federal system, however. Our intelligence services, for example, were controlled externally, and even its leadership departed from the core of watching over security threats to simply derailing civil liberties.

We think it is essential for donors to assist our security forces to get stable. We believe it is essential that our healthcare, education, food systems, and all other sectors be helped. Somalia certainly needs a lot of support to rebuild its broken institutions and install a legal regime that will prevent a future implosion of those institutions.

But we must be wary of diplomats roaming the country with to-do lists and seeking parts of the government to influence. It will be a dangerous and repeated mistake to allow a new international player to take over the wrongs of another in manipulating government agencies simply because the holder of the office is a different person.

We understand President Mohamud is a different kind of leader. But he should honor Somalis by building external relations that are based on mutual respect, where Somalia can benefit from the various assistance of all friends while making sure our national interests, including sovereignty and national image, are protected.

The diplomats seeking to influence various parts of the government may be doing so because their country desires to see Somalia eternally broken. But all of us who have lived through the 30-year turmoil since Barre’s ouster must be ready to back the President if he chooses to seek friendships from all countries, as long as there is no imminent exploitation of our country’s vulnerability.

Somalia's institutions to rise again include security agencies, courts, and solid civil service. Anyone willing to help in this regard should be welcome. Anyone taking advantage of this should be shunned, even with the money. And one sure battle President Mohamud will get in is the fight against corruption. In the past regime, corrupt officials became a conduit for weakening institutions. It should be a lesson for us all.


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