July 1 has traditionally been Somalia’s most memorable day because it laid the foundation for what should be today’s Somalia. On that day, when members of the Trust Territory of Somalia, initially known as Italian Somaliland, and the State of Somaliland, a British colony, united to form the Republic, Somalia’s seed for prosperity had been sown.
Our forefathers, including Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, who became President of the new Somali Republic, imagined a country free from the yoke of colonialism and could determine its destiny. As indicated in the constitution passed through a popular referendum that July, Somalia was a new kid on the African block and was looking forward to its destiny than in the hands of the leaders.
We could imagine a literate population, a wealthy citizenry, a free people, and yet a nation bonded by unity, common goals, and which should have profited from its diverse groups of people.
On the eve of the celebrations, President Farmaajo and his Prime Minister Roble were both excited at the 61st anniversary, reflecting that the day reminds the people of the unity and dedication of Somalia.
Unfortunately, were our forefathers to wake up today, they could be horrified at what became of their dream. Somewhere along the way, the project Somali Republic derailed, becoming a slave of politicians’ personal interests.
Its people have endured bouts of civil war, secessionist calls, terror merchants and a horrendous cycle of poverty. Once a country with beaming optimism, professional army and an entrepreneurial citizenry, Somalia has been for the last 30 years a basket case of a republic. A third of its population has been displaced internally, and hundreds of thousands of others scattered across the globe as refugees or asylum seekers fleeing terror. It has depended almost entirely on external aid and remittances, its institutions have collapsed and corruption has become the order of the day.
On the day of marking independence, Somalis shouldn’t be worrying about their security or where their next meal will come from. Average Somalis should be among the most optimistic folks on the continent, educated, out of extreme poverty and looking forward to a government that serves them, not hides information about where their sons who volunteered to serve in the military are.
On independence day, Somalis should be haggling about delayed elections. It should celebrate a mature nation where institutions, not individuals, run the country. It should be a system where the limits of the law furiously scold overreaching politicians. In other words, Somalia should be celebrating an occasion where every Somali is served by the law, not oppressed by it.
When the history of Somalia’s collapse is written, Siad Barre and his Supreme Revolutionary Council will get the most stick for masterminding a coup that deposed a democratically elected government of Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, who had been assassinated. But that was a long time ago, in 1969.
Barre was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back after steering the country into darkness. His iron hand certainly aroused secessionist calls as the country fell among warlords.
But he wasn’t alone. Maybe more will come in the future. The current government tried maneuvers that rang past bells of chaos. Things like trying to delay elections by extending the president’s term, interfering with a federal structure, and running a government founded on secrecy are dangerous, and the government ought to know.
There is, however, no need to cry over spilled milk. Somalis and their country have shown so much resilience for regeneration like potato vines. This is why on July 1, we call for the country’s leaders to return to the basics. Let’s pick lessons and advice from our forefathers. Their vision was so good it attracted a united front from both Southern and Northern regions of Somalia, who had endured eight decades under separate colonial masters.
Somalis love their country. It could better for all of us if politicians did too.
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