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On Tuesday, the President of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sheikh Sharif, regretted that the Ethiopians were withdrawing from the areas they had occupied in central and southern Somalia since the beginning of the year.
Sharif should know by now that the Ethiopians are anything but liked by most Somalis, and their incursion now is not that much different from their 2006-2009 occupation of southern Somalia, arbitrarily killing civilians and detaining clan elders in the areas they occupied - actions that hardly make them any more popular.
It seems like the TFG does not care about the perceptions of the Somali people. This tends to happen when a government is not elected and does not really represent the people, but the TFG takes apathy to a whole new level: public money keeps disappearing from government coffers without a trace, and no explanation is given to the people.
The World Bank issued a report at the Istanbul Conference for Somalia which showed that the TFG could not account for US$130 million in 2009 and 2010. In other words, more than a hundred million dollars was apparently stolen by TFG officials in the two-year period.
Remember when the TFG was accused of mishandling at least US$300 million from 2007 to 2010, and the finance minster’s denial? Well, given the fact that the World Bank has determined that US$130 million was unaccounted for from 2009-10 means that it isn’t unreasonable that US$170 million was swindled from 2007 to 2008, making the total for the four year period US$300 million.
The TFG is so corrupt that they were reportedly taxing planes that were bringing in food aid at the height of the famine in August last year. And if that wasn’t enough, the TFG president was reported to have bought a jet for himself.
No wonder that the Somali transitional government was at the top of the list of the world's most corrupt governments for five years.
The former finance minister of the TFG, Sharif Hassan, who oversaw the missing millions disagrees that money was swindled in his tenure, saying that if more than a hundred million dollars had entered the country, it would have been noticed.
He may have meant to deny that any money was stolen, but one can not help but wonder whether he meant that the money was directly deposited in foreign bank accounts, and none was spent in the country. Only he can explain if that is the case or not.
Despite the claim of being democratic, the TFG does not allow public demonstrations, unless they are meant to be in support of government policy or against government opposition. The few times demonstrations take place, they are almost always under tight government control and happen with the approval of key government members.
And freedom to hold public gatherings is out of the question. When politicians – some in the TFG – tried to hold a meeting to oppose the draft constitution weeks ago, the meeting was stopped by security operatives who told the hotel where the meeting was to be held at that the meeting was illegal.
All these make it almost impossible to hold demonstrations against TFG corruption. The only way to overcome this problem would be by being a little creative: holding a pro-TFG demonstration supporting government corruption, indifference and lack of inclusivity in the political process.
The fact that the TFG claims to be democratic and is so corrupt and the sad fact that the government before the 1969 Revolution when Somalia had an elected democratic government is known by many as “The Corrupt Government” in Somali (thanks to the revolutionary government), the Shabab narrative that democracy is evil and will only create problems for the Somali people most certainly makes sense to many people in Somalia.
In terms of sowing disunity, the current transitional system is based on the unpopular “4.5” formula for dividing political power – the 0.5 are all the minority peoples grouped together. For many, it is like saying the minority people are half-human. For many, they are: the rights of minority people are routinely violated by the clan-based warlords and political parties that helped create the formula.
Given that politicians achieve power by the merit of their clan, many are unworthy of leading sheep, let alone a nation. It is such individuals who plunder not only the nation’s meager wealth, but even the few dollars that the rest of the world throws at the Somali nation.
These people who have mismanaged the scant finances of the government are many of the people positioning themselves to lead the nation after “the end” of the transitional period. Oppose this if you want, but the transition ends only when a constitution that is voted on by all the Somali people is passed, and an elected government comes to power.
Meanwhile as our benevolent government (of course, I say this sarcastically) is busying itself with denying the fact that it is the world’s most corrupt government, and showing that the government has secured Afgoye by making the president sleep over at the town, the Shabab are busying themselves within Mogadishu.
On Wednesday night, four men shot to death a man identified only as Weisar, a local government official in Mogadishu’s Manabolyo neighbourhood, as he was coming out of a mosque having completed the sunset prayer.
Though the Shabab have not yet claimed responsibility, they seem to be the perpetrators. Yes, they have killed many people as they come out of mosques. They consider their targets apostates whose prayers are worthless and hence legitimate targets, Shariah-wise.
This may not make the Shabab more popular, but the group nevertheless has a loyal following, even in government territory.
To carry out such an attack, the Shabab operatives must have had local supporters who did a reconnaissance of the target and told them of his most vulnerable moment, and the ease of escape from the operation area. In addition to this, they would need a house to store their weapons – it isn’t safe to walk around with a pistol over long distance since he TFG has checkpoints all over the place.
I was told of how the TFG police rarely patrol the streets of most Mogadishu at night. And when they do, they only patrol the main roads. The rest belongs to operatives of Shabab.
The Shabab are more liked in the areas they have administrations because their ruthlessness does not extend to those areas, despite all the mostly fake news flying around. Sure, they carry out the occasional executions, but most are for murderers; the death penalty is popular in Somalia. I don’t know about other places, but it does seem to help to reduce murders in Shabab territory, and also between clans that have deaths for murders pacts between them and other clans.
The Shabab is more disliked for its many rules making it hard to travel with women in public transportation (even if she is your sister or mom, she can’t sit next to you) smoke in public, or chew khat in some areas than anything else. You never see headline news of the Shabab swindling millions of Al-Qaeda money. This does not, however mean they are all angels. The lack of transparency may have ironically helped keep their reputation safe.
However bad the TFG is with ruling Somalia justly, they have come a long way. Nowadays TFG soldiers don’t rob people in most places in Mogadishu during daylight: they do that in front lines, and newly captured areas such as Afgoye where the president said he would do something about it.
While this is an important step in the right direction, the TFG – and by extension the next government – is a long way from being a true government of the people that is an alternative to the Shabab in terms of minority inclusiveness, security and justice.