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[Dehai-WN] Guardian.co.uk: Somalia can be reborn as a country of progress and prosperity

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2012 00:16:33 +0100

Somalia can be reborn as a country of progress and prosperity

Posted by

Mohamed Sharif Mohamud

Thursday 23 February 2012 21.16 GMT <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>

For all the difficulties it has faced, Somalia has the resilience, talent
and natural resources to shape a better future

The term "failed state" was coined by President George W Bush to be the
byword of US policy in <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/somalia> Somalia.
The country was put on the list of those associated with terrorism and,
thereafter, any country that risked relations with Somalia was subject to
American sanctions.

As a result, the international community was dissuaded from having dealings
with Somalia, and it became isolated. America's attitude encouraged
north-east African powers to perpetuate their strategy of destabilisation,
giving them licence to settle accounts with Somalia under the pretext of
combating terrorism. They hoped to demoralise the Somalis, to plunge them
into a state of despair from which they would never again try to rise.

Yet Somalia is not a failed state. It was defeated by the weight of the
resources at its adversaries' disposal, but never succumbed. And it is still
fighting for emancipation and self-determination.

Yes, there is warlordism, terrorism, piracy, and a history of natural
disaster. Yes, displacement, refugees and a lack of state authority are
problematic. But these issues result directly from sustained foreign
intervention and the deliberate fragmentation of the country into fiefdoms,
enclaves and tribal territories.

That the conflict in Somalia has a local dimension - rooted in oppression,
nepotism, exclusion, injustice, lack of economic opportunity and civil
disobedience - is impossible to ignore. But without foreign interference,
local issues would be less critical; they could be managed and controlled.
The reality is that the big powers have relied on Ethiopia, their major ally
in <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/africa> Africa, to decide their
strategies in the Horn of Africa.

William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, implicitly conceded as much in a
speech before the Somali community at Chatham House earlier this month. He
said: "We know the international community has not always got it right in
the past and that we can easily make mistakes, even when our intentions are

Irrespective of the lack of government regulation and protection, Somalis
have formed networks - both within the country and across borders and
continents - that are bound together by ties of family and trust. Two major
financial institutions that emerged out of the ashes of the destruction are
Dahabshiil international bank and Salama bank. Both have their head offices
in Djibouti for legal and security reasons. Their services cover all Somalis
and all regions to the tiniest village, a feat that would have been
impossible under the old government.

With the help of such initiatives, Somali capital has migrated to Kenya and
Dubai, where Somalis excel in every field. In Dubai, they are the biggest
re-exporter after the Iranians. In Kenya, they have competed successfully
with the Asian business community and achieved significant results in
telecommunications, money transfers, transport and real estate. Their
business networks extend to the Middle East, South Africa, Tanzania, South
Sudan, Congo and Central Africa. The private sector and non-governmental
organisations have supplanted the administration in offering services such
as education, health and manufacturing.

"Somalis worldwide provide more than $1bn in remittances back to Somalia
each year - more than the international community provides in aid," Hague
pointed out in his Chatham House speech.

What's more, Somalis inject $1bn annually into the economy of Kenya. This is
variously due to the high returns offered by Kenya's economy, partnerships
with Kenyan Somalis, the sharing of 800km of common border, and Kenya's role
as an outlet for Somalia's informal economy.

Livestock and agriculture were the mainstays of the Somali economy before
the collapse of the state, accounting for around 50% of GDP. And despite the
lack of regulation and government protection - and the chaos, natural
disasters and fierce competition from highly advanced economies such as
Australia and Argentina - Somalia's livestock exports have doubled in
comparison to 1990 levels.

Neither are the positives confined to economics and agriculture. Somalis in
the diaspora have impressive entrepreneurial skills and are highly educated
and talented. Nuruddin Farah, a novelist and university professor in South
Africa, was a candidate for the Nobel prize for literature. Dr Abdulqawi
Ahmed Yusuf is a judge at the international court of justice. A song by the
world famous rapper K'naan was chosen as the official anthem of the football
World Cup in South Africa. And distance runner Mo Farah, who is also a
British citizen, is the 5,000-metre world champion.

Moreover, Somalia has enormous natural resources. It has two as yet untapped
rivers. It has 8m hectares of cultivable land. It has a 3,000km coastline,
the longest in Africa, full of marine resources. It possesses huge deposits
of uranium and other precious minerals. Last but not least, Somalia has
substantial reserves of oil and gas; in fact, its reservoir of black gold is
understood to be the second biggest in Africa.

Clearly, despite the challenges encountered by Somalia over the past 20
years, the country has a lot to offer. It is capable of a rebirth and will
one day stand on its feet again to pursue the march of progress, restoring
its dignity and assuming equal status with other members of the
international community.

. Mohamed Sharif Mohamud is the former ambassador of Somalia and the Arab


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