𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝 – 𝑷𝒓𝒐𝒇. 𝑰𝒃𝒓𝒂𝒉𝒊𝒎 𝑴𝒂𝒚𝒈𝒂𝒂𝒈 𝑺𝒂𝒎𝒂𝒕𝒂𝒓
𝙎𝙚𝙥𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧 6, 2008
𝐈. 𝐎𝐧 𝐃𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐜𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐲-
Democracy is one of the misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused words in the political vocabulary of the world. Again, these words are not a treatise in political science, so I want to avoid further analysis. But, in the context of our situation in Somaliland, certain points have to be highlighted. The essential content of democracy is that political rule must be based on the consent of the governed—the people. This can take many forms, some better than others. It has been experimented in many ways in many places throughout human history. We Muslims know democracy. It was practised in the early days of Islam. The basic principles are enshrined in the Quran. Those sceptical about this matter, please read Surat ‘Ala-Umran.’
Nevertheless, I do not believe the present form of democracy through a multiparty system, and one person-one-vote is evil. It is only one of the forms of democracy that have been performed and practised by humans. And it is fine if we continue to improve it. Having said that, I do not believe that the multiparty system is a cure for all our ills. It has to be complemented by our cultural and religious traditions. Otherwise, the parties will become a shell without content. They will become a façade for a new type of dictators who dominate their parties, preventing their members and their voters at large from having a real choice.
There is a simple way to avoid that pitfall. Let our democracy be participatory rather than formal. The way to do it is two-fold: Let the parties themselves be democratic. There should be registered members at the lowest level who pay their subscriptions. These members should be able to elect their committees and representatives at all levels to the top of the leadership. This means that the members of the Party will have a common programme to which they are committed and leadership, which they trust, rather than nepotism. If this is not done, the political parties we imitate from the West will just deteriorate into clan affiliations with all their inherent conflicts.
The second means is the decentralization of the administration. This should not be a formal statement. It must be enshrined by law and implemented in the villages, districts and regions. These organs must be able to not only elect their leaders but conduct their own development projects and their administrations. What is left for the Central Government would be coordination, planning and keeping the nation’s peace at large.
II. 𝐎𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐆𝐮𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐦
What I have said above in no way negates the importance of clans. They are institutions that have evolved through the ages and enabled us to survive. Unless the function clanism performs is replaced by other institutions, it is not going away. But we know it is a double-edged sword. Depending on how it is handled by the leaders of the time, whether elders or politicians, clanism can be a good tool for peace, reconciliation and progress. Handled wrongly, it is a powerful tool for fratricide and conflict.
Just look at what is happening in Somalia (the former South). The question is what to do with this double-edged sword in our cultural tradition. It has been the genius of the SNM’s struggle to find a way out. Making the Guurti, representing traditional leadership, a constitutional political body, rather than peripheral individuals, which the then authorities can use as they wish, was a good solution born out of the SNM struggle. And that is one of the reasons that Somaliland is blazing a road much different from what our brothers in Somalia are going through.
Recently, we went through a crisis when the Guurti unilaterally renewed for itself another term. For a self-interested body to do this is a travesty of justice. But we know the root cause. We haven’t yet found a way of electing the Guurti. Before the constitution was passed, the members were selected by their clans through the traditional system of elders. Our constitution now says that the Guurti—the upper House of our bicameral system—has to be elected, albeit under a special law. That law has not yet been debated or drafted. Without belabouring the point, I do not believe the Guurti should be elected through a general one-person-one-vote system. If this is done, it will not be a Guurti but a replica of the House of Representatives.
We have two choices to solve this problem: to elect the Guurti on popular suffrage like the House of Representatives; as I said before, I oppose this alternative because the Guurti then loses its reason for existence. The Guurti will be like the American Senate if we choose the above position. And then we would need another body to represent our traditional clan system for which we have a sociological need, rather than creating too many bodies, which we can hardly afford in our nascent democracy. Let us have the Guurti in its present form but debate seriously on reconciling the electoral and the traditional. Let the Guurti represent the latter but find a way where clans can select their representatives agreeably and equally. We can find a solution. But let us be open-minded.