Despite Somalia’s delayed elections, presidential contenders are still putting forward their ideas, hoping to convince the public to vote for them.
For Jamal Haji Ahmed, a presidential contender, Somalia’s current and past problems are based on the country trying to reinvent the wheel.
He told Nation. Africa, in an earlier interview, that the country’s security problems have local solutions which leaders have overlooked.
“I know where the problem lies,” he said. “Somalia lacks institutional memory in government so we must listen more to our elders. To reconcile our people, we must look at our mental strength, which lies with our elders. They knew how to resolve differences.”
Somalia, he argued, is physically weak, watered down by a spiralling cycle of violence. But the country is mentally strong, he said.
Ahmed, unlike other rivals in the race, is a relatively new face in Somali politics.
He had been a diplomat in the past, working at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional bloc of seven countries including Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya – three countries that he says birthed, raised and educated him in that order.
His presidential bid comes as Somalia finalises a parliamentary vote, which is crucial to determine the actual date of the presidential elections.
Under the indirect voting system, a bicameral federal parliament of 54 senators and 275 MPs in the Lower House sit in a joint session and elect a President in a secret ballot.
In the past, first-time contenders sprung surprises and no former president has ever been elected. This motivates Ahmed more, he says.
“We need to bring good minds to leadership. Somalia’s good guys aren’t volunteering to lead, and it is unfortunate. I am not blowing my trumpet but I have good experience and institutional memory to help resolve our problems,” Ahmed said.
“I have unmatched experience in grassroots peacebuilding. I think the missing gap so far in Somalia is that the role of the public is neglected. Their participation is critical,” he told Nation. Africa last week.
His priorities? Justice and peacebuilding, “because without that, nothing else will move in our country.”
Leaders in Somalia, have not led according to the law. They have been above it, he says. That has also bred a “cancer” of corruption which he thinks has been institutionalised in the country.
A diplomat of more than two decades, Ibrahim was head of the IGAD Mission in Somalia where he also served as a political adviser on security, governance and sustainable development. His role at the time included establishing nascent institutions.
One area he thinks cemented his grassroots peacebuilding is leading a reconciliation mission that helped establish important administrative regions in Hirshabelle state, as well as efforts to foster peace during the post-election conflict in South West federal state that saw the local federal state establish a power-sharing local government.
Though most of his career has been away from politics, he thinks he has a rich CV in the civil service as well, including as acting Director in the Planning Ministry where he was charged with working with donors on Somalia’s development scene.
He also served as director-general for Finance in Banadir, Somalia’s metropolis that also includes Mogadishu city and is composed of 16 districts.
For all of Somalia’s problems, however, Ahmed says it also depends on how it relates with neighbours.
“Somalia has never had a foreign policy. We have been swinging like a pendulum. I will draw up one for the country to define our interests,” he said.
“That policy will reflect our internal system too and will be based on our desire for peace, development and safeguarding our reputation as a well-meaning country.”
Ahmed will have to defeat Somalia’s continual clan politics. He comes from the Abgaal, one of the country’s largest political clans but which may have fewer constituencies in parliament.
A sub-clan of the larger Hawiye clan, Abgaal has produced Presidents before in Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who are also eyeing the seat.