By Mohamed Maqadin
Politics is a battle field. But unlike literal battles it is a battle of conflict and cooperation. This is a basic principle in politics. Conflicts arise due to differences in the interests, ideologies, beliefs or views of the political actors. Conflicts, however, are offset by cooperation. In order for all players to get what they want, they must engage in negotiations and bargains. In short, they should cooperate.
Another term for this principle is compromise and consensus. This means conflicts are compromised and consensus is reached to establish a common ground on which all parties can work together. According to this principle, politics is the art of the possible, because if every party sticks to its position, the process will hit a deadlock. This will lead to a zero sum game where everybody loses or at least gains nothing.
Compromise and consensus is an essential practice in democracies and good governances. It is, however, a new concept to the Somali Regional State, perhaps unheard of before. This is so because in Ethiopia in general and in SRS in particular true democracy has never taken deep roots. Even some common concepts in consolidated democracies such as freedom of expression are new to the Region.
During the former regime, the region was ruled with iron fist under one man rule. The region and its people were held hostages by the former president, a TPLF puppet who exchanged the whole region for personal interests. It was a fascist rule where differences of ideas were considered crimes and thus conflict and cooperation had no place in politics, if there was politics at all.
Now that the situation has changed and the people enjoy relative freedom, the political space has been opened for all. The people who have been suffocated for many years suddenly found themselves free to express themselves. And sadly, people have taken overdose of freedom to the extent that many people lost their minds and rationality in criticizing the fledgling government for the slightest mistakes or even fabricating stories that never exist. They simply drowned in freedom, a dangerous situation that can lead us to chaos and lawlessness.
Freedom is, however, a welcomed progress. It is common that in transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, many challenges arise along the way. The SRS is in the beginning of this process as indicated by the needless disruptions, irrational criticisms, and senseless riots raised by some people.
Two groups of people raise these criticisms. First, ordinary people complaining from perceived injustices in political power sharing based on bizarre arguments that clans and zones have to share political power equally. This is ridiculous. Clan politics is the wrong way of doing politics. Tribalism is a primitive and outdated concept that should never have a place in modern politics. The people who practiced it before have gained nothing but destruction and failure. Our brothers in Somalia are a prime example. Plus, Somalis are one clan. Why need division and disunity?
Regardless of its propriety, it is better to voice grievances through political channels such as political parties instead of clan riots. This is the proper way of bargaining in politics and gaining attention. Violent riots, disinformation, and incitement lead to instability and breaking the law which benefits nobody. In politics, most conflicts can be resolved through peaceful means. Violence and narrow-minded beliefs such as tribalism and clan supremacy are the wrong way to practice it especially in this critical time where the Region is at crossroads.
The second group that is disrupting the region is the remnants of the former regime who are sorry for losing the unfair privileges they enjoyed for many years. But the region has reached a point of no return to oppression and dictatorship. Those who try to swim against the stream will soon drown. The best option for those people is to correct themselves and return their people. The reintegration door is open for you as long as you are not criminal or against the will of the people. Come and compromise with your people. The political playing field is level for all. The train of reform has already moved. Don’t stand in front it lest you are crushed.
In conclusion, a piece of advice for the current government: first, don’t allow anybody to destabilize the region whoever they might be. Freedom of expression entails responsibility. Anybody breaching the law in the guise of freedom of expression must face the full force of the law.
Second, we are in post-truth era where lies, fake news, disinformation (spreading false information knowingly) and misinformation (spreading false information unknowingly) are thriving. People with hidden agenda disguise as authentic and mislead the masses. The government must counter these misleading acts and expose the lies being bombarded with the people day and night. This, for example, can be done by holding weekly briefing by the government to bust the bubbles of lies and update the public about the activities of the government and the progress or setbacks it faces. Information is the key.
One final advice for all: SRS is in historic moment where the ship is sailing in a turbulent ocean. Everybody, the rulers and the ruled, must work in unison to safely cross the ocean. We must rise above the minor issues (clan grievances for example) and see the bigger picture of Somalinimo, unity, development, and prosperity. If we fail to do that we are certainly doomed.
Mohamed Maqadin is a lecturer of political science and public administration. He can be reached through his email: firstname.lastname@example.org