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President Hassan Sheikh’s crackdown on corruption has already fared well as a deterrence policy!

by Mohamed Dhaaley
Friday June 30, 2023

After years of civil war, Somalia has been on a long trajectory towards evolving into a nation with the gadgets needed to effectively deliver decent governance. The most remarkable democratic culture that established itself in Somalia's political landscape is the peaceful and mutual transfer of power between elected leaders with a fixed term for the presidency, despite some undemocratic flaws brought on by the force of circumstances, like clan-bargaining politics. Another damning indictment of our hard-earned governance system is the rampant corruption as a corollary of the generally held perception of the government as being nothing but a conduit used to navigate toward racketeering and self-enrichment.

The current administration under the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has recently declared a crackdown on corruption. Since the epochal moment of his re-election in May 2022 as Somalia’s first-ever president to be voted in for a second term, the word “Corruption” remained on the president’s lips. He kept addressing the matter with guns blaze in almost every speech he delivered- be it televised or given in the presence of public gatherings. The most recent was delivered on the day of Eid Al-Adha when the president spoke to a sizable throng of people in Mogadishu's Mosque of Islamic Solidarity immediately following the Eid Prayer. In regards to corruption, he compared it to terrorism, which is currently in the government's sights. He claimed that since the government sees those who steal public funds fraudulently on a par with terrorists in terms of harm and severity, both will be equally targeted.

Many people originally had some qualms about the president's rhetorical reiteration of his commitment to lance the boil of corruption because they thought it was just easier said than done. Due to the long-standing laissez-faire and ambivalent tactics taken by Somalia's past governments in addressing these challenges, the idea of anti-corruption has long been considered as a political mantra whose materialisation was inconceivable.

As a carryover from that bitter reality of the past, the president’s frequent pledges to cut adrift corruption of the entire public services failed to gain traction in the public sphere, owing that a large number of people raised questions regarding the trustworthiness of the president’s promises as a result of an extrapolation from the experience of similar vows which ended up in vein.

However, simply at the stroke of a pen, the government has been able to overturn the negative public opinion regarding its intention to seriously fight corruption after the wheels of a real anti-corruption campaign were set in motion with a string of actions taken in holding some government officials accountable for shenanigans they were found to have been up to. Since these new turn of events have surfaced, the scale of public opinion is arguably tilted in the government’s favour in a variety of ways as follows:

 1. It worked as a deterrence strategy:

Over the past few weeks, the government’s war on corruption has become the talk of the town with references made to some big names rumoured to have fled the country in fear of getting arrested over corruption charges. Those fugitives in question were once held in high regard, enjoying a prerogative carte balance to behave outside the law and get away with it. 

The current anti-corruption uproar erupted after a series of court warrants were issued for several government officials slated to appear in trials over indictments of misappropriation of public funds. However, little is known about the individual identities or the precise number of those implicated because the cases since the cases are still pending.

The news of government officials getting arrested over corruption has confirmed President Hassan Sheikh’s zero tolerance for corruption, one of the sticks that his critics have long used to beat him. Those who are in the know about this matter contend that for the President, corruption is more than misconduct that needs to be redressed. Rather, it’s an unfairly concocted misrepresentation of his public image that he surely suffered as his worst nightmare throughout the years he’s striving to reclaim the power, an aim that he probably pursued just to purge himself of that negativity by turning the tide on those individuals who are infamous for thriving on the abuse and misuse of power for personal gains.

In a bid to get a grasp of this situation, I approached some relevant and reliable sources who told me about what can be regarded as the mainstay of the current movements by the government to eradicate corruption. One riveting account narrated that the president whilst on a work visit to a foreign country has received a Somali citizen whom he has long known. As expected, the guest seized the opportunity of meeting the president to make his wishes for government positions, brazenly enumerating some offices with unbridled access to public affluence so that an impoverished person can easily grow into a swift richness. According to this source, what that person blatantly uttered with no regard for any due decorum, etiquette, or respect required in such highly prestigious settings has given away a lot about how people think of the government under the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh- a distorted image crafted by trusted individuals in his inner circle whose wrongdoings played into the hands of the President’s political rivals.

That random encounter might have left its stamp on the president’s way of looking into the matter of corruption, as he continued referring to what could be seen as an implicit recount of the same incident whenever addressing the subject in his subsequent speeches since then. He also kept noting that the most sought-after positions within the government are those associated with income generation, a clear sign of a commonly corrupted public attitude in the ascendancy over the probity and integrity necessary for a decent discharge of public duties.

The president’s recent stringent words have projected his strong-willed orientation and unyieldingly intent on rooting out all sorts of underhanded activities within the government, a fact that began to dissuade many people from committing such crimes in one way or another. For instance, the demand for government positions has recently diminished at a noticeable level as a result of the new developments which made anybody perturbed about coming into contact with any government jobs that can place them on the line for corruption charges.

One anecdote to this effect comes from a Somali politician (preferred to be anonymous) who shared what he learned about the strange ways that certain people think when it comes to their desire for government posts. He recalled from personal experience the instance of a man who irritably called his phone to inquire about a position with the government prior to the President’s declaration to clamp down on corruption. Even though he had a good work and a good salary, this job seeker was unhappy with his situation and strangely vied for a government position with a salary that was less than half of what he was receiving. A baser inclination of unquenchable hunger to steal public cash was the ulterior motivation behind this man’s choice of demotion over promotion. Those kinds of retarded mentalities are now brought to their senses, having desisted from bothering politicians with absurd bids for government jobs with a view to unrightfully earn money.

2. Changing the perception is instrumental in ending the corruption:

By unleashing a ferocious blitz to combat corruption, the Somali government has thus far helped the recalibration of the long-held public attitude and perception of the its sincerity in getting rid of corruption and other clandestine and dishonourable activities that have permeated across the realm of public services and remained an egg on the government’s face.

Against the backdrop of the present anti-corruption drive, it's safe to conclude that the public's perception of corruption will likely alter significantly for the better. Many people who once wanted to seek employments in the government in search of illegal money-making opportunities are now starting to pull back and have second thoughts.

According to academic theory, how corrupted a nation is judged depends on how that corruption is perceived. This is where the Corruption Perception Index (CIP) comes in, which rates nations based on how allegedly corrupt their political systems are. Scores vary from 0 to 100, with 0 indicating high levels of corruption and 100 signifying low levels. Transparency International, a group that works to end bribery, fraud, and other types of public sector corruption, releases the CPI every year.

In this regard, President Hassan Sheikh's steadfastness and intransigence in the face of corruption would prove to be adaptable in deterring those who wish to commit corruption, reshaping and positively skewing the perception of corruption, and paving the way for new opportunities going forward to help our nation achieve a good rating in the upcoming assessment of the level of corruption worldwide.

More importantly, the president's position on this issue would undoubtedly allow him to revive his political reputation, which has for a long time been the target of malicious defamation campaigns.

Mohamed Dhaaley, a UK-based writer.
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