More than two-and-a-half decades of bloody conflict, the displacement of millions of nationals, the deaths of tens of thousands, spiraling terrorism, collapsed systems and infrastructure, and a divided society.
This is how a pessimist would describe Somalia.
But an optimist would agree with South African Nobel Laureate Desmnond Tutu that hope is the ability to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
That optimist is the immediate former Somali ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur.
For him, the future rewards those who press on.
As the Horn of Africa nation gears up to a historic election on October 30, Ali Americo, as he popular known among friends (from his father’s love for cowboy hats), wants to be the president.
“I want to lead Somalia to better days. We have had enough of despair. The time is now,” he said.
The former diplomat, who served in Nairobi between October 2007 and April 2015, seeks to unseat the incumbent Hassan Shiekh Mohammud.
While aware of the minefields that is clan politics in Somalia, reconciliation and cohesion are among his top agenda.
“I believe I can bring the elusive stability back to Somalia. Somalis must be reconciled. Somalis must forgive one another,” he said.
Americo intends to start with grass-root reconciliation among neighbours and towns.
“I will initiate dialogue. Somalis have so many that unites them than what divides them,” he said.
To start with, he said, he will drive the agenda that perpetrators confess to crimes and seek forgiveness.
“Unity is key,” said the soft-spoken Americo.
The diplomat forgave the killer of his 18-month-old daughter in 1992, when a gang stormed his house shortly after the country plunged into civil strife, bringing the nation to its knees.
The perpetrator owned up and asked for forgiveness.
“I forgave him despite the pain I was feeling at that towards him. While justice for perpetrators must always be sought, it is equally important to forgive, reconcile and stay at peace,” he said.
Defeating al Shabaab
The 54-year-old US-trained economist is expected to launch his presidential bid on Sunday.
During his stint as an envoy to Kenya, the social media-savvy Americo witnessed some of the bloodiest terror attacks in Kenya by the Somali-based militant group Alshabaab. As such, Somalis in Kenya faced near-violent backlash and profiling by Kenya’s security forces.
“I led efforts to debunk that notion that all Somalis are terrorists or sympathetic to terror groups. I donated blood during the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi (September 2014),” he said.
The father of eight was born on October 12, 1962 in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Americo.
The University of Maryland alumni will square it with the incumbent President Mohammud, former President Shariff Shiekh Ahmed, Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Abdirahman Farole among others.
Also in the race is Fadumo Dayib, the first woman to run for president of Somalia.
If things go to plan, presidential election is expected to take place on October 30.
The term of the current president officially expires on September 10.
Americo said, to enhance cooperation and cement bilateral relations with his country’s neighbors such as Kenya, sound foreign policy is key.
“We do not choose our neighbors. We will be neighbors forever. We must therefore inculcate good relations with countries we share borders and those we don’t,” he said.
Having worked for Somalia and represented its interest in Kenya for close to 10 years, Americo, said he has an edge as a peacemaker.
“I can enhance Somalia’s relations with regional and global communities,” he told the Star in a Nairobi hotel while en route to Somali capital, Mogadishu for his presidential launch.
To defeat al Shabaab, which continues to wreck havoc in and outside Somalia, he said he will prioritise the empowerment of the Somali national forces.
The army must be trained in line with modern security trends, equipped and motivated with “descent” remunerations. Currently, he said, the armed forces go unpaid for more than three to four months.
“You cannot win any fight let alone terrorism with demoralised security agents,” he said. He added that under his stewardship, he will empower and create opportunities for the youth that would otherwise provide an easy pool for terror groups such as al Shabaab.
“Some of young men fighting alongside al Shabaab were born after the collapse of the central government in 1991. They have never known stability, law and order,” he said.
A better tomorrow
The presidential hopeful has recently embarked on an aggressive road trip throughout most of Somalia to acquaint with himself with the living conditions of the people on the ground.
“Somalia is a beautiful nation. Our people are hopeful that tomorrow has the best for them,” he said.
Employment and wealth creation for the countries young generation is among his solid agenda, once he ascends to Villa Somalia, the presidential palace.
“The level of unemployment is staggering. Among the youth, which comprise of about 74 per cent of the Somali population. Others are dying in the high seas while trying to reach Europe. We must restore hope among Somalis especially in the youth. We must make Somalia attractive for Somalis,” he said.
Free education and free medical care, proper housing are paramount, he said.
decades of turmoil and lack of accountability, corruption pertains to extreme levels within public and private sectors.
Americo said, as his one of his pledges, he will systems to fight graft and restore transparency.
“Corruption has reaped Somalia of its wealth and resources. We are ranked highest in the world corruption index. I will make monies collected are used transparently and prudently,” he said.
“In the first three months of my government, I will establish a very strong anti-corruption body which is independent,” he said.
To bolster confidence in Somalia security, his government will liaise with the African Union and international partners to find an exit strategy for African Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
The 22,000 peace-keeping mission operated by the AU with the approval of the United Nation is mandated to support transitional governmental structures and implement a national security plan.
While he exudes gratitude for the role the region played in his country, “time must come when our forces must take over”
He said Somalia’s natural resources will be fully exploited. “With the support and goodwill of the people of Somalia, God willingly, my government will this country to prosperity. We have the longest coastline in Africa. We are endowed with enormous resources.
“We have to big rivers and virgin vast land. The land is so big for everyone.”