After a long and blood-spattered civil war that has destroy more than half of its population, Somali Capital Mogadishu, the war-ravaged capital of Somalia, is finally emerging from its despondent past. A normal semblance of life is bouncing up everywhere in the city, not to mention NGOs , humanitarian agencies that flew in to help the IDPs in Mogadishu comes by providing relief supplies of various forms and contents. Some of these NGOs are or have been doing for humanity as those from Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, South Africa ICRC, MSF, and so on. However, others are driven by ulterior motives and not the genuine concerns for humanity, as their actions (not words) can actually tell.
Last week, a group Somali Diaspora and other locals, contacted the office of Somali Transparency And Integrity In Nairobi, a anti corruption group launched September 2011 after having had chitchat with them, discussing issues affecting young professional Somalis in Diaspora and locals in Somalia, asked us if we could write to the government and the media on the above mentioned topic; and they explained to us why we should. We heeded to his request because this is something I personally have long been thinking about too, this thus prompted me to write letter to the government and this article since it's a concern shared by many though in silence. we assured them that we would do so in the shortest time possible and if the schedule will allow us.
I believe this is a pertinent issue that demands the attention of our leaders if they are concerned about their citizens' welfare; in other words, if the Somali parliamentarians are people's representatives or leaders. There are many international NGOs and foreign companies operating in South- central Somalia specially Mogadishu with or without the knowledge of the government. But the most disturbing thing with these NGOs is that they recruit people from other foreign countries i.e. Kenya, Ethiopia or Uganda to occupy positions that are meant or supposed to be held by Somali nationals those educated in Diaspora or local university graduates or locals. They try to justify this by saying that there are no qualified Somalis or locals to hold such positions, which aren't technical in nature but just want to justify their illegal act. We all know that before the famine hit Somalia this year, almost all the NGOs operating in Somalia today had their headquarters in Nairobi.
Now having moved some of them not all of them to almost a peaceful Mogadishu , Somalia, with virtually no authority to enforce local laws, if any, they (NGOs) started operating with foreign laws; which they imported together with their headquarters so as to protect the interests of those countries without due respect to Somali laws. Those foreign countries were/are trying to address the issue of unemployment for their citizens in recession at the expense of the Diaspora and locals and are mindful of that but the poor Somali government were just busy squandering public kitty and wiring it into foreign accounts for their kinsmen/women to access and enjoy it. Hence, they have no time to deal or address issues of their citizens' concerns.
In an attempt to provide illustration as part of the empirical reference, I remember called the Director General (name withheld) in the Somali Ministry and four Parliamentarians. I discussed with them at length about problems facing Somali professionals In Somalia who have degrees from USA, Canada, Malaysia, India and Local Universities degrees but are just floating on the streets of Mogadishu and other cities, lacking government's support to secure jobs, which the foreign NGOs discriminate them on the basis of their nationality as Somali and not on their capacity or ability to do things. Some NGOs, instead of changing their recruitment policies so as to allow more Somalis on board were just continuing to recruit foreigners who they said must speak Kiswahili relentlessly. Some NGOs were/are even employing tactics so as to push out those Somalis who were critical and outspoken about unfair recruitment processes and mistreatments of the locals. A colleague of mine and a good friend became a victim and was fired on the ground that he was not complying or submissive to these policies, which we didn't want to succumb to.
The phone call with the TFG Minster and Parliamentarians went quite well and was positive, judging from the response they gave and their recommendation, I could sense that they have gotten the general picture of that situation befalling Somali professionals. I advised them to go and make a visit to certain office of a particular NGO in person to acquaint themselves with the situation and to ascertain facts on who holds what position and why? From logistics officer to almost security guards are foreigners. they then told me that they would visit that office and thanked us for informing them out of a concern for my fellow Somalis, who are being deprived of their rights to enjoy these privileges as citizens of Somali born who have borne the brunt of the 20 years of civil war, or immigrated abroad and lost all this years in vain. I am planning to call again and am also asking the Somali media and the government to investigate this issue as well.
There are also foreigners working in various offices and departments, let alone the foreign consultancies. We also have foreign companies and firms whose workforce is entirely drawn from outside the country without anyone questioning why they are doing that. A friend told me the other day that the only reason why the government doesn't want to give these positions to qualified Somalis and instead opt to give to foreigners is because they don't want their weaknesses or lack of skills to be known since most of them got there through "Know-who" as opposed to "Know-how" and I absolutely agree with his sentiment.
The question is: how long are they going to cling onto this? And when will they start giving these opportunities to locals or Somali born Diasporas? We have long serving and experienced professionals of any fields from teachers , It professionals and project managers in Somalia; all we need or the government needs to do its job , helping those who professionals. Make conditions favorable for these professionals and they will do wonders in their profession or places of work.
The government must address this issue and put it to rest by enforcing laws and ensure compliance by these foreign NGOs and companies, and make it clear to them that failure to do so will lead to expulsion from the country without any compromise. This is what the governments does when it comes to regulating NGOs and they make sure that all the positions are for Somali except, may be, for a few technical posts. Can you imagine some foreign NGOs workers are working without any government knowledge because they fear being asked about their academic certificates that qualify them to hold such positions? Let me make it abundantly clear that we are not against foreigners; they are our good friends and we need them to help us develop Somalia, but what I am against is that they should not be given opportunities that are supposed to be for Somalis not Somali Ethiopia not Somali Kenya, Somalia of Somalia. This is irrespective of whether it's a government's office or in NGO world. It's okay to hire some of them who have technical skills as consultants but not as employees or permanent workers. Besides this, they can also do their businesses -- that is no problem. It's a common trend and phenomenon that sometimes you find foreign companies are awarded contracts to do something in Somalia when we have local companies who could do that kind of work perfectly well. The reason behind this is for the awarding government institution to get at least 15% of the overall contract agreed -- that's the secret behind this. Hiring or bringing in workers from outside the country will not help since its not sustainable; it may only help in the short run but we need something for the long run.
Mahdi Haile , is the Somali Transparency and Integrity program Director (STIP) is the local is an initiative of Center For Somali Solutions International (CSSU), leading the fight against corruption. It brings together civil society organizations, individuals, religious leaders, academicians, media practitioners and key society elders involved in the ongoing fight against corruption in Somalia. STIP is CSSU International program and is an accredited United Nations ECOSOC Non-Government Organization (NGO) with Consultative Status. We participate in meetings and discussions related to social development and poverty CSSU international is part of NGOs, advocating with UN Member States for issues and values of concern to the Somalia.