The Institutional Corruption in Somalia: A Corrosive Element for the Nation’s Potential Developments

Somalia is lagging wearily behind all nations in the world. It has conspicuously failed to keep up with the voyage of modern state-building to make tangible development in both political and economic spheres. This prominent falling back or lingering is, how it seems at least, the consequence of the rampant corruption in all its public and private institutions. 

More importantly, all dishonest institutional misconducts and individual malpractices are due to the lack of moral obligation. So, the Somali people are suffering grievously for the sake of their immoral and barbarian politicians.

 Since 2012, Somalia, a formally recognized fragile post-conflict state, still struggles unsuccessfully to escape from this vicious circle. As I have recently mentioned above, it is lagging miserably behind the entire world. It is in the rear in an internationally – World Bank new country classifications by income level: 2019-2020 – classified world into four thresholds: low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income nations. (1) Its GDP per capita lies in the low income (<996 $) threshold, and it was 320.038 $ and 319.415 $ in the years of 2019, and 2020 respectively. (2) 

From 2012 to 2020, Somalia was repeatedly at the bottom of the Corruption Perception Index by comparison with other estimated countries. According to the CPI 2020 report, the least corrupt countries in the world, out of 180 assessed nations, were Denmark and New Zealand, with scores of 88, followed by Finland, Singapore, Sweden, and Switzerland, with points of 85 each. On the other hand, it was very dismal to detect unsurprisingly that, the highest corrupt countries were South Sudan and Somalia, with scores of 12 each (in the same rank), followed by Syria (14), Yemen (15), and Venezuela (15). (3) 

Accordingly, Somalia is the most perceived corrupt nation within the world, scoring 8–12 out of 100 scores since 2012. (4) Although some anti-corruption institutions (such as the Auditor General, Accountant general, Attorney general, and the newly appointed independent anti-corruption commission) were re-established by Somali authorities in the last years, Somalia is still failing ignominiously to tackle corruption effectively. Comparatively, a pearl of marvelous wisdom ascribed to Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba – a Kenyan Lawyer – shows how different nations deal with the corrupt person in hierarchical different ways when he says: “In Japan a corrupt person kills himself. In China, they will kill him. In Europe, they will jail him. In Africa, he will present himself for election.” Unfortunately, in Somalia, it is natural to reward a corrupt individual to high political office, and it is a sanguinary catastrophe per se.

What does institutional corruption mean? 

The Online Merriam-Webster defines corruption as dishonest or illegal behavior specifically by authoritative people (like government officials or police officers). (5) Similarly, or more narrowly defined, the Anti-corrupt Organization Transparency International – a German registered voluntary association established in 1993 by former World Bank employees – defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. (6) In the same way, normative institutionalists delineate the term corruption as the abuse of public office for clandestine advantage. For clarifying more, they would substitute “institutional office” for “public office” and would amplify “private” to incorporate other interests and actors outside the institution. In addition, the most crucial part is that the term “abuse” extends to practices that weaken the fundamental capacities or values of an institution in specific ways. (7) 

It has, due to this definition, become popularly known that the Somali authorities involve high levels of public sector corruption such as abuse of national forces, nepotism in the job recruiting, cronyism in government contracts, and misappropriation of public funds. This deeply entrenched patronage system in this conflict-torn country naturally directs the nation to what Dennis F. Thompson dubbed institutional corruption, in 1995.

Thomson contends strenuously that an institution is corruptive insofar as the gain a lawmaker (or official) gets is political rather than personal; the service a lawmaker provides is procedurally inappropriate rather than simply undeserved, and the link between the gain and the service is an institutional tendency that harms the democratic process. (8) This definition goes beyond the conventional definition of corruption, such as bribery (quid pro quo exchanges), to encompass a type of corruption that occurs when institutions develop improper dependencies, resulting in a loss of public trust and a weakening of effectiveness of those institutions. (9) All in all, the representative can fully represent his or her constituency if he is free from all other political and financial influences other than his own people.

Elections in Somalia & Institutional Corruption

The politicians or legislators are generally dependent (to finance their election campaigns, to canvass voters) on their constituencies in all nations in the world. The patterns of these electoral constituencies (areas in which voters elect a representative) can be different, whether it hinges on a district or specific region as in the developed countries, or it can reckon on a clan system as in our country. 

It becomes frequently prominent that the incumbent intervenes disastrously in the election processes for supporting and selecting specific persons to win parliamentary seats by abusing scurrilously the official office for private gain. Apart from the intrudes of the current officeholder who is likely to be or really to be a result of foreign support per se, one more dangerous thing is that foreign financial backing to some presidential or parliamentary candidates to make influences politically in their decisions in public policy-making. There is a common sense that he who does not have his own sustenance does not own his own decision

In such a manner, institutional or electoral corruption distorts the political representation naturality. Consequently, there will be therein a suffering constituency because of the lack of political representatives, whereas their representatives advocate or work for an individual or foreign interests. As Hanna Pitkin (1967) defines, political representation is broader than what we think it may be. She provides, perhaps, one of the most straightforward definitions: to represent is unpretentiously to “make present again.” On this definition, political representation is the activity of making citizens’ voices, opinions, and perspectives “present” in public policy-making processes. Political representation occurs when political actors speak, advocate, symbolize, and act on behalf of others in the political arena. In short, political representation is a kind of political assistance. (10)

By reading intelligently and attentively the lines, we can easily comprehend now why the Australian government entirely disqualified Zahra Ahmed Musta – a Somali woman living in Melbourne – from running a parliamentarian seat because of payments made to her by a Somali minister. As published on the MTV Somali web, Zahra was canceled both her candidacy and membership in the [liberal] ruling party. (11) The party feared her financial arrangement may have breached the nation’s foreign interference laws and foreign donations ban – both designed to guard against foreign governments holding sway over Australian officials. (12) Unfortunately, in Somalia, let alone enact foreign interference laws and external donations ban, the whole function of government [at all levels] depends on foreign financial supporters directly or through international financial institutions, such IMF or World Bank. 

Nevertheless, this precarious political situation remembers us doubtlessly of the tremendous riddle of Shabeelnaagood (leopard among women or alpha male) drama. The drama was written in 1968 by Hassan Sheikh Moumin (1931 -2018), (13) at the time the corruption become inveterate in the public offices. So, the riddle is a political dialogue that shows that perilous circumstance, and between a male singer and a female singer, in which the male first asks and then the female answers. 

The male singer, asks:

Wherever one looks, the life of this world depends on fire;

But if the fire itself feels cold, what can one heat it with?

This is a matter screened off from sight and which does not profit from haste;

Bestow on me, calmly and at leisure, the gift of your opinion.

The female Singer, answers: 

When a man is elected and placed in his high office;

And yet does nothing to fulfill his trust, he is the fire that feels cold.

This is a very old question, which makes one’s head grow weary;

It is the people, then, who will be asked how to bring back the heat to the fire.

In conclusion, if you carefully consider the realm we live in, you can easily detect that it resembles the sophist world, in which justice is the interest of the stronger, as Thrasymachus defines in Republics by Plato. I do reasonably believe that the main cause of our backwardness is due to the lack of moral or ethical obligation. It is the neediest time to review our ethical behavior in all social spheres to reinstate our common sense. Without this revision and returning to our ethical sources such as Qur’an and Sunnah, and applying them in our daily lives, it does not make any sense the great numbers of established anti-corruption institutions, if its leaders are socially and politically immoral.

By Mohamed Yusuf Ali, a university lecturer, [email protected]om