Two events in world politics, which took place last year, served as a warning sign to the political elite. The first—the referendum verdict delivered in June for Britain to leave the EU—was most unexpected. The reputation of pollsters was yet again delivered a striking blow, when Donald Trump beat clear favourite and former First Lady Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office chair, in November’s presidential election. Some have read both these events as the rebellion of the marginalised against an increasingly distant “elite”.
British politician Michael Gove, campaigning for a Leave vote in the referendum campaign, famously said in a live audience television interview that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. But this derided specie may well have found a new lease of life.
Earlier this month, Radio Dalsan, a Mogadishu-based broadcaster, reported that the current administration in Somalia has appointed the highest number of advisors in Somali history. At present, Villa Somalia—the president’s office—and the Office of the Prime have at forty advisors between them. Former Mogadishu mayor, known by his childhood obriquet ‘Tarsan’, former NISA chief Bashir Jama and former presidential candidate, Mohamed Abdirizak, count themselves among them.
Interestingly, in its report on these “experts”, Radio Dalsan consulted “protocol experts”, who suggested that most appointments were done to settle political scores or reward political allegiance. Are these appointments a reflection of the short-lived terms of politicians?
After all, most politicians serve in stints of a few years before finding themselves replaced by yet another generation. Are the ‘corridors of power’ saturated with quasi-retirees, looking to make themselves ‘useful’?
The need to recruit the old guard might also be driven by practical considerations. Not so long ago, I heard a wellplaced source lament how very little is methodically documented for each generation of civil servants to pass onto the next. Does governance rely, not on the files inherited and passed on, but the on-hand oral recollection of “elder statesmen”, those politicians who formerly ruled those hallowed corridors in which they now serve as advisors?