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Anglo-Somali Relations Re-examined

By Abdullahi Dool

Friends of our nation in the United Kingdom who feel affinity with our people in the North based on earlier colonial ties do acknowledge that there is now even wider affinity between Great Britain and the Somali nation. As a result of the civil war, there are currently tens of thousands of Somalis in Britain and the number is increasing. The majority currently hold British citizenship. The irony is that the growing number of British Somalis are no longer merely from the North but from all over the Horn, including Djibouti, Kenya and the Somali regions in Ethiopia. Because of this trend Britain’s relationship with the Somali nation is now more comprehensive, i.e with the whole nation.


The Anglo-Somali Society, sympathetic parliamentarian groups and other similar organisations will have a bigger role to play with any future Somali Government which knows what it is doing, not only in fostering understanding between our two nations, but also in the rebuilding of Somalia. It needs therefore to be much more than an association of ex-colonials who served in Somaliland. Its biggest role will be to pass on to the Somali nation all that is good and great in British society, and values such as human rights, fair play, democracy, a free market and enlightened press. 


In the 19th century the main usefulness of British Somaliland for the empire was as a source of meat for its garrison in Aden and the shipping en route to and from India. Today Somalia can be of far greater importance for Britain and the world. On the other hand Britain and the western world, which welcomed Somali refugees, can be of great help in the rebuilding of Somalia. This way western nations will be helping their own citizens of Somali origin to restore their homeland from destitution, ignorance and under-development and even make it one of the success stories of 21st century Africa.


Once a Somali State deserving respect is established, Somaliland will likely be tempted to rejoin a more credible and viable union but meantime should not be criticised as a people for governing themselves when the rest of the country continues to be without any legitimate government. A proper Somali state which takes care of the entire nation is needed: one which is not built, as in the past, on the quicksand of clannism. We must recognise why we are a nation from which everyone is fleeing. Many of us reside today in the UK, a country towards which people are converging from the four corners of the world, across seas and oceans which have meantime become the graveyard for many Somali would-be migrants. It is incumbent on us to create a better Somalia, a nation which eventually people will flock to rather than flee.


We cannot look after our people back home or the millions now scattered in neighbouring countries and across the globe if Somalia remains under the tyranny of certain unprincipled individuals. With the help of our friends in the UK and around the world we need to effect change. The rescue of Somalia from potential oblivion requires that we cannot be neutral or remain on the sidelines. We have to make the choices and take the steps that will lead our nation towards the formation of the government it deserves to look after its people, interests and friends. To do this it is essential that we move on from the artificial animosities engendered by warlords and certain petty individuals and form a cohesive, vibrant and progressive society. We need to recognise and celebrate the many similarities that bind us as a nation rather than focus on lesser differences that are consuming our nation and its statehood.


It is a fact that Somaliland has special friends who will do anything for our people in the North. Those in the United Kingdom who, because of past colonial connections, feel special affinity with Somaliland are justified because Somaliland is a Somali cause. Somalis who believe in the unity of the country have no reason for concern in this. When a responsible national government is established the issue of Somaliland will be resolved by political process. That government will preside over a twin track plan emphasizing on the one hand the reconstruction of the country and the other engagement in a revived political process. We have a cause and we do not have to fight other people’s causes. So what is our cause? Our cause is:
(1) The reconstruction, redevelopment and progress of our nation
(2) To build a harmonious and a responsible society.
(3) To live in peace and harmony with our neighbours.
(4) To make friends for our nation not enemies.
(5) To care and look after our people wherever they happen to be: back home and overseas.
(6) To fight poverty and spearhead prosperity.
(7) To rebuild our nation’s image, standing and credibility in the world.      


The majority of the Somali people are convinced that since 1993 the Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi has been determined to frustrate the re-establishment of the Somali state under credible and responsible leadership. And in truth the policy makers of Ethiopia believe that the return of a strong Somalia can only mean the eventual resumption of hostilities between the two countries. This does not however justify the fact that for over a decade Ethiopia has treated Somalia as an abandoned backyard which belongs to no one. For the past 15 years, Meles Zenawi and his officials have not meet Somalis who truly represent their nation and its interests. Instead they have lent their support to a number of individuals who represented clans and not the nation and among them who many have demeaningly begged for hotel accommodation, pocket money and free airline rides. This must have given away a dim view of our nation and given the erroneous message to the Ethiopian rulers that they may do whatever they want in and with Somalia as in their own backyard.


Amid the mayhem, the suffering and the pain of our nation, there have been individuals who, like comics, felt the need to entertain. We are from a broken nation: we who need to commit all our energies to the healing and uplifting of our people from squalor, deprivation and statelessness. There are those who care and harbour real concern for our nation but they are not in power. Nor are there in short supply those who oppose any solution or progress and others who take a too casual an attitude towards the whole plight of our nation. There are also those who wish to influence matters for the better and there are those who serve no one wittingly or unwittingly wasting precious time.  


The history and destiny of the two nations -- Britain and Somalia -- are intertwined. It was the British empire which first ventured into Somaliland in the early 19th century. There was a time when four out of five Somali territories were under the British colonial rule, with the exception of Djibouti which was under the French. It was also the British colonial machinery which was instrumental in helping to create and perpetuate the division of ethnic Somalis into five parts. Equally it was Ernest Beaven, Foreign Secretary of the Labour government of Prime Minister Clement Atlee – albeit reluctantly -- who suggested that all ethnic Somalis be put together under British administration so that they might one day emerge as a united nation.  In the 21st Century it won’t be long before Britons of Somali origin come to play a full part in every walk of British life including joining the establishment and becoming members of Parliament. Likewise, they will one day play a role in the reconstruction, re-development and progress of their country of origin. The developed nations such as Britain have absorbed many of our nationals yet we need them more than they need us for the redevelopment and progress of our nation. From them we require investment, technical know-how and much more. Somalia may need up to U.S $20 billion for reconstruction and redevelopment. Such a vast amount of capital can only come from the world community and the international financial institutions. We need the appropriate leaders who can re-establish credibility and who can be entrusted with such a huge responsibility. 


The main difference between the West and the rest of the world boils down to one thing: leadership. Where there is sound leadership there is life. The West has frequently shown leadership not only in technology, monetary matters, science and many more areas but also in humanity. Where there are disasters -- man made as well as natural -- it is the western nations and their non governmental organisations that respond with swiftness as well as capacity. We have a lot to learn from Britain and the rest of the western countries. Our people in those nations must learn to make full use of their time there. There are those who hate the countries which have received them. Such individuals live with a ghetto mentality. They are physically in those countries but mentally and culturally they still reside in other places which they have left. They only follow the news and programmes of far away nations not the countries in which they dwell.  


The ultimate aim of politics is to use power to do things. Power is essential to get things done and to transform a nation for the better. Without power no one is effective. Securing power should be for a purpose -- to make things happen for a nation – but not for personal gratification or self-enrichment. Power is a privilege with which comes great responsibility. Unfortunately power has too often been sought for the wrong reasons.



Within phase one of a state-building programme the government must pave the way for a multiparty system. Such is the proper role of a state-builder. Like an architect who was commissioned to construct a building, the state-builder’s main aim has to be how to build not only a state with strong foundations but one which is durable. One question arising is: why a multiparty system? The purpose of a multiparty system is optimum political ventilation to ensure the smooth flow of talent and fresh blood into politics and to ease out and get rid of deadwood. It is the best mechanism to replace leaders and politicians who have tired or overstayed their welcome. When a leader or a politician loses ideas, steam and touch and grows detached from the public he or she becomes deadwood. Such persons will seldom leave the scene and relinquish power unless there is a mechanism in place to remove them. That system can only be a multi-system one. It is prudent that national political parties should not exceed five. Ideas must be contested through the ballot box and politics must replace the gun. When the country is governed for its people rather than individuals or only the party in power, its leaders would not fear losing votes. In this case the elections are based on the motto: Let the best person win. That is in the best interest of everyone concerned and for the country.


We welcome the victory of the Islamic Courts over the dreaded warlords. The TFG should not collect the defeated warlords. They are antiques with no street value. We also applaud the constructive steps they have taken in establishing peace and the opening of the international air and sea ports in the capital. The liberation of the Somali people from the tyranny of the warlords is quite an achievement. What the Islamic Court have done they have achieved for the Somali people. Governance belongs to the Somali people who decide over who rules over their national affairs.


In diplomacy there are always bridges to build and ones to mend between peoples and nations. There are those who wish to tear the world apart along religion lines. Such individuals lack all sense. Life on earth is designed the way it is: a world inhabited by diverse peoples from different races and religions. The Almighty wants us all to appreciate and respect one another. When we Somalis achieve the government we need and deserve we shall reach out to all nation of the world in our quest to rebuild our nations and thus contribute to the harmony and peaceful coexistence of our people with our region and the world beyond.


Once we get the right leadership and government wounds will heal, wrongs will be righted and the nation’s interests be propelled to usher in stability and prosperity. The raison d’ etre of the new state must be the rescue of Somalia and care and concern for its own people back home and overseas. When that happens the Somali nation will proudly once again occupy its rightful position in world arena.


Abdullahi Dool

E-mail: [email protected] 


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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