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The Historic Role of Somali Academics

Abdullahi Dool


The academic world is the foundation on which civilization is built. Without academic contribution there can be no future generation capable of running their own lives, let alone guiding society. The academic world is there to educate, prepare and equip humankind with greater depth of knowledge and know-how, without which there can be no viable society. It records the past and conducts vital research to enlighten and enrich society. But there remains a world of difference between the academic world and the political world. In the academic world you need to have read and built on the relevant books and articles of others to make any contribution. Work is thus riddled with footnotes, which many a politician or general reader finds tedious.


Often in politics you can say what you have to say off the cuff -- but out of conviction, otherwise you are in the wrong profession. Unfortunately, there are those who take the view that whatever you say someone must have said before, or that ‘If you have what I don’t, you must have stolen it.’ This is to live in a hopeless world. On the other hand, thinking is a laborious task, at times more daunting than physical labour, and the theft of intellectual property is no less painful than the theft of materials. Plagiarists are opportunists and plagiarism should never be tolerated.


That said, all writing is a gift. Wisdom consists of saying something when one has something to say: it is pointless to write a piece that is merely borrowed from other writers. From time to time one may need to employ quotations, proverbs, statistics etc, but all for a purpose. Of course, we do not write to entertain. We are not entertainers. Nor is the issue one of who can write an essay. It is about the future of our nation, how to re-instate the Somali State and establish a system of government which benefits all and which can benefit from any one who can contribute.


In the quest to mend our nation Somali academics have a historic role to play. One such role is to imbue our new generation with the values such as love for the country, nation and flag which are nowadays in short supply because of clannism and the civil strife. Another role could be to help minimise the state of anarchy which has inspired everyone to seek the leadership of the country, because the presidency of the nation is seen by many, not as a burdensome responsibility but as the most lucrative opportunity.


In the 1960s and 1970s, military cadres were everywhere cursed with the twisted ambition to rule the nations of Africa and many parts of Asia. They have largely failed. Thus it is today very important that our academics help our nation to emerge from the destruction, degradation and neglect of civil war through impartial observation, informed analysis, awareness-building and re-education of the public to restore or instil scarce values such as integrity, accountability, patriotism and nationhood.  


The academic world is the moral guardian of governance, there to help and guide. But it can be dangerous -- like the armies in Africa – if our academics involve themselves too closely in the daily running of the state. We need a new generation of politicians to do that. Only when all of us fulfil our roles and shoulder our diverse responsibilities will Somalia recover and we can establish the government  that our people need and deserve.


Few academics have been more diligent and committed to our cause than Professor Abdi Ismail Samater. Professor Samater is patriotic and passionate about our country’s recovery. Throughout the years of civil strife he has been tireless in seeking the re-establishment of our state and the end of the war back home. Perhaps he can now lend his weight to the task of finding a leader for the nation.  A good leader sets an example and stands as a role model as well as serving the nation. No one with a shred of integrity can hoodwink themselves any longer about the appalling level of suffering of children, women and the elderly in displaced persons and refugee camps back home and under the jurisdiction of our neighbours.


From the arguments and claims presented by some, it is interesting to read that our largest neighbour has supposedly been looking after Somalia and her interests through the years of civil war. The proponents of this argument may well have feet of clay and beg the whole wide question of motivation: Was that involvement for altruistic or Samaritan reasons and purely on humanitarian grounds? Why did their ‘concern’ include the arming of all factions in Somalia? We may have to leave the final verdict to history, while noting that this neighbour is not entirely to blame for its lamentable actions in feeling free to interfere in the affairs of Somalia throughout those difficult years of civil war. The individuals who at the time claimed to speak for our nation, who should have been the moral eyes and ears of their nation, safeguarding its interests, instead gave out the message that – like an abandoned junkyard ­– Somalia is a country that belongs to no one. Instead, such individuals only talked of clans and belittled themselves and their nation. Our task should rather be building bridges, understanding and cooperating with our neighbours. So what are the lessons for our nation from the way our big neighbour behaved towards Somalia during the civil war? Somalia should never destabilize its neighbours and should never arm warring factions within or beyond its borders. That may also be a two way process.


We all are different in ability, life training and levels of knowledge and enlightenment but everybody is important for the task of lifting our nation from obfuscation and the duty of establishing a functioning state. I am not a football player nor do I seek to play the beautiful game. Were I to play football I would only induce laughter not goals. That is why, if you see me around where it is played, you will see me as a spectator not a player. Politics and diplomacy are likewise specialist areas best left to individuals who can make sense of what is going on and who can yield results. There are those who teach and those who practise the art of politics and diplomacy. Both the academics who teach and the politicians who practice are important, all rendering unique services. In the airline business there are those who make aircraft and those who fly them. Academics help make politicians, but good politicians are made up of many factors. We are not short of gifted individuals who can help in the resurrection of our nation.


National impotence or indifference for over a decade and a half sends the message that we do not care enough about our nation.  After nearly two years since its formation, the transitional government appears as inept, incompetent and irrelevant as on the day it was formed. The T.F. government may be in office but it was never in power. Professor Abdi Ismail Samater’s damning article posted on the Net in December 2005 reveals the government’s level of venality and incompetence. Without a single item of progress or achievement to its name, its indulgence in useless appointments has been staggering. Nothing becomes what it is not. Some of us predicted that the Nairobi-appointed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) would only waste precious months and will have achieved nothing by the time its 5 year mandate expires. Lacklustre clan-based conferences only waste time and henceforth should never be hosted to waste it further.


No one group of people should ever attempt to hijack the destiny of the Somali people. Leadership likewise should derive from people who hail from different regions and communities.  But many among our people have two varying concerns: There are Somalis who think there were wrongdoings in the past and that wrongdoings may return if government is established, and Somalis who themselves wanted to create a national ‘government’ from their own clan. On the first concern, we should never allow the return of  wrongdoings. When a proper and lasting constitution is to be drafted for the governance of our people, that constitution must stress the dangers and deficiencies of clannism. Whilst clannism should be kept out of politics and governance, those who serve should also be free from its evils that are the root cause of inequality, injustice and bad governance. The system should have inbuilt mechanisms and watchdogs to guarantee the safe and clear conduct of government business. In our national politics we cannot serve both nation and clan. Those who wish to serve their clan may do so without using the nation’s public service.


Many of our citizens show despair and resignation due to the ‘reality’ in the country. The question is: if one is sick is that a reality or a condition? The only reality that you can do nothing about is human mortality. In the developed world, people say nothing is certain other than death and taxes. Everything is subject to human intervention and transformation. The statelessness of Somalia is not a reality but a temporary condition. For Somalia should not and cannot remain without its state. It has been said that everybody’s business is nobody’s business. If we continue to be an undisciplined people where no-one listens to anyone and everybody wants to be heard, nothing will happen to benefit our nation and we shall continue to remain in the wilderness. In a nation where everyone wants to be the leader, no one will be leader.


There are individuals who are not part of the Nairobi-assembled transitional government who expect everyone to support that government. Some of them argue that we have to start from somewhere and they believe this government is that somewhere. The initial enthusiasm of such individuals was clearly misplaced because no solution that is based on clan can become the basis for the rebuilding of the state, not to mention the fact that the clan-based TFG is demonstrably inept and incapable of putting the nation back on the road of recovery.


If you want fish, you do not go to the forest. Equally you do not go to the sea to look for wood. To organize clan gatherings to form a government of national unity has been akin to looking for fish in the desert. If we want governance and statehood we must first relinquish clannism. Only then shall we achieve the government we all need. Most of all, after the TFG, there should be no clan-based conference to form a clan-based government. This is going nowhere.


The right things endure in the long run. Because of its all too obvious ineptitude, by the time it had completed its mandate in 2009, the TFG would have accomplished nothing and the Somali people would be a lot poorer by having wasted a further precious five years. Let us not forget that soon in January 2007 Somalia would have been a failed state for the 16th year running. During all this time, 14 attempts were made to solve the nation's statelessness. All such attempts have failed. All this time if there had been a national leader to lead us out of the mess we find ourselves in, we would have given all the support we could for our sake and for the sake of our country. The return of Somalia does not depend on the number of essays we write, songs we sing or even tears we shed. The return of Somalia will require serious commitment, concerted effort and team work. It will also take an individual to lead a team. What we need is a new generation of honest, open and fair politicians who give purpose and direction to the nation: politicians who give the very best of their ability to the service of our nation. To achieve the near impossible aim of bringing Somalia back to shape our people should work together not work against each other. Our dedication should be to further the interests of our nation, the well-being of our people and the elevation of our nation's image and standing.


In a tragic civil war our people have done terrible things to one another. But the task in front of us is to save our country and the living. There is nothing to be gained through negativity, antagonism, and denigration. Only when we join hands and work as a team can we emerge from the dire situation we have fallen into as a nation. To do so we need to look forward and not backwards: there is nothing to look back on other than mayhem, lawlessness and destruction.  Recriminations have to stop if we are going to save our nation.


The overthrow of the warlords by the Islamic Courts is welcome. The warlords were merciless opportunists who kept Somalia down for too long. They have cared neither for their own country nor for our people. But the overthrow of the warlords is not the end of our problems. The needs and problems of our nation are myriad. Our country needs colossal reconstruction and redevelopment. For that we are in need of funding. To secure funds and investment from all over the world, including the international financial institutions, we need the type of leadership which can deal with the world and with which the world can deal. It may be that such leadership can only come from our diaspora. Then Somalia can re-establish itself and we will be able to look after our suffering people back home and our diaspora now in almost every part of the world. Conflict with our neighbours and with the rest of the world is the last thing we need now.


To conclude, the somali academics have an important role to play in the quest to bring to closure our country's statelessness and the finding of a leadership which measures up the task of reconstruction and state-building. The only way for our nation to achieve a lasting peace, stability and prosperity is through the establishment of a good government. That can only come through our collective will and endeavour to save our nation and secure a better future not only for a few individuals and clans but for all our people.


Abdullahi Dool

[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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