By Mohamed M. Bakayr
Homogeneity cannot salvage and bind a helpless society together when tribalism, lack of nationalism and dictatorship attitudes undermine every effort aimed at reviving a society whose map is seemingly disappearing from the globe. Somalis are said to be a homogenous nation, yet their homogeneity has not helped them overcome their prolonged woe.
A society is considered to be a homogenous society when it is tightly-knit and its members have many things in common. Undeniably, the Somali people have many things in common: They are all Sunni-Muslims, they all speak the same language (Somali), and they all share the same culture and customs. However, all these components have not helped the Somali people strive toward one common goal. Consequently, their knot has not been binding, simply because they prefer clannish ideologies, personal interests and dictatorship attitudes to national aims and cohesive aspirations.
Tribalism has plunged the Somali society into this catastrophic situation that it is going through today. The society’ tribalism has thus far defied all kinds of norms and logic; it is a tribalism that knows no boundaries, has no limits and shies away from nothing. The embedded, infinite tribalism has prevented the Somali people from agreeing on anything or collaborating on any important issue. Moreover, and because of tribalism, they have been unable to agree upon any iconic figure (nowadays it is believed that there isn’t an agreed upon iconic figure among the Somali people), whether that iconic figure is a religious leader, a seasoned politician, a highly educated person or a traditional leader. Apparently, the Somali logic only knows one thing and one thing alone: my clan, my clan’s interest, my clan’s politician, my clan’s warlord, and perhaps my clan’s spiritual leader. Unfortunately, clannish ideologies have blinded a large bulk of this ill-fated society whose problems have proven to be beyond repair.
Nationalism is an unvalued term by many Somalis at this time in history. One can be called a nationalist when one prefers the integrity, interest and identity of his nation to everything else. Unlike current generations, Somalis’ forefathers valued nationalism, longed for independence and put their unity above everything else. In his book “Somali Nationalism: International politics and the drive for unity in the Horn of Africa” published in 1963, Saadia Touval writes: “Thus Somali nationalism springs not from any influence of or reaction to colonial rule, nor is it due to any absorption of the political outlook and ideas of the west; rather, it arises from essentially homegrown nature of the Somali people.” The nationalism that the author is writing about is not in sight today, but what is in sight is a tribal society whose aims and interests are traveling in different directions.
And it is needless here to revisit those once valued dreams and aspirations treasured by Somalis’ forefathers and freedom fighters. Unfortunately, the terms “Somalism, nationalism and unity” have already become laughable issues, and one might only resurrect these terms when one desires to be frowned at. In addition, a flag that once was a symbol of an identity, hope and inspiration has now lost its effect and become a controversial issue. Rather, terms such as Somaliland, Puntland, Jubbaland and Banadirland are more valued than the terms “Somalism, nationalism and unity”, terms mortified by continual hostilities, brutality and a lack of vision. Instead of coming together and trying to reinstate their lost integrity and position that they once had in the world, the Somali people pride themselves on individualistic interests and opt for spending too many efforts and too much time in disunity and clan based politics.
Loss of an identity and pride are two themes that run deep in Somalis’ lives, whether they are in their homeland or overseas. Somalis’ unity has been dissolved, their hearts have been driven apart and their differences have remained unbridgeable. When one pays close attention to the condition of current Somalis, one withdraws into a gruesome situation, unable to dissect how the people’s condition has reached to this terrible point.
Most Somalis are imbued with superficial, self-important attitudes, and each group is proud of their own. Disrespectful manners and dictatorship attitudes are prevailing characteristics among many Somalis. Listening to someone and disagreeing with their standpoint is one thing, but muzzling others and ignoring their opinions is another thing. It is said that Somalis are oratos, but not good listeners. In fact, listening and speaking are two inseparable skills that go hand in hand and complement one another. “Let us talk means let us reach a solution” is a Somali adage, whose meaning alludes to the fact that when human beings dialogue with one another and listen to each respectfully, they are likely to come up with a solution for some of their problems.
The Somali people can regain their integrity and lost position if they break free from their irrational tribalism, selfish interests and dictatorship attitudes. Let one hope that the Somali people will reel from their misery which they have been going through for many years by shunning many trivial things that have spoiled their lines. If Somalis’ aspirations and goals are not united, how they can have a common enemy or a close friend? No solution can be reached when Somalis are enemies to each other and unable to mend their differences peacefully, but if the Somali people choose to collaborate on fundamental issues to reinstate their unity and integrity, they will hopefully reach a durable solution.
Mohamed M. Bakayr
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