Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Considering the tragedy that our country has experienced over the past 17 years it is clear that there is a historic opportunity in front of us today. The question we all have to ask ourselves is will we seize this moment to restore the dignity and honor of our nation or continue the cycle of disgrace that has lasted too long? As the reconciliation congress gets underway we need to realize the importance of the support and participation of all our people for this important endeavor. You do not have to be a delegate at the National Reconciliation Congress in Mogadishu to participate in the search for peace and reconciliation. We should all support this attempt at reconciliation by lending moral support and making an honest attempt to reconcile with all our Somali brethren. The time has come for the reconciliation that our people need and no one should be absent from this journey.
Simply put there are two roads for our people to choose and it is up to us to decide which one we will take. We can either follow the example of Iraq which is stained with blood, revenge and national disintegration or we can choose the path of South Africa which is one of reconciliation, progress and national unity. The cycle of war, poverty and despair we have experienced can only be broken by a real commitment to peace and reconciliation from all Somalis. Interestingly, while all of us long for reconciliation we continue to look at the wrong places in search of it. Reconciliation starts with each and every one of us as individuals simply by changing the way we think of and see each other.
It is not enough that we only look to political leaders and governments to realize the dream of peace and reconciliation. What can leaders do if our hearts are filled with anger, violence and vengeance? Why should we expect political leaders, who are individuals like you and me to find reconciliation when we ourselves refuse to make space for it in our hearts and minds? It is unwise to expect from others what we would not expect from ourselves. We have to ask ourselves what we have done for the cause of peace and reconciliation amongst our people.
The truth is that there is little that we have done in the search for reconciliation. However, there is a role for all of us in the attempt to find the peace and reconciliation that our country longs for. We have to start with the realization that we are all one people who are faced with a common problem and who share a common destiny. No matter how much we classify ourselves along clan and sub-clan divisions we have to acknowledge that the problems that our country faces affect us across clan-lines and regions. Our primitive methods of social organization are no longer fit for dealing with the major problems that we need to address in our country. Furthermore, we must understand that we cannot begin attending to such national problems unless we direct a sincere reconciliation effort towards the grassroots of Somali society-from the sub-clan, clan, to the cross-clan level as the National Reconciliation Congress aims.
There is really no need for lengthy explanations as to the cause of Somalia’s destruction and disintegration. Every one of us knows how clan conflict has destroyed a nation and cheated a whole generation of their future. The point is to now realize that we all have a role to play in the healing and restoration of our country. The rebuilding of Somalia requires a combined effort from all the clans of the Somali nation. We have seen in the long civil war the inability of any one group to take over the whole country and impose its will on the rest of Somalia. Instead, we were reduced to settling for regional fiefdoms where each group attempted to isolate itself from the rest. This scenario has led to misery, economic stagnation, social disintegration, environmental destruction and the loss of the common purpose that people of nations share. Our country has become a failed state and its people an absolute failure.
Now that there is government in Somalia which is inclusive of all the clans under the 4.5 formula, we need to seize this latest effort to reconcile the clans and bring back a sense of order. The National Reconciliation Congress underway is the start of a process to get the Somali people to begin seeing each other as one nation. It is also an attempt to bring together all the Somali clans in order to find a resolution to the clan conflict that has crippled Somalia. Let us not be tricked by those who oppose this effort because of their own personal motivations. We need to understand the role clan warfare has played in the current dilemma we face and we must support the process to begin healing the Somali clans. It is clear that our problems lie in the scourge of clanism although the critics of the reconciliation congress want to make us believe otherwise. The political ambitions of a few should not become a blockade to the reconciliation that the Somali nation truly requires.
“Somalia’s problems are not clan based but rather political”
Those who call for the boycott of the National Reconciliation Congress argue that the congress is a fraud because Somalia’s problems are not clan based but rather political in nature. My question to these folks is what planet were you living on during the last 17 years? Perhaps if we take all the Somali people to this planet then we would all come back cured from the clan virus which has been plaguing our people. Do these folks not know that the Somali people destroyed their country because of the curse of clanism? Is this same sickness not the reason why for years we were unable to form a united government, opting instead for regional fiefdoms? Is clanism not the reason why our people blindly supported opportunistic leaders all these years? Is it also not the same reason why we were forced to divide political power along the 4.5 clan based formula, first in Arta and later in Imbaghetti? Simply put, there is no politics in Somalia other than clan politics. All of Somalia’s miseries have their roots in clan conflict and until we take on this problem head on we can neither make social nor political progress.
It amazes me to see that some of those who oppose the reconciliation congress because it is not a “political congress” are themselves constituted under a clan umbrella. The question is, if these people feel Somalia’s problems are rooted in politics rather than clan conflict then what is the need for an organization based on protecting the interests of a particular clan? The mere existence of such clan based associations proves that we need to reconcile the Somali clans so we can reach a point where they are no longer suspicious of one another or their government.
The Islamic Courts and Clanism
It is understandable to try to present the Islamic Courts as a movement with cross-clan grassroots support (even though they never were) but we should not attempt to deceive ourselves with the belief that clan conflict does not exist in Somalia. The Islamic Courts themselves had strong clan based characteristics as demonstrated by the composition of their core supporters and their top tier leadership. In fact, this trait was always strongest at the sub-clan level. The benign image of the Courts created by their supporters can be used to seek sympathy from gullible folks and uninformed foreigners who take a position on the Somali crisis based only on their view of US foreign policy, however, Somalis know each other very well and cannot easily deceive one another. Anything that does not reflect the complex multi-clan portrait of the Somali nation cannot be sold as a legitimate national movement/government.
This is the result of the mistrust created between the Somali clans by 17 years of continuous clan conflict. It is also the reason why we should support the idea of bringing together all the clans so they can finally begin the process of national reconciliation. If we used the power of the clan institution to destroy our country then we should finally begin to restore our nation by utilizing this same power for a positive goal. There is no other way to bring the Somali people together. Wouldn’t we all love to see a society where we no longer fight amongst ourselves along clan lines like the modern nations of the world? Sadly, the reality is that our people are hostage to a clan system which for too long was used to tear down a nation. Our goal now should be to make sure that we never again use this system to wreck Somalia. The National Reconciliation Congress will be the first step towards reaching that goal.
The Asmara Opposition: irrational, in denial and irrelevant
At the end of the day the opposition figures in Asmara are politicians who are motivated by political goals. This is why they are stuck on a blind political agenda which is causing them to be in denial (there are no clan conflicts in Somalia). However, the reality is that the Somali people have already divided up political power under the 4.5 formula which gave representation to all the clans. It may not have been perfect but it was the only viable option available to the Somali people in order to share political power. After 17 years of clan based civil war, one cannot expect political parties, voter registration lists and an electoral commission in a country where everything was destroyed; although this should be our goal in the near future. Moreover, there were many attempts aimed at reaching a political settlement in Somalia but never a reconciliation effort between the clans.
What we need now is not more political conferences in “neutral places” as the increasingly irrelevant opposition in Asmara demands, but rather a genuine effort to reconcile the clans in the hope that they will move forward together. We have already had over a dozen political conferences and there is no guarantee that a new group is not going to emerge dissatisfied after another political conference. What would the solution be then? This is the reason why clan reconciliation is very important because it will hopefully lead to a recipe in which selfish political leaders will be denied the blind support they used to get from their clans in order to pursue their narrow selfish interests.
For too long the Somali people were engaged in a cycle of endless misery of which clan conflict was the root cause. The Somali state disintegrated and was unable to lift itself out of the ashes because of the scourge of clanism. Bloodshed, poverty and societal breakdown were the result of years of unnecessary clan warfare. Furthermore, the country became the perfect arena for opportunistic clan leaders, illegal arms dealers, drug traffickers and international terrorists. However, as the National Reconciliation Congress gets underway a great opportunity presents itself for all the Somali people to come together and begin the journey of rebuilding their country. It is an opportunity to begin healing our nation and restoring the dignity and pride of our people.
The Somali people and the international community are all aware of the importance of the National Reconciliation Congress and have great hopes for a successful outcome. It will not be a quick fix but it is the start of a voyage that will lead to the revival of the Somali nation. Those who oppose this attempt to reconcile the Somali clans are motivated by selfish political aims and are nothing but a barrier to a truly needed reconciliation effort. They scream for a “political congress” with the hope of making up for their past political miscalculations at the expense of the reconciliation the Somali people truly need. They have vowed to use suicide bombings and assassinations unless they get their way. The Somali people should fully support the National Reconciliation Congress and should not allow themselves to be deterred by thugs and assassins.
God bless Somalia