By Ali Bahar, PhD.
- Division in the Somali Diaspora
- The Mogadishu Factor
- The Opportunistic Politicians
Division within the Somali Diaspora
How to find a way out is a question much easier to ask than to answer, as evidenced by the seldom acknowledged division among the Somali Diaspora. In a recent advertised two conferences simultaneously held in Washington DC and Columbus Ohio on March 9-11, respectively, the schisms in the Somali Diaspora have never been pronounced more.
Washington Conference vs. Columbus Conference
I personally attended the Columbus conference as an observer. One could not help but smell and breathe through a thick air of suffocating clan chauvinism and on your face, organized, with its all bars loose, uncompromising inter and intra clan competition and struggle. Without the conference organizing committee, who were remarkably diligent and fair, and has run the conference with a lot sensitivity and an anticipated caution to keep the lid on the boiling, underneath division, the outcome of the conference could have favored purely one side: an uncompromising attack on the TFG; an appeal for attacks and violence on the peacekeeping forces, even if the Ethiopian forces have already be withdrawn; and even a stronger appeal to bring back the Islamists, invariably, and restore them back on control. Some argued that the TFG is there to conquer Mogadishu and subjugate its residents; “it is about a clan revenge”, they argued.
It was a quiet shocking experience to see and listen to all these.
While both conferences independently agreed on the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from southern Somalia, their independent objectives clearly disagreed on everything else, including the most important question of all: How to find a way out from the current Somali crisis?
Needless to say that neither of these conferences delivered substances of real values or has met their long awaited expectations, they were both yet another exercise in futility; an example of yet another disappointment of the many clan-driven conferences that the Somalis have by now accustomed to. One could conclude, then, that the Somali Diaspora itself needs a reconciliation of a different kind before they could even attempt helping their people at home to find peace. May be, just may be they need to realize that, in order to resolve the Somali problem, what expected of them is leadership built on values that have profound unifying voice of how much we need each other; not on division and schisms feeding on falsehood of dominance and on deceptive clan identity.
Neither of these conferences proposed a single statement or a forceful voice of support for the UN, AU and European initiatives to restore peace in the country. To the contrary, some groups even proposed a support for arming and strengthening the daily guerrilla attacks by the hard-line remnants of Islamist movement on the peacekeeping forces. One would have thought that these devastating, mindless and destructive actions should have been condemned. If these Islamists care about the welfare of their own people, they should abandon the continuation of the traumatizing violence and execution against their people. Let’s be real here. Many Somalis are suffering in the hands of these Islamists than in the hands of foreign troops. Many who attended the conference would attempt to tell you otherwise. Some even have argued that there were no tribal wars in Somalia, thus no need for reconciliation between the clans in the region.
What was (is) expected of them was a voice that could lay down a real road map with a genuine and heart-felt, sustainable, peace-oriented suggestions that could operate at the limit of what is possible under the current situation. However, unfortunately, what they demonstrated bears the resemblance to the dividing mindset exercised by the home grown warlords. Some came to these conferences with a mindset of self aggrandizing intention. If anything was a cross-sectional about the people who attended these two conferences, allegedly representing the Somali Diaspora, it was the complete bias to either one group or the other of the political spectrum in today’s Somalia. Any objective observer could easily conclude that some of these groups hate one another for different reasons, though mostly clannish...a moral equivalence to those who mechanized the destruction of the Somali people; a clear sabotage to efforts of finding lasting peace in the country. What they both agreed on to articulate was the obvious, the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops that has been already announced and accusing/or supporting the TFG for inviting these troops to the country. What they failed to discuss or articulate was how to mobilize the whole Somali Diaspora, unite their strength or tab into their potential and passion for their nation in order to bring peace to their suffering people. What they have both missed was a concerted and aggressive effort critical to a pragmatic approach in resolving our Somali crisis. They both missed a great opportunity—articulating a real solution to the Somali problem in unison. At the end, nonetheless, they resembled the mountain that labored mightily to produce a mouse.
The Somali Diaspora failed to realize how seriously we have destroyed ourselves, in that if left to our own devices, we will continue our ways to destroy what little we have left of our country. Today, all infrastructures are almost nonexistent, which includes security, human rights protection, adequate education, jobs, health and sanitation. We have lost our integrity and national sovereignty because of our actions. All of these were in better shape when we had a government function in the interest of all Somalis. These are all some of the core elements that help all human being to achieve their objectives of self-fulfillment and human progress. When the Somali State failed, everything else failed. The fact that all the meager resources of the nation is in the hands of few individuals, who use them for their own gains, does not equate to a State. The Diaspora people have their jobs secured; their children in schools and their families safe. It is easy for them to articulate their blame-game; strongly express their support for one group or the other; deliver careless and one-sided speeches on TV’s and Radios that could inflame or help support the continuation of killings of Somalis back home; and then could go home to their families to enjoy their freedom in their respective host countries. There are more to the Somali problem than what the Somali Diaspora mastered to color and highlight for the rest of the world. Some Diaspora Somalis demand or seek all that are good for their children in their respective host countries, but they want the poor children in Mogadishu to continue a gorilla war fare and risk their fragile and already broken life... a destructive prescription. These are contradicting signals that some Somalis in the Diaspora are sending to their communities back home. What Somalis need is not surge in insurgence; what we need is surge in negotiation and genuine dialogue. The Diaspora communities overlooked that important message.
The Mogadishu Factor
Hosting the presidency, including all government institutions of a nation, is an honor. It is, in fact, the ultimate and unparallel trust that a city and its inhabitants could ever enjoy. Mogadishu has been that city for all Somalis over 40 years and enjoyed every bit of it. In fact, the rest of the country has been literally paralyzed and went broke while Mogadishu was enjoying becoming the commercial city, literally the only main commercial city of the nation. All roads led to Mogadishu; all businesses were built in Mogadishu; all higher education institutions and government agencies were found only in Mogadishu. Needless to say, all Somalis were literally forced to go to Mogadishu from far places in the country for all these reasons cited above. However, with that come an assumed responsibility that the host city, the Capital, would honor and work hard to guarantee the safety and the wellbeing of its residents. Unfortunately, Mogadishu failed its citizens more than once. From the start of the civil war after the collapse of Mohamed Siyad Barre; followed by the Arta initiative with Abdulqasim’s ill-advised move to Mogadishu instead of Belet-weyn, and during the current government (TFG), Mogadishu residents never behaved as the deserving host. In fact, while the rest of the country has been relatively enjoying some semblance of peace and acted responsibly, Mogadishu has remained the Achilles’ on any progress and peaceful initiative to resolve our crisis. What Mogadishu residents should know by now is that the collapse of the Somali nation, and the sustained life without a functioning government that followed, have resulted new realities with their new thresholds and dynamic equilibriums. The Somalis have seen enough of deaths, injuries, looting and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. Allowing the status quo or allowing the existing trends of violence to continue, have already consigned the majority of the Somali population to a bleak future of grinding poverty and worsening environmental degradation; and this could as well render many cities, including Mogadishu, uninhabitable in the long run. Enough is enough. There is an urgent need to redefine relationships within the Somali communities, reassignment of responsibilities for finding peace within each communities and clans in their own cities and environment. It seems the rest of the nation is ready to move on in support of the process of reconciliation and negotiation, but Mogadishu residents have, again and again, failed to meet these challenges in order to resolve their civil strives or get to the root of their problems. The leaders of the community in Mogadishu failed to condemn the root cause of the violence in Mogadishu. The radical Islamists supported by Eritrea made no secret that they would continue violence, regardless of how many or who dies. For them to be part of any reconciliation process, these radical Islamists should be willing to condemn violence and save the lives of their own people. That is what the clan leaders in Mogadishu supposed to be doing, condemning the killing of innocent people. Instead, they seem to be comfortable in blaming everyone else but themselves for the cause of their problems. Their failure to do what is right is an indication that they support the daily attack on the peacekeeping forces. These attacks and killings are carried out by local insurgents financed by Eritrea, the radical Islamists, and other local businessmen. It is important to distinguish violence from protest. This form of demand for political power by act of violence is a criminal one, and it is generally irrational and self-defeating. Rioting, burning, killings, and looting, as well as bombing and assassinations, are starkly different from peaceful protest to express grievances. This is a misguided clan spirit!!!
There is a general consensus that Mogadishu has become a major obstacle to peace in Somalia. Too much focus on Mogadishu with too little in return, while the rest of the nation is working hard to put things back together without help. If Mogadishu continues failing to do justice by its citizens, dose not condemn violence, or does not protect its citizens, the Somali people may be forced to revaluate whether Mogadishu remained the CAPITAL. We have many other Somali cities and communities who have championed peace and security for their citizens and deserve to be honored with the seat of the government.
The Opportunistic Politicians:
Skirting behind the drum beating to gain a support for Ethiopian withdrawal from the country, Dr. Ali Khalief Glayr participated in the Conference held in Ohio. While some of participants were talking about Ethiopia, Mr. Glayr has not missed a beat to mobilize people to gain support for his campaign to purge the TFG out of power, or may be even out of the country; if left to his disposal. His condescending tone and his unabashed condemnation of the TGF, revealed his knavery demeanor. This is the same guy with whom the Somali people entrusted with the responsibility of leadership more than once before. He, instead, abused our innocence and cheated us of trust. The Somali people have not yet forgotten his trickery ways. As if that was not enough, he couldn’t contain his lust for power and he once again has tried with every vein of his body to join the TFG, even wanted to run for president if he given that golden opportunity. Little did he know that a heavy weight warlord, Abdillahi Yussuf, had a different plan for his dream. Today, he is, like many others of his kind, once again running around organizing a tide of innocent young generation in the Diaspora thinking that he could create a rising Tsunami of national indignation directed against the TFG, specifically Abdillahi Yusuf. For him, it is just what politicians do: if I cannot have it, no one else should. It is about personal vendetta that many people don’t even know about it. It is the only thing our politicians of today know, no matter how many books they read or wrote about democracy and political systems that the reset of the world uses. To be fair to him, there others and many more opportunistic political animals who think that they own the Somali people and its politics. The question is: Can we trust them?
What have they done for the Somali people so far, other than waiting on wing and dividing us even more?
The answer is NOTHING.
In conclusion, with simplicity and clarity, a sense of community can be found even on the face of crisis and despair with such magnitude like our Somali situation. To strive as a society, we must be comfortable in unifying our common interests than dividing our efforts. We live in real world in which we should act and do what is right for the sake of our own existence, lest someone else decides it for us, as we have today. Our irresponsible actions and self destructive clan interests have become global problem. The rest of the world is losing patience with our lack of resolve, the triumph of multi-clan interest; and the world support we have today may not be there for us tomorrow. Potentially, we could take advantage of the world support with a new way of thinking. It is worth noting that we shouldn’t be repeating the same mistakes over and over. The notion that we should object or reject any idea of government, even this warlord government, thinking that we could create a better one overnight, without changing our clan loyalties, is erroneous. Regardless who is the president, the Somali clans supported these TFG warlords for years. The reality is that they are here now and legally have two more years to run the government before their terms expired. We could use this warlord government as a tool to get where we want to go, if we ever agree on where we want to go. We have two more years to build institutions and mechanisms to replace this current government peacefully. Supporting an impulse to organize effective common efforts to build better systems and institutions is a must. It is the moral obligation to help the momentum for peace by supporting these peace initiatives ... an inevitable reality with its strength that is rightly central and vital to our chance of saving our nation today, NOT tomorrow. You can not get hurt talking or committing yourself to working with those you disagree, but you can get hurt trying to hurt those you hate. The AU, US, Europeans and UN attempt to save Somalis from themselves ought to be encouraged and supported, rather than attacking them and undermining their efforts. It is always preferable to work together and appreciate each others importance in resolving this struggle. We are all Somalis concerned about our nation and its people. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of clan segregation and marginalization...... one size...one clan influence, does not fit all, nor will it lead us to the future that we all want for our nation.
The million dollar question is whether the Somalis will be ready for a peaceful process that could help them find a way out of the current crisis. Wouldn’t be wonderful if the Somalis could see the light ----- real peace---at the end of the tunnel?
Ali Bahar, PhD.
E-mail: [email protected]