by Fardosa Loyan
Thursday, August 23, 2018
IDPs in Mogadishu/File photo/Yusuf/Ergo
How can a nation heal its myriad of wounded individuals? Somalia is a nation that suffered a lot, suffered in the times of colonialism, dictatorship, civil war, displacement, being refugees, and extremisms. A lot has been written about the suffering of the Somali people in each of these periods. We, Somalis understand very well our history and its painful junctions. Gurey, the mad mullah, 77’ commandos, black hawk down, the pirates, and the al-Shabab are not what defines us. We are not warriors, poets, lions of Africa, refugees, pirates, and terrorists. We are fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers and as such we demand nationhood cemented in cooperation and trust among Somalis.
Most of our youth are unemployed whether they live in or outside of Somalia. Large numbers of Somali boys are in jail in Europe and North America. Many others willing and coerced joined extremist groups in Somalia. Women and girls suffer from unbearable human rights violation and sexual and gender based violence, many young girls and women have become single mothers raising children by themselves in the country and in other parts of the World.
I have recently visited Somalia for two weeks. While I was there I had the chance to visit, with my sister, to a support centre for women who experienced sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and other human rights abuses. As we walked in, there was a group of seven women sitting on the floor with the staff of the support centre. We were told they were brought here an hour ago and that they were survivors/victims of rape. The women were between the age of 20 to 40 years old, some with very young children and one was with few months old baby. Three of the women were raped just the night before on their way to an outside latrine in a internally displaced people’s camp just outside Mogadishu. The other four were victims of attempted rape. They said the camp in which they live in has only two toilets built for a camp of hundreds of families. These toilets are built on the edge of the camp “They are over flowing and disgusting to even use them”, the women told us. They are forced to go in groups to walk to the toilets and even then risk attack. Most IDP camps in and around Mogadishu do not have adequate sanitation provision and women are vulnerable to attacks when they leave to use latrines outside their shelters or go to isolated areas around the camp for toilet use.
These women have no protection, no jobs, and have to raise children in dire conditions of squalor and high risk of sexual violence. Their children witness the brutality done to their mothers. What is the future of these children? What can we do? Definitely more than I tried to do that day. I gave whatever money I had on me to the women. My iPhone did not have “isoo tuur”, but fortunately the Centre’s nurse could accept my cash and did “isoo tuur” for the women immediately on the spot. The women were grateful, and I wished I had billions, so that I could transform their IDP Camp into a suburb with schools, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, and police stations. However, the little I shared might help them only to buy milk for their children that day, but they need long-term solution. We need to take care of the welfare of our children and protect these mothers from violence.
How can Somalia heal and start taking care of mothers and their children? Society evolves when out of these lived pains it gives birth to enlightened men and women who are capable to turn the wheels of their painful history into wheels of growth and cooperation. Cooperation needs trust and trust needs readiness with open heart in order to start social and political reconciliation.
We are one people broken into multiple regional states. We know what broke us. (The suffering we experienced in colonialism, dictatorship, civil war, displacement, refugees and extremism has divided and created animosity towards each other). These divisions made us even more vulnerable to the manipulation of foreigners, because we have no political unity, no economic unity or social unity – each region seems to have its own ambassadors travelling hither and there with often conflicting and competing policies. Somalis need to examine their current situation. We need to re-examine our disintegration, and mobilize for a better future for ALL Somalis. Now, there is no question that Somalis are smart enough and are capable enough to form a Somali Council that can spearhead heartfelt reconciliation – one that its dogged intention is to find ways to heal our people’s wounds. This Somali Council should have enough diverse and enlightened women, men, girls, and boys who are finally tired of our failures, and that fully feel the pain and suffering of the Somali people. A Somali Council that wants concrete results for nationwide reconciliation.
The English dictionary explains reconciliation as “the restoration of friendly relations”. However, Somalia needs more than the restoration of friendly relations. We need to establish a true trust – the kind of trust we never had or if we ever had, it was betrayed and we are wary.
Also while in Mogadishu I met amazing individual Somalis - individuals with mission. They were intent on carving a place for themselves in the midst of Somali society while helping others in schools, hospitals, banks, and hotels. I met university students celebrating their school. I am so proud of them and I decided then and there to sponsor one of them and pay her university tuition. If you read this article, please think about sponsoring a university student in Somalia.
I also met the elite and the decision makers. I was impressed by some, and totally unimpressed by others. We can’t leave to the elite to solve our problems. Somalis need to stand up and put an end to their pain and suffering and start a true reconciliation with the aim of healing our generationally prolonged wounds. Somalis can address the disintegration of their society with honesty and start the long journey back home – Adiga Dhiso Aqalkaad Dumisay. You Rebuild Your Own Aqal with your own architects. That is the only way our trials and tribulation can end – and our people can give each back the dignity we stole from each other.