As a nation, Somalia is at a grave juncture of its history. Stating the obvious that many, ironically, are too oblivious to see, our nation is facing an existentialist threat emanating from internal and external political dynamics. Continuing on the current path, our Somalia is bound to become a historical has-been; a nation-state that ceased to exist as a result of its refusal to coexist and make space for others.
Ascertaining our failure, we are at the miserable bottom of every index highlighting countries’ political stability, good governance, economic development, human rights, and humanitarian self-sufficiency.
But, failure, my dear brothers and sisters, is not a permanent state; unless, of course, those who experience it (we) opt to make it so. Therefore, it is up to each and every one of us to stand up for this dying nation and change this dangerous course. We have lost an entire generation to a senseless fratricide and political strife that is still raging after two decades, and we are at risk of loosing many more. Countless children have been killed, and those who survived are living with physical and emotional scars; but, that is not all. They carry the psychological burden of war trauma, and are consumed by sense of desperation, cynicism and hopelessness. And this dangerous and lethal cocktail fosters a state of mind which affirms that there is only one way out. And more than any other condition, that state of mind has proven the breeding ground of extremism and nihilism.
And, contrary to the naÃ¯ve conviction of some, this dangerous ramification cannot be confined within a particular region or a particular room. Common sense would dictate that we should never be lulled into deep slumber by false sense of security when a room in your house is on fire.
So, how did we ever get this low?
As I explore an answer, I must confess, by and large, our definitions are narrow, our narratives are contradictory, our vision is limited, and our patience is very scarce. With that in mind, let me say the following:
While Somalia still remains an exploited and abused geopolitical pawn, we have been our own worst enemy and abuser.
Our problem is a multifaceted one, and as such would require an openness to accept any and all definitions articulated or claimed by any stakeholder. Whatever the original cause of our misery may have been, our problem has, over the years, morphed multiple times- each stage proving more lethally destructive than the one before it.
Our problem requires a multifaceted solution; a comprehensive strategy that addresses the problem from all sides: security, humanitarian, political, social, economic, religious, good governance, and indeed negative foreign meddling. And since this would require the skills, resources, and efforts of more than a person or a few people, working with others who might be different from us is an inevitability that we must embrace. However, this will be impossible as long as Somalia’s sons (and it is almost always male) continue at each other’s throat for trivial reasons that are devoid of common good, and until we unite in purpose and in action.
What are the primary causes of our failure, and what is perpetuating status quo?
- The schizophrenia of clanism [On one hand, those who subscribe to it are clan-centric, narcissistic and xenophobic. On the other, in order to attain the upper hand or oppress their brethren, they would be willing to lower their claimed dignity even to the point of subjugation in order to attain help from a foreign entity to their desired end]
- Selective sense of justice [The clansman sees no contradiction in claiming certain rights for himself and his clansman that they overtly deny others whom they consider their inferiors, including the female gender]
- Lack of sincere and enlightened sense of nationalism or genuine sense of duty toward country and people [Below is a broader explanation of “enlightened nationalism”
- Poor understanding of Islam [Manifesting itself in the lack of appreciation for the human life, lack of respect for others’ properties and honor; lack of reflection, critical thinking, compromise, forbearance, and patience. More importantly, in the lack of respect for law and order]
- Lack of transformational leadership [Leadership that could articulate vision for the country, that could transcend petty differences, prioritize while focusing on critical issues, compromise for peace, inspire hope, and mobilize the masses irrespective of clan and regional affiliation]
- Prevalence of corruption [The widespread of unscrupulous material-driven culture in which the individual could readily sell any or everything for short-term gains, material or other privileges]
- Geographical location that is both a blessing and a curse [Being a pawn in a seemingly endless international geopolitical game that seems to be growing in importance]
- Becoming a lucrative project for many countries, institutions, and civil societies [Among other things, becoming a magnet that attracts countless contractors and subcontractors who have direct interest in sustaining the status quo]
- The de facto outsourcing of the Somali national security matters into the hands of other nations [Partly governmental incapacity, partly hegemonic exploitation, and partly the consequence of the ill-conceived global war on terrorism policy]
- The irredentism burden [Being considered a rogue nation that is ready to defy the nation-state at the right time since the star in the Somali flag representing the five territories of Greater Somalia…]
Current day Somalia is like a chronically sick patient; a traumatized patient suffering from multiple illnesses and a number of life-threatening, self-inflicted wounds.
All of a sudden the traumatized patient slips into state of circulatory shock which drastically reduces the flow of the blood and the supply of oxygen to the body. And though the shock is a life-threatening medical emergency, serious rift ensues within the family. Some fight over priorities, others over privilege and exclusive rights, yet others, over the best scheme to con, loot, and to rob.
The feuding family is then joined by others from all backgrounds, collars, interests, expertise and creed. Before long there were shouts, screeches, and screams creating cacophonic political composition that makes prolonged observation unbearable and effective analysis impossible.
Within that situation what should top our priority list? Should we deal with preexisting conditions of the patient such as the arthritis, anemia and psychological conditions or focus on the medical emergency such as hemorrhage and cardiac arrest and stabilize the patient until we decide the appropriate treatment? Or, do we deal with minor conditions such as the ear infection and bruises? Or, should we focus on protecting the patient from certain pretenders stealing the patient’s belonging or those plotting to exploit the patient? Or, should we first make the patient repent for his past offenses and reconcile with his loved ones? Or, should we focus our energies to scare off the vultures hovering over the scene…patiently waiting for the death of the patient?
Make no mistake, to stop the bleeding and to resuscitate the heart should take precedence over treating the festered wounds and stopping those looting the patient. For Somalia, the three most life-threatening conditions are security, humanitarian crisis, and reconciliation.
Our nation is hemorrhaging at a time when, ironically, Somalis in the Diaspora are excelling in all fronts- education, industry and commerce. We have professionals in practically every field, and we have more Ph.D. holders than ever before. Yet, our misery continues to worsen, and our collective disgrace is becoming more belligerent. Sadly, we became a society that is individually competent and brilliant, and collectively inept and mind-numbing.
Knowledge is not just a vehicle to a better life, it is an instrument that helps us understand the world around us; to help us shape minds; transform societies, and to bring about positive change. And the most fundamental knowledge to individuals as well as nations is self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge is one of the most essential elements in framing one’s vision, setting one’s objectives and goals in life. Self-knowledge is the by-product of rigorous introspective process that starts within the individual. It is through this self-analytical process that one learns about his or her strengths: good character, mind capacity, emotional competence, etc. Likewise, it would highlight his or her weaknesses such as narrow vision, selfishness, lack of sense of duty, etc. Lastly, self-knowledge fosters sense of consciousness and purpose and keen awareness of where one is from, where one is at, and where one is going. None can claim genuine nationalistic or patriotic aspirations without having the fundamental knowledge necessary to appreciate these aspirations.
While nationalism is often romanticized by the average person via artificial values such as blind love of country, flag, anthem, enlightened nationalism is based on the profound understanding of the concept of citizenry and those citizen’s interdependence and common destiny. It cultivates comprehensive appreciation of the values that unite us. It inspires the individual to take an active role in improving his or her country’s condition.
Enlightened nationalism is seldom emotional or reactionary. It is the sum of the commitment of good citizens standing to serve their country by serving their fellow countrymen and women, and by protecting their country without transgressing against the rights of others.
Therefore, it should shock no one to conclude that we, as Somalis, never holistically embraced that sense of duty!
While there were, in fact, a few leaders who transcended the misconception of the masses, who were truly driven by enlightened sense of nationalism as part of these movements, the anti-colonial movement of Sayyid Muhammed Abdulle Hassan, the independence-seeking movement of the Somali Youth League (SYL) and the Somali National League (SNL), and the recent anti-occupation movement were nothing but examples of situational nationalism that could not be sustained when conditions and the situation changed. These events mesmerize the public psyche and they left behind narratives that, unfortunately, cannot withstand thorough scrutiny.
History testifies to this hard-to-accept reality that absence of common existentialist threats such as colonialism and occupation, division, regressive transformation, or self-destructive schism and chaos has, by and large, been the ubiquitous norm.
Aggressive clan competition for resources and privileges has been the main undermining factor to sustain Somali nationalism. Like many other African nations, shortly after independence, a segment of the Somali elite and their clan cronies have resorted to an absolute imitation of the colonial masters.
Mandeeq–”the she camel that metaphorically represented the Somali nation–”was to be milked only by those who had the exclusive rights…who had no responsibility to feed and nurture her.
Painful as it may be to confess, nationalists and patriotic people do not allow their nation to be destroyed or self-destroy, or to be reduced into a charity case, or to find comfort under the political exploitation and subjugation of other nations.
Like other ideas and concepts that transform societies, enlightened nationalism, has certain characteristics:
- Its guiding principles are inclusiveness, balance, and tolerance
- Its motto is “guard the rights of others so that yours will be guarded”
- Its modality is “peace is achieved through justice, and reconciliation through persistent engagement and dialogue”
- Its litmus test is unselfish service
- Its foundation is respect for the law of the land
- Its ultimate goal is positive transformation
By design or otherwise, the international community seems to set in motion a process to incrementally balkanize Somalia and erode its national sovereignty. Currently, Somalia is governed by a mandate that could only be described as camouflaged trusteeship. No major decisions can be made for the country independent of foreign dictates.
Meanwhile, superficial meetings in high places are planned. Meanwhile, new series of academic conferences in exotic venues are organized. Meanwhile, the patient’s condition continues to worsen. Meanwhile, extremism is taken roots. Meanwhile, there is no profound change in attitude, priority, and approach.
It is time to put a giant mirror in front of us…It is time to sound off the alarm to awaken our dormant conscience, so that we may become catalysts of positive change and shape our destiny. And that does not mean to destroy our fragile Transitional National Institutions and start all over again, but to fix and strengthen those fundamental political infrastructures.