External interferences in Somalia have found their respective marks in large measure because non-sectarian Somalis have abandoned politics so as not to succumb to factionalism. These ‘missing in action’ Somalis can save the Somali nation from becoming a poster child for the type of disaster that inevitably befalls those societies that neglect to reflect on their condition and take the long view of things.
Sure, political clanism (or more precisely neo-clansim) with the whole host of social ills attendant to its administration is an undeniable feature of today’s Somali polity—and, it remains the society’s pain to this day. Yet, all Somalis would confess that the present Berlin Wall-like, emotional barrier that clan-based politics has erected in recent years is by no means insurmountable. In this context, the current fixation with factionalism should be seen for what it is—a passing phase brought about by those wishing to take advantage of the young nation’s growing pains!
For a clear-eyed perspective, consider all the intrinsic attributes that have continued to unite the Somali people since times immemorial versus what is dividing its communities today. One would realize how ephemeral clan politics ought to be viewed in the scheme of things.
As people sharing a unique culture and heritage, religion and ethnicity, Somalis have been known in most of the nation’s modern history—going back perhaps 1,000 years or so—to have had transcended clan divisions, especially on crucial historical milestones. With right-acting leadership, Somalis from all clans had demonstrated time and again willingness to face great challenges in the defense of the common national interest and the dignity of all Somalis, as a race of people unified by no less than Divine Will. For example, during Imam Ahmed Gurey’s era in the 15th Century, CE, Somalis from various regions coalesced on the proposition of defending Somalinimo, and in so doing achieved much success against the ever so menacing attacks from the Abyssinians hordes. In parts of the Deep South, along the Juba valley, Somalis from many different clans have similarly been able to easily unite under the banner of Ajji during the 18th and 19th Centuries, CE to forge a common security regime. Virtually all Somali political movements of consequence, at the national level, prior to the collapse of the military regime, were organized across clan lines on the basis of the same cherished, if much bruised of late, identity of Somalinimo.
It is this powerful, unique, Somalinimo identity that needs to be restored to its rightful, lofty perch within the society. Fundamentally, what gives Somalinimo impetus is its Islamic character of working in the service of a just cause such as defending the motherland and national identity. But it is also rooted in very important, if enigmatic, ways in the glorious legacy of the ancient Cushitic civilization that flourished for thousands of years in Northeast Africa as well as in far-flung regions of the Asian subcontinent continent, among other places. With this understanding, Somalis will have come to appreciate their place in the scheme of things in a world where the unawares are increasingly marked for the most insufferable forms of the exploitation that have been condemned by right-thinking people throughout the annals of human history.
Almost all nations, throughout history, have experienced some form of foreign meddling and/or interference in their internal affairs. Invasions, colonization, quests for imperialism and domination by the powerful over the weaker nations continue to be an unhappy legacy of human societies’ points of intersection. So there is no reason to expect Somalia to be an exception. However, in the case of
During the colonial period, Europeans functionaries dubbed Somalis, “the Irish of Africa.” This is because Somalis had shown themselves to be fierce defenders of individual as well as collective honor, and national identity, unwilling to accept slight—keenness to express their opinions about almost any given subject, no matter who disagreed. However, given Somalis’ social unity and egalitarian ways, more analogous Europeans would have been the Germanic tribes before they were unified by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1862-90), while utilizing the practicality of realpoltik or the Italians prior to the Il Risorgimento or “Resurgence” of 1814- 1861.
Today, the differences, though superficial in social terms, have grown wide to chasms in the political arena. Thus to resuscitate the sagging national spirit, Somalis need to look inwards for the answers that had eluded the nation for nearly two decades. This requires conscientious Somalis to be mindful of external manipulations that exacerbate deplorable internal conditions.
In the past it would not have been necessary to remind Somalis to be vigilant or to ditch the nasty habit of depending on foreigners for many things that could be accomplished within the society. There was willingness to try even if efforts fell shy of whatever task at hand at the time. The first and foremost task of the hour is political reconciliation. The factions need to make the decision to reconcile without setting preconditions or looking to foreign powerbrokers to manage their proceedings.
Sure, the Ethiopian army does not belong in Somali soil but neither do the homicidal actions of the cadre of uncompromising, foreign-trained and directed militants who would justify cold-blooded murder on basis of a faulty theology. The current so-called government (or any “transitional rule” that may follow) should likewise realize that genuine reconciliation requires the widening of the political circle to accommodate all sectors of the society in a clear-cut manner.
In the interest of true reconciliation, therefore, all parties should come to the negotiating table without distant patrons pulling their strings, from behind the scenes. Indeed, it is high time that Somalis got serious about facing up to the challenge of solving the country’s political problems without the usual distractions that inevitably come with the workings of self-interested foreign filter. The time for bold actions in the interest of the indispensible spirit of Somalinimo that is embedded in the nation’s time-honored moral fiber is now!
Ali A. Fatah