19 May 2007 04:27


  • Title: [SW Column] (Abdullahi Farah Holif) Hashu Markey Maqasha Diidan Tahay Meelo Dulduleela Ayey Ka Doontaa
  • Posted by/on[AMJ][Thursday, August 17, 2000]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of SW.


Hashu Markey Maqasha Diidan Tahay Meelo Dulduleela Ayey Ka Doontaa.

By Abdullahi Farah Holif


This is in reference to the article: A Potential Conflict of Interest: Beyond Djibouti Conference.

First of all let me clarify my position with regard to the on-going Somali conference in Djibouti. And in case you haven’t noticed it, I want you to note that I haven’t qualify it by adding the words either ‘peace’ or ‘reconciliation’ as is normally the case.
I believe that the present one is dealing with ‘peace’ and ‘reconciliation’ just the same as the previous 12 ‘reconciliation conferences’ did, which is to say that none of them even broached the idea. All that the conferences dealt with, including the present one, is how to create a government and how to agree on who is going to be what in such a government. I am not saying so on the basis of hearsay. I have co-initiated and participated and have also been very active in many of them.

Reconciliation, in addition to sincerity of purpose, presupposes analysis and discussion of what went wrong and the cause/s thereof. In our case, we have completely destroyed a State by means of a devastating and senseless civil/tribal war, which could have been avoided. In the course of it hundreds of thousands of innocent people were slaughtered for no other reason than that of being the children of their fathers and for the simple purpose of looting their meager possessions on the instigation, support and command of so-called leaders, whether tribal, political and/or military. Public and private properties have also been perniciously pillaged. Those are incontrovertible and undeniable facts. And yet in none of the conferences so far held in ten year period has there been one single time when questions were asked and exhaustedly answered as to why those people died and who was responsible for their deaths. Somebody must be responsible for what has happened. One cannot ignore so easily the killing of so many people. The Quran says: ‘When the female (infant) Buried alive, is questioned – For what crime She was killed’ (Sura 81: 8-9 – Translation of Abdullahi Yusuf Ali). This would happen in the Next World.

The fact of the matter is however that we have made ourselves prematurely liable to be asked now that same question here in this world – For what crimes were all those people killed? Anyone with any conscience can hear their cry for justice. No reasons, including those of State, are enough to warrant the present seemingly connived silence of people on such an enormous tragedy. It is simply not fair. We are Somalis. Fighting is not something new to us. In our culture and tradition, we have very clear and precise norms and procedures based on our religion for settling disputes. If we want we may also make recourse to international laws. In this particular moment of our history we must not only be able to take stock of, and admit to, our mistakes, but also have the manly capability to address them thoroughly and draw the necessary conclusions. And unless and until we are able to summon up the necessary fortitude to pinpoint wrong-doings and assign responsibility squarely to where it belongs, genuine reconciliation, as opposed to a make-belief one, will not be possible. And without a reasonably genuine reconciliation, no durable State, even if formed, can function properly in Somalia.

I am also not happy with the manner the conference is being conducted now. Both the Djibouti government and the Somali participants there seem to be more concerned, for different reasons, with constituting once and for all a ‘Somali government.’ So far, to the best of my knowledge, they have not dwelled on the paramount question of what kind of government is going to come out of this ‘Somali Shir.’ I believe that sound bites the like of ‘A government is better than no government’ does not hold. It is not intelligent for it is naturally an upshot of despair, therefore very emotional. The Djibouti government, especially President Ismail, is understandably keen to conclude with a modicum of success the unenviable task they have willingly and generously shouldered in the face of the international community and History. The Somali participants also want obviously to constitute a government, but one made of their image. Now, the question is what kind of image would that be? The majority of them are either former collaborators of Mohammed Said or Warlords and their supporters since 1991. Can a government formed and led by such people win genuine popular support and trust? Strictly by their respective personal history, I don’t think so.

From this conference no less than a third Somali Republic is what is expected and hoped for. This means change for the better must come out of it. We should not go back to where we started from in our destructive behavior, or continue to cling on to the shortsighted mentality – dhinacaada dadka ka raac - that has guided us both during Mohamed Siad’s dictatorship and after the collapse of the Somali State. Solid principles of government must be introduced in the political landscape of Somalia. Above all people who can inspire the trust of the people and set examples of abnegation and dedication with their known sense of honor and nationalism should be entrusted with the enormous task of reconstructing and rehabilitating the country and reconciling the people. This would seem to be impossible on account of a pseudo-tribal mistrust, but actually of a wild drive by some of us to get hold of power by any means.

We have been all along as we are now a tribal society. It is our social system for the better and for the worse. There is no escaping from it. Every one of us by the mere fact of being the child of a father belongs to a tribe, whether we like it or not. On the other hand, tribe as a system is not intrinsically bad. Certainly it is not particularly worse than other social systems worldwide. It is and it will be what we make of it. The Quran says ‘… And [WE] made you into Nations and tribes, that Ye may know each other…’ (49:13 ibid).

That is the tribe in function of identity. Tribalism, which is our making and which is what has dragged us into the present quagmire, is however the use of that social institution for personal gain and for partisan purposes to the deliberate exclusion of others and their interest. Despite its forseeable nefarious consequences, we have consciously but unwisely adopted it. It is our fault. One reaps what one sows. We have seen that no one gains from it and everyone loses by its use. But we can always change conduct. It is as simple as using the intellect rather than emotions.

There was a time when we willingly and with pleasure entrusted the leadership of the country with some of us, notwithstanding their tribal affiliation. We are not a nation of crooks only. There are many honest people amongst us. However these people, together with the many educated Somali youth dispersed all over the world, must realize not only the need for them to go back to the country but also to struggle and fight for the leadership that is theirs and that they deserve. If they are to be the leaders they must be with and stay among their people to guide and consul them. No one is going to hand it over to them with easy on a silver platter.

They are going to have to struggle against corrupt people and a distorted culture of ‘qaataye qaado’, both in political and economic terms, alien to the Somali people, which has been lately introduced in the country. They have got to be pragmatic about it and understand and realize that this is life, and life is but a continuous struggle. The youth especially must remember that the Somali State was made possible mostly thanks to the struggle, sacrifices and dedication of their counterparts of the 1940s, who were less educated, economically more poor and yet had the foresight to summon up the necessary guts to face up to an admittedly daunting task in which they had all the odds against. On the one hand they had to educate, convince, mobilize and carry with them an ignorant but otherwise clean masses, and on the other they had to overcome powerful political and economic interests, which were working against them. It was a challenge, which they faced with courage and conquered with sheer determination. The same challenge is awaiting the present youth. Are they going to be capable of taking up the gauntlet?

Now with regard to the article in reference, I could not, in all honest, see any thing wrong with the quotations, numbering eight, ascribed to President Ismail in the article. I repeatedly read all the quotations both in Somali and Arabic, and frankly I could detect anything, which would indicate to any ‘design and hidden agenda of the whole issue’ on the part of President Ismail Omar Gelle. All that is stated in the quotations refer to endeavors he had made to make sure that he had a firm grip on the smooth running of the conference and to galvanize international public opinion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia once an agreement was reached. What is wrong with that?

It is the prerogative, I think, and indeed the duty of any national and international body, or an individual for that matter, who undertakes the work of setting up a conference to assume its leadership. All the previous Somali conferences held in different capitals were led by the host governments. Further, it is an admirable foresight for such an organizer to prepare for what follows next, in our case the need for a reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Somalia, which the possibly new Somali government will have to implement, of course with a massive aid from the international community. This is, I believe, to the credit of President Ismail, for he is the first and only sponsor of our conferences who, in the course of the gathering, has had the precaution of trying to plan for the future of Somalia. That includes UNOSOM.

What if he didn’t take those initiatives, that is if he didn’t try to secure the leadership of the conference he is sponsoring and if he didn’t advocate in advance for the mentioned ‘Somali Cooperation Fund.’ Certainly he would have been blamed, and rightly so, for failure of leadership in the first case, and for not making provisions for the needed reconstruction program for Somalia in the latter case. Wouldn’t that put him in the typical position that is depicted properly by the Somali saying, which says: SAANNU YEELNAA, SAANNU EEDNEE? Hey, give the man a break.

Since I don’t want to enter into polemics, I won’t discuss the suggestions that Mr. Ismail Omar would have a ‘hidden agenda’ by means of which he would be planning to help establish a ‘protégé government’ for Somalia, and ‘trying to bank into the Somali misery and tap the economic and indirect benefits of the Somali peace process.’ Among other things, we are not offered any evidence to sustain such allegations. Certainly, they cannot be gleaned from the statements attributed to Mr. Ismail Omar. It seems to me that they are based on mere suspicions and feelings the writer has about politicians, especially, African ones, not being saints. With that it is not my intention to say that the man is a saint. Far from it. It is also not my intention to defend him. He is a public figure, and as such he is exposed and has got to suffer the wrath or praise of any one, who might want to throw it upon him. On this score, I should like to mention that someone else has suggested that President Ismail deserves no less than a Nobile Prize for his current efforts over the Somali issue. Whatever the case, I say for him that he is entitled to be proven guilty before being sentenced. He is also entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

What he and the Djibouti people have so far done for their Somali brethren, in my view, does not deserve less than the highest of applauds and a deep sense of gratitude. This is the second time that they have felt the urge to come to our rescue and help us settle our problems. They have welcomed us amongst them, arranged for us a venue for discussion (Somali gogol), encouraged and sometimes pushed us to agree on something, and have given us the best of Somali hospitality by sharing with us whatever meager resources they have. The present conference has been going on, contrary to the original plan, for over three month now. So far as I know no tangible assistance, apart from ‘waannu idin garab taagan nahay’, has come to them from the outside world. They have taken upon themselves all of the financial and otherwise burdens accruing from hosting for the first time over 2000 people for so long a period, which is still to come to a conclusion. In addition to the special levy introduced by the government, even ordinary people are vying for contributions toward the expenses of the conference. In light of such extreme endeavor and sacrifices, I think, the only and decent course left for us is to show them some sense of appreciation and thankfulness.

Above all, we mustn’t blame them for any perceived shortcomings of the Somali participants, in terms of any course of action taken or direction given to the proceedings of the conference. Djibouti is on record for saying that their role is only to arrange for the venue of the conference. The decisions are for the Somali participants to take. These are grown-ups and claim to be the elders/leaders of a nation. No one can force them to take a decision they do not want to take. The responsibility is exclusively theirs. If they willingly and/or stupidly fail to stand up for it, then we should have the civility of not hurling blames on others.

(The Hyperlinks are not the author's)


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