19 May 2007 04:28

SOMALIA WATCH

 
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  • [SW Column] ( Samtalis Hussein Haille ) Ending the conflict in the Somali inhabited territories of Horn of Africa  :Posted on 24 Aug 2002

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


Ending the conflict in the Somali inhabited territories of Horn of Africa

Samtalis Hussein Haille -  hail0029@umn.edu

 

Dear Friends I would like to share with you some of my thoughts with regard to the following questions: what can we do to contribute to the process aimed at ending the conflict in the Somali inhabited territories of Horn of Africa, this includes Somali west and former Republic of Somalia. Your response to this thought is highly appreciated; however, for our thought to be fruitful it is necessary that you put some thought in to your response so that we may develop collectively.

Emotion based arguments are not progressive that is they hinder our tendencies to grow and achieve perfection, so, it is therefore a matter of necessity, that you suppress your feelings, and think about the subject of interest in profound way, in doing so, all of us will benefit, by consuming the product of our thoughts.

     To better answer this question I must classify people to different classes and groups, I would start with bourgeoisie, that is the educated masses, education here is not limited to the academy but it includes acquired knowledge through experience or accumulated wisdom.  Bourgeoisie here is not meant in the classical Marxist sense, but it symbolizes only the metropolitan character of this class compared to other groups in the country such as Camel herders, (Geel jirayaal) or peasants (Beeralay). Striking feature that captures the eye of the casual observer with regard to bourgeoisie compared to other classes is the opportunities that  are available to them( such as education, chance to make money, or the information that they can potentially access for personal consumption) as well as the environment they find themselves.  

In the history of mankind bourgeoisie has always been the agent of change and progress, however, the role taken by this class in different countries and the realties that they have produced shows some remarkable variation. What makes certain bourgeoisie class more successful than others and what are the primary preconditions that are necessary for this class to lead the society in to better life in light of complex socioeconomic and political structure of the world would be subject of our meditation.

To answer this question we need to study the specific features of the country under the scrutiny, given the relative success or the failure of this class (bourgeoisie) generally determines the socioeconomic and political destiny of the entire state, it will be noble cause for us to delve in to the annals of history to better comprehend the basic structures of the socioeconomic and political discourse of Somali society. To achieve this end we will study the history of the region. 

History  

There is historical evidence from reliable sources to suggest that the Somali inhibited territory of horn of Africa was land of civilization, which was populated since pre historic times. Starting from the Puntite kingdom which flourished before the Common Era to Muslim sultanates that dominated the Somali peninsula and adjacent Muslim states for the last millennia. These city-states had produced tremendous wealth due to their commercial ties with the outside world particularly Arabian Peninsula, India and other Eastern societies.

We were informed by both writings left by the ancient Egyptians particularly those in the temple of Dayr-el-Bahari on the west bank of the Nile,  and the Perpilus of the Erythrean sea that Puntites during ancient times and Berbers  (a name applied o the people and the land inhibited by modern Somalis) during the Time of Christ have used their own bouts to transport commercial goods to Arabia, Egypt and possibly to the far East,to suggest that no coastal cities flourished Pre-Islamic Horn of Africa is essentially ethnocentric and biased reconstruction of history to the least.

Eastern coast of Africa was center of commerce that has connection with eastern societies since time immemorial. The oldest known material with regard to the commerce was Palermo stone (the oldest written book in the Egyptian history) which informs us that there was commercial relationship between ancient Egypt and Eastern coast of Africa known at that time as Punt or land of the gods. Some time around the Christ (May Lord grant him peace) we are informed the existence of large Somali Cities by the Peripilus of the Erthraean sea, this book is considered a major reference book with regard to the ancient commerce of the eastern nations. The name of the author is not known; probably he was Egyptian of Greek origin. The Somali cities mentioned in this book are the following Zaila( Avalites), Berbera(Malao),  Mosullon (Bandar Kasim, known also by the Somali as Bosaso, it is 260 miles east of Berbra)Bandar Hais (Mundus)  Ras Hafun(Opene, it is worth while to notice that this is a corruption of Punt, as many historians believe, and this place is about 90 miles below the famous Cape Guardafui( known to the Somalis as Ras Asayr) Mogadishu(Serapion) Brava(Nicon). It is interesting to note that the author calls this area stretching from Zaila to  the entire Gulf of Berbera(Aden, it was only recently  when people started calling this Bay Gulf of Aden, in the last two Millennia people have been calling this Bay gulf of Berbera, or gulf of Zayla and therefore I chose to do so) as other Barber country, it is not coincidence that we learn from the famous Muslim expoler Ibnu Batuta who visited both Mogadishu and Zayla at 1300s mentions in his famous book Rehala or travel , that the residents of the Mogadisho were  Beber origin and spoke Beber language. He farther informs us that the city housed large student population and the Sultan had writer who recorded all secret information, there are important implications to this simple assertion and they are the following.

Somali coastal cities were not founded By Arabs or the Persians 

Mogadisho and other coastal cities in the Somali peninsula were there since time immemorial as we were informed by the Peripilus, even if we were to grant that that the foreigners once dominated the city, this was not the case certainly at 1300 AD. The claim by some locals that the city of Mogadisho was a walled city and that the local natives were not allowed to sleep at night is fabricated fantasy that has no historical evidence. But one might say that why some authors say that Somali coastal cities were founded by middle Easterners, I would answer that some authors have also propagated that the Somalis were not African indigenous but immigrants from southern Arabia, to this day Some encyclopedia (among them Colombia encyclopedia, search the word Hamites, they have version on the web) claim that that the Somalis are Caucasian decent that is they are the same racial stock that dominates  continental Europe. So it is fair to say that there is underlining tendency in many authors to credit others than the native people when it comes to the history and civilization, although, they may have their own reasons which is different than ours, however, we must grant to them the benefit of doubt, thus affording to them, to present historical evidences not biased historical speculations.  .   

Somalis are not oral society 

The first scholar to study the Somali language was Sheikh Yusuf al kownayn, Known as Aw Barkhadle in northern Somalia (or modern republic of Somaliland), and his tomp is visited by many Somalis to this  modern day and he was relative to the ruling family of Adal kingdom.

Starting from the time Islam has arrived Horn of Africa, Somalis and other Muslims in the region have contributed to the production and preservation of Muslim and local literature, it is not surprising then to learn that the major reference book (which has numerous volumes) of the Hanafi school of law (Muslim school of law, dominant in the Asian subcontinent), is written by Imam Zaili’e, his proper name was Jamal Muhammad Yusuf Mohammed Ayub born and grew up in Northern Somalia, particularly in the legendary city as well as the imperial seat of the celebrated Adal Sultanate, the magnitude of the works produced by the Somalis is another subject, which I will cover in subsequent paper, however, it might be enough to note that there are entire sections  in the modern Egyptian house of books and medieval Mosque of Umayyad Dynasty  in Damascus dedicated to the works published by the local Muslim scholars as well rooms that housed students from this region (horn of Africa). 

The subjects covered in this works extend from jurisprudence ( fiqi), mystics, poetry, law and history to the prevailing social and political conditions. Some of these works could also be found in private libraries in Somalia as well as public libraries around the world, particularly in Europe and Middle East. Large portion of these works were published in Arabic although some of these works were also written in Somali with Arabic alphabet. It is interesting to note that Europe which is land of civilization with considerable intellectual history was employing Latin as medium of expression for science and philosophical discourses as late as two hundred years ago. In fact, the great German philosopher Emanuel kant wrote his dissertation paper in Latin about two hundred years ago. Therefore, the use of vernacular languages, or put it differently, the linguistic nationalism or the pride one takes in his own language and its use as medium of literary works is recent phenomena, although there are exceptions to this assertion.

Therefore, it is not surprising to contend that the Somalis were producing their scholarly works in Arabic prior 19th century; however, this has changed due to the socioeconomic and political changes as well as the growth of the population and the compelling desire of the scholars to communicate with masses so as to diffuse knowledge and create greater sense of community.

Sheik Uways Muhammad Barawi who lived between  1847-1909, was born in Brava, he went to Iraq and studied in Baghdad between (1870-188), and visited numerous places in the Islamic world, upon his return  to Somalia he visited Mogadishu and met with prominent Muslim scholars and then he left to the south particularly areas between the two rivers, where he was recognized as leader of the Qadiriya order( tariiqa).

He founded the farming communities called Jama’at literally means communities that have celebrated Muslim cultural heritage through the production of poetry (mainly in the form of Sufi poetry that were designed to celebrate the personalities of Prophet Mohammed may Lord grant him peace and other prominent Muslim saints both locally and internationally) thus creating the sprit of brotherhood among Somali communities. It is worth while to mention that he was among the first people to produce major literary works in Somali based Arabic alphabet, a major portion of his work are currently in my possession and can also be found in both private Somali libraries and  some libraries around the world.

Significant figure related to the Somali writing history was Osman Keenidid, being religious man with high degree of political consciousness, he produced the first Somali alphabet known initially as Osmania and later it was named far Soomaali, (or called in Somali , taken form recently published article in the Somalinet ) or Somali writing. This script had been used to record literature and numerous books were written in this script, it was also used in school as late as 1972, as matter of fact Syl, the Somali nationalist political movement of 1940s had used it as official language until it was dominated by Pro Arab groups led by Haji Mohammed Hussein who was the president of the S.y.l from 1948-1952 and 1957-58. He advocated Somalia not to participate in the European Economic Community, he also campaigned for the use of the Arabic alphabet in order to narrow the gab between the Somalis and Muslim world. Cotemporary to Osman kenideed was Abdurrahman Sheikh Nur, Judge Qadi  of Boreme, who also devised Boreme script in 1933, which was later used by the merchants as well as local people. He used the script to record his own works. Prior the invention of Boreme script he used Arabic alphabet to transcribe important things, however, this script never achieved national recognition in the same way as the ‘Somali writing’ did”  The Somali alphabet was used until the military took over the country and introduced the Latin alphabet, there are also numerous people who devised scripts late 1940s, and 50s  including  Dr Hussein sheik Ahmed Kadere, the great Philosopher and many others. Therefore, it is baseless and biased judgment of history to say that Somali was oral language before 1972, it is also disrespect and lack of appreciation to the great works of the Somali scholars who dedicated their life to the advancement of Somali language. As matter of fact we can find to day( 2002) many books written in the indigenous scripts both in private libraries and public libraries around the world, by the way some of them are currently in my possessions.

It is interesting to note that the pro Somali scripts are not entirely dead, in fact, one of the great champions of the ‘Somali alphabet’ Dr Hirsi Magan, the former student of anthropology is currently (2002) visiting Europe, to accelerate the production of software that can be used to write the Somali alphabet. Nevertheless the pro Arab movements are also very powerful to day, in fact there are two groups, the first group who was represented by the Dr. Ibrahim Hashi, who actively participated the glorious struggle to liberate the western Somalia. He has produced books in Somali based on Arabic alphabet, he used to say let us use the language of the Quran glorifying the use of the Arabic alphabet; however, with high degree of confidence we can say that this movements is dead. The second movements in the pro Arab comp campaigned the use of Arabic language as the official language and school language, this movement is currently powerful and in fact they have benefited from the lawlessness by creating schools that not only use Arabic as the medium of instruction but also borrow entire curriculum from Arab states. This is particularly true in southern and northeastern Somalia.  Pro Somali groups believed the use of the Somali language regardless the alphabet used, this group was dominant until 1972-1991, however, it seems their influence is decreasing due to their focus and preoccupation of socioeconomic and political problems of the country, so they are not bothered by the kind of education that their children are getting, believing that these schools are better than none. There is psychological dimension to this reality, from 1980s the institutions of the state was deteriorating and education was not an exception particularly the public schools, and note that the schools both in primary and secondary schools used Somali as medium of instruction, there were also some schools which used Arabic as the medium of instruction, for both pragmatic and exaggerated reasons the Somali public had perceived that the quality of the Arabic schools were much better than the Somali schools, as matter of fact the joke of the day was ( ma Alaahida ayaad dhigataa,  waad fiicantihiin idinku) you study in Arabic you are good than others. This psychological climate have given the pro Arab groups an advantage than the Somali groups. There is also an economic advantage, most of the Arab/Muslim organizations have greater tendency to support the schools that use the Arabic as medium of instruction than the once that use Somali as medium of instruction.  These factors combined allow the rapid growth of schools that use Arabic language as well as the rapid decline of the schools that use the Somali as medium of instruction. Profound analysis to this social phenomena and elaboration of my understanding to this social development should be expressed in another treatise.  Let us now move to the question that we asked at the beginning, which was what can we do to end the conflict.

Neutrality

In order for you to deal with Somali problems or problems with Somali character, you need to establish a character of neutrality so as to start the process of ending the conflict. The first step in my opinion is to be neutral.

I am not telling you to be absolutely neutral, because you could not expect perfect character from imperfect entity; perfection is the hallmark of God not a characteristic of members of human species. There are monumental implications to this simple logical statement and they are the following.

1-     Never expect someone to behave non-clanstic way in all the time, however, expect him/her to behave in non-Clanistic way most of the time. Mistakes should be forgiven, although sometimes they should be punished if proper institutions or conditions are in place.

2-     Eliminate if possible or otherwise make the accumulated prejudices inactive, by considering the following steps.

a-    Subconsciously tell your self that others are not necessarily wrong all the time, you must convince yourself also that some times you could be wrong, given this conviction you might proceed to the next step.

b-    Appreciate the power of the situations, that is imagine what is like to be 15 year old gunmen who was not properly nourished nor have sufficient means to feed himself, imagine also Uncle Bidaar( modern Somali politician) who is preoccupied with local politics and he is supported by internal and external forces, in this realm he losses his rationality because he behaves in manner not consistent to the behavior of ordinary human being.

c-    Consider the supporters of all contending groups in Somali peninsula as your brothers and sisters, when in contact with them, defy their expectations, that is show them friendly attitude, and sincere desire to recreate the sprit of the brotherhood, even if the person’s behavior is motivated by prejudice or clanisitc stereotypes, see them as a prey of prevailing political conditions, refrain by using your utmost power to confirm their expectations. If you were to behave as they expected, both of you will be an instrument to historical end that will not favor your welfare.

d-    Try to understand more objectively the various arguments employed by all groups as well as the emotions that are supplemented to make their case. Understand the limited scope as well as the simplistic nature of their argument, given the complexity of the time and the world that they are living in.

e-    By assuming the role of neutrality the challenges are great, so always moderate your emotions, and show great tolerance.

f-    Whenever you make an unnecessary mistake correct it, it is very painful to correct mistakes when in fact you are not the one who initiated the mistake; however, this is the burden of the conscious man/women during difficult times.

g-    Never pursue power, fame, at the expanse of the other, and in simple arguments never try always to win, be the listener in most cases, unless the circumstance necessitates otherwise.

h-    Be fair to all even if you do not like their position.

i-    Humans are dignified species and they treasure to be dignified, so dignify them too

j-    Be creative, there are infinite ways to get to the same end, if one way does not work try other ways, do not be fixated in one way, humans have tendency to view things from one perspective, defy this tendency other wise unnecessary consequence is eminent.

3-     Your fundamental need to live as free man/women both in your region as well as in your clan is pragmatic and therefore granted, and under no circumstances could it be compromised. However, it is necessary to find sophisticated means to meet this end, in other words we need to explore ways that we can produce neutral experts who can propose more realistic plan and create the necessary condition for the plan to be implemented. For example, we need some experts who solve the Kismayo/Mogadisho question, by figuring out ways that Darod, hawiye Dir, Digil/Mirifle, jareer the Great, Banadiri,Barawe, Midhiban, Bajuun and entire Somali speaking nations could coexist together, and I am convinced that there are ways that we can pursue collectively that can make this objective a reality. However, I am afraid we no longer have the pleasure to remain indifferent to the political evolution of horn of Africa. History is very harsh to the spectators, who do not take part the painful process of making history. Our current course of history in Somali peninsula is very familiar when you look to the bloody history of mankind, the history is full of groups who fought against each other to the point of exhaustion, when this point is reached the painful chapter of the history starts to unfold, that is the time when contending groups become defenseless prey in the face of uncompromising predator who have infinite reasons to determine their destiny. When this time arrives history cannot be reversed. It is therefore necessary more than ever to take the Somali crisis seriously, particularly those of us who are in the Diaspora, because we are less burdened by the desire to survive compared to the people who live in the Somali mainland.

Part 2 would be published shortly

 Please feel free to divide it in two parts, if that works for you the best

 The material would also be published in Somali shortly.

MY Email is hail0029@umn.edu


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