Who really benefits from a weak Somalia?
By Ali H. Abdulla
April 17, 2006 — Balkanization refers to the division of a place or country into several small political units, often unfriendly to one another. The term balkanization comes from the name of the Balkan Peninsula, which was divided into several small nations in the early twentieth century.
Somalia fits the above description as a place inhabited by one race that shared a lot of the ingredients for the formation of a country. We can compare it to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was united by King Abdul Aziz Bin Saud to become a modern state. Somali recorded history documents two similar unsuccessful attempts to get united as a country under one leadership. Both attempts were frustrated by foreign powers.
The first attempt failed when Portugal used cannons, a new weapon, to massacre Ahmed Gurey and his Somali warriors. The second attempt failed when the British imperialists used air power, another new weapon, to murder thousands of Somali freedom fighters in the north. The scale of devastation and the thousands of death resulting from those air raids bear the hallmark of illegal chemical weapons, which Churchill used against the Kurds as well. Many people believe that British forces resorted to poisoning the water wells used by the magnificent Arabian Horses known to the Somali freedom fighters as Sunari.
The balkanization of Somalia started in earnest when the British, the architects of most deadly conflicts raging in the world today, and its allies won the Second World War, and Somali speaking people became united under the British imperialists. Those who argue for a Somaliland based on the borders of former British Somaliland always omit the fact that areas referred to by them as the south were also under British rule from 1941 until 1948.
The British ruled the world by using a strategy of divide and rule. It worked for them in India, the Middle East and Africa. As part of that strategy, they chose not to unite the Somali speaking people fearing for their interests after realizing the deeply nationalistic sentiments of the Somali people. The fear of a strong nationalistic and united Somalia controlling the Strait of Bab El Mandab, through which British merchant ships passed, prompted the British to divide Somalia. They allowed the Italian fascists to rule the South again, and surrendered the Haud and Reserved areas to the historical enemies of the Somalis and the Northern Frontier district to Kenya.
The foreign Pens The new call for breaking up the Somali Republic is spearheaded by a group of scholars who mostly lobby for the recognition of Somaliland. It is part of the continuing conspiracy to complete the balkanization of Somalia, a task that could not be completed by Britain when Somali Nationalists opted for unity in 1960.
Many of us fail to comprehend that people like Lewis promote the policies of their countries. When Lewis spent time in the north, he studied the Somali pastoralists as an anthropologist. The colonial office must have used the data he gathered when drawing the final map of Somalia after realizing the danger posed by these proud and fiercely nationalistic people to its interests. Lewis quotes his predecessor Burton as having said about the Somalis “a fierce and turbulent race of Republicans”.
Although the British signed the agreement to hand over the Haud and reserved areas to Ethiopia on the 29th of November 1954, the data Lewis gathered after 1954 must have influenced the British colonialists when they finalized their vision for a divided Somalia.
The latest addition to the bandwagon of foreign pens is an African Muslim scholar who goes by the name of Ali Mazrui. On a recent visit to Somaliland, he urged the leaders and intellectuals of Somaliland to eliminate the confusion between Somaliland and Somalia and adopt the name of Somali-Stan like Pakistan and Afghanistan. When he arrived at Egal International airport, Mazrui was received like a state president. Three important Ministers welcomed him at the airport and the president of Somaliland attended a state dinner in his honour.
The unexpected head-of-state reception for a humble professor must have affected and touched him deeply. The Somali-Stan remark from Mazrui is worth pondering. Did the professor make the remark in a moment of bliss brought on by our dazzling Somali hospitality? Or was he insulting the intelligence of our leaders in the north by suggesting to them to join the “Stans” of this world if they refuse their Somali-ness. If he were sincere in his remark he would probably have suggested removing the name Somali altogether because replacing the land with “Stan” as the professor has suggested does not eliminate the confusion.
The tragedy of the matter is that common Somali folks are misled into believing that a few foreign scholars whose carriers are on the wane can attain recognition for them. They come out in droves welcoming them with flowers and folk dances. The mobilization of our kids and women to wave flowers to foreigners who are no-bodies in their own land is demeaning and reminds one of the tactics of the old regime. Would Mazrui receive such a reception in his native Kenya?
In a recent rebuttal to “The hidden conspiracy to balkanize Somalia”, someone volunteered to explain what the professor meant in a long scholarly interview in a radio show meant for the masses.
It seems that I am not the only person who finds it difficult to understand professor Mazrui. Professor Willia, Ochieng, from Kenya says about the guy “True, he has published immensely. I cannot claim to have read even half of what he has written. What puzzles me, however, is that I cannot remember a single important thing from his material. I know he will respond by claiming that it is not his fault. If I am too dense to understand his writing then what has that got to do with him? But apparently his American hosts also have a problem with him. Despite his many lectures and literature in the United States they do not seem to understand what he says, or wants. Are they also as dense as I am? What exactly has professor Mazrui been trotting around the world telling his listeners?” You have to read the whole article to understand where professor Willia is heading with this vicious attack on Mazrui.
I do not reproduce this piece to attack or demean the famous Mazrui but to remind our brothers in the North that Mazrui is not the right man to lobby for their recognition. In fact no foreigner has the ability to argue their case.
Foreign scholars like Lewis and Mazrui think of us as specimens for their scholarly fieldwork and theories. They benefit from us and do not care much about our future or fate. The half loaf suggested by Lewis and the Somali-stan suggested by Mazrui are sinister new models that if successful will only add to their portfolios.
The need for a constructive dialogue Instead of using foreigners to lobby for them, those calling for secession need to explain to several million Somalis the real reasons prompting them to run away from their brothers like lepers.; the reasons prompting them to behave like an angry Somali husband who yells at his wife “I divorce thee” 3 times; the reasons prompting them to consider as taboo the logical task of opening a dialogue with their brothers in the south regarding the future of their mutual country.
Democracy is not a selective thing. One cannot choose and pick its tenets to satisfy a certain agenda. The voice of those in the north who are for unity should be heard and allowed to participate in shaping the future of our country. They should be allowed to talk to the people and explain their vision for a united and strong Somalia.
We should look at the pros and cons of unity and prepare a balance sheet that lists the assets and liabilities. This should be done after we get rid of the hate and fear. Hate destroys those who practice it and consumes them. They cannot think clearly.
We have all suffered under the corrupt civilian government and the dictatorial repressive regime. If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for some of those who govern us today and who were part of the repressive regime, then we should be able to find room in our heart for forgiving our other Somali brothers most of whom had nothing to do with the repression and destruction..
I know that wounds take a long time to heal but 15 years is long enough to forget and to embark on a healing journey that brings us all back together under one roof but with different terms; terms that will guarantee the non-recurrence of the hell that we have all been through. We should learn from South Africa and other countries who managed to heal their wounds. We should seek the help of the likes of Mandela to achieve unity instead of seeking the help of those who are keen on our division.
Given the chaos raging in most of the south, some of us may pose the valid question. Who should we negotiate with? The answer is quite simple and obvious. The dialogue should not be with those murdering warlords but with the decent peace loving civil society members. We can start by:
Opening a constructive dialogue with members of the civil society groups in the south. Creating truth and reconciliation meetings under the supervision of prominent figures who care about us Introducing Student exchange programs Initiating a constructive dialogue between the traditional leaders of the north and the south Sending Peace missions to the south to help them put their chaotic house in order The case for a United Somalia One of the most powerful arguments used by the camp opposed to the secession is the fact that Somalia is a homogeneous country whose people speak the same language, worship the same God and pretty much look the same.
The most effective rebuttal I have heard so far to this argument came from the President of Somaliland Mr. Rayale, when he remarked at a state dinner thrown in the honour of Mazrui that Arabs too share the same characteristics but are divided into more than 21 countries The rebuttal of our president may make sense to many, but we should not forget that the Arab world used to be one country under the Ottoman Caliphate. When the west started its campaign to loot the riches of the Muslim world, they devised a clever scheme of divide and rule. They divided the Arab world into many small countries making it easy for them to control and siphon off the riches of these countries. It is easy to deal with a population of several hundred thousand than with a population of hundreds of millions.
Regardless of the arguments used by both sides, the truth of the matter is that the world is becoming a small global village where the competitive edge belongs to those who are united politically and economically.
China and India are the fastest growing economies in the world. Their combined population constitute more than a third of the world population. Their economic boom is a result of their united population despite the different languages and religions.
Those who call for dividing Somalia do not realize that they are advocating the creation of small banana republics that are weak enough to be exploited by powerful multinational corporations. The best definition I could find for a banana republic is “a small country (especially in Central America) that is politically unstable and whose economy is dominated by foreign companies and depends on one export (such as bananas)”
Somalia fits this description. Banana and livestock used to be and will probably remain for a long time our main exports. The danger of depending on one commodity for export is made painfully clear by the ban imposed by Saudi Arabia on Somali livestock leading to economic hardship to our people. A united Somalia would be able to diversify its economy and embark on a program that makes it the Singapore of Africa as Ambassador Sahnoun predicted in a Reuters interview recently. Somali people are dynamic entrepreneurs who with unity and good governance will fulfill this prophecy.
The other problem with a banana republic is that a few privileged groups enjoy all the benefits of the state while the majority remain in abject poverty.
Those who call for division should ask themselves the simple question. Why do western scholars and those emulating them call for dividing us when Europe is heading towards a united entity with a single currency called the Euro, a European Parliament and a European Central Bank?
When Europe realized that it lags behind the United States of America and Japan, they decided to unite their economies in order to be able to compete against these economic giants. They realized that unity stands for prosperity, strength and stability.
The famous Berlin Wall crumbled and Germany became united again because both sides realized that it was in the interest of Germany to become united. Neither the Soviet Union nor the other European nations wanted to see a untied and strong Germany again. They thought that years of different political and economic systems would be enough guarantee to keep the two Germanys apart but the people of Germany proved them wrong. The Somali people will prove to the world that they can be a united country again; one that has learnt from the past; one that practices free enterprise and a genuine democracy.
We have to make a choice between: a strong and united Somalia, and small banana republics exploited by greedy multinational companies and powerful foreign countries that can corrupt our weak leaders to use our country as military bases and dumping grounds for their nuclear and chemical waste. When making this difficult choice, we should think about our future generations who will be affected by these choices. Before we make the choice, we should try to eliminate the hate and fear factors that we have been fed over 15 long and painful years.
Ali H. Abdulla, is an IT Consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com