The corroding 'lead camel' effect in Somalia
Somalia has entered a new phase of introspection, reinvention, and rebuilding.Whether or not the old guard will finally redeem itself by participating and contributing positively to this process remains to be seen
Nature of the Dysfunction
A hindsight scan of what went wrong in Somalia leads one to the pathological role that this group of professionals and intellectuals has played in perpetuating two decades of societal hemorrhage. More than the warlords, political opportunists, economic parasites, neo-Islamists, this particular group of intellectual class has contributed to the Balkanization of Somalia, both physically and psychologically. No other group has consistently been sowing negativity for the past two decades more than the Somali intellectuals.
If this particular group had any contribution at all it must be the fact that they changed the Somali national character from a “Nation of Poets” into a “Nation of Presidents”!
As an oral society that met many challenges in its transition into modern, citizen-based, statehood, Somalia’s indigenous historic figures of sometimes illiterate public intellectuals – poets, mullahs, bards, and lyricists – are by and large replaced by intellectually destructive or do-nothings.
For evidence all one has to do is randomly Google up a few of the hundreds of Somali “News” websites and see how many articles, editorial pieces, Op-Eds, or essays about reconciliation or reinvention of a better Somalia from the ground up that you come across. The litmus test of the Somali “intellectual” is his/her record of publicly criticizing or admonishing his/her clan against its shortcomings or saying something that contradicts that of the party line.
The Intergenerational New Breed
Breaking this vicious cycle of negative emulation, there is a hope-inspiring new generation made of the few who survived the aforementioned syndrome and their visionary younger intellectual activists who refused to surrender to negativity and become handicapped by hate. This new generation has been actively initiating new ideas for Somalia’s revival and recovery through writings, lectures, poetry, and political cartoons.
Nothing describes the conscience of that new generation more eloquently than these verses composed by Ilhan Dahir, a young Somali-American poet, for the bitter sweet occasion of 50 years after independence:
“Men who wash their sins off with blood/will receive no absolution…/Let’s create vibrations that turn into waves/let’s flood the shores of the East with the words that we say/Let’s forge a path to unity; Let’s never sway/because our differences have held us captive far too long/And the one who was most right is still very wrong!”
Somalia has entered a new phase of introspection, reinvention, and rebuilding. This, needless to say, makes it incumbent upon all Somalis of good will and vision to participate in the on-going engineering of a viable, just, peaceful, and progressive State. Whether or not the old guard will finally redeem itself by participating and contributing positively to this process remains to be seen.
Abukar Arman is widely published political analyst. He currently serves as Somalia’s Special Envoy to the United States
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