The Tragedy of the Somali People
By Yusuf Mohamed, October 12, 2020
The Somali People, inhabiting the Horn of African plateau are predominantly pastoralist who are socially structured and organized in terms of tribes and clans. In some ways the Somali people are very fortunate in that they speak one language and share one common faith, Islam. However, their greatest misfortune lies in the fact that the pastoralist tribes/clans are strongly harnessed to their primitive tribal customs, biases and prides.
Today more than a thousand years after accepting Islam as their faith, the Somali people are so riven they display very little sense of people joined by faith. The tribes and clans are led by treacherous tribal and clan leaders engaged in a never ending quarrel. The tribal leaders continue to be consumed by their own deceits and treachery. This is clearly being displayed in Mogadishu by the so called Somali politicians and leaders, each of whom is driven by a primitive clan or tribal aspiration and unable to see the greater good in the unity of the Somali People.
Like the rest of African land and people, the Somali plateau fell prey to colonialism in late 19th and early 20th century. It was divided among three European powers, namely Britain, Italy, and France. At the height of African decolonization in 1950s and 1960s, Britain ceded certain parts of the plateau to newly independent Kenya and Ethiopia. Today the Somali territories ceded to Ethiopia and Kenya are known as Region Five and North East Region respectively.
In 1960, the Somali Republic was founded through the union of the Italian Somaliland and the British Somaliland. What was called the French Somaliland remained under the French control until 1977, when France handed control to a new independent country called Djibouti. Upon independence, the population of Djibouti consisted of two major ethnic indigenous people, the Somali and the Afar people.
The Somali Republic came into being in 1960 with a great deal of fanfare and hope for evolution of a strong and healthy Somali Nation. Immediately after its formation, the new Somali Republic embarked on helping the remaining Somali people who were aspiring for independence from Kenya and Ethiopia. Even though they are relatively quiet at moment, the Somali people under Kenya and Ethiopia still yearn for independence from Kenya and Ethiopia to this day.
In 1991, less than 30 years after gaining independence, that hopeful Somali Republic collapsed and sunk into a tribal cesspool.
Today, in 2020 there are no signs that a healthy Somali Nation will ever arise. What is currently being touted as the Federal Somali Republic and being dangled from Mogadishu with the help of foreign jackals is nothing more than an imaginary make believe government to help hoodwink the hapless/hopeless Somali tribes being blindly marched to their end. In the name of Federalism, the Somali people are divided and delineated along tribal/clan lines. This has made the Somali tribes so disdainful of each other such that tribes are primed to cannibalize one another out of existence.
Furthermore, the so called Federal Government is sustained solely by handouts from foreign interests who want to ensure the Somali people remain people with no National or Islamic Purpose. The politicians whose salaries are paid by foreigners will always remain impotent and unable to do good for their people. They are slaves to foreigners paying their salaries.
The Somali men pictured above are the current crop of politicians in Mogadishu. They have no vision and are totally blinded by vagaries of empty tribal pride. They are opportunists of the worst type. Each is solely driven by a strong tribal purpose. They are true masters of tribal treachery. Because they are driven by a strong tribal purpose, each one of them wants to rule and lead men of other tribes for the sole benefit of his own tribe. None of them wants to rule and lead their own tribe for the benefit of the Somali People. As a result these men continue to fight a Somali tribal politics of a zero-sum game with no overlapping area of interest to agree upon.
None of the Somali politicians, be it those in Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Kismayo, Garowe, Beledweyne, Dusamareb, Galkayao, Jijiga, Gode, Djibouti…etc., aspire to articulate a National Purpose for the Somali people. The politicians do not see each other as Somalis. They merely see each other as tribes. They do not see their commonality as Muslims. They only know how to mug, back stab and under cut each other, which is what they have been doing for the last thirty years.
In a bitter twist of irony, most of the Somali politicians today rely on Kenyan, Ethiopian and other foreign mercenaries for protection from their own people. Kenyan and Ethiopian mercenaries get to slaughter poor Somali women and children in cold blood and get paid for it handsomely. That is what Somali tribal politics and politicians have wrought.
The Reach of the Somali Tribal Curse
The Somali tribalism and infighting is deadly. It is a curse. It is a deadly contagion internalized and carried by Somalis from cradle to the grave. It continues to fuel the never ending Somali feud and fratricide. How far is its’ reach?
The division and partition of the Somali people and their land has been very dear. It has resulted in the loss of many Somali lives. What is to be most tragic for the Somali People is yet to come. The fate of the Somalis outside of the former Somali Republic may not fare better than that of those within former Somalia Republic. Their fate may even turn out to be worse.
Djibouti: When Djibouti claimed its Independence in 1977, it opted against joining the Somali Republic. Since the territory was the domain of the Afar & Isa (one of the many Somali tribes), the Isa tribal political leaders of the time wanted to keep the territory ceded by the French for the benefit of the Isa tribe. The first President of Djibouti, Mr. Hassan Gouled Abtidon, who was an Isa tribesman ruled from 1977 to 1999. In 2001 he transferred the presidency to his nephew, the current president of Djibouti, Mr. Ismail Omer Guelleh who is 72 years old. Will Guelleh transfer power to one of his tribesmen? Time will tell. But one thing is certain, in time the Isa/Somali are destined to lose control of the territory as the demography changes due to mass influx of non-Somali immigrants.
The government of Djibouti currently relies on fees extracted from several sources. The primary source of its revenue is Ethiopia, which relies solely on the port of Djibouti for its import and export needs. The port of Djibouti will soon be in a competition with ports in former Somali Republic, such as Berbera, Bossaso, Mogadishu and Kismayo. Tribal politicians are eager to mortgage the ports to Ethiopia and other suitors for a penny. The second source of revue for Djibouti is the rental payments from about half a dozen foreign powers who have established military bases on the territory. Additional revenue is extracted from the hundreds bars and hotels serving alcohols, foods and prostitutes to satisfy the carnal needs of the French Gendarme, other foreign military personnel, seamen and sex tourist coming from the Arabian Gulf.
But most importantly, Djibouti may just go up in smoke at any time. In a supreme act of callousness, Djibouti has prostituted itself to be gangbanged to death. It has offered itself to competing global powers, which include, France, China, the US, Japan, Germany and Italy, all of whom have set up their garrisons several miles apart. It is fair to say that Djibouti is as good as a crippled antelope on the African plains about to be devoured by hyenas and wild dogs.
Somaliland: The citizens of the former British Somaliland were one of the primary forces in birthing the Somali Republic in 1960. Throughout 1960s, 70s, and 80s, they immensely advocated and fought for the liberation of their Somali brothers and sisters who remained under the Ethiopian, Kenyan and French control. In late 1980s, when the Somali Republic started to be consumed by the disease of tribalism and the resultant civil war, the area then known as the Northwest Region, previously British Somaliland become the primary victim of the tribalist Government of President Said Bare. In 1991, following the collapse of Government in Mogadishu, the former British Somaliland declared independence and reconstituted itself as the Somaliland Republic. Even though it has not been recognized as an independent country, it continues to fully function as a State. It succeeded in insulating itself from the chaos that are bewildering Somalis to the south.
In spite of being a relatively peaceful country for nearly thirty years, the Republic of Somaliland has not succeeded in articulating a National Purpose for its people. The fraternal cohesion of its citizenry is still defined in terms tribes. In other words, Somaliland may not have degenerated into a protracted tribal bloodletting as happened in Southern Somalia, but today its people are no less defined by their tribes than are Somalis in the Horn of Africa as whole. Low intensity tribal feud exists and persists in Somaliland. Will it ever be overcome? Absent a clearly articulated and defined National Purpose, it is highly unlikely.
The Somali National State of Ethiopia: This region, variously known as Western Somalia or the Ogaden, is one the most prominent Ethiopian Regions whose people waged a long armed struggle of independence against Abyssinia, aka Ethiopia. In the 1960s,70s and 80s, this Region of Ethiopia along with Eritrea and Tigray waged a bloody war against the military government of Ethiopia. Prominent armed Somali movements which waged war of freedom against Ethiopia include, Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
Today, the future of this region is the most uncertain. On the Eve of the disintegration of the Ethiopian empire, where multitudes of impoverished nations and nationalities are on the cusp of attaining their freedom, the Somali people of Ethiopia are silent and absent from the scene.
For all practical purposes, the Tigray Region of Ethiopia is currently an Independent State, totally free from Ethiopia. The Oromo people of Ethiopia, who are both of the Islamic and Christian Faith are closing arms in a united effort to gain Independence from Ethiopia and they are destined to succeed. But Somalis of Ethiopia show no signs of a people aspiring for self-determination. WSLF and ONLF are nowhere to be found. Those currently leading the Somali Region are neutered. This is a major blow to the Somali who had fervently desired independence and spilled huge blood of their children in earlier years.
The resurgent feudal Amhara nationalists led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who want to resurrect feudal Ethiopia are betting on the support from Somali tribes. The Somali Regional President Mr. Mustafa is one of the most loyal supporters of Abiy Ahmed’s centralist Prosperity Party (PP). The PP is planning to dissolve the Federal Constitution currently binding Ethiopian nationalities together. Somali Regional leaders are currently mobilizing the Somali people in favor of the Prosperity Party of Mr. Abiy. The Regional president and his entourage cadre of politicians are indeed helping noose the Somali tribes for hanging by a resurging feudal Ethiopia.
In a very cunning move, the Amhara of Ethiopia are continuously regaling and praising the Somali Regional leaders. They say Mr. Mustafa is the protector and savior of Ethiopia on the eastern flank. They are playing Somali politicians for fools.
The Amhara have assumed and calculated that like the rest of contemporary Somali tribal politicians on the Horn of Africa whom they have been handling for the last thirty years, the Regional Somali leaders and politicians are also driven by a tribal purpose and impulse. Perhaps Mr. Mustafa and his colleagues know what Mr. Abiy and his Amhara cousins are planning to do to the Somali Region. Perhaps Somali Regional Leaders are just afraid that the Amhara who have significant presence in the Somali Region can easily engineer their replacement with another batch of docile yes men from other tribes. Perhaps the Somali Regional leaders are just playing it safe so they can earn their daily bread tainted with the blood of their people.
In the ongoing dispute between the recently expired government of Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray Region, the speaker of the House of Federation of Ethiopia, Mr. Adem Farah, who is a Somali, is playing the most prominent role. He, rather than the Prime Minister continues to issue threats of punitive measures against the people of Tigray. Should the conflict with Tigray erupt into a shooting war, be rest assured, Mr. Farah will be forced to deliver the young able bodied camel herders of his tribe to do the fighting and dying on the distant badlands of Abyssinian highlands as happened during the 1999 -2000 Ethio-Eritrean war. Thousands of young Somali pastoralists were sent to the war front in 1999 and never returned.
At the moment the Somali people of Ethiopia and their political leaders are to Ethiopia, what a house nigger is to his master. They do not seem to be freedom capable. Until they shed their tribal junk, embrace each other as Somalis and start to believe in the primacy of their Unity, they will never be freedom capable. They will just remain a bewildered disposable quantity on the margin.
What Does the Future Hold for the Somali People?
After thirty years of tribal politics and self-destruction, the Somali People of the Horn of Africa are a truly broken people with uncertain future. The path of tribal politics each tribe embarked upon thirty years ago has now led all of them to a cul-de-sac. All Somalis should now realize that as tribes they have reached a dead end where there is no future for a people driven by a primordial tribal purpose. Their politicians need to recognize this same fact and discontinue leading poor women and children of their own tribes to perdition for personal gains. Politicians in Mogadishu, Djibouti, Hargeisa, Bosaso, Beledweyene, Dusamareb, Kissmayo, Jijiga, Gode..,etc., should realize that the SURVIVAL OF THE SOMALI PEOPLE ON THE HORN OF AFRICA HINGES ON THE COHESION OF THE SOMALI PEOPLE AND REFORMULATION AND REHABILITATION OF THE SOMALI NATION. Failure by the Somali politicians, religious leaders, elders, fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters to urgently recognize this fact and act upon it expeditiously will not be forgiven by History.