There is a saying “We have met the enemy and He is us” and the same applies to Somalis as we are our own worst enemy. We acknowledge the need for unity and solidarity, but our actions and behaviors show otherwise. Disunity and miss-communication are the norms amongst our leaders and the syndrome of “Aan wax qalano, mindiyahana kala qarsanno” is wide spread. Our Somali intellectuals are defaming one another, searching the faults of one another and such war of words are emotionally detrimental to our young generation who are reading, seeing and listening.
It is difficult to attain unity and brotherhood without eradicating these ills from our heart. These symptoms are even evident in many of our Islamic scholars. We see some of our scholars using the Quran and Hadith merely to score points and as ammunition to defeat one’s opponents. For the knowledge gained by our Somali religious scholars and intellectuals to bear fruit, they need to harmonise their head and heart, have constructive dialogue and use emotions intelligently.
Words used in a destructive manner are more lethal than any weapon as it leaves scars to the human soul. This is what made the cost of the Somali conflict unbearable in terms of the loss of human life, physical and emotional scars. The hostile relationship has got integrated into our society; history got written and passed down through families, painting one’s own side as virtuous and the other side as evil. These messages are heard over and over again from one’s parents, one’s teachers, one’s friends and it got very hard to question or oppose such beliefs. For example, youth within Al -Shabaab were the recipient generations that grew up in violence and bitterness and their leaders took advantage by channeling their anger and frustration destructively. High youth population is the greatest asset we have and failure to nurture and channel their energy constructively will result them to be our greatest liability.
The main problem we have today is that there are many young Somalis abroad and home who to a great extent changed their apparent way of life and calling for a change and establishment of religion. However, there are many, some amongst this category, who have only changed the external behaviour and yet they have failed to change internally. If the change was sincere, then we would not see symptoms of arrogance and impoliteness in them. The same arrogance that was in them before is the same arrogance here. The only difference is that arrogance is being channeled to different directions and displayed elsewhere. When our youth witness this in their behaviour, they should realise that although there is sincerity, there is misguidance and although there is true concern, they are channeling their faculties, strength and their abilities to the wrong direction. One of the first signs of true change and repentance is humbleness and humility. If arrogance still remains, then that is not a true change, because arrogance is classified as the mother of all diseases.
The Somali conflict today has reached a point where no one side is getting any closer to achieving its goals and no one is happy with the situation (It is un-winnable). Historically, our ancestors have experienced similar situation and left us a list of proverbs and poems to shed light on our current experience. But the problem is that we view our ancestors is as if they hold no importance for us and they lived in times so different from our own that they are incapable of shedding light on our experience. But history does matter. It has been said that “he who controls the past controls the future”. Even the doctor, to get accurate picture of one’s state of health asks for his/her medical history. One’s health is heavily influenced by the past (Your heredity, past behaviours, past experiences are all important determinants and clues to your present condition). Therefore, we need to look inwards for solutions, if we are to have any hope turning this prolonged conflict around. Let us offer few old Somali proverbs based on conflicts that can shed light on our current situation:
• Masaar geed ma goyso ee geed kalayse ku gooysaa (Gudiney ima aad gooyseene ee qayb iga mid ah baa kugu jirta).
• Rag waxaad walaal uga waydid waran ugama heshid.
• Ninkii habeenkii codkaaga yaqaano, maalintiina raadkaaga yaqaano lalama coloobo.
• Rag Waday oo waayay waxay walaalow ku dhaamaan.
• Rag I daa kugumo daayo ee aynu isdayno ayuu kugu daayaa.
No one can offer quick fix solution and overnight resolution to change our current situation. But we cannot let ourselves fall into complacency, must be willing to get our hands dirty, and take ownership of our current problem. Not addressing a problem head-on today creates bigger one tomorrow. Tomorrow’s problem may end up to be the results of today’s short sighted solution. In order change our current situation, firstly we need to reform our heart at individual level as Allah will not change our situation until individuals change and individuals will never change until the heart is reformed. It is the individuals who make up the Somali nation. With regards to achieving unity and brotherhood, the prophet in simple hadith prescribed the following actions:
“Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah’s worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you)!”- Sahih Al Bukhari, Vol. 8 Number 90
These ills are all related to the heart and our biggest problem is that we all want the final thing (Unity, Solidarity and Brotherhood), but want to miss out on things the prophet SCW mentioned before unity and brotherhood. We many times draw our own wrong conclusion about a word somebody said or has written and it is becoming rare to see someone give his brother a benefit of the doubt. By doing this, we have failed on the first step of the prescriptions given above. We need to suppress our commanding soul inside us and eradicate the above mentioned ills from our heart. There is Rwandan proverb (who themselves experienced civil conflict) that says “You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you”.
Finally, with regards to the conflict between Alshabaab and the government, we all have tendency to support a zero-tolerance policies and evidence shows such policies costs a lots of money and results are questionable. Using force alone is like using Aspirin to cure a brain tumour, it may relieve the pain but not provide the cure to brain tumour. We really need long-term commitment to dialogue and reconciliation and re-frame the problem to open up a whole new set of solutions (Social reform). The main problem is that people underestimate the costs of continuing the conflict, and overestimate their chances of winning. Therefore the Government should not abandon its pursuit of peace via dialogue and reconciliation, it is never easy and often one step forward two steps back.
Also Al-Shabaab leaders must look at the difficult circumstances the Somalis are in due to this prolonged conflict and change their direction towards pursuing peace. It is important to note that Peace demands the most heroic labour and the most difficult sacrifice; it demands greater heroism than war. It is an opportune moment for us Somalis to make our resolution for the beginning of this new Islamic Hijriyah year, the year Somalia migrated from war and disunity to peace and togetherness.
By: Bazi Bussuri Sheikh