I hasten to support and send congratulations to Faisal Robleh for a splendid article on Ethiopia and the current cries of anti-Ethiopian ( not necessarily pro-Somali ) “nationalism”. Faisal is absolutely right that the Ethiopian factor has played in the past, as it does now, a major part in Somalia 's clan politics – the clans being our real and indisputable political parties.
There was an agreement between Mengistu on the one hand and a triumvirate of Somali war-lords ( Cydiid , Tuur , and Jees ) on ther hand on how to divide Somalia after the overthrow of Siad Barre . As a matter of fact Mengistu is reported to have said just before his own debacle and after signing that agreement ,“ We would have seen the end of Somalia were it not for the pressure of the Weyanes ” or words to that effect. But, when we ourselves were united we also played a large part in destabilizing Ethiopia , and the current regime in Ethiopia owes its origin partly to Somali encouragement and support. Ethiopia , let us not forget, is now a divided country; for one thing, it has become two countries ( Eritrea and the residual Ethiopia ), for another, there are nationalisms still simmering in the present-day Ethiopia and we played a decisive role in all this.
Somalia has been a source of trouble for Ethiopia , not only because of the territorial dispute but also because we have fostered different nationalisms within Ethiopia proper thereby endangering the very existence of Ethiopia . But two of the salient differences between Ethiopia and Somalia are: (a) Somalia is homogeneous and Ethiopia is very heterogeneous; (b) Somalis are attached more to their livestock and for them unrestricted grazing is most important, whilst Ethiopians are very much attached ( almost to the point of worship ) to the land which they cultivate and live on. It was because of this latter observation that the British thought that the Somalis would not raise a voice if, upon the transfer of the Haud and Reserved Area – an area of 25,000 square miles – they would be guaranteed unrestricted transhumance. The British realized that they underestimated the reaction of the Somalis and tried unsuccessfully to rectify the situation. That, however, is a different story.
We should understand and appreciate the fact that Ethiopia today is vastly different from the Imperial Ethiopia we knew; Ethiopian mentality has been perceptibly changing and the attitude towards Somalis has also been changing for the better since the overthrow of the Emperor. Even in the days of Mengistu it was clearly understood that the economies of Ethiopia and Somalia were so manifestly interdependent that the two countries shared a common survival which would be endangered if they did not work together towards its maximization. I saw these positive changes unfolding before my eyes in the course of the twenty-two years I lived in Addis Ababa , not as an Ethiopian national but as a Somali national working for the U.N. It is regrettable, however, that our own internal divisions did not allow us to engage our Ethiopian neighbors in any useful negotiation. On the contrary, we ourselves invited them to divide us from the moment the SSDF and SNM arrived and took up residence in Addis Ababa .
When we ourselves seek different alliances with Ethiopia , the Yemen , Egypt , Libya – and God knows who else – against each other Somali nationalism can only be found in the gutter; our situation is such that even puny Djibouti made transparent attempts to play the role of a kingmaker in Somalia . I agree with the State Department that the Somalis themselves have the means to restore their moribund state. But the means are first and foremost in the hands of those who dragged our dignity to the gutter and who are crying today that the sovereignty of Somalia is being compromised by inviting in foreign troops. Our sovereignty has been non-existent in practical terms for the last fifteen years. How can we then raise our heads with pride and cry “sovereignty”?
I agree that there should be no need for foreign troops to make us behave ourselves, if we behave ourselves on our own. But then if we were willing to put our house in order we would not have troubled the neighbors – and the rest of the world for that matter - with desperate pleas for help. Our capital is unsafe, our people are displaced and dispossessed, our refugees are scattered in the four corners of the globe and the nation is held hostage to the whims of the riffraff ‘generals' of ragtag militia armies who are playing havoc in the capital. Yet, our government in exile cannot temporarily settle elsewhere in the country until we bring order and security to our national capital? A strange logic indeed!
I wish to close which a quotation which might help us reflect on our situation as Somalis:
Being ourselves the sowers and the seeds,
The night that covers and the lights that fade,
The spear that pierces and the side that bleeds,
The lips betraying and the life betrayed.
If ,as I think, Oscar Wilde's above lines truly depict our situation why do we have to complain about others, and to others to correct our own multiple follies ?
By: Ismail Ali Ismail
Copyright © 2005 Wardheernews.com