By Abdul Ahmed III
Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history
to wait for the train of the future to run over him. Dwight Eisenhower
This article reflects on my views as it reinforces my arguments on and about the former Somalia (1960-1991). The following points are for the optimists and skeptics alike. I have no desire – or at a minimum reluctant to – convert the cynics for they may be hostages for an illusion.
1. The Former Somalia: A technical and a Political Term
The term “former Somalia” is an academic and a technical term as well as a political term. I first used the term in 2009 to characterize the collapse of the former Somali Republic 1960-1991 (Please refer to my WardheerNews article The Former Somalia: Facts and Fallacies). The term also signifies the abstract idea that whatever is left of the former Somalia is not the Somalia of the past.! Think of the Ship of Theseus! (or refer to my article titled Saving Somalia: Theseus Paradox).
The term is equally a political term embodying and articulating a political viewpoint; Awareness of failure, irreversibility, and the need to abandon a Mogadishu based Somali state. The former Somalia didn’t work; it was not viable!. Otherwise, it would exist today. Its collapse is complete and irreversible. Ethnic and religious homogeneity does not guarantee statehood. (there are too many examples in the world to list).
The collapse of the former Somalia is certainly not the highest achievement for what was supposed to be a homogenous nation-state. But there is nothing exceptional or unique about that. Nations fail, disintegrate, and life goes on! The exception in this case – and for that matter the problem- is the interminable attempts to restore the past, the imposition of a forced coexistence by attempting to restore the former Somalia.! A pointless effort for 29-years!
The idea of a sacrosanct Mogadishu based nation-state is a dangerous notion advanced by the decadent heroes of Mogadishu. Let me state the forbidden truth; there is nothing divine or sacred about a Somali-nation state. There is nothing holy or sacred about the old blue flag of the former Somalia. (itself modeled on the United Nations flag after contentious discussions in Mogadishu back in 1950s).
2.On the Misfortunes of Puntland
Is Puntland ill-fated? The answer is a resounding “No”! Bewitched though it may! Here is an excellent way to appreciate the abstract idea of Puntland Bewitched. Sometimes, ideas embedded in literature do an excellent job of explaining social and political life.
Essayist like the late Christopher Hitchens often use the classics to show us present-day ironies. So let us make use of literature and particularly the story of John Marcher; the Beats in the Jungle in the celebrated work of Henry James titled “Best Sorts”.
This story can beautifully demonstrate the irony of Puntland’s idée fixe. Just like John Marcher, deferred living a good life for an obsession with a future event that will change his destiny, the leaders of Puntland (past and present) are fixated with a glorious a future event!.
Puntland is obsessed with an ordained and an illusory Somali-nation state. I worry that Puntland, just like John Marcher would realize it didn’t live to its full potential. I advise Puntland not to suspend judgment; Don’t live in the past! Shape the future – your future! Puntland must unchain itself from Mogadishu. Puntland must focus on building human capital, that is unchallengeable sacred mission! A better fixation? Irrefutably Yes!
3.The Language of Patriotism / (Pan)-Somalism: Past and Present
I want the reader to understand that the concept of nationhood is culturally rooted phenomena, the conception of the former Somalia is no different. Somali political and social life itself is based on some established frames of reference, some mode of knowing and established cultural schema.
Pan-Somalism – the idea of Somali nation-state – was just one of those epistemological frames, a framing and language intended to liberate, to wage war against colonial powers. A framing with which Somali peopled achieved some sort of a socio-political cohesion. The idea of a Somali-nation state may have had currency in the 1940s. It worked for the anti-colonial movements! Sadly, it didn’t work for the Somalis to govern themselves in a single united nation-state.
Today! Patriotism / (Pan)-Somalism – as a political and cultural framing -is appropriated by the decadent heroes of Mogadishu. The decadent’s heroes of Mogadishu are acrimonious self-appointed custodians of Somalism whose raison d’etre is to subjugate the peaceful areas of the former Somalia.
For them, the language of Patriotism / (Pan)-Somalism is a tool to conduct political contestation, for abuse and coercion against Puntland, and Jubbaland (and Somaliland to a lesser extent). Patriotism / (Pan)-Somalism has become a language of war, subjugation, A sacred abuse! A call for submission, a surrender to relinquish one’s history and identity. What is sacred about that? What to like about that?
Abdul Ahmed III
Abdul Ahmed is the president and founder of Strategy and Operations Group and former employee of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in Washington DC.
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