Somalia: Road to Nowhere

Published: August 18, 2011

In the last two months, it was estimated that over 30,000 Somali babies died by hunger and diseases in the Dabaab refugee camp in Kenya. Through the News media from all over the world, we witnessed Somali mothers burying their dead babies with no visible tears on their faces. “Why are you not crying?” One mother was asked by a reporter. “My eyes refuse to shed tears. We come from God and thus we return to God.” She replied as she continued to dig a grave in order to bury her precious son who survived the treacherous walk to Kenya but died in the camp. All of the sudden, it feels like 1993 again when the great famine prompted United States to deployed the US army in Somalia in order to halt the famine there.
Why is this happening again? Why can Somalis not get along? Who is to blame?
Somalia’s endless agony is about leaders and their narratives. Over the past twenty years, they have narrowed their goals to merely seeking publicity and making few dollars through their divisive politics driven by lose/lose strategy of demeaning each other and at the end no one emerges as the winner. Most of the visible leaders seem to be glued in the divisive and destructive politics of 1990s that ended up destroying Somalia.  People are now yearning for unity and a nation building; the current politicians should make their politics in line with the aspiration of the people.
The narrative that made this carnage possible says “I am your clan and don’t you trust them as they belong to the other clan.” The fruits of their labors did not only create these manmade famines but they turned Somalia into small pockets of clannish enclaves.
Despite the agony of the famines and the wars, I see a historic opportunity for “the change generation”. With this great pain of famine, the world’s attention is currently upon Somalia. There are many Somalis who truly want to win the peace from all over the world. Sometimes transformational opportunities come in the form of pain. It all depends upon the mind of the people. This pain could force changes in the minds of the leaders in Somalia. Somalis do not only need food but they need government. Giving food to people is a short term while government is a long term solutions to the problems.
There are now over hundreds of Facebook groups created by young Somalis whose ultimate desire is to see Somalia return to a peaceful era. I refer to those groups as “the change generation”. I believe that each of their efforts counts and the combination of these efforts could add value to the peace initiatives in Somalia. As the change generation attempt to look back and try to draw historical inspiration from the past leaders, they discover nothing but divisive and mistrust among the political elites of the past.
With no political map to follow, where do you go from here?
Look no further. The answers could be found within your reach. When the young Somalis from the Somali Youth League, were making history in 1945, they had no political roadmap nor did they have access to technology. With merely imagination and hard work, they achieved a marvelous accomplishment and thus history recorded. With diverse knowledge and talent coupled with imagination, diligence, access and cheap technology, the change generation can set a grand objective of earning the peace in Somalia and achieve it. Therefore, they too could be remembered by history.
This generation must not only alter the destructive narrative but replace it with a new forward narrative that says “If you want to build and feed or add value to any Somalis anywhere, count me in. I am with you.” This narrative must carry no blame for any Somalis for the utter destruction of Somalia as a nation. It is very easy to pass the blames and to point the finger to each other but it is rather difficult to think strategically and beyond the carnage and the shame of seeing Somalis in the refugee camps around the world.
This change generation must play a win/win political strategy with inclusivity, compromise and rigor in order to reach a sustainable peace in Somalia. To elaborate this point, meet Ahmed and Yusuf who were born in Somalia during the war. They are now in their 20s. Yusuf is from Puntland, a region in Northeastern Somalia, and Ahmed is from Mogadishu. Ahmed and Yusuf met through virtual social media as they began to debate and share information. They agreed on virtually everything except politics. Through their online debates, they realized that they have a political mistrust which they inherited from the ongoing civil war in Somalia. Although both parents hold deep grudges toward each other’s clans, Ahmed and Yusuf want to see a united and peaceful Somalia. However, they are part of the political climate which already existed before they were born.
Ahmed and Yusuf are creative readers and they read as they try to force their minds to think beyond the status quo. One day, Ahmed and Yusuf realized that they are not enemies of each other. They uncover that their true enemy is ignorance. If they cooperate and pursue a grand vision of putting their shared interests above personal or clan agenda, they could better their conditions. If the country wins, then all its citizens win as well. They want to move forward but they have no leaders who share their desires.
Ahmed, Yusuf and those women and children who are at the verge of death in the refugee camps are waiting for leaders who will not compromise but cultivate their core value of putting the country first and caring of the weak and the orphans in Somalia.
In a famous passage, Dwight D. Eisenhower put it best “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Somalis are waiting the courageous leader who will take stand, force a new political narrative and get the change generation to transform the country to an ideal place of peace and development.
History is calling. Will you be that leader?
***Mohamed. J. Farah, M. Ed., is an academic advisor, a writer, a lecturer and a contributor of http://

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