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  • An Advice to Obama Administration, The US State Department and the International Community, Understanding Somalia Explained by a Somali

    Posted by on September 4, 2009

    hand writingIntroduction

    The international community, led by different US administrations, tried to resolve Somalia’s problem many times before but failed, because those who represented the various countries for the mission did not fully understand the cultural and socioeconomic dynamics of Somalia. Moreover, they did not study the mosaic nature of the Somali culture, except the US under President Clinton, which prepared a small book called the “Somali Handbook” that covered the simplest basics of Somali clan interactions. In addition, the delegates mainly relied on foreign scholars who erroneously claimed to have comprehensive knowledge of the country, its people, and their culture. This lack of understanding of Somalia will once again lead to failures if the issue is not addressed in advance.

    But before any engagement is planned, the US and Europe should believe in their own minds and hearts that saving Somalia is not a humanitarian mission alone, but an insurance on their safety, economics, and global politics. They should recognize and identify a quantifiable benefit which can be directly attributed to the rescue.

    When that benefit is identifies, the interested groups should study Somalia first and try to understand why the Somali society is behaving in the way it is.

    In this piece, I will try my best to illuminate the intrinsic composition of Somalia, and separate the myth from the reality.

    In 1976, when I left Somalia, it was a peaceful, relatively prosperous, and powerful country. Even though the country was by no means rich, it had adequate infra-structure that was constantly being improved. There were hundreds of elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and a major university with about nine colleges. I went to the College of Medicine there. There were hospitals and other health clinics throughout the country. Somalia used to claim that it was the only country in this World with 100% Muslim population. It was true, but our version of Islam was very tolerant of other beliefs and of its own people for over 1400 years. The tolerance was the moral code of life in Somalia. This fact is pointed out in the Somali Handbook (1993) which states, “For hundreds of years before the fifteenth century, goodwill had existed between the dominant new civilization of Islam and the Christian neguses of Ethiopia.” After the fifteenth century, the Christian crusaders’ involvement in the area is blamed for the deterioration of the goodwill as is stated in the Somali Handbook (1993), “A Portuguese expedition led by Pedro da Gama, a son of Vasco da Gama who was looking for the Prester John of medieval European folklore–a Christian, African monarch of vast dominions–arrived from the sea….” The issue turned into a land dispute which still exists today. As a matter of fact, our farm was divided by the British in half in 1954, placing it into two different countries.

    Who are Somalis?

    Anthropologist and historians classify Somalis as Hamites, because of their language. Some scholars say that Somalis are a mix between Arabian religious evangelists and the natives of the area. Others believe that Somalis are a band of the Pharaohs who sailed through the red sea after they were defeated, and sought refuge at the Horn of Africa which they used to trade with (Puntland Story). Regardless of their origin, and despite the current volatile situation, Somalis are tolerant, pragmatic, entrepreneurial, and sociable society who can be dealt with. Secondly, Somalis are not religious extremists as they appear to be today; they can be rehabilitated to the ways they used to be before the 1990 (tolerant), if the appropriate steps are followed.

    Myth about Somalia


    Some writings erroneously claim that the Somalis are violent, and warmongers who always start wars in the horn of Africa. This is not true. However, there is a major resentment of the West, Ethiopia and Kenya because of the division of the Somali territory in 1947 by the US and European Colonizers.

    In early nineteenth century, the Christian crusaders did not want to see a large Muslim population on the Horn of Africa and advised the colonial powers to divide Somalia into five parts so the Somalis could never have any influence on the Horn of Africa; One region (Italian Somalia) was given to Italy, another one (British Somaliland) to United Kingdom, and a third region (French Somaliland) to France. In addition, they annexed western Somalia to Ethiopia in 1954 including part of our farm, and southern Somalia (NFD) to Kenya in 1963. This fact is in the history books and creates a lot of friction between the neighboring countries in East Africa and the Horn.

    Current Facts about Somalia

    A. Physical Hurdles:


    1. There is a country wide civil war that started after the collapse of the Somali government in 1999. The war is perpetuated and fueled mainly by foreign elements with ulterior movtives.
    2. Because of the lack of government and guidance, Islamic extremists anchored their feet in Somalia for the last twenty years and preyed on the young and impressionable lost children. They brainwashed them to the extent that the children can actually consider their tolerant parents as the enemies of Allah and will not spare them during the so-called Jihad.
    3. Since there were neither any support mechanisms nor formal schools available to the current teenagers, the majority of them depend on their guns for their existence.

    B. Mental Hurdles to Trusting the West:

    Historic Hurdles:


    1. General Somali population is filled with resentment against the Europeans and Americans, because every Somali knows they used to rule and run the affairs of the Horn and East Africa before 18th century, (Adal Empire of today’s Gadabursi clan) and that the division of Somalia in early nineteenth century into five parts was deliberate, joint Western decision. Most Somalis clans have some families, or entire sub-clans who could have helped their respective clans in the Somali political struggle, in the annexed regions. This always frustrates them, and perpetuates the anger towards the West. Moreover, the wound is always bruised when the neighboring countries mistreat their Somali subjects, because the Somali settled districts have different policing rules, set by the colonial powers, than the rest of the countries. Northern district of Kenya, where Somalis live, is one of them.
    2. Since the Western nations divided Somalia and never bothered to at least ease the tensions and pressure on the border populations, the Somalis always question the sincerity of Western nations’ help.
    3. Somalis see Ethiopia as their eternal enemy and will never believe that Ethiopia will genuinely help Somalia.

    New Hurdles:


    1. Somalis relate to Middle Eastern Arabs of Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, and consider them blood relatives, especially to Saddam Hussein’s Hashemites because the first Islamic teachers who came to Somalia to spread Islam in sixth century came from there. As a matter of fact, the genealogical trees of four prominent Somali clans, such as the Darood clan, Isaaq clan , Samaron clan and the Issa clan end with four Islamic teachers who came from Iraq, (Shaykh Daarood Jabarti , Shaykh Isahaaq, shaykh Samaron, and Shaykh Issa). I am of the Samaroon clan, and my geneology ends with the following names: Samaroon, Said, Ali, Yahya Bin Hashim, bin harun. And the way Bush treated Saddam Hussein still rings fire in the ears of every Somali. It reopened the nineteenth century wound from the European Colonizers and Christian crusaders’ joint decision to divide Somalia, and stirred up the old resentment. This is the most important point that the religious extremists are using today to exploit and recruit the Somali youth
    2. When Bush sent Ethiopian troops, the arch enemy of Somalia, to conquer Somalia it rejuvenated the old pain and cemented a new unprecedented strong anti-west sentiment. This is the second point that the Islamic extremists exploited and fully utilized. Even I, the educated and tolerant Somali American was infuriated by Bush’s move to use Ethiopia. How do you suppose that the young, illiterate, confused, gun totting, and brainwashed Somali teenagers felt?
    3. . Every Somali believes that the Sheikh Sharif Ahmed government is US and the West decoy which can not be trusted. It is a very bad stigma.

    C: Is Somalia Worth Saving?

    Question: When the West knows that there is a historic mistrust of the West and Christians, which the Somalis cannot easily forget, and Bush bruised the wound again in 2003, and 2007, is it wise to attempt to save Somalia?

    The answer to the above question is “Yes.”

    D: Possible Solutions:


    1. First of all, the physical hurdles must be dealt with physically using heavy military force, because of the presence of heavily armed foreign elements. Secondly, the mental hurdles must dealt with mentally and emotionally by collaborating trust through building schools, creating jobs, rehabilitating the infrastructure, and interacting with the public directly.
    2. Secondly, the US and Europeans should not consult with the so-called foreign Somali experts. These self-appointed experts mislead every discourse and discussion, because they do not have the slightest idea what a Somali feels now or felt for the last hundred and fifty years (150). Reciting a poem in one language does not make one an expert in any culture. Such experts predicted that America was not ready for a black president yet. In fact, cultural responses to events do not follow the expected norms, they sway drastically based on deep seated feelings that are not visible to the foreign intellect. These so-called experts always fall short.
    3. Thirdly, neither the US nor the Europeans should advertise their support for the Somali government even though they are investing millions. Doing so will strengthen the recruitment of young Somalis against the government, and will undermine the government’s efforts to claim to be the long awaited peace creating Somali Government, and not an Uncle Tom government of the west.
    4. Lastly, the West must use Somali friendly countries such as Egypt in bringing stability to Somalia, because Somalis trust Egyptians very much. They will feel very comfortable with Egypt, and that would reduce the extremists’ recruitments, because there will not be the evil America and Europe to fight against. The World should give credit to Egypt and not the West to satisfy mental hurdles I and 2.

    However, there must be great over site in making sure that the intended help gets where it was supposed to go and not end up in the pockets of some foreign and Somali care takers.

    If the international community follows this plan or similar ones, Somalia could be stabilized within a few years.

    E-mail me at


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