It was arrogance, sheer arrogance of colonial times; another British PM in the 21st century dictating his terms to a beleaguered African nation.
David Cameron buoyed by his victory in Libya wanted an international endorsement to air bomb Somalia under the pretext of fighting Al Shabab and Piracy but in real truth he wanted to address domestic concerns: read Olympics, economic hardships, British tourism in Kenya, future oil & mineral prospects and home security, genuine interests indeed against genuine threats coming from a poor Horn of African nation. It was unacceptable, genuinely unacceptable.
But genuine causes are not enough. No politician and especially a British for that matter flaunt naked objectives. They have to be sugar coated with diplomacy and altruism. And this is why decisions were already made, the daggers were out and the victim was brought to the altar to submit to his fate or sign his verdict.
The whole episode looked like a Scramble for Africa all over again. Even the Group Photo shows Cameron’s arrogance standing as a colonial governor in the front and apart from the rest. No wonder my mind raced back to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and flashes of the Mad Mullah’s resistance to the British colonization. You see, history is hard to forget, especially its painful episodes and oppression is never far from the African heart. And in the 21st century when all are educated and aware about the real intentions it is painful to see someone exploiting you because of your circumstances.
There is no doubt that the Somali people who suffered under the ruthless rule of Al Shabab and experienced how their twisted thinking has converted Islam and Sharia into a ghoulish nightmare will absolutely welcome any force that could liberate them from the grip of Al Shabab.
Looking at this situation one may be forgiven to welcome a deal with the devil and say: “Muslinimo ninkaan kugu wadayn muumino khaas ah, gaal maxasta kuu dhawra ood magansataa dhaama…” (If a leader doesn’t manage your affairs in the true spirit of Islam with pure honesty and fairness, it is better to seek refuge in a non-Muslim who cares for the wellbeing of your family.”
And this is why the Somali leaders, who stood like colonial subjects before their colonial master, had been put between a rock and a hard place. The bitter reality came in Sheikh Sharif’s speech: “We’re looking for security. We’re scared of tomorrow.” And tomorrow indeed is very scary and has been scary for many of the Somali people and particularly for Somali mothers’ over the last twenty years.
But a sound and a pragmatic reading of the regional political landscape may bring forth another ironic analogy from the rich Somali literature: “Baadida nin baa kula dayday, daalna kaa badina, oon doonahayn in aad heshaa, daayin abidkaaye.” (There is a man who searches your lost beasts with you and even makes extra efforts, but who deep in his heart does not want you to find them).
But despite the current situation, Sheikh Sharif could have reminded the British Prime Minister that Somalia was not always a “failed state” nor it is now. That there was a day when Somalia was fixing the problems of its African brothers that are now boasting to fix it; that it was Somalia that successfully mediated a conflict between Idi Amin’s Uganda and Nyereere’s Tanzania in 1972 and averted an imminent war; that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was once a refugee in Mogadishu and that his Tigrean movement would not have been successful in deposing Mengistu Haile Mariam if the communist regime in Addis Ababa was not broken by the powerful Somali army in 1977; that Somalia was the first African country where two elected civilian presidents passed power to each other democratically in 1967; that even now and despite the world media focus on what is wrong with Somalia; that the Somali people have one of the robust, cheapest and fast growing telecommunications sectors in Africa; that Somalis have the most successful money transfer companies in Africa; that Somalis have more airlines and more universities now than ever.
Sheikh Sharif could have reminded Cameron and the world that with their known entrepreneurial skills Somali people have activated the business sectors in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salam, Kampala, South Africa and beyond; that the streets of some our towns in Somaliland; Puntland and other areas are more safe than the streets of many African countries, have achieved more progress than ever achieved in the 30 years under independence; that what is right with Somalia can easily offset what is wrong if foreign terrorists and governments with vested interests were not meddling with our affairs; that a well trained, well armed and well paid Somali army would have defeated Al Shabab and secured the country more than an foreign force could ever do.
Sheikh Sharif could have reminded Cameron that the British had a moral duty to support what was right in Somalia as was eloquently expressed by Alex De Waal in his brilliant piece Getting Somalia Right This Time.
Sheikh Sharif should have told Cameron that if he met his promises and translated his words into reality by emulating the Turkish role and building big projects then Somalis would definitely tolerate and welcome his colonial arrogance and may forget the dark legacy that his patronizing posture evokes; a legacy that was the root cause of Somalia’s plight today. For it was Cameron’ predecessors, British gentlemen like him, who divided the Somali territory and gifted parts of it to neighboring countries against the will of the Somali people. It was the indefatigable search for the dream of greater Somalia that Cameron’s forefathers have shattered in the 20th century that led the Somalis to end up in vain and turn against each other in frustration in the 21st century.
Bashir Goth, 26th Feb. 2012.