By Abdiwahid Warsame
There is a lot of suffering and despair in the pupil of an eye of a Somali person. First the Somali’s were proud, pastoral and nomadic moving around the camel wilderness of the Horn of Africa. They were free of the governmental rules and regulations that were associated with modern governance. A nomad is free and independent and only subject to his environs and consciously aware of his personal limits. Pride and self-indulgence is culturally embedded in a nomadic society. He is with his kin group. His needs are basic, never worries about affluence of material wealth.
The land is the source of sustenance that provides nourishment and sets his behavior toward one another. Integrity and bravery are associated with leadership and revered. The nomadic culture discourages and disdains theft and lies and anyone related with it has no moral turpitude and is regarded as worthless. Cowardice has no place in the nomadic life and any person associated with it would lose respect and place of dignity. Generosity and adherence of the cultural norms are traits that have been enshrined and passed to the young. An elder woman teaches the young girls in early ages how to care a child and build houses.
Young girls run the household starting at seven years of age. A nomadic family gives a young girl considerable amount of responsibilities around the house. Young boys are assigned daily work such as herding and learning Quran. Masculine culture and virtue of manhood during tough times is highly regarded as the best way to protect and make sure the continuity of the kin group to the next generation. The culture of nomads cannot host and shelter the weak and dependent as this creates a burden on meager resources and hinders the constant mobility.
Droughts and other tribal warfare are the most calamities that face a tribal commune. Dagger and spear are the weapons of choice to fight and the warriors have a chain of command and structure. Usually the warriors and the elders have the decision to initiate war against another tribe due to past feud grievances that has not settled. The culture of tribes in Somalia is full of vindication and revenge. Not to kill the elderly, women and the children is culturally a matter regarded highly sensitive, but to spare and hold a captured warrior of war is costly and difficult. A warrior is not allowed to rape women and destroy properties, but can collect and take the spoils of war. The most desired spoils of war are mostly camel and cows. A sign of fear in warrior’s face will degrade his social status and would lead to the loss of rank among his peers.
A nomad upholds dearly the code of honor to safeguard the respect and dignity of his kin. Gerald Hanley a British colonial solder went to Somalia after the Italians were defeated in Somalia.He wrote “… never saw a Somali who showed any fear of death, which, impressive though it sounds, carries within it the chill of pitilessness and ferocity as well. If you have no fear of death you have none for anybody else’s either, but that fearlessness has always been essential to the Somalis who have had to try and survive hunger, disease and thirst while prepared to fight and against their enemies…” The harsh terrain that lacks enough water pushed the nomads to the limits for being tough and adapting to the reality of their environs.
A Somali male nomad is slim, tall, handsome, and full of life with a thin and lean face. He hopes and dreams to fulfill the communal expectation that blossoms fully in his early twenties. The character of a boy at the age of twelve in nomadic culture sets his definitive personality for the years to come. The elders and wise men in the community observe and read the quality of young boys for his mental capacity and endurance that will determine his leadership credentials. The scorching heat of the sun beats his body and the darkness of the night shapes his spiritual presence.
Night brings darkness and restricts the movement of a nomad, unless it is necessary to do so. The adolescents of both sexes engage in playful flirtation with each other for a night life. This activity is a joyful and poetic event and lifts up the spiritual being of the nomad. A man metaphorically praises his desired girl, while presenting his intellectual sharpness to convince her to marry. Usually a night play takes place during the time of plenty mostly in the rainy season. It holds the peer group together socially to forge friendship and is a way to pass cultural norms. The girls and boys are elatedly discussing the incoming play of the night. The sky covered darkness and serenity of peace around the scene. The chants are loud to stir up and rock the sense of a sleeping nomad.
The heavenly camel is shining the eastern tip of the sky as the chants shook the air and makes waves of sound driving to further distance. The play participants are exchanging verses of short poems in between clapping period.
The first appearance of a Somali woman’s face is fresh, creamy and innocent. The eyes are bright and gleaming with humility and sense of pride. They talk politely and respond softly. The soft and neatly braided hair of Somali women was mentioned in the song of “Berrihore waxaajiray and Gobsanaa Hablahayagu,which the singer Saalax Qaasin Naaji stated in his pleasant voice “Markaguudka loo daboo timahagedefka loo xiro, tirisadaan guqaangaar gayaankood usoobaxo… waagaari nolol wacan lagusoo gardaadshee gobsanaahablahayagu” the lyrics of Abwaan MaxamuudYaasiin ” Dheeg”, member of Somaliland house of elders of Hargeisa and Abwaan Mohamed Abdullahi Sangub respectively. She walks gently, gracefully, and nobility with a feminist sway and strong calf muscles.
The smile of a Somali woman with dimples around her face is unique and sensual, and her teeth are white with a dark gum. The breast is ample above the small and curve waist descends down geometrically to the healthy and fertile hips. The traditional dress of a Somali nomadic woman is a Guntino seddexdhudo cloth made of white cotton warped three times around their waist. The complete veil and Hijab that the Somali women now wear does not represent what the early Somali nomadic wore.
What disturbed the peaceful and egalitarian landscape of the Somali nomadic society? Modernity! So called modernity is most to blame. The nascent government of Somalia in 1960 brought something new and completely different to what the people of Somali had culturally known. A so-called rule of law the new and small urbanities copied the departed European legal papers that had nothing to do with the indigenous norms.
This superseded the known legal tradition which complicated the relationship between the citizens and the governing body. The national leaders dogmatically believed the ultimate solution of the social ills was through government policies and centralized all the decisions regarding the livelihood of the people without putting in place a mechanism to safeguard the destructive appetite of government machine. The known hierarchical culture drowned and the new system started to re-engineer and renegotiate the social contract among the society. The emerging ruling class dressed like the departed European and adapted the way of life different from the main. They sought loyalty while draconian rule associated with foreign oppressors continued to present its ugly face. The applied policies in post-colonial era lacked an equilibrium device to allow the imported system embed with the local.
The disparity between the two modes of system was wide and incompatible because one is a sophisticated complexity rather than a simple elementary system. The nomadic way of life is related with pastoralism though it has a lot of good qualities but its rudimental elements could not support the birth of modern governance. The European colonizer in Africa came from a society that was basically urban and had sprawling cities across their continent. They were at the last stage of human social development which characterized division of labor and massive manufacturing output.
The Social scientists such as Adam Smith and John Miller, agreed four stages of human development according to their way of subsistence such as hunting, pastoralism, agriculture and commerce. Nevertheless the departed Europeans from African continent left behind a modern system that had no connections with the dominant culture. The subsequent Somali leaders since the early formation of the state did not go beyond the fake veil of governance to address the core issues of Somali people along the religious line and local norms. They kept blindly imposing rules and regulation that is not giving benefit to the Somali people but became the source of harassment and intimidation.
Difference of ideas is an innate human character sown thickly in the heart. It feeds healthy information in to the social institutions and creates co-ownership among the citizens of a nation. The people of a nation cannot participate if they do not fully understand the mechanism of their government and frictions would later flare up that will lead to anarchy. Anarchy is a norm when the system becomes jammed and no longer absorbs the influx of ideas and the central nerve fails to respond.
The dominant and the central element of the system could not uphold the pressure of incoming challenges that would pave a way for a complete collapse. Thus the Somali people witnessed the whole failure of governmental structure twenty five years ago. The system of governance refused to receive and inhale the nutrient elements of its life to sustain the course of services. Dictatorship and abuse of power disembodies the good that the government structure provides to streamline, and shape the new challenges to avoid collapse.
The most notable leaders that captured the Somali imagination are Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan and President Jaalle Mohamed said Barre. They were prophetic and visionary leaders and had the abilities to uplift the spirit of the followers. However both relied on only through their personal charisma and oratory skill. Accordingly, both shared the holistic agenda to unite Somali people around Horn of Africa. In contrast to each other, the means by which they would accomplish this goal and the time period stood in their way. However noble their holistic approach, their actions had the effect of eroding the center which finally brought the complete collapse of the state.
As we start to revive a Somali government based on rule of law, the emerging system must lay down a strong foundation to safeguard the rights of Somali citizens and regulate the manners and the behavior of the governing body. But unfortunately there are signs in which President Hassan Sheikh is attempting to exercise and repeat the abuse of power and put aside the constitutional framework that guarantees democratic values and division of work.
We witnessed a plethora of complaints aimed at the President for abuse of power and embezzlement of government funds as the members of parliament filed the motion against him. Valid or not, these complaints only breed deadlock and weaken the legitimacy of the presidency. He might seem amiable, honest with an appeasing tone and elegant speeches, but his presidency is marked with accusations of embezzlement and disregarding the tenets of the constitution. Mr. President, you need the public’s trust but they also need to believe and see that you live with both the letter and the spirit of rule of law; otherwise you are no different from the previous warlords that explicitly disregarded the rule of law. Your position does not allow you to take advantage of the legal loopholes in our infant judicial system but rather your responsibilities include filling any legal gaps in the system. The mystic role of the presidency is above breaking the law.
Mirihii Abdi Qayseiyo codadkiiKhadra Dahir iyo AUN Saado Ali.
Wiilka qaran diidka ah ayaa u sooqaaday wiilka xoola doonka.
Dhul aan ceel lahayn baan Dhaankii u rarayaa, adna Dhool guyaad iyo Dhibicdii ma haysidee
Dhankaananigukaaxigo Dharka lama yaqaanee Dhuubbaanuxidhanaa. Adna Dhogor taxoolaha Marowaadka Dhigataa.
Buuraha Dhexdood iyo Dhagaxbaankuseexdaa, adna wax ima Dhaantide Dhulkahoos u qodan iyo Dhufays baad u hoyataa.”Kolkaad igu dhimataa naftu iga dhaqaaqdaa, …
,dhaxalkii aad reebtaa dhitadaydu noqotaa.
Waxii adiga kaalumay aniga I dhaafoo dhaandhaan haddaan ahay adna dhoohanaa tahay.
Gudcurraadkii guuraha kulumay waa gagalacdiisa,
Gadaal subaxii wow goobijiray ruuxa gurayaaye
Xargo gunadka waa la gagay oonay gamaamadiye
Dal iyo macag bay lahayd, dad iyo mudan bay lahayd
Duq iyo garashay lahayd Dagaal sharafleh bay lahayd
Abdiwahid Abdullahi Warsame, is a PhD student, Constitutional Democracy – USA. He can be reached at Abdiwahid_abdullahi@hotmail.com