Meet or watch Somalis debating on all kinds of subjects and issues on earth: politics, news, religion etc., while they enjoy their cups of tea lazily at Caffè shops.They all sound experts in debates. You wonder in which colleges and universities they teach or lecture. Staying with them to know more about them, you would discover why Somalia has been producing so many poets and singers earning the name “land of poets” for Somalia. They have been debating all their lives and they are the sons and daughters of skillful historical debaters.
The problem is that these poems and songs can be deadly used for clannish incitement for hatred and violence. This is partly what happened in the Somali Civil War: Northerners against the Southerners, one clan family against the other, one politician or group of politicians against other groups. Weapon in the form of clan literature has big political marketplace in Somalia and can used dangerously to do harm.
If you do research on most Somali clan conflicts, you would discover poems play critical role in incitement for clan hatred and murder. Infamous poems like Guba, Hurgumo, Ergo Darood, Deeley, Guuroow, Shirib, Geeraar, Buraanbur, among others, were fatally used to cleanse, kill and destroy others. We all experience the legacy of such anti-human rights songs like “Sama-diidow, Dadbaa meelu buktaa, or slogans for clan-cleansing like “Faqash, Haraadi, Kacaan-diid, Qurmis, Ninkii dhoof-ku-yimi baa geerudu dhibaysaa“ That doesn’t mean that Somali literature is not used for virtue and good purpose.
Often poems are utilized for noble objectives as well. But, bad ones sell better traditionally, much faster and remembered better. Why? We leave that phenomenon to the experts in the field, but it is a fact-based experience in Somalia. Because of that cultural background, most Somali debaters are confrontional in their approach to civil discourses, often resort to personal attacks as they badly handle criticism.They take it personal and uncontrollably counter-attack. We don’t have the skills of conflict management, although our ancestors were famously good in conflict resolution.
It is never too late to go back and re-learn the virtues of our forefathers and expertise to bring our nation together again. We have to do away unproductive and ceaseless teashop debates, meaningless Internet chats and take concrete actions for purposeful objectives.