(Photo: Courtesy to Isse M. Isse)
Category: Ottoman Empire
A NATION IN TURBULENT TRANSITION
Garowe May 17, 2019
You may not be aware of the fact the name, Somalia, didn’t exist in the sense of a united central entity as a country, but as ethnic group among East African peoples before 18-19th century European colonial powers of Italy, Great Britain, France, Portugal, and Turkish Ottoman Empire from Egypt. Most historically known self-governing entities in Southern and Northeastern parts of what is presently known as “Somalia” didn’t have the notion of Somalia as a country. Colonial Italy led the way in the creation of the concept of Somalia as a country for its own colonial objectives and administrative-political expediency for a united colony.
These powerful nomads in the Northeastern, Northwestern and Central parts of “Somalia” had had no sense of a country beyond their grazing localities and water wells. The Southernmost agriculturalists of Bantu extraction had had no specific identities other than they were remnants of perished local slave-owning sultanates and chieftains with occasional visits, rule or influence from Arabs looking for slaves and fortune in East Africa, usually coming from the sea and Zanzibar.
The concept of Greater Somalia didn’t exist before Somali Youth League (SYL) political campaigns for independence from as recently as the year of 1943. Even the notion and the term of “Greater Somalia” (Somaliweyn) was conceived and coined by former British Foreign Secretary, Bevin, before Britain abandoned the initiative and had decided to transfer the Somali territory known as the ” Haud and Reserve Area” to Ethiopia in 1954. At the time, Ethiopia was demanding from Britain to agreeing swallowing Hargeisa and Zeila as part of Haud and Reserve Area as well.
The struggle waged by the Head of the Darwish Movement of Sayyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan against British Colonial Administration and Emperial Ethiopia was a mixture of Islamic extremism, nationalisn and bad approach to self-government blind-sighted by fight for local control over grazing Somali nomads. The British wanted cheap meat for its military garrison in Aden, South Yemen. The Sayyid wanted loyal clans for supply of fighting men for religio-nationalistic wars. He also wanted to model after Sheikh Ahmed Gurey in his attempt to conquer Abbysinia. Darwish Movement was in-transition to statehood. It never had a chance to succeed. Bad approach to self-government was the root cause of its failure.
Enter the era of independence in 1960 from colonial administrations of Italy and Britain. The colonial masters had left a country in-transition to statehood. They left behind a Somali political elite of their design with very limited preparation, education and skills to run a modern government and poor state with no infrastructure or institutions to talk about. Despite all these, Somalis did well in the first few years after securing the national independence with fledgling democratic culture and successful presidential, parliament and municipal elections that was the envy of black Africa at time. The native political and business elite, who had little training by colonial powers, were in-transition themselves to learn the art of government and statecraft. Yesterday’s nomads poured into over-crowded urban cities, specially Mogadishu and Hargeisa, with no social and labor skills. They too were in-transition to become, as least, normal citizens of a new country called the Somali Republic. The new Somali Government was now in-transition to become as viable as any government on earth.
The Government of the Somali Republic didn’t survive long as it had suffered from military coup of 1969 led by General Mohamed Siyad Barre. That Military Government lasted in office for twenty-one years long in-transition to multi-party democratic elections and people’s self-rule. It never fulfilled the promise to transition to democracy.
The Ogaden war of 1977 -78, rebellion against the dictatorship, people’s uprising and vicious Civil War that followed had cut short the long military reign of the General and his Client-Military Administration.
The world came to learn the phrase “Failed State” of Somalia, total collapse of public institutions and breakdown of law and order. Upheaval, uprooting of people, mass displacement of residents from cities and towns followed in-transition to peace and normalcy.
National Reconciliation Conferences had finally produced “Transitional Governments” from the year of 2000. These Somalia’s transitional governments are, however, still in-transition to multi-party democratic self-government – back to square one in-transition.
The Federal Regional State governments are too in-transition to full-fledged federal states, some of them are still needed to satisfy the basic requirements of the Transitional Federal Constitution for their legal formation and very existence. The entire country and its state institutions are in-transition, some of the goals and objectives of which will not happen in my life. But, as long as things are in-transition, there are always opportunities to move Somalia forward. Be hopeful.