It is only by building democratic institutions that the present and future generations of Somali leaders will be inspired to continue the country’s progress towards national cohesion, tolerance, peace and unity.
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By Tazoacha Francis
British playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. This quote inspires me into identifying Somalis as born and fashioned great – known in ancient times as the fabled land of Punt, the Biblical place famous amongst Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabians and the rest of the world for its precious incense, ebony, herbs and other lucrative trade networks. The Somalis were admired for their cultural and ethnic distinctiveness, despite centuries of foreign (primarily Arabian) influence; courted by empires and nations because of their strategic position between the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Somalia is one of the most ethnically homogeneous states in Africa; representing the strength, supremacy, sovereignty and the regal dignity of Africa throughout history. That is why they are eminently situated on the horn of Africa; in fact they are the “Horn of Africa”. British Explorer, Richard Burton, described Somalis as “a fierce and turbulent race of republicans” and Somalia was supposedly seen as a haven for peace, development, strong and united people for others to emulate.
History is indispensable and the world attaches great importance to historical facts because of lessons we are hoping to learn from it. Guided by these lessons we should be able to avoid the disastrous consequences of past mistakes. Unfortunately, history continues to repeat itself, splitting the great Somalis into splinters. Hatred and acrimony has engulfed this land of once hard working people. For the past decades, Somalis have been plunged into a catalogue of regrettable misfortunes – partition, war, civil war, foreign debt, drought and famine. These have taken a predictable toll on the people and their land, breeding animosity rather than love. Conflict being the spiritual leader of underdevelopment seems to have triumphed over the Somali people, who should never give it the chance to again because nothing has been gained from it. Somalis must prevent any future conflict; as the common adage goes, “prevention is better than cure”.
Many nations have learnt the bitter lessons of war. Germany – having surged through the first and second world wars – found that nothing was achieved apart from death, horror, trauma, destruction and underdevelopment. As a result, they hibernated from the international scene and resorted to reconciliation, reconstruction and development. Japan also suffered the same and even worse – remembering the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. To prevent any future catastrophe or war, they decided to abolish their army and resorted to reconstructing their destroyed country. Today Germany is Europe’s economic giant, while Japan is the third richest country in the world. Costa Rica, after the horrors of its civil war, saw no use of the military and abolished it on December 1st 1948. The budget previously earmarked for the military was dedicated to the security, education, culture and the environment. Today Costa Rica is one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America and one of the happiest countries in the world. Eastern Nigeria, under the guise of Biafra, attempted to secede from Nigeria, plunging the whole nation into a civil war which brought untold destruction and death from 1967 to 1970. The Biafra, in particular, and Nigeria, in general, having learnt a bitter lesson from war turned to economic development and today is one of the economic giants in Africa.
The Somalis have gone through the dungeon of war for more than two decades, and hopes to maintain its remarkable sense of nationhood; a spirit that has never been abandoned within and without Somalia. Somalia hopes to uphold the same spirit of other nations that have graduated from war in order to become one of the most peaceful emerging nations in the world. To achieve this it needs to be understood that war and civil strife has hardly ever resolved national and societal differences; instead they further divide, kill and traumatise. Conflicts should be generally resolved through dialogue and negotiations, in a sincere spirit of genuine compromise.
Countries that have achieved stability, peace, economic growth and prosperity some decades ago must have had leaders who were honest, patriotic, committed, sincere and determined in their pursuit of the well-being of their people. True democracy cannot strive in an environment where there is high-degree of political and social wavering, poverty, greed and an absence of the rule of law. Only citizens of nations that offer reasonable security, as well as a general sense of self-esteem and well-being, possess a high level of patriotism and motivation that inspires higher national productivity and economic prosperity.
There are no shortcuts to individual, corporate, regional and national greatness. Those individuals, corporate bodies and nations that achieved greatness did so as a result of their determination, hard work and commitment to these great virtues. Those developing countries with many ethnicities, clans, tribes and religions – plus natural resources (whether abundant or scarce) – that have been progressing free from civil strife are those countries whose leaders and their followers have shown vision, unity, peaceful co-existence, equitable sharing of resources, mutual respect and tolerance. These lessons learnt are a platter of gold or the the Golden Fleece that must be worn to harness peace.
Somalis should hope for the restoration of peace and an opportunity to restore the valuable culture, institutions and economy of their homeland – the land and people that were once the pride of Africa. It is never too late if and only if peace can be given a chance and received on a platter of gold. Somalia’s leaders, in particular, and the Somalis, in general, should create the capacity for tolerance and respect for the position, interests and aspiration of others, despite their exalted positions. Only by building democratic institutions that will continue to inspire the present and future generations of Somali leaders will the country’s progress towards national cohesion, tolerance, peace and unity.
Tazoacha Francis is Communications Officer at the Observatory of Conflict and Violence Prevention (OCVP), a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation.