Saturday, November 26, 2005

WardheerNews leaves Anna Waa-i-Kan websites in the trail
by Bashir Goth
This short piece was written on the 1st anniversary of the Somali website WardherNews

There is a Somali wisdom that divides men into six categories:
Nin Rag ah iyo Rag kalkaal, Rife iyo Rife Kalkaal, Abeeso laa iyo Ana waa i kan, to explain the riddle, it means Nin Rag ah (or a Real Man) is a man of initiatives who is bestowed with sound judgment and clear vision; a man whose ideas and proposals lead the clan to peace and prosperity.

Rag Kalkaal or supporter of the Real Man is an honest man with good conscience who can appreciate and support the man of ideas and stand by him.
Rife or shredder is one who tries to kill all good endeavors and pokes holes into every good idea; a man who is inhabited by evil demons and cannot stand to see good taking root in the society.

Rife-kalkaal or shredder supporter is a man who is always ready to support the destructive ideas of Rife.

Abeeso laa or snake-killer, in the traditional Somali nomad and rural culture, is the cobbler man who makes and mends shoes, or the artisan who makes handicrafts. Due to the nature of their work, these skilled men always practice their trade at the family camp or abode. Therefore, they became handy whenever the women of the clan encountered a danger such as snakes. These men are called for to help to kill the snakes, thus came their name snake-killer.

Anna Waa i kan, or here I am too, is a man with low intelligence but lucky to be married to an intelligent woman. She keeps her eyes and ears open and whenever she comes to know that the men of the clan had met and decided to raise funds for a cause, she would send her husband with his contribution in hand and tell him to go to the meeting and tell them that you were there too to pay your share. He then would then go and say, " I am here too."

A time when our religion belonged to us

by Bashir Goth
To my Son

My Son, with great pride and delight I can tell you that growing up in Somaliland was full of fun and excitement and the most exciting month of all was Ramadan. In our village of Dilla where I grew up, and in every village of Somaliland, the excitement used to start in the evening of the first day of Ramadan. With everyone filled with the urge and expectation to be the first to spot the crescent of the new moon, people of the village rushed to open areas and higher altitudes on the outskirts of the village to participate in the great search for the Ramadan moon.

Once the Ramadan crescent was spotted “Bileey bil khayr ...” resonated through the whole crowd with the children singing all the way back to the village, "bileey bil khayr... bileey bil kheyr ..."

This article which appeared elsewhere under the title "The spirit of Ramadan and Eid in Somaliland before the advent of Wahhabism" was the one of the most discussed articles in the Australian Opiniononline.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The spirit of Ramadan and Eid in Somaliland before the advent of Wahhabism
Bashir Goth
Living with the perpetual fear of the Somali cultural heritage and the tolerant, almost native Islam being eroded by torrents of alien and jihadist movements of Salafism, Tabligqhi and Al Ittihad Al Islam, which are all different variations of Wahhabism, I thought it might be useful as the Eid draws near if I set down my childhood memories about the tradition of Ramadan back home, particularly as my son like so many others who have not seen the home that is their birthright and find it hard to relate their parents practice of Islam ,with the distorted image that they encounter everywhere at the present time.

Once I started jotting down the outline, the memories of Ramadan nights in my native village and every town of the Somali people living in Somaliland, Somali region of Ethiopia and Djibouti and even Southern Somalia to some extent, charged my mind. Defying both time and distance, I presently found myslef sitting in Daa’uud Yaakhi’s tea shop in my native Dilla village, amid mesmerized audience, enjoying Ramdan nights as they knew it for centuries, clapping to the tone of the African drum, chanting the chorus of the anecdotal Ramadan Qasida Yaa Khyaral Anaami and enjoying Islam as they found it fitting to their culture and their heritage.

Already swept by nostalgia, I tried to relate to Omer my memories of Ramdan in Somaliland. Although I marshalled all my efforts to make him feel the beat, tone and taste of Ramdan as I knew it as a child, it was too distant for him to get the feel of it, but I could see that he found some excitement in the idea of Islam imparting some fun for children and not all grim and gloom as he sees it today. Read more on also under the title "A time when our religion belonged to us" at Onlineopnion also also WardheerNews also tharwaproject
Editorial: Remembering Annalena Tonelli as the epitome of human pride
As the people of Borama, Awdal region of Somaliland, commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the brutal assassination of Annalena Tonelli on the 5th of October, they do so with less self-flagellation this time than the pervious anniversary for three good reasons. The first is that the criminal hand that robbed the light from the blind, the hearing aid from the deaf, the healing touch from the terminally ill, the hand of mercy from the destitute, the disowned and the orphan; the main culprit for the killing of Annalena Tonelli is behind bars in Hargeisa central jail. The man suspected to be the evil doer, Abdirahman Indha Adde, was the ring leader of the Al Qaeda cell that was recently arrested in Somaliland while trying to deliver another death and liberate his colleagues in terror who are waiting trial in Hargeisa prison for the slaying of Annelena and other humanitarian workers.

The second reason for Borama people's sense of atonement is the functioning of Annalena Centre, comprising Annalena's TB Hospital, Annalena School of the Deaf and the Blind and the other facilities she created for the care of AIDs patients, orphans and the poor. The big worry of the local people at the time of Annalena's murder was whether these facilities would survive their founder's death. On the second anniversary of her death, however, Borama people are proud to see Annalena win over evil from her grave thanks to the selfless efforts of devoted individuals who saw themselves as the chosen custodians of the legacy and heritage of a great humanitarian worker. Read more on Awdalnews.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Annalena Tonelli found her bliss in becoming one with the poorest

Bashir & Hashim Goth

Awdalnews Network, 8th Oct. 2004—“Annalena Tonelli was a mother, a sister and a friend that the people of Awdal had lost” read statements written on billboards carried aloft by residents of Borama, Somaliland, to commemorate the first death anniversary of the law-trained Italian woman turned humanitarian worker who was gunned down by an unknown assassin in her hospital in Borama on 5th October 2003, 33 years after she had tied her destiny to the sick, the poor and the infirm among the Somali people.

In a rare show of sympathy and love for a foreigner, the Muslim people of the town of Borama gathered at the Annalena Center, the complex structure containing the voluntary projects set up by Annalena Tonelli, chanting her name and grieving their loss in the death of an unparalleled voluntary worker who was thrown into their midst by destiny alone. 

Speech after speech, religious scholars, elders, women, patients, doctors, students and government officials all paid glowing tributes to the good deeds and personality of Annalena.

“Annalena was a good person who helped our sick and the poor,” said Sheikh Saweer, one of the religious personalities who attended the commemoration, “ her killing was an aggression that was contrary to the teachings of Islam. Our prophet said that anyone who killed a person, a non-Muslim as such, who was under his protection will never smell the scent of paradise.”

Sahra Abdillahi Faja, who heads the Anti-circumcision Team set up by Annalena, said “ we feel pain deep inside whenever we remember the killing of Annalena. I don’t think we will ever get a person like Mother Annalena. We have been orphaned by her death.” Sahra’’s team feeds 46 women who quit their profession as circumcisers and their 39 children.

Head of the Annalena TB Hospital, Saeed Yusuf, recalled how people rebelled against Annalena’s TB campaign at the beginning of her work in Borama.

He said that when people came to know about Annalena’s arrival in 1996 some 300 persons showed up for the first day but only 17 of them remained after they realized that they were being tested for TB.

“This is how much stigmatized people felt about the disease,” he said, noting that after one  year the patients have reached un manageable number and those who tested negative thought that they had been cheated, thinking that they were really TB patients but the hospital somehow didn’t have a place for them.

Yusuf added that in 1997 alone Annalena Hospital treated 1600 people as outpatients, 8300 in-patients and more than 25,000 went under medical check up for the disease.

 Who was Annalena Tonelli?

At the prime age of 27, Annalena Tonelli had everything it took to have a successful future in her native Italy. The beauty, the brain and prospects of life filled with the glory and glamour that any young woman of her age could have dreamed of in an affluent and sensual society. Annalena, however, had destiny cut her vocation for her long before she even had made her spiritual odyssey to Africa. She was destined to follow her heart’s calling , her rendezvous with the poor, the sick and the destitute in the most obscure and forgotten places on earth..

Young, adventures and armed with a law degree and a strong will to fearlessly follow her passion and calling, Annalena left behind the land of renaissance and enlightenment, the cradle of European civilization to the acacia covered deserts of Africa in the ‘Heart of Darkness’.

She spent 33 long years in healing, comforting, consoling and most of all giving hope of a life beyond the confines of destitution to TB ridden patients, abandoned HIV/AIDS victims, blind and deaf children and poverty stricken mothers. From the moment she landed in Kenya in 1969, she had her fate and future mission tied to the Somali people, first in the Somali region of Kenya and later into Somalia and eventually Somaliland where her sainthood met the savagery of mankind.

Although she deservedly won the attention of the international community for her charitable and humanitarian work, Annalena Tonelli, or Mother Annalena as the people of Borama, Awdal region of Somaliland, where she was killed but venerated by the thousands of the region’s people as saint, preferred to call her, chose to remain and live nameless – “I am nobody”, is what she told to UNICEF officials visiting her TB hospital in Borama, thus prompting Maggie Black, a UNICEF consultant and a UK-based writer, to title her tribute to her as “Death of “Nobody”.”

“I live out my service without a name, without the security of a religious order, without belonging to an organization, without a salary, without paying social security for my old age… I have been living in the service of Somalis. But I have friends who help me and my people, especially those on the 'Committee Against World Hunger' in Forlì,” said Annalena Tonelli at a meeting in the Vatican on the occasion of the ‘International Day for Volunteers’ in 2002.

Great deeds, however, seldom remain invisible and such was the case when contrary to her wishes, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) named her the winner of the Nansen Refugee Award in 2003, an annual humanitarian award given to individuals or organizations that have distinguished themselves in work on behalf of refugees. The UNHCR said it had picked the 60-year-old Annalena Tonelli in recognition of her selfless dedication in the service of Somali community, the majority of them returned refugees and displaced people.

A qualified teacher of English in high schools in Kenya, Annalena Tonneli began her voluntary work as a teacher in Kenya’s northern Somali region. Noticing many of the students and parents suffering from TB she went back to school and took certificates and diplomas in tuberculosis, tropical and community medicine and in leprosy in Kenya, England and Spain respectively.

Annalena’s pioneering work in TB treatment

Annalena started her pioneering work of treating TB patients in outreach clinics and hospitals to support her fight against TB among the Somali nomads. Working first among Somalis in Kenya, she moved to Merca in the South and eventually to Borama, Somaliland. There she set up a 250-bed TB hospital with the funding of her family and friends, mostly in her hometown of Forli, who raised $20,000 per month. As Maggie Black wrote, Annalena’s pioneering treatment of outpatient TB was taken up by the World Health Organization, WHO, which conferred her hospital special status as a TB center par excellence. The hospital also organized visits of surgeons that have restored sight to almost 4000 people.

Annalena also began work against female circumcision known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Knowing the cultural sensitivity of the issue which many Somalis  mistakenly believe as a Koran sanctioned tradition, Annalena included a religious cleric in her anti-circumcision team.

Among the most significant projects set up by Annalena in Borama was a School for  blind and deaf children, a rare phenomenon in the neighboring Horn of African countries.

One of the projects that raised some eyebrows among the local community, however, was her work to provide care to HIV/AIDS victims. Though the majority of the local Borama people admired her work and her courage to provide shelter to such patients who were abandoned by their close relatives due to the stigma attached to the disease, some religious hardliners had shown hostility towards her work and accused her of attracting all TB and HIV/AIDS patients from far places to their hometown.

One year after she was shot under the cloak of darkness in her hospital by an unknown assassin, Annalena’s legacy survives in Borama with all the facilities she set up carrying her name.  

There are 271 TB patients registered at Annalena Hospital, 134 of them as in-hospital patients and 137 as outpatients. When Annalena died the total number of patients under treatment were 377, 188 in-patients and 189 outpatients.

The hospital structure consists of six wards, a laboratory, one x-ray and one-storey administration building. She persuaded 28 women circumcisers to abandon their work and seek other ways of livelihood. She used to pay the fees of 70 children from poor families including some of the children of women circumcisers who quit their profession on her advice. Now the institution still pays the fees of 50 of these students.

A total of 263 students are enrolled in the Annalena School of the Deaf. They include 77 deaf, 43 boys and 34 girls, and 6 blind children in one class by themselves. There are also 180 other orphan and poor students, 131 boys and 49 girls, who have their own separate classes.

The Annalena Center, comprising the hospital, the schools and another facilities, are still funded by the same sources and other charitable organizations and individuals. Some local organizations and charitable people have also donated some equipment and other items, even the buildings have been enlarged by funds allocated by Annelena for that purpose.

A gesture of gratitude:

As a gesture of gratitude and a strong determination to show the world that Annalena’s killing was the action of a misguided murder, the Town Council of Borama named all the projects set up by Annalena after her. Today, there is Annalena Hospital, Annalena School of the Deaf and the Annalena Center. Overlooking the center is also Annalena Memorial Statute, set up by Borama people to immortalize the name of the woman who chose to live anonymous during her lifetime.

It is an irony of life that the fame and glory that Annalena tried to evade in her life time had to haunt her in her death, but with the honest intention of upholding the memory of good deeds and inspiring others “…to see the beauty inside somebody,” as Annalena did according to Joe Morrissey, a teacher for a school of the deaf and blind in Nairobi. That she didn’t live as “..a foreigner or gal in a world where kin and clan are  paramount” as expressed by Maggie Black but with her blood soaking the African earth, her good deeds giving healing and hope to thousands and her name resonating in the mouth of the deaf, the blind and the destitute of Borama and beyond, Annalena had found her eternal bliss in becoming “…one with the poorest.”  


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Shaikh Ahmed Deedat: Islam's Urbane Debater
By Bashir Goth

Al-Jazeerah, August 20, 2005

I first saw Shaikh Ahmed Deedat, who died at his home in Durban, South Africa, on 8th August 2005, when I attended a lecture he delivered at Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation in 1986. It was one of the first of what would later make him a fabled globe-trotting promoter of inter-faith dialog, a brilliant debater and the most persuasive preacher that the Islamic world had produced in modern times. Ever since I made it a habit to follow up all his lectures and read all his works.

A man blessed with an affable personality, a humble disposition, an imposing figure and a great sense of humor, Deedat had a firm belief in the magic of the good word, not just because he was aware of his skill in debating but because he was a man who understood that Islam had won hearts over the centuries through the soft and peaceful strength of its spoken word and not through the hoofs of its horses.
Also published in the following papers and sites:
Khaleej Times
Awdalnews Network
Wardheer News also under the title "Champion of interfaith dialogue" in the Australian Opiniononline, where it was the most popular and most discussed article of the week.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Muslim to Muslim - people of humble common sense ask ‘why?’
By Bashir Goth- posted Monday, July 25, 2005
They call themselves fundamentalists.
A misnomer and ambiguous description, I say. This is because I know the word fundamental means basic. And anything that is basic seems to me to be easily understandable and closer to common sense. Therefore, I would rather call these people devoid of common sense and deprived of human feelings. These people make a habit of covering themselves with clouds of pomposity; they like to hide behind out-of-context religious jargon; they love to reach out for history and holy texts to run away from taking a responsible position on obvious common sense issues.
Evil for them has 70 layers of skin and they have to peel one after the other to reach the worst of the worst evils that deserves to be condemned. For them good also comes in different hues and different degrees of purity. No good is good enough if it is not pregnant with the seed of its own destruction.
No wonder humble people of my ilk remain clueless to understand their logic. There is a huge vault between us. It is a divide between people consumed by religious thinking and who see everything through a religious prism and people of humble common sense who see things as they are. A gulf between what I may call people of common sense and people of text sense.
We, the common sense masses, see and judge things and actions as they happen: and when they happen our common sense makes a simple and immediate reaction. We see the London bombings in which dozens of innocent citizens lost their lives and many more wounded and maimed. We condemn them straight away. More

This article has also been published in following newspapers and websites under the title:
The everlasting war between common sense and text sense - Addis Tribune, Awdalnews Network, Wardheernews, Saylacnews, Muslim Wake Up also under the title Muslim to Muslim - people of humble common sense ask ‘why?’in Australian opiniononline where it was one of the most popular and most discussed articles of the week.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

How Africans see the initiative to help the continent
8 July 2005
GOOD intentions to dislodge poverty’s tight grip on Africa are welcome and must be well appreciated by every conscientious African who cares to see an end to the continent’s long night of hunger, disease and grinding poverty.
In Africa we should salute all honest initiatives aimed at helping our neglected continent. We say Viva to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, Chancellor Gordon Brown’s relentless fight to bring as many countries as possible to the African aid’s bandwagon, Bob Geldof’s Live 8 and his army of world singers and musicians who enthralled the world in the name of mother Africa. We also take off our hats to the audience of millions who responded to the Live 8 call and poured out their pockets and their hearts to Crusade End of Poverty. More
As the G-8 discusses plans to cancel Africa's debt this week, most agree that the world's richest countries can and should aid the ailing continent. In fact, the group agreed to double aid to Africa by 2010. But in the excitement surrounding the G-8 summit, few have asked Africans how they feel about the plan. The answer, supplied by African journalist Bashir Goth, is surprisingly negative. While Goth appreciates the honest efforts of the world's most powerful, he worries that the money they send will merely line corrupt leaders' pockets and bank accounts, never reaching the needy: "In Africa, money is like a snake's droppings, everyone hears about it but no one ever sees it." Instead, he asks for schools, hospitals, roads, and food – aid that will reach the people of Africa – not just their rulers. – YaleGlobal

How Africans See the Initiative to Help the Continent
Bashir Goth
Khaleej Times, 8 July 2005
GOOD intentions to dislodge poverty's tight grip on Africa are welcome and must be well appreciated by every conscientious African who cares to see an end to the continent's long night of hunger, disease and grinding poverty.
In Africa we should salute all honest initiatives aimed at helping our neglected continent. We say Viva to Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, Chancellor Gordon Brown's relentless fight to bring as many countries as possible to the African aid's bandwagon, Bob Geldof's Live 8 and his army of world singers and musicians who enthralled the world in the name of mother Africa. We also take off our hats to the audience of millions who responded to the Live 8 call and poured out their pockets and their hearts to Crusade End of Poverty.
We do this because in Africa it is the language of singing, music and drumbeat that we understand more than any language. When we are hungry we sing, when we are sick we sing, when death descends on us we sing, when life smiles for us we sing. We always sing, beat the drums and dance. Music and singing are the secret of our existence. This is how we cheated extinction and annihilation. Even when the prime youth of Africa, the manpower of our continent were taken in chains across the Atlantic, they took their drum beats and their music in their hearts, in their heads and in their feet. This is why when the world sings in our name today, we understand the honesty of it and we sing with them. More

The fractured memory of Somali Independence anniversaries by Bashir Goth

Maanta maanta maanta
Waa maalin weyne maanta
Maanta maanta maanta
Madaxeen bannaane maanta

With these majestic and unforgettable words, at least for those who lived during the glorious first decade after independence, the Somali nation used to wake up on the anniversary days of 26 June and 1st July.

These were great years to grow up, the years of African independence, African renaissance and African political consciousness. It was the decade that the most powerful nation of the day, the Empire on whose flag the sun never set, took note of the rumblings shaking the ground underneath its feet in Africa as confessed by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in his Wind of Change Speech to the South African Parliament in 1960: "The wind of change is blowing through this [African] continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it."

It was a decade of great hopes, lofty dreams, grandeur ambitions and indefatigable enthusiasm to rekindle the African spirit and reclaim the great heritage of the African pre-colonial empires, kingdoms and city states as well as African savage cultures, natural religions and ancestral veneration; the decade of re-writing African fables and history. It was indeed the decade of re-Africanizing Africa after it was deAfricanized since the start of the slave trade in mid 16th century. Obviously the complete emancipation of Africa had to wait several more decades with the Angola and Mozambique gaining independence in 1975, Djibouti 1977, Zimbabwe 1980, Namibia 1990 and South Africa 1994, not to mention the Western Sahara which is still groaning under Moroccan Arab domination and the Somalis in the fifth region of Ethiopia still deprived of basic human rights including internationally observed referendum to express their will for self determination.

As part of this avalanche of nationalism and popular uprising against foreign usurpation of the continent's will and wealth, the Somali people were doubly blessed by celebrating the African Independence Year, 1960, with the independence and unification of two of its five dismembered parts. The unprecedented outpour of emotion and the deluge of patriotic literature evoked by Maandeeq, the allegorical she-camel representation of the Somali independence, underlined the enormity of the tragedy that befell on the Somali nation whose geographical pastoral land was carved into five parts by European colonizers.

This historical trauma in the psyche of the Somali people which resulted from the division of their territory was also the reason behind the hasty and miscalculated union between the British Somaliland Protectorate and the Italian colonized Somalia on 1st July 1960 . The urge and the need for the union was so strong that northern politicians led by Mohammed Ibrahim Egal couldn't muster the courage to explain to the people their fears about the long-term consequences of the unconditional union. They had no option but to ride the popular tide rather than commit political suicide. The people in the Italian colonized south were likewise overwhelmingly consumed by the idea of Somali unity and couldn't have forgiven their leaders if they had in anyway hampered the unification process. The paramount and understandably obsessive goal of the Somali people was the need to bring the first two parts of the dismembered Somali body together under one flag. Everything else came secondary to that noble goal.

For the Somali people, like elsewhere in Africa , lifting the yoke of colonialism was like rubbing Aladdin's magic lamp. They nursed the hope that the moment their blue flag was raised all their ills would melt away and all their wishes would become real. The flag was the rain that would come after a long drought and the sun that would disperse the darkness. This was so eloquently expressed in Timacadde's poem:

"...Seermaweydo hillaacdayow
Sagal maanta darroorayoo
Siigadii naga maydhayow
Saq dhexaannu ahayne
Kii soo saaray cadceeddow..."

The general feeling was that with the advent of independence all social, economic and political ills would cease. Even hunger will not hurt anymore as the air of independence would have a balsamic effect to assuage one's physical suffering. Again Timacadde emphatically brings this home with his powerful imagery:

"...Saddex wiig iyo maalmo
Haddaan Soor cuni waayo
Safrad laygama yaaboo
Sarina mayso naftayda e..."

Riding this dream of bringing all the Somali speaking pastoralists living in the Horn of African region under the banner of greater Somalia , the Somali people had celebrated every independence anniversary with such pomposity and fanfare in the first post independence decade. The popular mantra of freedom being the mother of all medicine's still held supreme. " Way buktaaye bandhigga geeya(... she is sick, take her to the independence festival) was the motto of the masses that used to head to Hargeisa in long motorcades from all towns, villages and rural areas on the independence anniversary day to watch the parades and commemoration festivities. Mogadishu and southern towns also saw similar celebrations on the days of 26 June and 1st July. The unlucky multitudes that couldn't attend the parades in big towns used to live the memories of the two days through the nationalistic music and lyrics beamed constantly from Radio Hargeisa and Radio Mogadishu.

It was the giddiness resulting from such onrush of patriotic adrenalin, which ran through the veins of every Somali who lived in that golden decade that fashioned them to stay supine and tolerate decades of physical and mental abuse of Siyad Barre's tyrannical regime.

It was doubly painful, however, for the elderly people who witnessed the independence struggle and lived through the glorious dream of greater Somalia to see the socialist government's slogans taking over the airwaves and the glory and collective memory of the independence days eroded by personal adulation and panegyric lyrics written for the glorification of Siyad Barre and his revolution. All allegiance and splendor were bequeathed to October 21, the day that Siyad Barre came to power through military coup d'etat, while the 26 th of June and 1 st July were almost wiped from the national calendar. Instead of the blue flag with the white five-pointed star, which Timacadde had so adoringly praised its magical powers, it was October that brought rain and prosperity to all Somalis "...Oktoober waa daruur hillaacdayoo, Soomaali u da'doo lagu diirsadee....OKTOOBAR ...".

Being a wily old soldier and himself experiencing the thick of Somali nationalism, Siyad Barre realized that the only way he could extend his rule and enjoy more years of glory was to rekindle that old dream of greater Somalia and ride the ebbless tide of patriotism for a few more years. He remolded himself as a modern day Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan and Ahmed Ibrahim Gran (Gurey) , two fabled Somali heroes, all incarnated in one. He even framed himself as being the invisible hand behind the 13 Somali men who founded the pro-independence Somali Youth League (SYL). His picture appeared in the background of the 13 founders' portrait like a rising sun.

With this reinvention of history paving the way, Siyad Barre launched his self-aggrandizing war against Ethiopia in 1977 under the pretext of re-igniting Somali irredentism and liberating Somali inhabited areas (or Ogaden region) in Ethiopia from Abyssinia 's black colonialism. As Djibouti which had then gained its independence opted to stay away from the Somali union to avoid its territory being a battle ground between Somalia with its ethnic and historical claims on Djibouti and Ethiopia which relied on its port as lifeline, Siyad Barre calculations were built on the presumption that once he snatched the Ogaden from Ethiopia then Djibouti would fall like a ripen fruit and his dream of being the unifier of all Somalis would be realized.

Though October hymns still reigned supreme, the government propaganda machine had doped the people with a new wave of patriotic music. With lyrics such as Minigistow war li'idaa, Waa la isku haystaa wixii madaxda kaa dhigay, Ololiyaay, Erya Erya Erya, Sandulaanu kugu bixin, Ceesaantii mas iyo good madax shabeel leefta, Soomaalida Galbeedeey.. .and a deluge of other skillfully crafted emotional songs, the Somali people were drugged to forget not only the grinding economic hardships and social degradation of the day but also the last memories of the independence music and poetry which were being overwritten by a new and more grandeur genre of propaganda literature.

The final curtain, however, came down on the soul and spirit of Somali nationalism with the Somali opposition forces seeking help and shelter from Ethiopia , a country on whose enmity millions of Somali children had slept and woken up over the centuries. With clan militia led by former officers of the Somali national army for which Baxsan had sung "Garabkiinaan taaganahee, Geeshkayagyow Guuleysta..." attacking their former comrade-in-arms and brothers from bases in the traditional enemy territory and with the heroic Somali military poisoning water wells in Majerteeniya and carpet bombing the town of Hargeisa where the first Somali flag was raised and Timacadde enthralled millions of Somalis to tears with his sonorous poem of "Kaana Siib kana saaroo..." and with Radio Hargeisa from where Baxsan's heart-wrenching "Geeshkayagow Guuleysta . .'' was first aired being burned to ashes by the same Somali air force; people seemed to have woken up from a long dementia and every memory of the independence days, independence anniversaries and Somali nationalism appeared to have been nothing but illusions of delirium. Suddenly, people found themselves in a real life irony where the conventional christian enemy had become a brother and a protector and the Muslim brother had become a tormentor and an erstwhile enemy. This was a true reflection of Sayyid Mohammed Abdulla Hassan's prophetic words: Muslinnimo ninkaan kuula socon, muumminnimo khaasa,Gaal maxasta kuu dhawra ood, magansataa dhaama.

Seeing the symbols of Somalism demolished and demonized in a little over than 30 years (1960 - 1991), another 30 years may not be a long time for one to live in the hope of witnessing again the fervor of Somali nationalism swing back to its old youthful vigor and the independence days regain their glory and their prestige. In another 30 years I may still be around writing another elegy for the diverted trajectory of another lost dream or a tribute to a revived culture and reincarnated spirit of a great nation.
The fractured memory of Somali Independence anniversaries
These were great years to grow up, the years of African independence, African renaissance and African political consciousness. It was the decade that the most powerful nation of the day, the Empire on whose flag the sun never set, took note of the rumblings shaking the ground underneath its feet in Africa as confessed by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in his Wind of Change Speech to the South African Parliament in 1960: "The wind of change is blowing through this [African] continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it." More

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Cultural Reawakening and Memories of a Dream that Refuses to Die
Bashir Goth
June3, 2005
Ever since the collapse of Somalia 's central government 14 years ago, Somali culture like the Somali people have gone under a great upheaval. With artistes seeking shelter like most Somalis in neighboring countries, Europe and North America and with most of the countryside people, the custodians of the country's folklore and culture, emptying their natural habitats due to the disappearance of their traditional pastoral lifestyles, again due to war, long droughts, swelling populations and dwindling livestock herds, I resigned myself to despair and helplessness as I watched the Somali culture tottering towards oblivion. More

SNM in Balance: The need for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Somaliland

By Bashir Goth

Al Jazeerah/Awdalnews, April 9, 2005

Twenty-four years have elapsed since the formation of SNM. This is sufficient time for emotions to be settled and to look back with clear vision and critical evaluation the struggle and history of the movement. The SNM was born out of bent-up anger, frustration, humiliation and disrespect for human dignity and human life. The formation of the movement, therefore, came into being in the heat of the moment and was mostly driven by emotion rather than by a well-laid political vision and national agenda.

Like any liberation movement with thousands of fearless, trigger-happy and adrenaline-thrilled youth in its ranks and fighting a ruthless and inhumane regime, it was futile to expect it to respect the rules of war and refrain from committing excesses. The one and only goal of the movement during its long years of struggle was to free the people and country from the tyranny of a military regime. The rule of thumb was all is fair in love and war.

Now, after almost a quarter of a century, it is high time that sober and wise people answer the hard questions. It is time to re-examine, analyze and re-evaluate the rights and wrongs of the SNM. It is high time that conscientious souls and responsible citizens look into their depths and come up with answers that go beyond the hackneyed self-righteous and self-congratulatory attitudes of the battle days. It is unhealthy of a society yearning to build a nation based on lasting peace, democratic norms, prosperity and human dignity to gloss over the truth and see men who portray themselves as the leaders of the whole nation acting as if they are just now emerging from the dust of the battle, adorned with all their armaments and battle cries.

It is high time that the former SNM commanders and supporters have to acknowledge the ugly crimes committed in the name of the movement in the same way they celebrate its good deeds. It is time to admit that the SNM had its victories and its defeats, its success and its blunders, its crimes and its share of responsibility for the plight of hundreds of thousands of Somalilanders, destruction and annihilation of whole towns and villages and the killing of hundreds of innocent farmers, businessmen, poets, intellectuals, elders, religious men and women and children for the crime of belonging to anti-SNM clans.

In celebrating the 24th anniversary of the SNM and remembering those who lost their precious lives for the cause of liberating their people from oppression and dictatorship, the former SNM commanders and fighters should also be courageous enough to remember the victims of the movement and should reach out to the women who were widowed, the mothers who lost their beloved sons and daughters and the children who were orphaned or maimed in the name of the SNM.

It is always easy, particularly in the clan-worshipping culture of our people, to sing the heroism of your own men and women and forget the heroism of others. One wonders whether it ever occurred to the former SNM commanders and fighters that as much as its music for their ears to be called Mujahidis, hearing such description may be loathsome to the victims of the SNM who are today law abiding and patriotic Somaliland citizens. What are the criteria for earning the honor of Mujahid or Martyr in a tribal society like ours, one may ask. In Islam it is known that anyone who dies defending the honor of his family or his property and his soul is a martyr. No one doubts those SNM fighters who fought with the good intention of defending the honor of their people, their property and their country as a whole against a tyrant regime deserve the honor of being Mujahid in the strict sense of the word but can any one deny the fighters of other clans who fought against the SNM militias in defense of their honor, their property and their existence to be decorated heroes and Mujahids of their concerned clans.

The former SNM commanders and fighters love to claim sainthood by repeatedly reminding their former adversaries that they have extended to them an amnesty blanket and have forgiven them for taking the gun against the freedom fighters. The question that the former SNM fighters forget to ask themselves is "who has forgiven whom? It is understandable that due to unflinching tribal loyalties and strong emotions attached to the struggle of the SNM, it might have been difficult to even contemplate answering this question at earlier times but after a quarter of a century it is not only reasonable but a moral obligation for both former SNM fighters and the militia commanders of the anti-SNM clans at the time to answer such question and other more difficult ones. It is time that Somaliland establishes a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in the style of the famous South African one and bring those who committed crimes in the name of the SNM and those of other clans who committed crimes in the name of defending tribal pride to face the rule of law. It is also high time to give the victims of both sides the chance to have their stories heard before a neutral court. Only in this way would all Somalilanders embrace the legacy of the SNM beyond its present tribal confines.


© 2005 Awdalnews Network


Thursday, February 24, 2005

It is time to rescue Islam from the Talibani Courts in Mogadishu
By Bashir Goth-
When the Taliban zealots destroyed the 5th century statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in March 2001 the world watched with derision and disgust at the barbarism of such primitive hordes but did nothing to stop them. It took a human and civilizational tragedy of Sept11 to make the world realize how unstopped evil could spillover even to distant lands in today’s global world.

When Nazis in Germany ordered the burning of books in May 1933, it was only a handful of intellectuals and few newspapers that could see through the fog of history the oncoming disaster predicted a long way back by the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine in his prophetic statement “ where one burns books, one will soon burn people.” It was the bibliocaust as described then by the Time magazine that was a prelude to the Jewish holocaust that followed for which
the memory of Auschwitz stands as the ugliest crime committed in the name of an ideology. More

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bashir Goth: A Giant among dwarfs
By Hassan Rirash
These days, like our varied militias, many of us seem to be touchy and irritable, jumping quickly to a poise with their guns in a shooting mode. This is particularly so when the topic of discussion approaches the " Arena of Religion". A few individuals are employing such tactics as finger-pointing, blind criticism and character -assassination in the name of Islam to silence or even intimidate people like Bashir Goth who speak up for the good of their People. In my opinion, Somalis and Muslims should be showering Bashir with praise. More
Bashir Goth: A Much-needed Voice in a Society Where There is None
By Ali Bahar
Even when he is praying to his own Allah as most Moslems do, some radical Islamists will mistakenly assume that Bashir is attacking Islam or will accuse him of being un-Islamic these days. Give the guy a room to operate, will you? He is a much-needed voice in a society where there is none. More
It is time to rescue Islam from the Talibani Courts in Mogadishu
by Bashir Goth
When the Taliban zealots destroyed the 5th century statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in March 2001 the world watched with derision and disgust at the barbarism of such primitive hordes but did nothing to stop them. It took a human and civilizational tragedy of Sept11 to make the world realize how unstopped evil could spillover even to distant lands in today’s global world. More
It is time to rescue Islam from the Talibani Courts in Mogadishu
by Bashir Goth
Presently the world was outraged at the scene of Somali Militant Islamists unearthing the remains of bodies in an Italian cemetery in Mogdishu, dumping the skeletons in the most disrespectful way at a garbage dump and building a mosque in the middle of the cemetery and on top of whatever remains of the dead bodies. One has to wait and see what tragic consequence this also has to bring before the world acts to move against such barbarism. More