Monday, June 11, 2012

Somalia: Welcome back

By Bashir Goth*

With the arrest of the notorious Hassan Dahir Aweys, the inevitable defeat and apprehending of Ahmed Abdi Godane, the Joseph Kony of Somalia and his Al Shabab gang of criminals, and the ongoing Turkish-led momentum to get things right this time, one can confidently say: “Somalia, welcome back.” 
Welcome back to the international community; to play your role as a country located in strategic and vital waterways, to restore peace and stability and start the healing process of the people traumatized by more than 20 years of physical and mental torture by criminal and religious warlords and devastated by Al Shabab-made droughts.
Welcome back to dress the wounds, unite divided families, rehabilitate youth from the dark, damp and masked Al Shabab criminal underworld to the bright daylight of fresh air, schools and knowledge. Welcome back to rescue our beautiful religion from the clutches of immoral vultures that dismantled its sublime goals and reduced it to dictums on controlling women’s lingerie. 
Oh, what a nightmare! Twenty years of horror, darkness, warlordism, piracy and terrorism.
Twenty years during which our common will was hijacked, our independence compromised, our flag trampled on, our values dumped and our pride dragged on the dirt. Twenty years that our people were stopped, humiliated and treated as fugitives at international airports. Twenty years that our beautiful women, the pride of our nation, have been enslaved, raped at home and in refugee camps in poor neighboring countries. Twenty years that our youth, the future of our nation, have suffered from unemployment and mental agony and many of them have perished on the high seas in an attempt to run away from the hellfire back home.
Twenty years that our country has become a dumping ground for the world’s dangerous industrial waste and our marine wealth was robbed. Twenty years during which our land was denuded, our trees burned for charcoal, our farms wasted and our cities and towns turned into gang infested drug dungeons. Twenty years that our name had become synonymous with poverty, piracy and terrorism. Twenty years that we have carried the brand of being the most failed state in the world. Twenty years during which our elites, our politicians, our religious men, our sultans and our chieftains kept bickering and vying each other for who will take the biggest chunk of flesh from the stinky and rotting corpse of the Somali nation. Twenty years that Somalia has disintegrated into tribal fiefdoms and the term balkanization has been replaced by Somalization. 

Time to clean up the house
Now thanks to the African Union, it appears that the restoration of peace and stability is feasible more than ever and that Al Shabab, the worst nightmare that the Somali people had to go through, seems to have gone forever.
It is time to clean up the mess left behind by the years of failure and wars. Time for Aways, Godane, Roobow and their accomplices to be dispatched to the International Criminal Court to face up to the crimes they committed against the Somali people. Apart from the mass killings, tortures and financial coercions, they have created an army of amputees as their legacy; hundreds of young people with limbs cut to satisfy their craving for blood and to entrench their tyranny through fear and ruthlessness. It is time that they have to account for their crimes against humanity. Time to make them answer for the thousands of children they kidnapped and used as gun-fodder and as human bombs; for the humiliation of Somali women they used as guinea pigs for their crazy fatwas by not only restricting their life activities and banning them from earning their livelihoods but also by interfering with their private life and controlling how, when and where they should cover and uncover of their God-given body.
Above all, these criminals should be made to stand trial for turning the areas they controlled in Somalia into concentration camps.
Thank You Sheikh Sharif for Your Leadership
No achievement can be made without capable leadership. And I should say without any reservation that Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has shown great leadership qualities and has achieved success. The fact that he survived the spitefulness of the plain speaking Somalis who don’t see any good coming from any leader unless he is from their own clan is itself a commendable accomplishment. 
Due to his admirable patience, his conciliatory approach, his reassuring demeanor, his skillful maneuvering through the complexities of the Somali tribal system, and his wise and pragmatic style in striking a balance between his country’s security needs and the interests of stakeholder countries, Sheikh Sharif has dismantled the false accusations of his critics, the majority of them are the so-called Somali intellectuals, who take delight in just criticizing for the sake of criticism.
Having followed his track record since I first interviewed him on 9th June 2006 until now, it is my firm belief that it is only Sheikh Sharif who is capable of leading Somalia’s reconciliation and reconstruction process in the post-Al Shabab period. He has proved to be an acceptable leader to all Somali people and a man that the AU and the international community can do business with. And come August, the only wise step to take will be to re-elect Sheikh Sharif and give him the opportunity to continue the work that he has handled so well since 2009.
Future action
With the country back on its feet, it will be time for the Somali people to depend on their own resources and ingenuity to shape their future; time to turn the focus to building a strong and well trained Somali military who can replace the AMISON forces as quickly as possible.
With their job well done, the African Forces should not stay any longer than necessary. Overstay their mission would only ignite latent feelings of nationalism and any mistake by any AMISOM soldier could lead to unnecessary armed conflict.
Somali people
Welcome back to the beaches, to the sunshine, to the guntino and beautiful butterfly diri, welcome to the isbarmuuto, to the samusa that Al Shabab banned for being a symbol of trinity. Welcome to your businesses, to your culture, your folklore dances, your music, your entertainment. Welcome to visiting the graves of our revered saints and men of piety “Awliya”, welcome to practice your religious rituals as you please without looking behind your shoulders in fear of Al Shabab brandishing their Kalashnikovs and  herding you to their devious rituals.
Welcome back to our women. There is no way that anyone could compensate Somali women for the suffering they went through. They were the real victims of the twenty year war. They buried their dead sons with their own hands, they woke up with the mortars raining on their homes day in, day out; they lost their husbands, their children and their parents. They were subjected to rape, coercion, poverty, hunger, displacement and continuous fear. And yet they continued relentlessly to give love and hope to the broken nation. They were the breadwinners, the peacemakers and the healers of the insane, the sick and the elderly. And above all, they upheld the banner of life in the middle of death and destruction. Never again should the Somali women be subjected to such debasing degradation and inhuman suffering. 
Welcome back Somali youth to the world of sports, of music, of computer games and social networks. Welcome back to the cinema houses. Welcome to taking a stroll with your fianc├ęs and friends on the beaches. Welcome back to excelling in schools and reclaiming your life and your country as well as reshaping your future as you like in the norms, values and freedoms and spirit of the 21st century. Welcome to becoming the computer wizards of Africa and leading intellectual innovation.
Welcome back Somali businessmen to rebuilding the city of Mogadishu and returning it to its glorious beauty as the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Welcome back from being killed and dumped like trash on the sidewalks in South Africa and elsewhere and return home to show the miracles you can do in getting Somalia back to its feet with your renowned entrepreneurship skills and to pioneer a Horn of African Common Market that could eventually lead to a Somali-led Horn of African Economic Union. 
After twenty lean years of being an international pariah and after hitting rock bottom, there is only one way to go; and that is to climb up the wall to once again see the sun, feel the fresh air on your face and allow your eyes to enjoy, survey and reclaim the distant horizon. And this is what the Somalis should be doing and should have no time to listen to opportunists, cynics, profiteers from the chaotic situation and naysayers who strive to keep them in the dungeon.
After twenty years of confusion we have learned that Mogadishu was the head of the Somali body and once the head was sick the other parts of the body had become disoriented and chaotic. We have come to know that “Xamaraa laga daaraa (the power is switched on from Hamar or Mogadishu) was not said for a joke; so welcome back Mogadishu - Switch on the light for us. We are coming to sing: “Jirjir baad ka geli Xamar waa jiqeey (Get a place for yourself, Hamar is so crowded)