Monday, July 02, 2012

The cake first, then the slices

By Bashir Goth

It was a day like any other. A hot and bright summer day in the Washington D.C metropolitan area as we sat, a group of middle aged Somali men, in a good Afghani restaurant in Virginia at the invitation of a prominent Somalilander. We chatted like all Somalis do while we were waiting for the lunch to be served.  We were five from Somaliland, and two from Southern Somalia.  We exchanged hilarious anecdotes and humorous jokes on all issues. There was no sacrosanct topic in our jokes that covered culture, clans, economy and society. 

But like all Somali conversations, we soon embarked on our most favorable topic; politics. Politics is the Somalis best past time conversation. Everything else acts as an appetizer for the hot plate of politics. No sooner do a group of Somalis sit together; they end up having animated discussions about politics no matter how and where their conversation begins.

So after the starter jokes, we turned to real politics, beginning with the recent talks of Somalia-Somaliland;  figuring out the objectives, goals, timings and predictions about the long term outcome of the dialogue. We discussed Somalia and its place in the regional and international geopolitics; the regional and foreign countries scramble for Somali waters and Somalia’s not so hidden resources as part of the overall rivalry on the Indian Ocean between the conventional and emerging powers. We discussed the issues with maturity and pragmatism. We analyzed the internal challenges exiting in Somaliland and those facing Somalia; we argued about the prospects of Somaliland remaining as a separate entity and the practical need to revive the Somali unity in the face of an unabashed foreign greed that is bent on dismembering Somalia in order to make it easier for them to swallow it in pieces. 

We revisited the recent history of Somalia and wisely diagnosed the root causes of the Somali tragedy. We didn’t condemn or condone any party, indeed none of us showed any intransigent positions on any of the issues we discussed. This is one of the rare times I experienced a group of diversified Somalis discussing the Somali issue in all its weird trajectories and complexities with such maturity, flexibility and pragmatism. In fact anybody who listened to us would have had the impression that we were a group of like-minded members having a working lunch on a common project. 

If this cordial meeting can show anything, it shows that after being inebriated for more than 20 years in mayhem, chaos, unnecessary hostility and suspicion, Somalis have sobered up and have realized that clannism and ghetto mentality will only prolong the suffering of the Somali people and kept us an easy prey for the hounds waiting to gnash the flesh of our nation.

We, the small group of professionals, have agreed at our lunch that our real concern should not be whether to keep the cake intact or divided but to ensure that we have a cake first. And with this solemn agreement, the waiter severed us a warm and deliciously looking Afghani cake.

It is noteworthy to mention, however, that the day was 1st July, the 52nd anniversary of the Independence of Italian Somaliland and its unification with British Somaliland.  I am not sure whether we had conveniently forgotten it as a topic of contention that might have spoiled the harmony that prevailed in our meeting or that it just has slipped our minds as we have been carried away by the hot plate of politics. 

2nd July 2012.