Saturday, July 18, 2009

A different Letter to Donald Payne

by Ali H Abdulla
Monday, July 13, 2009

To: Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman

Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health

2310 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, District of Columbia 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman  Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health


The Somali people everywhere in this world would like to thank you for
your efforts to bring the Somali people together so that they can
extricate themselves from the prolonged sufferings they have endured
for nearly two decades.

The Somali people would also like to congratulate your country on the
recent election of Barack Obama to the white house. Somalis are
delighted that their African American brothers, with the help of their
other fellow Americans, have finally managed to overcome centuries of
injustice and marginalization. Let us hope that the election of
President Obama serves to bring the American people closer than ever
and contribute to a truly integrated society that is well equipped to
tackle the numerous challenges that our world faces today, such as
global warming, the economic meltdown and the numerous conflicts
raging on in many parts of the world.

The United States is a country that brings together people from all
around the globe. African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican
Americans and White Americans live in harmony, and have managed to
overcome their differences to create the most powerful nation on
earth. Your people have managed to overcome their fears and
prejudices, and they have succeeded in sending a black man to the
white house for the first time in their history, an achievement that
would have been unthinkable in the recent past. This is the result of
patience, perseverance and hope. The dream of Martin Luther King has
finally been realized. Your glorious achievements show that dreams do
come true. As Somalis, we hope that our dream of uniting the Somali
people peacefully will also come true.

The Somali people are one people. They are the most homogeneous people
in Africa and perhaps in the world. They speak the same language,
adhere to the same religion, are endowed with same color, and enjoy
the same physical features. They live in a country that is not bigger
than Texas. Yet, they suffer from disunity and internal conflict.

The nomadic nature of the Somalis have imposed on them over the
centuries a clan structure that has been exploited by the European
colonialists in the 19thcentury to divide them into five areas of
influence against their will. Most Somalis have fought against that
and lost thousands in the process.

After two of the five parts got rid of the colonialists in 1960 and
established a democratic government known as the Republic of Somalia,
the Somali people started the process of nation building.
Unfortunately,Somalia was not immune to the numerous coup d'etats that
afflicted the African continent, and fell prey to the cold war
influences of the time. A military junta took over in 1969 that was
initially welcomed by most Somalis who were tired of the corruptions
of the then democratically elected civilian government.  As hindsight,
it seems that Somalis were hasty in their judgment to support the
junta at the time, just as some fellow Somalis are hasty in their
desire to complete the work started by the colonialists in the19th
century; i.e. to divide Somalia into clan fiefdoms once again.

The division of the Somalis into several countries had contributed a
lot to the current mess in Somalia. When the military junta tried to
re-unite some of the Somali people by force in 1977, the defeated
national army became weakened and started to lose its grip on the
country. Years of latent dissent surfaced, and the ugly clan influence
reared its head again to further weaken the central government that
eventually resorted to heavy-handed tactics in order to suppress
legitimate grievances in many parts of the country.

After losing the national army that held the country together, Somalia
started to disintegrate into clan fiefdoms. Some clans have been more
successful than others in creating good governance in their areas of
influence. Others have fallen prey to warlords, criminal gangs and
religious fundamentalists, and were not given the chance to establish
successful local administrations.

Somaliland is one of the clan fiefdoms that have been successful in
overcoming their sub-clan differences, although all is not well there
also. Religious fundamentalists have sleeper cells in many parts of
Somaliland, and clan rivalry can erupt any time, if disgruntled
politicians choose to play that ugly card when it suits their
self-interests. As I write this letter to you, two clans are at
loggerheads over disputed land not far from the capital of Somaliland,
Hargeisa. Farther East, Somaliland forces illegally occupy a city
whose inhabitants are vehemently opposed to the desire of some groups
in Somaliland to break away from the SomaliRepublic. Opposing forces
are assembling around the city to evict these forces, a process that
can only contribute to the current mess in Somalia.

As a country that unites many ethnic groups, I believe that your
country can play a major role in resolving the intractable problems in
Somalia. Instead of supplying weapons to those fighting each other,
the US can start engaging the different groups in Somalia as an honest
broker. The Somali problem has been left to regional countries for
many years.  Many of these countries have no desire to see a stable
Somalia that they perceive as a threat to their national interests.
Ethiopia and Kenya occupy Somali territories given to them by colonial
powers. They should not be allowed to exploit the current situation in
Somalia to advance their strategic interests at the expense of the
Somali people.

Drought, Poverty, rampant un-employment and scarce resources also
contribute to the instability ofSomalia. Food aid delivered by NGOs
cannot solve these difficult problems. The World Community needs to
pursue innovative strategies to help Somalia overcome these difficult
challenges. Regions that are committed to peace, democracy and the
Federal system in Somalia need to be rewarded for their efforts.

Finally, I would like to convey to you the gratitude of the Somali
people for your gallant efforts to help them overcome their seemingly
endless misery. We all hope that you will follow the example of your
people who dreamt, hoped, persevered and finally overcame difficult
challenges. Please do not give up onSomalia and continue your efforts
to help them overcome their differences. Instead of isolating any
group, we hope that you will engage all groups and bring them around
to the common goal of uniting their country and people in a Federal
system that is characterized by justice, democracy and respect for
human rights.

Sincerely yours,

Ali H Abdulla

A concerned Somali

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