w w w . S o m a l i T a l k . c o m

The duo Walad Abdalla and Nur Cadde in London: A day of agony, disillusion and deceptions

  • Warsan Cismaan Saalax

I was invited to attend a conference on Saturday 11 April 2009, which was promoted as special event about Somalia and engaging with the Somali Diaspora.  Considering the serious issues at stake for Somalia, I thought everyone involved will act with earnestness.  Both the audience and the speakers though turned up about two and a half hours later than scheduled.  When I inquired about the whereabouts of everyone, a young man responded giggling “these are Somalis, they are always late”. I could not see the humour in this; at least someone else did.    The meeting was public yet opened only to assortment of the obedient and the same interest groups.  Perceived trouble makers were tiptoed following heaps of counter-accusations and mediations between them and the organisers.  Generally, there was an aura of too much anger caused by fear against each other, which drained me of energy even before the conference commenced.  

The main actors were Ould Abdulla, the United Nations Special Representative for Somalia, and Nur Cadde, the former Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. I desperately wished the two men would tell us something new.  All confronted audience that not only giggled at them but also with them. 

We heard from older members of the Somali Diaspora.  It was desperately heart-breaking to see them weak, frail, and above all broken, as though they have given up the prospect of growing old and dying graciously in Somalia.   Two men specifically caught my ears, Cismaan Jaamac (Kalluun) and Mohamed Jeylani, former high officials in Siyad’s regime.  Cismaan addressed us by first apologising for the crimes committed by the former regime.  A proud and spirited man, who has never in anyway, form or shape hurt anyone, yet stood facing a giggling audience apologising for crimes he has never been party to.  He hoped that next time he lands in a Somali city, he will be considered a Somali, not a clan member who is a guest on another clan.  As much as I admired his courage, my heart sunk for his sorrows and the tragedy embedded in his message.  Ironically, we all laughed again. 

Mr Jeylani, another gutsy, witty and admirable man took the stage.  He embarked on translating the preposterous undertakings of the nineties against the Banadiris and the Bravanese using light hearted descriptions.  He explained it as the war of the rural against the urban.  Of course it was not a comical story, however as we did not know how else to react, we tittered, he himself laughed nervously throughout his speech, perhaps to make the truth bearable.   

Another member of the Diaspora, stood up making public his dissension with the Social Services in Britain, and the indifference of the Somali Community Organisations, which he indicted of moral corruption.  Yet he went on braising Nur cadde for breaking the laws of his government and pursuing his goals by any means.  Now, this for me summarises our, the modern Somali’s dilemma, demanding justice yet unable to wrong the wrongs of those we like or relate to.  I questioned the expectations placed upon the governed if their leaders fail to adhere to the laws and the constitutions of the land.  Surely chaos should be the customary order of the day. 

Then Nur Cadde took the stage. He talked about a number of things relating to what he was engaged in the recent past. Towards the end of his talk, he claimed that the civil war, that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and displaced millions internally and externally and destroyed whole cities, was quite misunderstood. This distasteful comments to an externally displaced Somali audience, crowned him as callous. 

Mr Abdulla, on the other hand, claimed expertise and he came across as if he was talking down on us rather than to us.  He even mocked the current government and their inability to lead and not to be led.  He emphasised the need for tolerance, still was himself intolerant of opposition declaring that no Somali should have the right to veto!.  Usually saying something and its opposite is a recipe for inaction.  How can anyone work with “be tolerant but don’t be tolerant”.   Moreover, he claimed that the current government was what we wanted, indubitably this flimsy claim should have been better left unsaid.   As if what we heard was not enough, he commented on Mr Jeyalni’s remarks by claiming that the rural people’s war was due to the disappointment with the educated.  Now Banadiris and the Bravanese were held responsible for their own predicament with the blessing of the UN.  As outrageous as it may sound, the audience clubbed and sniggered.  Unable to see the state of the Somali Diaspora, Mr Abdulla urged us to help the country.  The problem growing in status is that perhaps somehow we lose touch with reality.   Placing such a demand on our shoulders while we struggle with broken families, lost youth and parents to crime and substance misuse, barely being able to make ends meet while living at the verge of our adapted societies is very illusory. 

By the end of the day, I was distraught, angry, furious and disgusted with the insensitivity shown.  The anger was building up amongst the audience too, and if the time was not cut short, I am sure the whole thing may have exploded.  Important issues, such as justice and human rights, piracy and the underlying social deprivation, the claims of toxic waste and illegal fishing that provided piracy with moral framework, the thousands refugees stranded in Kenya, Ethiopia, internally-displaced persons (IDPS), reversed migration and of course the intimidating presence of the so called international community  in our shores were not raised . 

I was given a chance to speak, by then I could hardly contain my anger.  The situation was too ugly to salvage and the people were too traumatised and confused to even begin to reason with. 

At that moment I realised that Somalia is lost between the self-absorbed leaders, a traumatised and confused population and an agonisingly indifferent world.  Ignorance and hunger compounded by the two evils, tribalism and religious extremism, Somalia seems to be heading towards an apocalyptic end, not as a nation state only, but as a race. 

Although I have been a community activist since 1996, I have never felt as much anguish, torture, deception and as much disillusionment as I did on Saturday.  The audience were misinformed about the purpose of the conference.  They were invited under pretext of engaging the Somali Diaspora, but, unfortunately, it turned out to be all about Nur Cadde’s and Ould Abdullas egos.  They wanted to reward each other for their achievements.  It was so obvious that they were not so keen on other than themselves, not certainly in Somalia, the new government, or Somali destitution.  Even some friends I met after this painful conference believed that the only solution is bringing Somalia under Trusteeship.  This brought the images of Black Hawk Down back to my mind, and the pain I experienced when I was asked to review the movie: .   Fifty years after the liberation of Africa, sadly some sections of the Somali society are warming up to the idea that Trusteeship is the solution.  The sheer thought of this, is to me, the biggest defeat to the Somali spirit, so I wept, moaned and wailed for Somalia. 

The solution for Somalia does not lie in foreign tanks and take-over.  Perhaps, what Oulad Abdulla and Nur Cadde need to do next is maybe look into our eyes and hear our cries.  Nation building and morale building efforts must go hand in hand.  Conceivably the first place that they may need to start from is to open and foster an honest dialogue between the Somalis, to help us to confront our past deeds and provide us with a space to grieve our multiple losses, with the intention to mend our broken trust and relationships. 

Warsan Cismaan Saalax

Faafin: | April 21, 2009

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