Somalilandsun – As soon as what looked like the “United Somali Congress (USC)” took over Kiev and the BBC reported that the corrupt but elected ‘dictator’ Victor Yanukovich was on the run, I felt Ukraine was starting to parody Somalia.
It could not be different, what with the site of the revolution, Maidan square, sounding like a namesake of the Madina sheep-market where in 1991 rowdy Hawiye youth triumphantly ransacked Darood mansions which were as opulent as the US$ 3 million house the ousted President of Ukraine left behind. USC revolutionaries vanquished Darood oligarchs. Ukrainian-speaking oligarchs joined hands with the new rulers just the same way the longest serving Minister in the Siyad Bare government turned into an advisor of the Madina “Right Sector” and “Svoboda” overnight. Right-wing they are called in Ukraine. In Somalia, they are neither left nor right; they are “tol-wing”.
The fallen dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre cursed his ousters not from the breezy Villa Somalia but from Buur Dhuubo, a barren village he called home. Yanukovich re-appeared in a small town in Russia, Rosto-on-Don, claiming to be the legal President of a country whose capital city he fled. So providentially spared death Saddam-style, both men’s foolhardy bravado owed more to a plea for one more gasp than to the promise or prospect of more Presidential life.
Siyad said he run away from “mad wolves” –yeyin Somali; Yanukovich from fascists and neo-Nazi nationalists. Still can’t get how General Aideed wasn’t a Hawiye fascist and Siyaad a Nazi Darood! The divide betweenWest (Ukrainian speaking) andEast (Russian speaking) has been and remain the political fault line in that cold country. Hawiye-Darood duopoly of Somalia’s politics and mutual mistrust remains the bane of warm Somalia. The West and the Hawiye monopolize the capital and are staunchly centralist; chasing Presidents from the peripheries, like Yanukovich, from the capital city at will. The East and Darood bring hostile foreign armies into their own country and are fanatic Federalists.
But before the two could fight it out; the Burco conference started in Crimea. There, Somali National Movement (SNM) held a hasty referendum, browbeating Tatars (Dhulbahante) and Ukrainians (Gadabursi), and declared unilateral independence. In Simferopol, a pro-Russian “self-defense forces” encircled public buildings and made the secession a fait accompli, even before the political rituals started. In Burco, the pro-Sheikh-Isaaq hot-headed gaas-dhagoole Brigade dictated the agenda and rigged the outcome. Russia embraced Crimea, but Britain was way too far to take back its colony. The new State soon got the tentative cuddle of Ethiopia though. That was many moons ago. Now, President Silaanyo sneaks into the disputed Sool and Sanaag, Somalia’s Donetsk and Kharkiv, and the vitriol kicks in. Bad memories re-ignited. In Donestk and Kharkiv, the painful days of World War II; in Sool and Sanaag, the Faqash (Darood) demolition of Hargeisa.
We thought the parody ended there, but then we started to follow the partisan media of the feuding sides and a sense of déjà vu set in. The BBC, CNN, SkyNews on the side of Ukrainians. Russia Today (RT) on the Russian side. Up until that point, we derided Raaskaamboni.com, Waamotimes.com, Caasimada.com, Waagacusub, Garowe online, Keyd Media, and Dayniile.com. We soon pardoned them. For the western media started that same “tolaa’yey”– a Somali chant used as a rallying cry when the succor of clan-mates is sought – we are so used to in Somalia. The RT requited in kind. We kissed Western media’s pretense to objectivity goodbye; the Russian media never seriously pretended to be so in the first place. Jim Clancy and Dahir Alasow became one and the same, only distinguishable by their colour – Jim, ashen white; Dahir, lustrous black. Whoever said social research by its very nature is a manipulated facility, should not have forgotten the media is so too.
Otto Von Bismarcks’ doomed philosophy shed its spent skin like a giant Amazonian anaconda on a broad daylight, in the full glare of cameras, territories changed hands with the stroke of a pen. In truth, with the rolls of heavy metals and machine-guns inside Crimea. The Bismarckian notion that great questions of the day are settled by blood and iron, never by sanctions or visa bans or press releases, gained renewed legitimacy.
The West’s reaction, promised to be hard-hitting and ramped up to greater frenzy for weeks, arrived. While Putin was signing the annexation of Crimea, Obama was writing visa bans against few men, notably one district chairman named Sergey Aksyonov, a village man who rarely takes the bus to Moscow let alone to cross oceans. We all watched this in disbelief. How the mighty have fallen! How few kilograms of nuclear powder can tame the all-conquering “world police” State; a police State that invades Grenada to save American students; but finds it “totally unacceptable” when Russia resists a pro-Western government in Ukraine. Some of us thought Russia should have worked hard to install a pro-Russian government in Mexico for the Americans to get what it means when “water flows into your hole” as Somalis are wont to say when in distress.
Then the shock of all. Mighty Somalia weighed in with its lessons for solving internal problems, warning Russia to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine. Mighty Somalia, whose President cannot answer the call of nature without the company of Ugandan Soldiers. Somalia, with troops from half a dozen foreign countries in its belly! Troops who do not take orders from their host! Some of us were reminded the days when the radio station of Socialist Ethiopia used to broadcast messages of peasant associations in small villages vowing to destroy American Imperialism if Reagan continues his aggression against Libya!
Some say Putin did not take the warning seriously, initially wondering which side of Somalia, East or West, Hawiye or Darood, have sent the letter. Only to find out that because the letter was decidedly anti-regional state, it must have been a Hawiye letter. If the letter had called for the deployment of troops from neighbouring countries and have “reaffirmed its commitment to Federalism”, it would have been from Puntland…or Jubaland…or any of the Darood states, Putin reasoned, they say.
After all, the internationalization of the Hawiye-Darood strife hasn’t begun with the Ukrainian crisis. A story has been making rounds a year ago when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) met a Somali Government delegation.
They say the IMF reminded the delegation that Somalia owes the IMF more than $300 million. A Hawiye member of the government is said to have reacted to this unfair generalization. “Mr, John”, he blurted out, they say, addressing the IMF man. “Mr. John, the Hawiye have nothing to do with that money you just mentioned. Go and ask the Daroods. They are the ones who used it inCuruubahotel and the multitude of steamy hideouts they used to violate girls”. Crude, but you can’t argue the man doesn’t have a point.
Ukraine has started on the good path Somalia trekked. There is no way it can fail, for Somalia hasn’t failed. How can it, when it is still a giver of good counsel for troubled nations like Ukraine? “Proper” Ukranians do not have to cede their monopoly of the capital; the Russian-speakers need to continue to be a vassal of a foreign State. The EU is never a constellation of foreign states, so the proper Ukranians never really have an extended umbilical cord to foreigners. NATO is benign just like Uganda. The Russian-speakers should not contribute to the national coffers but should continue to demand fair national representation from now onwards. Just like the many lala-lands in Somalia, they can have the cake and eat it at the same time.
Hate should remain a communal hobby in Somalia, a hobby which must never die, never go away, never lose freshness or a rousing immediacy in spite of the passage of time or the coming in of new generations. Two decades and counting, but its denouement would still be untimely. The intelligent elder, the upright citizen, the clean politician cannot offer a panacea. Only the committed clan chauvinist or the crazed religious fanatic can surmount this engulfing bleakness. Only then can Somalia enjoy a measure of national catharsis.
But there is good news. The herb that heals the affliction in Ukraine will exorcise the Hawiye/Darood demon in Somalia.
Mukhtar M. Omer