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Letter To Parliamentarians
I write to you as new members of this august house given its symbol as the repository of the county’s political wishes. I have no doubt, that as politicians, many of you have come to serve the people’s interest; the country’s common good; indeed, some of you may have come to this house of representatives as idealists, some as realists, and some, as men who seek fortune and fame. In a word: all human weaknesses will be found in this new parliament and all human strengths will be there too, this is part of the human condition. Clearly, and fundamentally, the ideas of representative government are beginning to take shape in this country and that is what has been meaningful given the recent democratic exercise.
I write because I care about democratic government. I believe that the cause of democratic government is a worthy and noble endeavor. My dignity as a person is directly tied to the dignity of my people and in our ability to defeat the ravages of dictatorships and poverty in this continent. Dictorships and poverty as it were, being man made, and therefore solutions are possible however elusive they have been.
Dictatorships rise from the usurping of all power, just as poverty rises from the usurping of all wealth, by the few. Just as our parents fought the scourge of colonialism, apartheid and imperialism, at a time when unity was defined by exploitation and color, by who the settler and who the native, today we have the difficult task of finding answers in a very complicated and predatory time in history. The surrender/complicity of the African elite to a Trans-Atlantic political and economic class, the abandonment of African peoples to the grey concept ‘globalization’ and the punishing of the African state by disciplinary neo-liberalism, including the destruction of the concept of the African state as the modus oprendi for progress, has left my generation twisting in the wind.
The fight to uplift the people of this discarded continent has been left to NGO’s and “civil society” a concept popularized by a German Christian for German Christian purposes. Hegel’s ideas for a ascendant Europe and the crisis of African political economy have been mixed by NGO’s to produce a torment of an elixir – false consciousness about what ought to be done. The great clarion call of perhaps one of the most influential/tragic statesmen of the 20 th century, Kwame Nkrumah, who said during the fight for Ghana “seek ye the political kingdom first” has been discarded, and community organizations have replaced the state in Africa as the nerve centre of political and economic development. This parliament should write law banning the concept of civil society from our lexicon for it confuses the people about development and pays expatriates to practice tourism with a human face: a contradiction wrapped in a sandwich.
We in Somaliland have the doubly difficult task of saying we are genuinely interested in democracy while breaking the back of yesterdays beautiful dream: a Somali nation/state. It is dreadful to be born and live in this age of grayness, where every philosophy has been raped by ethnicity, clans, and tribalism. History has come back to bite us with a vengeful fang! There is no philosophy anymore, primordial instincts rule everywhere.
Everyone is suspicious, one’s definition is there waiting for him/her no ‘movement is possible, we have become definitionaly reduced only to our common biological/sociological data. Clans, tribes, or ethnicity rule the political environment, multiculturism in our context has become a multi-nightmare, a deficit instead of strength. In our own elections we all know that lineage support was more powerful, more a determinant than identification with a political party. Given, our limit of political parties – a brilliant idea – an individual running for a seat in this country was forced to “use” parties to participate in the electoral process. I believe, however, that we are moving towards a better dispensation as opposed to that rural idiocy called Shiir-Beeled.
If there is a triumph for the people of this parched land, if there is a thing called hope, then it is this first step of rooting the material and ideological wherewithal for governing ourselves. This is the triumph of the day. Granted, it is rudimentary, it is still crude, its operation rather flimsy, its constitution yet unroofed, still, it is a beginning, and with time, with experimentation we have the potential of governing ourselves through some form of recorded intentions and laws – and not by the will of the stronger nor by those who have a disproportionate access to the use of violence.
No need here to state the economic catastrophe that stalks this land; no mention ought to shock us about the propensity of the people themselves – completely de-humanized by recurrent authoritarian regimes – to take out their human frustrations on their neighbors. I think that, the emerging complexity of the world surrounding us and the marginalization of this continent as a whole from where the world is marching, will continue to characterize the lives of the people in this land for a long time to come.
People with a revolutionary spirit who ask for the vote and ask to be elected, people who are at one with the spirit of the democratic rule and are morally offended at the material and intellectual state of society must now start to look at displacing our usual suspects from their perch. For, I have advocated for this system because it would at once stop those usual suspects from using terror to stop the democratic process as well as allow people who are offended ethically and morally, nay, people who are outraged that the conditions of the people ought not to be characterized by such extreme poverty at the beginning of 21 st century to participate in the political process. No democracy is possible without some material benefits to the people just like no elevated level material comfort guarantees pliancy to a dictatorship. Both are necessary and sought after concepts by populations everywhere.
Ordinary people then, everywhere, including in our land look at the horizon for these things, there comes from them, these ordinary people, an assembly of extra-ordinary people who want to tempt fate, historical fate, by challenging foundationally, everything hitherto existing. Their opponents will say not in Africa , this is not the Americas or Europe , as if change in the last century, and the extraordinary history in the latter part of the 20 th century happened in Europe or the Americas ! Read the history of that century and it is the history of ordinary people around the World and particularly the Third World .
We are not insignificant in these broad issues that confront people everywhere, we are not without history, nor can we claim any moral superiority given out own massacres, there is no ‘African Eden’ there is however an African presence in history and no one should be lulled into any triamphalism simply because our weaknesses in this historical moment. Nor can we in Somaliland be chauvinists, nor can civil society analysts reduce us to basic anthropological observations, and fuse this realism into a fixed moment in time. The seeds for change are already in the womb of the moment and no one ought to figure us out in this or that way – things can turn on a dime to the shock of the analyst, including me…
To the Parliament of Somaliland, I urge you to do dignified things, to rise from these false stations assigned to us by false gods, to try to return the beautifulness of political agitation by answering larger questions about ourselves rather than the daily porridge of predictable factionalism that eschews and shuns thinking about the larger issues that grip our daily lives. I say that the parliament of this country ought to start returning politics, and I mean real politics, where the citizen can see the political leader and marvel at themselves, be encouraged by the dignity of asserting our own personality; and, to try and fight, step by step what fanon called that great Africa stupidity – ethnicity and tribalism as the basic determinant of out politics. I see this institution in this way; in a grand way, in a striking way, as an imposing institution filled by ordinary people: this is what I want to see; this parliament: at all times, dignity of the people, at all times, dignity by the people; and at all times dignity, for the people.
Our vision of finding new ways to be must live. It must live….
This piece is dedicated to my friends Abdishakur Sheik Jowhar and Amina Jama for always “seeing” what I write!