It just so happened that last Friday afternoon I traveled from Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I work, to Woodbury, Minnesota, where my family live. This is a trip I make every few weekends. And it is often the case that in those two days I take care of quite a few things. This time, though, there was an extra demand on my time: The highest ranking officials of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) were in town for a meeting with the Somali community in Minnesota. Should I attend or not, I asked with the full knowledge that my attendance would leave important family matters not dealt with. I chose to attend the meeting, and you cannot imagine how glad I am that I did!
I went into the meeting convinced Somalia is trapped in a system (of which AMISOM is only a part) that will leave it effectively stripped of sovereignty. I came out of the meeting confirmed in my belief. And for this confirmation, I am grateful to Ambassador Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Head of AMISOM.
I was one of a group of people that asked the ambassador important questions. I found him highly intelligent, experienced, skilled in the ways of diplomacy, engaging, articulate, all the more reason I found his evasion of my two questions telling. Here are my two simple questions:
1-Considering all the forces at play in Somalia, both foreign and domestic, I cannot see a sovereign Somalia coming out of this. Could the ambassador explain to us how the path Somalia is on can lead to independence and full sovereignty?
2-A few months ago, a high-ranking official of the Indian government visited Somalia and pledged Indian support for the re-building of the Somali National Army. The statement by the Indian official triggered a claim by the foreign Ministry of Ethiopia that only Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries have the mandate to build the Somali Army. Is Somalia free to
have any country it wishes, say Turkey, help it restore its army?
The ambassador chose not to address either question. Yet, throughout, he was painstakingly arguing that AMISOM was already rebuilding the Somali Army.
Those that know me well will tell you I am by no means a cynic; if anything, I am often trusting to the point of naiveté. But I am unable to shake off the nagging vision of a Somalia under the permanent control of foreigners. And the ambassador’s silence was not just a confirmation but, even more significant, a tacit admission of collusion. I now believe that AMISOM, IGAD, and Western nations are all in this plot together. Now, Somalia is being shaped by foreigners and their domestic collaborators. Tomorrow, the shape will harden and any attempt to change it will be deemed an act of sedition. Fictitious laws, unequal and unfair treaties with foreign powers, fraudulent agreements with foreign companies, entrenched interest: all these forces and more will combine to crush any budding opposition. For most Somalis, life will be difficult.
Still, no matter how troubling that is, our wrath as Somalis should be directed at those of us that enable foreigners to determine our destiny: leaders, both national and regional, with no imagination, no vision, no love of country and nation, and no courage; leaders, both national and regional, that are no more than mere tools in the grand foreign design to control and dominate Somalia. What use is more power to the regions in a federal system when the country has no power? What use are regional leaders that are treated by the international community like kings when the whole nation is treated like dirt? What use are national leaders that lead the nation towards domination and exploitation by others?
Somalia is in clear and present danger not just from Al-shabab but also from foreign powers. And I am not sure if this living generation, the very generation that destroyed Somalia, is the one that will save it. But if we don’t, there will still be the day when Somalis will have to rise up and sacrifice heavily in life and limb and reclaim our lost independence. After all, nations throw peace to the wind to gain freedom, not the other way. For peace without freedom can only beget bloody conflict.
Mohamoud A Gaildon
Author of the Yibir of Las Burgabo, a novel