Guban Somalia Novel Out in Print

Published On: Tuesday, May, 08 2012 - 22:23:21 This post has been viewed 1808 times

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This paper is a review of the novel titled Guban by Abdi Latif Ega and is published by panafrik this year, 2012 in Harlem New York; purposes here are to introduce the book in the context of current issues and discourse in Somali politics. Novel is autobiographical and is a commentary on the contemporary issues in the discourse on Somali Politics
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The context of the novel are gender relations in the Somali world, importance of clans, regional cleavages, military dictatorship in the 1970s and impact of the cold war on Somalia’s fragile statehood; novel is timeless in reflecting across the entire existence of Somali republic, it demonstrates deep impact that cold war has had on Somalia as it swung in pendulum between Bi- Polar Powers, allegiance to Soviet Russians Initially and US hegemony later and finally to its demise.

Karl Marx tells us that history is repeated by those who fail to learn from it:Somali state is in ruins today, it is described as a failed state and despite various attempts since 1992 to resuscitate the state , in the form of humanitarian intervention, war on terror and many other pretext, not only has it proved to be mission impossible but instead it has disintegrated further into various autonomous regional and ethnic enclaves; clannism which used to be considered backwards in the past is now fashionable, hence the competing elites in the various regions no longer are interested in Somali Nationalism but instead are actively hindering revival by offering revisions of history.

The quote from Marx is instructive in that current attempts at restoring Somali state will not be successful until we learn from our past failures, how did the state collapse? recently in London there was an attempt at reconciliation and diplomacy by UK prime Minster David Cameron and they hosted conferences and seminars to engage constructively the various actors in the Somali Politics in UK: I saw a gathering of such groups in seminar at Foreign & Commonwealth office and the way they spoke about each other, you can see it in You Tube about consultation meetings between FCO with the Diaspora back in 2012:extent of clan based hostilities and allegiance was such it was demoralising and downright embarrassing to see prominent people in our community who profess to be Muslims and Somali nationalist to be engaging in such petty clan politics so detrimental and destructive and which continues to derail any attempts at reconciliation and reconstruction of the Somali state

Other elites in this arena are engaging in what I can only describe as revision of history, ironically it’s the very same elites that once upon a time become prominent by virtue of Somali Nationalism in the 1970s and 1980s: are the same ones that currently govern the various self declared autonomous states and are staunchly opposed to the existence of a national state as it used to be in the past , with their ethnic and clannish support and their foreign powers support base who can challenge such characters in today’s world ?

While the revisionist are controlling new artificial layers of governance and pseudo independent” democratic environment in the autonomous “republicswith their duplicated transplanted party system’s copied from bourgeoisie political parties in the west that have ossified and stagnated into static class based caste system politics , good example is UK party system: while these give appearance and impression of stability and democracy, the militant and extreme fundamentalist factions such as AL Shabbab continue to recruit where other similar actors recruited in the past and dominate i.e. in key areas such as Mogadishu, they continue to wreck havoc in Somalia, recruiting vulnerable people in the Diaspora and child soldiers at home for their own political careers , with such groups in power in many parts of Somalia, who needs an external enemy ? Such characters give any imperialist and external enemy states legitimacy and moral high grounds to invade Somalia and infiltrate body politics to such an extent that Somali politics will remain in paralysis for long time to come.

As a Somali person who grew up in the era of nationalism, I fail to understand the unwillingness and the hindrance that has plagued Somali Politics from within, those who should be defending its values; there have been so many war crimes yet there has been no significant prosecution to this day and despite this many do not want war criminals to be identified or prosecuted but instead would prefer to use this as a launch pad for secession and separation from the Somali Republic, not to mention the revision of the past and the senseless subdivision into weaker smaller states whose existence in the long run will be more beneficial to external non Somali states. Such a state of affairs means that we could continue reliving the civil war for a very long time to come.

Today not only is Somalia a failed state, en masse more Somali refugees have fled from their homeland exiled as refugees, trend has remained constant since 1969 and worsened aftermath of state collapse in 1991: at this current rate of migration and brain drain from Somalia, is it not possible to hypothesize that very soon Somalia will become a land barren without its peoples, of what use will then be foreign currencies and remittances from abroad be then? when there will be shortage of workers and manpower to run public services and Government officesand no one to look after theelderly and vulnerable: As for the Diaspora, many have become second class citizens or exist in the margins of the mainstream societies that have accepted them as citizens in such remote places like in Australia, Canada, USA and in every other regions of the world often travelling at great risk to themselves and family travelling to places such as South Africa where as has been documented in worldwide media, displaced Somali people are scapegoats and vulnerable to political violence from vigilante groups in south Africa and extreme right wing parties in Western Europe ; mass exodus continues and Somalia is now an experimental arena for all the latest weapons of mass destruction, illegal fishing and dumping ground of toxic waste, and a haven for untested and dangerous naive new political players such as Al-Qaeda and their followers using child soldiers in some cases and with their representatives Al Shabbab the situation in Somalia remains fragile and volatile.

In the current political climate where the State is being re –created and where allegiance is fragile, where many still harbour grievances, when so much money and resources have been spent in what has turned out to be a black hole, when people are cashing in by actively obstructing restoration of Somali state. As was demonstrated in the book by former Ambassador of Somalia to India in 1970s Mohamed Osman Omar about early attempts 1992-4 in Ethiopia peace conferences, many participated in the conferences for reconciliation in pretence and for selfish reasons, later on were the ones actively engaging in obstruction of the nation building process and under such recurrent patterns in Somali Politics, it’s really important for all of us to pause and reflect on the past failures in state building and more specifically causes of state collapse both internal and external factors are very important: Here I think the UN and Africa Union have an important role to play, in future it’s going to be very important for External powers to stop playing regions against each other and really to recruit elites that have the collective interest of the nation at heart , those who will not fuel further ethnic hatred and clannism to the detriment of state building.

That’s is why I highly recommend the novel for anyone, everyone including Somali elites and other external actors with vested interests in Somali Politics to read Guban and help contribute positively to Somalia’s efforts at nation building in the 21stcentury . Hear the man before hastily rushing to judgements.

The transitional National Government must undertake research into state of Somalia’s past failures and must recruit intellectually capable qualified statesmen and must learn from the failures of scientific socialism of the Barre regime in the 1970s if it is to move forward, it will need to depend on the consent of its people and cannot expect to continue to rely on protection of external African and Other actors to govern legitimately and protect its citizens.

I conclude that Somalia’s ills, statelessness, proliferation and disintegration into fragmented groupings and civil wars will continue to haunt the collective consciousness of Somali people and it will remain a victim of its own making; in the past it was a government at war with its people, now it’s the opposite, its people at war against their government : until this destructive vicious cycle and chains are broken and replaced with liberation of the nation from yokes of self destruction until then we shall continue to be in the dark ages rather like medieval Europe: Ms Harper’s proposition or hypothesis that only Somalis themselves can solve their own problems is the correct approach. “None but ourselves can free our minds “.

This article is written by Edison, a Somali national abroad who is disillusioned with current and recent descent of Somalia into a failed state stereotype. I disagree profoundly with those who want Somalia to remain a theatre of cold war politics,feel free to comment on this article and review of the book, you can get in touch with me at [email protected]. None of the views expressed in this article are attributable to the author of the book Guban, as this is my own individual perspective on Somali politics.

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