3 (Non-Terrorism Related) Reasons To Care About Somalia

February 28, 2012

If you had the pleasure of following the circus that played out in London on February 23rd, then I hope that this post strikes a cord . But you really didn’t need to. The recipe was all too familiar. Take some war-on-terror, add in some neo-colonialism, a dollop of superficial diplomacy, and a pinch of racism. Voilà!

I admit, over the years I had become apathetic to the situation in Somalia. It seemed to be such an intractable issue, and I certainly didn’t have any solutions to offer. But my interest and concern began to peak as I started following the new/old border issues with Ethiopia and Kenya, and then went through the roof after the London conference on Somalia. If the conference was useful for something, it was for publicizing what has been happening behind closed doors for far too long. For that, Prime Minister David Cameron, I thank you.

Here are 3, among infinite, reasons why you should be concerned about Somalia if you care about the welfare of the African continent as a whole [hint: none have to do with terrorism or pirates].

1) Bad regimes get propped up. Many dangerous regimes around the world were able to hold on to their power during the Cold War era because of resources and arms provided by the U.S. and the Soviet Union, who had made the globe their battling ground. Fast forward 20 years and we see the War-on-Terror playing out in much the same way. It will remain increasingly difficult for the people of Ethiopia and Kenya to hold their governments accountable and demand internal change if politicians gain their legitimacy from the U.S./U.K by acting as a ‘buffer’ around Somalia.

2) Somali people are people. Seems redundant, but its disgusting how little talk there is about the rights of the people who live within the region represented as Somalia. As African states scramble to get their piece of the Somali pie, and the U.S. and U.K. use the War-on-Terror to legitimize their own security agenda and oil interests there, little room is left for capable communities in Somalia to participate in a process of reconstruction and peace building on their own terms. Perhaps the people who actually live in this region should have a say in what the government looks like, perhaps.

3) Representations of Africans as ‘Barbaric’ and ‘Uncivilized’ are making a wicked comeback. The lack of a stable Somali nation-state has somehow given permission to politicians, journalists, and commentators to dust off and recycle their old colonial dictionaries. Representations of Somalis as lawless tribal people who need the West to come ‘civilize’ them have become the norm rather than exception. This shows us how far the post-colonial project still has to go.



2 Responses to “3 (Non-Terrorism Related) Reasons To Care About Somalia”

  1. Natty said

    I don’t know about other people but the Somalia region is something of an enigma to me. It has so many issues, you get lost at knowing where to start, or what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. It seems that anything that comes from that region is bad news.

    • alphaabebe said

      I can understand that sentiment, but you have to question where it comes from. Much of it has to do with the cycle of conflict and poverty in the region, but a lot of it also has to do with the lens with which the region is viewed and fed back. Take for example Somaliland, which has its own functioning governing system and private sector, and is relatively peaceful and safe. While they are yet to achieve international recognition as a state and still have a number of social, political, and economic issues — there is much to learn about their success, but its simply not discussed in the mainstream. And on top of this, its very difficult to find the ‘good news stories’ in a region, when the starting presumption is that its complete chaos.

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