Community, Diaspora and Immigration
An appeal to Diaspora Somalis
John F Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 is remembered for one very famous quote: “my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
More than twenty years of war has driven over one million Somalis from their homes. Today Somalis reside in many countries and can be found in every major city in the World. The largest populations are located in UK, Canada, Scandinavia, in the Middle East and U.S.A.
The Somali Diaspora around the world is contributing to their homeland via transferring money to individuals, families, private investments and so on. However, there is an overall believe that The Diaspora is ineffective and disorganized, when it comes to unite their collective support to Somalia.
An elderly Somali man illustrates the lack of unity among the Somali diaspora as follows: “There is no doubt that diaspora members are in a position to do many good things here, but our observation about them is that they are too weak and disorganized to help us to their full capacity. There is a Somali proverb that says: far keliya fool ma dhaqdo, meaning a single finger cannot wash a face. I feel obliged to say that without them collectively getting together, the few that are here will not be able to do much. Their strength and power lies in their collectiveness, their togetherness, but this is not happening. Clan loyalties and tribalism pose a major challenge for the diaspora. They have to overcome this clannish mentality and be good example to others” (Interviewed November 2010 – Homeland Perception and Recognition of the Diaspora Engagement: The Case of the Somali Diaspora by Mahdi ABDILE University of Helsinki, Finland) (http://www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/vol20num1/abdile_pirkkalainen.pdf)
The diaspora simply lacks vision, coordination and coherent strategy as to how to utilize its knowledge and expertise and be part of re-building Somalia.
To achieve this strategy, the Diaspora must come to terms with weather it is time to act and help or stay passive and let international organizations and other interested actors lead the way on our behalf.
If we really want to make a difference and present a long-term solution for rebuilding our country we have to face our own daemons in eye and say enough is enough. And believe me, we have a whole lot of these daemons that divides us but we must not forget that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
Although the obstacles are many, I am going to name a few of them here:
1. Clanism/Qabyaalad: Somalis in the diaspora are unfortunately divided by the same cleavages that divide them in Somalia: The undisputed clan loyalty that we worship, pledge allegiance, and defend with all that we can is the root cause of our problems. We must face this daemon once and for all and say no more struggles in the name of the clan. This can only be done by realizing the damage the clanism has done to Somalia and to us individually.
2. The lack of articulated vision, and the will to make a difference. Many of us want to help but when it comes to action they are now willing to engage.
3. International actors who have economic interest in keeping Somalia in a state of dependency. These actors are not willing to engage the Diaspora. Daily nation columnist and author Rasna Warah states in one of her articles: “It seems everyone is profiting from the chaos in Somalia. Somali analysts I have spoken to tell me that UN staff based in Nairobi would like Somalia to remain unstable so that they can maintain their luxurious and relatively safe lifestyles in Kenya’s capital”
Indeed, almost all bilateral and multilateral donor agencies have their Somalia offices based in Nairobi. Almost none have a functioning office in Mogadishu.
The list of the obstacles is very long and I will not bother you with it as we all are aware of them. I want just us to shift the focus in finding solutions that can be useful for our country instead.
In order to do that we have to ask ourselves – at least those of us who want make a change – how can we come out of this negative cycle of powerlessness in order to help and contribute to our country? What do we have to do in order to start a new Era of hope and change for our country?
The opportunities to help Somalia are better today than it has ever been before since the civil war erupted. Somalia has got a functioning and internationally recognized central government; and things are moving forward in a positive direction. The Somali Diaspora has to help the Government to reach its goals and fulfilling its promises. By empowering our Government we can empower the people and make a positive impact. No government can succeed without the support of its people; therefore we need to support the Government.
Since this government was sworn into office 20th August 2012 a lot of positive progresses have happened. This momentum gives us for the first time since the civil war erupted the opportunity to make a difference for ourselves, our people and our country.
If we fail to grab this chance now, we may not have this opportunity any time soon again. So my fellow diaspora residents; ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country and do it today. Don’t wait tomorrow. Let’s together build a great nation for ourselves, our children and their children.
What we need is to start a grass root movement and create a platform, where the Diasporas can exchange information and organize each other and channel our energy into collective impact. We don’t need to have a big bank account in order to start this process. We can take advantage of the Social Media technology that enables us to be in touch with each other in spite of geographical differences. LET US ORGANIZE OUR SELVES. This is free and achievable.
If you want to be a part of this grass root movement all you have to do is to write to me: email@example.com or join the facebook group Spot On Somalia.