By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
January 30th, 2023
Somalis are not new to causing mishaps for themselves and others. They literally forced themselves into the Arab League, although, some say it was forced to join as an underbelly support for the Arabia Peninsula security permit – that is where Somalia is located, just south of the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Somali and Arab Seas (Northern Indian ocean).
Somalia became a member of the Arab League as the first non-Arab nation to join that organization in 1974. It was only fourteen years old and still struggling to define itself. There was, indeed, no justification for the country to join the Arab league, other than expectation of the then regime of Somalia to receive some financial support from the Arabs. Somali and Arab relations were much better before Somalis joined that inept organization. Neither the potential economic fortunes nor political support for Somalia at its hour of need have materialized and would not happen, in view of the change of attitudes on both the Arab and Somali sides.
Other than Islam, Somalis share little with the Arabs. Despite being an Arab league member and being close to the Arab region, Somalis have maintained their language and culture which is related more to its Cushitic relatives in the Horn of Africa states of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea.
The fact that they traded with each other for centuries and even thousands of years, did not justify Somalia joining the Arab League and this was proven many times over. There would be Somali delegates to an Arab conference meeting of some sort and you would find the delegation moving around the halls of where the conference was being held. They did not understand the language for they do not speak the language and Arabs never speak in another language when they are on their own. There would be no place for English, French, or Italian, the languages Somalis speak other than Somali, in an Arab League conference.
Somalis of course use Arabic for their religious activities as all other non-Arab Muslims across the globe, but the language of religion does not address the politics, sciences and other specialized phraseologies and terms used by other fields of knowledge and needs. They were always and still are the odd man out of an Arab League meeting. This was a mishap mainly caused by the Somali government of the time.
What is strange is that Somalis have not learned from their mistakes and at present, the current leadership of the country is busy on joining another organization, representing people with which Somalis share very little. The only justification put forward by the current administration is not that they would get some financial support but that it would increase Somalia’s illegal cross border trade with Kenya, which does not even enter the trade statistics.
The East Africa Community represents, indeed, central Africa, despite the name, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. It is a region populated by Bantu Africans, and mostly Swahili speaking, while Somalis are Cushitic Africans and share many of its cultural base with the countries of the Horn of Africa, namely Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. The question is what is in it for Somalia in joining the EAC? What would happen to Somalis when they all jabber in Swahili and the Somali delegations find themselves alone, again standing as the odd man out?
It is said that Somalia would benefit from increased movement of goods and services, but it is known, and the Somali government knows that its people are not even allowed to land in Nairobi. When they come from Somalia, they should first land in a small regional town or a separate airport in Nairobi and not its international airport. Why would the government of Somalia join an institution where the closest country deals with the Somali people as such? Somalia has no trade or any other economic relations with any of the other members of the that region. Perhaps there are people of Somali origin that are part of the population of the region’s countries and Kenya is the first. However, there is an underlying potentially explosive territorial dispute between the two countries. It is only out of the screen, because of Somalia’s political mishaps.
The EAC is currently not driven by cold calculation and objectivity. It is more driven by some EAC politicians or even some member countries who assume that bigger is better and forget that leaner is meaner and better. They are also driven by personal desires to leave a legacy, but what legacy? It is most probable that, the rush may lead to a hobbled progress. One should not forget that the founding members were all British colonies and neighbors, all belonging to the Swahili belt, but that heritage did not and does not work well, even today.
One should, perhaps say, that the EAC, despite its lofty goals, is not mature enough to even think of adopting a country that is not in control of its total territory. It would be childish and truly unexplainable why would such an organization admit into its fold a country and government that only exists on paper. Perhaps Somalis have forgotten that there is a dispute between Somalia on Somalia’s waters and on Kenya’s Northern Frontier District as it is often called. Both are unsettled. Would Somalia give up those claims it has on Kenya, or would it even revisit the judgments of the International Court of Justice on settling the maritime dispute between the two countries? These and many other questions point to a wrong direction that the government of Somalia and the EAC are embarking on.
Is this a mishap?