1/2011
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Somalia: Has the Time Come for an Organized Intellectual Camp?

“The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government is to live under the government of worse men.” Plato

With the aim of mobilizing the Somali people to recover their common identity and collective self-governance, Somali intellectuals came together in Djibouti for several times late last year.

 

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President Ismail O. Guelle of Djibouti opening the Somali Intellectuals' Congress.

A national congress was held in Djibouti, December 19–21, 2010. About 80 Somali intellectuals – educated individuals with some sort of expertise on the Somalia issues – discussed and, after some revisions, endorsed the conference recommendations for the future of Somalia and Somalis, including the Somali Diaspora.

The congress was the last step on a line of different meetings the fundamental objective of which was to set a new momentum towards a peaceful and just order and a competent reconstruction of the national institutions. Before these meetings many attempts for peace building and state formation have been endeavored. The first reconciliation conference for the Somali groups was held in Djibouti in June 1991.

The fourteenth, and the last attempt of its kind, was the formation of the so-called Unity Government (UG) led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. However, as noted in its final communiqué, the new initiative was different from the previous reconciliation attempts because for the first time a significant number of educated Somalis have come together to offer written reflections/policy analysis on key slices of the catastrophe, to deduce from the examinations a set of actionable recommendations and to underscore the pivotal factor of leadership as one deserving the most urgent and concentrated attention.

At the first stage, a few educated Somalis and the Government of Djibouti discussed the idea of bringing the Somali intellectuals together to develop new ideas and concepts that could contribute to the reconstitution of the state in Somalia. Moreover, the Government of Djibouti accepted to host a conference for the Somali intellectuals.

In addition, a preliminary workshop was held in Ali Sabieh, Djibouti, October 4–7, 2010. Here, five Somali intellectuals, scholars selected on the bases of their loyalty to the Somali cause and their recognized expertise on the Somali issues, led by Prof. Abdi I. Samatar, chair of the Department of Geography, University of Minnesota and expert on the political economy of Africa, met and discussed Somalia’s current human and political circumstances and came to two conclusions.

 

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The session on "Leadership and State" of the conference.

The first conclusion was that, as the old approaches have failed, it is high time for a deeper ventilation of some of the critical components of the Somali condition. The second was that, as noted, the country’s current horrifying circumstances require the formation of the united and civic elements of the nation’s intellectuals, which so far has been absent from the political scene.

Therefore, in order to set up an organized Somali intellectual camp, the team proposed two further stages and, in addition, the team identified seven critical areas for discussion. The first stage was planned to be a national conference of intellectuals that will further develop the items identified by the workshop. That conference will be followed by a second event that will be a national congress of about a 100 civic minded Somalis. The main goal of the congress was to deliberate on and carry forward the recommendations from the conference.

Series of recommendations

Consequently, a national conference of intellectuals was held in Djibouti, December 13–17, 2010. In this conference, where about 45 Somali intellectuals met, six areas identified in the workshop were presented for serious discussions and deliberations: What went so wrong in Somalia; state and leadership; the role of Islam in national renewal; security and external relations; and the role of the diaspora.

After long discussions, critical thinking and deliberations, the conference forwarded a series of recommendations to the congress. The congress conferred a series of recommendations for each of these areas, except the first topic which was basically a diagnosis.

The first, and perhaps the boldest, recommendation by the conference was the creation of a political movement, as soon as possible, that will embody the new spirit, intelligence, energy, and solidarity, as well as a visionary prefiguration of the new politics of citizenship and effective governance.

Furthermore, the congress elected a sub-committee to disseminate the congress report to the Somalis, inside Somalia and the diaspora, as well as the governments of relevant states and important regional and global organizations with one year tenure. However, the chair of the committee later informed the participants that the official work of the Djibouti conference/congress ended with the distribution to the world of the excellent Recommendations we had produced.

As a result, an enormous amount of activities and numbers of initiatives in different parts of the world followed the Djibouti meetings. Perhaps the boldest of these initiatives is the inauguration of the Hiil-Qaran – a political party and social movement that, according to its charter, intends to realize a productive and inclusive society that will re-gain its dignified place among the nations of the World – in London, February this year.

 

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Participants chatting at the corridors in one of the break times.

Somali Intellectuals urged the diaspora to:

1. Avoid any actions that could damage the search for peace and the progress of the reconstructive project.

2. Take part in current and potential activities to retrieve Somali nationhood and a capable state.

3. Work hard to be virtuous and honorable within their host communities. An important indicator of such a profile is successful integration.

4. Create a database for the Somali diaspora, especially for the educated and professionals.

5. Return, when possible, to their native country and invest their knowledge and resources. Those unable to return should consider any other means of facilitating the transfer of their knowledge to the homeland.

6. Establish a trust fund that sponsors the establishment of a National Research Institute.

7. Lobby within their respective local and national governments for supporting the establishment and the success of the reconstructive state and spirit.

8. Preserve the Somali dimension of the identity of their children through an appropriate propagation of the Somali language and culture.

For more information please look at the conference report. “HOOGGA SOOMAALIYEED IYO HIIL AQOONYAHAN (Somali Catastrophe and Intellectuals’ Succor)”