Somalia: The Need for an Accurate National Motto

Somalis love clichés and short phrases they can recycle. This is why “One nation. One people. One Language.” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It is usually followed by “then why are we like this? We are one though”.

I do not buy it. I am not sure we are a single nation. Nationhood is something you work for. It isn’t innate. And there is nothing to suggest that we have worked for nationhood in the past two or three decades.

One people? What do you mean? As in racially we are the same? Well, for one, I am not sure that we are. Somalis come in all shapes and sizes and shades. And anyways race, at least physically speaking, isn’t a discrete thing. But that said, who ever said a single race is a perquisite for a nation, or that it makes things easier? What is it about people that look each other that makes them agree with each other?  My siblings look kinda like me and we cant even seem to agree on what film to watch.

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7 Adjectives you should use around your Somali relatives to trick them into thinking you know loads about Football

We’re on the third day of the World Cup. And you’ve probably JUST realised that you have nothing interesting to say about any of the players, or the game. And you’re starting to get worried because you’ve started seeing some family members that you haven’t seen in years turn up at your door wanting to watch the football.

And you’ve wondered: WHAT AM I GOING TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT? WE HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON BESIDES AN IMAGINED MYTH ABOUT A TRIBE OR SOMETHING.

Don’t waste this opportunity to bond with complete strangers.

Here are 7 incredible adjectives you can use to make any random Somali person who is visiting your house think you know loads about Football. And Somali pop culture.

This is how it works. You take the name of a Footballer and then you say the word “Waa” and then you say one of these adjectives. It’s that simple. And before you know it, you’re being invited to their local maqaaxi to discuss Football. To impress them even more, begin all sentences with “walee…”

Disclaimer: These adjectives are not for the fainthearted.

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This is an article I wrote about the dangers of single narratives in the Somali community. I’d really like to get your take on it. Feel free to leave a comment here or on the Warya Post website.

8 Times “The leading anti-khad Campaigner in the UK” proved to the Conservative Party he can deliver the Somali vote

I have a problem with “community leaders”. Most often than not, the conversation is about them and not the issues. They come out of nowhere. They are most often unelected. And I have a problem giving power to anybody who isn’t elected. Their powers cannot be limited. They cannot be replaced by someone else. Everything becomes about a single person. Their face is on everything. The issues are pushed to the back. That’s just me listing problems that I have with unelected “leaders”. Regardless of how good the work that they do is, I will STILL feel uneasy about the prospect of helping an unelected person gain more power. 

Anyhow, here is a “community leader”. His name is Abukar Awale. His street tag is “Khaad Diid”. From what I gather, he’s on the forefront of a campaign to criminalize khad in the UK. Now, I have problems with criminalizing any drug, let alone something like Khad. I feel that even if criminalization is on the table, we should discuss after-treatment for the addicts, we should discuss possible outcomes: this will most definitely result in higher numbers of Somali men behind bars. We should be honest with ourselves and make it clear that Khad isn’t the only problem our community faces. It faces a number of problems and khaad can be, for some, a coping mechanism. Here is a quick four page analysis [From University of Swansea] of what we could potentially results from this.

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Probably the best thing Karl Marx has ever said about Somalis

We’ve all seen “leaders” trying to get us to see the bigger picture. Trying to get us to see why tribalism is bad. I have even seen leaders say that we were all “ill” and in order to heal, that we need to love each other. 

To cut a long story short, here is Karl Marx. And what he wrote over 150 years ago in Europe is still relevant to us, today, in Somalia. 

Hitherto men have constantly made up false conceptions about themselves, about what they are and what they ought to be. Most ‘radical’ German thinkers seem to think that reality will be changed by people changing the way they see the world around them. But these are innocent and childlike fancies, like the notion that we only drown because we have the idea of gravity in our heads

Compound Nouns in Af-Soomaali. Some examples like “Bat” and “Cannibalism”

As you’ll probably know by now, I have a weird obsession with words and language in general. I hope it won’t be a shock to you then, that today, I want to talk about compound nouns and compound verbs. The basic structure of this blog piece is as follows: 1. I’ll do a brief explanation of what a compound noun/verb is. 2. I’ll then provide examples of compound nouns and verbs in the Somali language. In each case, I’ll provide very brief commentary.

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Some reading on Early Islam in Africa - Specific focus on East Africa

I’ll be very brief, seen as though this post is about the readings, as opposed to anything that I have to say.

I hope that you enjoy these articles. I’ll be uploading more of these in the coming months, on different subjects of course. If I come across more stuff on the same subject, I’ll also upload them. This is in no way representative of the huge body of literature on the subject of Islam in East Africa. It’s supposed to be a taste. Enjoy. And feel free to comment with your thoughts below this post.

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Son, the tribalism business is the work of the urban people. They cook it there and then serve it to us.

Issa, a peasant in Jowhar. Spring 1990. As quoted by Abdi Ismail Samatar in his “The Destruction of State and Society in Somalia: Beyond the Tribal Convention”

Context 

Europe was cool in the nineteenth century .They were all about inter-cultural conversations. So much so that they use to kidnap/force/pay entire communities and put them in zoos so that they may be observed by Europeans. The zoos weren’t actually called “zoos”. It was either a “world fair” or “world exposition”

From the mid nineteenth century onwards, colonial powers began to hold these “World fairs”. The aim was simple: how do we introduce the metropolis to the colonies? How do we make it easier for our population (the British, the French) to understand that the “colonies” France/Britain rule over are tangible and very real. This is illustrated best by the French Colonial Minister Paul Reynaud’s opening remarks at the 1931 Expo where he declared that “the essential aim of the exposition is to give the French an awareness of their Empire”. OF course, part of the aim was also about boosting the confidence of both the Empire and the individual in the empire, by pointing out how varied and savage and bizarre the cultures were that they now ruled over. 

This Piece

This particular piece I’ve shared here was recorded in 1930 (exhibited 1931), and it comes from a long tradition of European faux-anthropology that had Empire at is centre. It was record by the Phonetics Department at Paris University, and the aim was to “record the music and dialects of the colonies”. But I promise, it’s much more sinister than that. They made hundreds of audio recordings, took hundreds of pictures and meticulously wrote LOTS of reports. Only a fraction of them are about Somalis. Here is one of them. 

From what I gather, this man is describing “disagreements” with his neighbouring Qabiil, or even sub-Qabiil. I think it was common, in regions in the north and west, to have disagreements like this with your neighbours. Robbing their camel is the ultimate expression of just how pissed off you are with them. 

Note: Think about the subject of the story. Think about why it might have “benefited” the recorders. Think about the problem with framing the existence of an entire people this way. 

Translation 

Once upon, we raided (a settlement) and we stole some camel. And the men we had robbed came after us, and they asked us to give them their camel back. And we said no. We’re not giving you anything back. We fought. They said give us our camel back. We said no. They said “us not getting our camel back isn’t really gonna work for us”. And we said, we’re not giving you your camel back, quit badgering us. We fought. They killed one of our men. So when they did that, we fought even harder. They then took the camel from us. We chased after them and caught up with them, and took the camel off them. There we fought. They killed three of ours. We killed five of them. They sent us a delegation who had some wise words to share. They said: “only three are eternal”. A man who has knowledge, a donkey, and a dog. Only those three will benefit. The man with knowledge, for he has has wisdom, and from livestock and his family comes much wealth. And donkeys, they said. And dogs, they said[This is a literal translation, but it seems that he has forgotten the particular proverb, so he’s filling it in with fillers]. We got compensation. We chased them, we scared them, that’s it! We kept the camel. We were stronger than them. We scared them. We became serious enemies. Years later [Lit: another day], they raided us, attacking us, families, livestock, and burnt our houses. And we went after them, and we burnt down their houses. And then matters became serious after that. And then British attacked us, and locked us up. They chased us, and we went on the run. We escaped. They caught five of our men. They locked them up. We then paid for them to be released. With the grace of God, through all of that, we were fighting. For five years, we were fighting. And then things got really difficult. We paid the “Mag” (Islamic compensation for killing someone). And we made peace there and then. 

Album Cover

War and Peace (1931)

Context 

Europe was cool in the nineteenth century .They were all about inter-cultural conversations. So much so that they use to kidnap/force/pay entire communities and put them in zoos so that they may be observed by Europeans. The zoos weren’t actually called “zoos”. It was either a “world fair” or “world exposition”

From the mid nineteenth century onwards, colonial powers began to hold these “World fairs”. The aim was simple: how do we introduce the metropolis to the colonies? How do we make it easier for our population (the British, the French) to understand that the “colonies” France/Britain rule over are tangible and very real. This is illustrated best by the French Colonial Minister Paul Reynaud’s opening remarks at the 1931 Expo where he declared that “the essential aim of the exposition is to give the French an awareness of their Empire”. OF course, part of the aim was also about boosting the confidence of both the Empire and the individual in the empire, by pointing out how varied and savage and bizarre the cultures were that they now ruled over. 

This Piece

This particular piece I’ve shared here was recorded in 1930 (exhibited 1931), and it comes from a long tradition of European faux-anthropology that had Empire at is centre. It was record by the Phonetics Department at Paris University, and the aim was to “record the music and dialects of the colonies”. But I promise, it’s much more sinister than that. They made hundreds of audio recordings, took hundreds of pictures and meticulously wrote LOTS of reports. Only a fraction of them are about Somalis. Here is one of them. 

From what I gather, this man is describing “disagreements” with his neighbouring Qabiil, or even sub-Qabiil. I think it was common, in regions in the north and west, to have disagreements like this with your neighbours. Robbing their camel is the ultimate expression of just how pissed off you are with them. 

Note: Think about the subject of the story. Think about why it might have “benefited” the recorders. Think about the problem with framing the existence of an entire people this way. 

Translation 

Once upon, we raided (a settlement) and we stole some camel. And the men we had robbed came after us, and they asked us to give them their camel back. And we said no. We’re not giving you anything back. We fought. They said give us our camel back. We said no. They said “us not getting our camel back isn’t really gonna work for us”. And we said, we’re not giving you your camel back, quit badgering us. We fought. They killed one of our men. So when they did that, we fought even harder. They then took the camel from us. We chased after them and caught up with them, and took the camel off them. There we fought. They killed three of ours. We killed five of them. They sent us a delegation who had some wise words to share. They said: “only three are eternal”. A man who has knowledge, a donkey, and a dog. Only those three will benefit. The man with knowledge, for he has has wisdom, and from livestock and his family comes much wealth. And donkeys, they said. And dogs, they said[This is a literal translation, but it seems that he has forgotten the particular proverb, so he’s filling it in with fillers]. We got compensation. We chased them, we scared them, that’s it! We kept the camel. We were stronger than them. We scared them. We became serious enemies. Years later [Lit: another day], they raided us, attacking us, families, livestock, and burnt our houses. And we went after them, and we burnt down their houses. And then matters became serious after that. And then British attacked us, and locked us up. They chased us, and we went on the run. We escaped. They caught five of our men. They locked them up. We then paid for them to be released. With the grace of God, through all of that, we were fighting. For five years, we were fighting. And then things got really difficult. We paid the “Mag” (Islamic compensation for killing someone). And we made peace there and then. 

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