Are Somalis Afraid of their Own True History
Obviously, it is the responsibility of the authority of the day to educate its subjects and give them a solid stratum on their history, culture and tradition. The most appropriate tool to achieve this, in a modern and civilized world, is to teach them their actual socially related subjects and history. This would give the student a wide view on the social affairs of his/her community and enable individuals to strengthen the good qualities of their cultures and traditions and amend the negative ones. Hence, considering the role played by the post independent governments of Somalia, in educating the Somali students, we can conclude that it was, socially, incomplete and a failure.
While preparing to write this essay, I interviewed civil servants, from the old generation, who are now between 70 and 90 years old, and came to know that, in 1950s, history of Somalia was taught in schools. However, after 1960, the subject was tacitly removed from the school syllabus. WHY? Before answering this question let us say that in 1960s students were taught civics. We were taught, also, the value of a government and the public patrimony. I remember there was a lesson in which a student was caught engraving his name on a desk. He was politely made to understand and realized that there were other students who would come after him and will use the desk and that it was wrong for him to engrave his name on that desk, since it was not his but a public property, which would be used by many other students after him. Lessons like this taught the pupils the value of public property. After the 21st October 1969 revolution civics was substituted with Socialism “Hantiwadaag” and Revolution related lessons “Kacaan”. After the 1991 uprising and the fall of the Somali government entire residences and government properties were destroyed, looted and claims like ”Anigaa xoreyste!!” i.e. “I liberated it –so it is mine” became very common.
In my opinion, without true and solid social education, what came out were waves of Somali intellectuals who are scientifically prepared but ignorant in civics and their own history and culture. If we take Kenya as an example, here one is not ashamed if called by the name of his/her tribe, Mikel Mkikuyu or Ali Mdhigo. Here the students are taught the histories, the traditions and the cultures of the various Kenyan tribes like the Mijikenda, the wa-Kikuyu, the wa-Kamba etc. However, in Somalia, students were, vaguely, taught the history of Imam Ahmed Gurey, and Mohamed Abdalla Hassan and stress was put on their wars, respectively, against the Ethiopian Emperors and the 20th century colonialists. Only after 1991 did we start hearing about various Somali sultanates, most of them unknown in the literature and historical books of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.
Consequently, the first question a Somali intellectual could asked himself/herself is “Why were we not taught our history, whatever type it may be, and instead were taught the history of the Roman Empire, Roma and Cartagena, first and second world wars, American, China and India histories etc? I am not saying these are not important but why our history was neglected? Are we ashamed of it or were the authority ashamed of it? Did we not have history at all? Was there something that we should be ashamed of and are trying to hide it from the world. We were only taught something about the relationship the Somalis had with the ancient Egyptians. And that Somalia was called Land of Punt. Later I came to know that there was a dispute about the true nationality of Ahmed Gurey and the real location of Land of Punt. So, almost all what we were taught about the history of Somalia was not based on proved and solid facts.
What is said above does not mean that there are no documents on Somali history. There is, relatively, a very rich literature about the Somali culture and tradition with the only inconvenience, to the Somali people, that it depicts them as nomads, pastoralists, intelligent, brave, warriors, idle and with nomadic civilization and culture – embarrassing descriptions for the modern Somali who likes to see himself/herself modern, civilized and highly intelligent. So, after the independence this rich literature was silently removed from the school shelves and only few scholars were aware of its existence.
If the literature were not abandoned because of the above-mentioned reason what could be the other reason? What would have been the consequences if these literatures were taught at schools? What impression would these have had when taught to a class composed of students from urban and nomadic society? How would a pupil from nomadic society see himself/herself in front of the urban one? How would be the conscious of a student from nomadic origin, if he/she becomes an authority, knowing that the towns, especially the Banadir ones, he/she is ruling are the product of the work of a community he/she doesn’t recognize as true Somali i.e. the towns representing his/her image in the world were not built by his/her ancestors?
Someone may argue that to teach the history of Somalia would mean to teach about the Somali tribes which could have had a negative impact on the Somali politics and development. The question is “Has the Somali politics ever been rid of tribe and tribalism? One thing should be clear, tribalism is a bad thing and is against Islam and human value but tribes are created by Allah who says “We created you populations and tribes so you know each other” and no one can wipe out completely Allah’s creation. To deny people their history, whatever type it may be, is to deprive them their identity and if an authority keeps its subjects ignorant of their history and their identity the result would, surely, be what we today have in Somalia.