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The lost generations


 (An excerpt from an article by Ali Bahar)


For more than a decade our [Somalia] history has been marred by bloodshed, led by strong men and warlords. This left deep scars on our societies, and nowhere it is more apparent, more visibly pronounced than on the faces of our children of today. How do we even begin to educate our children about the history of Somali unity, the Somali nation and Somali nationalism? How much do we expect the next generations in our society to carry on responsibilities based on systems of equality, justice, integrity or duty bound deeds that could serve the nation better? To expect them to even understand this mess we created will be unfair to them and irresponsible of us. Because of the situations and the happenstance that they are growing up, they will have hard time relating themselves to the past in order to understand what it feels like to be part of whole picture of a nation and people that you identify with, that takes care of you when you are young and needy or sick and homeless, and raises you and lefts you up to become a successful and productive citizen in the society, who loves his country and its people, sacrifices his/her life to defend it from enemy when need be. What happened to our young generation, the future of our nation, is totally incomprehensible. Thousands either die, are suffering from a lifetime and irreversible psychological scars and physical disability, or grew up and are still growing up in villages, cities and in rural areas where no help comes to safe their lives, or educate them in order to become the leaders of tomorrow. Many, at a very early stage in their lives, experienced unimaginably tough life of mass killings and crimes on the streets and in their own homes, displacements and misplaced values in refugee camps, which included criminal activities, like rape and extortion in the hands of their own kind as well as foreigners who see them as something less than human. We are failing them by destroying their hope and the nation that was supposed to nurture them and help them understand the significance of being Somali, to be proud of their heritage and to be ready to take the lead when that time came for them to lead. No one set the stage for them to step in, and no one gives them shoulders to stand on.

That is the future of our country, something all of us lost sight of while supporting the warlords of the day, and we put our future in the hands of warlords and their Ethiopian agents of crime.

Even more disappointing is the fact that today many of those who were the product of the creation of the Somali nation in the sixties, who were educated on the expenses of the rest of the people to become the today’s of leaders, are turning their backs to the nation that once supported their education, health and some of the successes they made later in life. They are the warlords, the doctors, the judges and educators, social engineers and civil leaders, who are, with a dismay of many of us, advocating for the dismemberment of our nation and against Somali unity. It is unfathomable and beyond human reasoning that the first born child to whom this country gave birth to, after independence of 1960, to whom every chance was given to be educated and trained for today’s leadership, would advise its death---the death of our nation. Like many others, I grew up in an era where everything we were told about our nation and its people would make us feel proud of who we were, and enlightened the feeling of obligation or enforced our conscious determination that one day you would defend that nation. That positive upbringing and the feeling of belonging to a nation had a direct impact on me as an individual and very much directs my conscience and my deep attachment to that nation I loved and felt proud of it. Those who are actively and vocally against Somali unity are weighing on the faith they have on clanism, a destructive social system, and they are seemingly afraid of having faith in our collective ability to bring about new paradigms with goals and with a sense of community; a wholesome nation that takes risks with tolerance, and promotes equality and justice for all. This is important to our own existence and to the well being of our society. It is imperative that today’s leaders have a strong sense of nationhood and justice.

Our contemporary generation is the one that is leading their respective countries in the world with dignity and with a sense of purpose. It is our obligation today to pull together this fractured nation, safeguard its sovereignty and protect it from further disintegration and dismemberment in the hands of warlords and foreign agents who are relentlessly working behind every warlord to create a puppet government of their own. The death of our young generation is the success of their long dream of limiting our aspirations.

A nation that left its future behind would never move far enough. One only wonders what our children are learning today, what is certain, however, is that today’s young generation was left behind and was never given the opportunity to feel wanted by the collective Somali community nor instilled with a feeling of pride and responsibility that they are the future of something big and beautiful, the Somali Nation.

Haunted by the war’s horror, terrorized by the preventable deaths of many of their love ones, hindered and hammered by the lost years in their schooling, or the years some of them spent in refugee camps, the surviving children in Somalia today are having hard time adjusting to life. They have some critical questions about the war, their lives and their future. It was [and still is] a war, which our children cannot even tell who won and who lost; except the horror they will remember and the psychological lifetime scars left behind. Our children in Somalia today live the legacy of the war, but know nothing what it’s all about. This war is bitter and complicated experience for the entire nation, especially for young children. Somali children were drawn into a war that they never understood, much less demanded to know the full truth about it. Before they were able to make a personal decision on whether to risk their lives and the lives of others, someone else (a tribal-warlord) made that decision for them. Do they know whether this war was noble or immoral? What are their personal values and how are they prepared to keep these values when faced with difficult decisions tomorrow?

Most children in Somalia today consider that taking a gun and attacking other tribes to safeguard his "tribe", as a good and moral cause--- a moral judgment. This is their experience in which they invested heavily, both psychologically and physically-----their reference point. They are inheriting mistakes made by their forefathers and their fathers. This is the past and present. This is the great march their nation took on its way to self- destructive suicidal act-----and they are the future.  

Children succeed when their communities and their country support them, but fail when their country abandons them. We abandoned our responsibilities and failed to articulate enough the importance of patriotism and nationalism through examples and deeds that our children of today could relate to. Instead of having the opportunity to be in school and learn and dream about their future, about leadership and responsibilities, they are blinded by the consequences of yesterday or today’s wars of choice, in which they are victims, a war that benefits only the warlords of today. Rewarding the same warlords who denied our young generations their opportunities is another insult to injury, and will not bring a democratic system of justice and equality in our society. This gives our children a sense of misinterpretation of what is right or wrong in life, and the sense of lack of history of fair governments and democratic systems. Those who grew up with guns in their hands or at early ages, witnessed crimes against them or sometimes by them, look at the world with a different perspective, with a dismay and with guarded optimism than those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies with unlimited expectations for our future, even though many of us never realized that dream because of the power of government that worked against our full potential to realize our dreams and to reinvest in our communities. Nevertheless, unlike the young generations of today, we didn’t suffer in the hands of warlords over the watch of our communities and the nation as whole.

Our children are leaders of tomorrow. They will be called on to use creative problem solving skills, good decision-making approaches, and critical thinking of new paradigms. Steady, consistent, and credible rationale for their actions that is based on sound moral judgments will serve us best. These good decisions and commitments that are true to their own insights and understandings of their responsibilities may help them lead this country out of the mud. It is never too late for all Somalis to start teaching their children that there is no glory in a war against your own. That war is not just a simple affair of shooting, but involves an understanding of who the enemy is. That fighting is never the most effective way to achieve goals. That people shouldn’t go to war for the mere reason of killing their own despite the predictable outcome---death and destruction. Death or injury is an awfully terrible thing to deal with, but death or injury in needless event is even worse.

The best gift that any Somali family can give to their children is NOT to teach tribalism. Save them from the questions of “Qolamaad tahay or Cidee tahay”. Save them from the horror of tribalism.




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