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Toronto (Canada)

06, Oct. 2004
M. M. Afrah
Many parents in North America and possibly in Western Europe are enraged to see their children talking back to them in a fowl language, like the 12 year old boy who told his father: "Daddy, you're lying, and I don't care what you and mother say!"

In his email Omar Abdi Jama in Dayton, Ohio in the United States said: "I worked hard to provide the boy with nice home, good education and cash for the latest kids fashion and video games, but I'm pretty much at my wits end. I feel very sad and empty. I wish I understood where I went wrong.."

Well, Omar, you are not alone in your predicaments. Many Somali parents are facing similar sticky situation and there's nothing much one can do about it. It has been proven by some parents that a gentle persuasion could make a lot of difference.

Parents, like Omar had hoped the children, apart from learning how to speak another language, but also… learn the subtleties of another culture, while at the same holding on to their own language and cultural heritage. This seems to elude the children born abroad, as many of them wrongly believe that they are being cosseted by their parents with something they remotely be bothered with. Such as their mother tongue, family value, Somali life style and our cultural legacy

Timely access to education, health and security was the primary concern for most Somali refugees after fleeing the smoking rubble of their cities and towns. Now many voiced concern over the sudden cultural changes that befallen on their siblings, putting their future in danger of assimilation. Simply put, many parents confessed that their kids' identities as Somalis are in danger of fading away, similar to earlier immigrants and refugees who landed at Ellis Island. I don't agree with everything.

Of course there are many things to worry about when you are a parent or grandparent in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. You lay awake at night, visions of your children and grandchildren (mostly boys) wearing earrings, oversized pants (size XXL) and a large chain around their necks dancing in your head.

There is the story of a father who took his twin daughters and son to Hargeisa during the summer school vacation so that they could familiarize themselves with the Somali way of life and to learn how to speak the Somali language properly. Did it work? Yes, it did, but at a cost. Would he recommend it to anyone? I have my doubts. A colleague of mine, in the writing business quoting a line from the Jerry McGuire movie said: "Show me the money, I'll do it before you know it!"

Makes sense to me, that's if one can afford the price tag involved.

According to parents I spoke to complain that the biggest problems are the boys who run wild in the house with toy machineguns smashing everything in their path, including the family TV set, lamps and windows. Trying to talk to them is like explaining American baseball game to a Somali camel herder!

It's hard to tell a 12-year-old boy yes to the good thing and no to the bad thing. Bewildered parents attempt to retain some of the original concept of humility and the simple family life, but the youngsters continue to shake off the old ways, accusing their parents of leading "outdated" lifestyle.

However, many of us are still optimistic about our children and grandchildren. For example, one of my grandchildren, 11 year-old Mohamed in Minneapolis, (Minnesota) began to show keen interest in the Somali situation at an earlier age and as a result, frequently asks questions about his roots. One day he surprised me by wearing a custom-made T-shirt bearing the Somali flag with the words: "WHATEVER HAPPENS, SOMALIA IS STILL MY COUNTRY." And that's not all. He had ordered similar custom-made T-Shirt for me as well!

Many parents say the major point of contention is the lack of evening classes to teach the youngsters the rudiments of the Somali language and way of life. If one is looking for proof that you can teach your offspring their mother tongue, then look no further than the Chinese community in North America where Mandarin is being taught to children born outside China. Encouraged by the success, other Chinese communities in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand has been spreading similar classrooms ever since.

As a result Mandarin has been placed among the top non-English language in those countries. Typically, Chinese children are encouraged to speak their mother tongue with their parents at home and with each other at playgrounds.

There's even Mandarin Chinese Online, which contains characters, sound clips and pronunciation that's becoming popular among non-Chinese.

There is nothing wrong about teaching your kids their mother tongue. The idea is to pool resources in groups of ten or twenty to open their first classroom. One important aspect is that physical proximity is a deciding factor for many families, so children can confidently reach the location on a regular basis without requiring transportation. Neighbourhood survey is another key factor during this period. Community leaders and activists need to know the number of families with children in the neighbourhood.

I was given a piece of advice long time ago after my first book was turned down by big-name publishers and I'll pass it along to those willing to teach their children the fundamentals of the Somalia language: Don't give it up and do business with other "visible" minorities, and love the rest.

As the sight of Somalia's revival (for good or for worse) looming ahead in the horizon parents should encourage to double their children's efforts. Your role as parent is paramount, and never forget the fact that kids who participate in sports tend to have higher self-esteem, better academic performance, less involvement with undesirable behaviour, and more community involvement.

No child of yours should end up a junkie, drug addict, as the people here in North America calls them.

Meanwhile, in Nairobi, the warlords-cum-war-criminals promised to respect and stick on to the new constitution, but what's promise from thugs and war criminals? They're different from the rest of the participants. They own private airstrips where the narcotic Qaad and cigarettes are unloaded every 24 hours, real estate properties and farms whose owners fled the country during the outbreak of the civil war. They fly in and out of the country, deposit their money in overseas banks (on numbered accounts) and spend few days in the country checking their looted real estates and farms. They keep to themselves, when they're not at each other's throat.

Most of them are middle-aged men and if they lived to be 100, they would never have a shot at this kind of money and property. As a result, they worked single-mindedly to wreck the chain of the so-called peace talks from day one.

They think they can get away with it before the table is turned on them. They knew human rights organizations at home and abroad have been compiled damning record of staggering catalogue of atrocities against the civilian population, Interhamwe-style. They massacred unarmed civilians, which amounts to genocide. As a matter of fact, officials at Amnesty International had been frothing at the mouth to pull the rug under the key warlords since the beginning of the Kenya talks. And by the time the talks are over they would have all the evidence they needed to satisfy a war crimes tribunal to destroy those who committed crimes against humanity, politically, for all times to come. Many of them stubbornly believed they would hold key ministerial portfolios, or even the office of the presidency in the new clan-based government. If that happens it would be another disaster in the making, worse than what we had witnessed during the last 14 years or so-Death, Doom and Destruction.

I don't think it had a prayer of working, but I am convinced Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, including the local NGOs, meant what they said in their bold reports The local human rights groups, like Ismail Jumaleh and Elman, in particular, had been right on the cutting edge of everything the warlords did and are still doing, had a lot of work to do-work that no one else in the world could do for them.

The good news is that the new MPs have elected a man with "clean" track record. Congratulations, Sharif! You don't have to be a politician, because it is a known fact that politicians are dishonest and wheeler-dealers who play dirty games for their own vested interests.

But I'm still toying with the maddening question whether Amnesty, like the UN Weapons Monitors in Somalia, continue to dilly-dally and turn out to be superficial smiling people who failed to accomplish their mission. Apparently, they've been chasing straws in the wind.


Remember, the warlords fought not foreign army of invaders, but their own people. They're traitors to their people, the lowest form of scum bugs.

The question for you is whether a leopard can change its spots.

By M. M. Afrah©2004,


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