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TALKING POINT : DREAMS

TALKING POINT BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)

June, 24. 2004

DREAMS

Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

An old friend, with whom I started exchanging the previous night's dream about the gloomy situation in Somalia, came up with a jewel of a dream the other day. He said he wake up in the middle of the night screaming "Goodbye forever tribal war, cause of our ruin!" But my own dream is not necessarily bad or good. Still it has a dark side-a stormy scenario. It says that Somalia would soon have another dictator reminiscent to General Barre's heydays. Then my friend looked at me in disgust and said: "That's very bad dream."
"Well, we're not there yet," I said. "But the probability of electing one of the warlords are bringing us one step closer. This says a lot of the ongoing third and final phase of talks in Mbagathi," I envisaged

"Another dictator! Over my dead body," my dream partner muttered under his breath and stormed out of my apartment-cum-office and swore never to exchange dreams with me again.

This brings me back to Abdirizak Haji Hussein, former prime minister in the civilian regimes of the 1960s, who said at one of the earlier aborted peace talks in Addis Ababa: "A bad government is better than no government." Of course I am not for a bad government or another warlord/military dictator. But any presidential candidate, dictator or no dictator needs to resolve internal intrigues and senseless squabbles before he wins the trust and confidence of the Somali people. He has to get it out of the system that's stinking, including corruption, nepotism, clan adoration, rumour mongering, political brokers (popularly known as Afminsharism) and a nation for sale mentality, so something new can come in.

More important, he, as the servant of the people, must see to it that Somalia should rejoin the family of nations, because if there are people in this world who deserve peace and stability it is the haunted people of Somalia. The catch phrase is: peoples' welfare first and choice to the many and not just for the few. A president should make good connection with the people and deliver what he had promised to them in his platform, and less on arcane disputes with the opposition. Simply put, the new president-elect should not emulate the heartless thugs who are simmering their own greed, but man of the people, the downtrodden masses. He must be at his best when the pressure is on, articulate, resourceful and relentless. And of course with clean track record in past performances.

The new president should accept constructive criticism and avoid detaining his opponents on flimsy charges.

Yes, it is too ambitious, and the risks are high, but the country badly needs such person to stitch it together Here I completely disagree with Abdirizak Haji Hussein's theory that a bad government is better than no government. No, Abdirizak, we will never swap a bad government with those thugs who massacred our people and ruined our country. Just dump them all. We want people with talent, vigor, and charisma; free from clan ties, and of course no disciple of the late military despot.

Nostalgia is one of the most powerful of all political forces, and we often underestimate its ability to distort truth and mock reality. A recent survey by an independent local NGO, for instance, showed 60 per cent of Somalis in the South would vote for Mohamed Siad Barre, if he were alive and running for President today.

After experiencing the bloody instability in the country during the last 13 years, many people who celebrated his downfall now actually miss him. However, the same survey in Somaliland came up with 0% even though they're fully conscious that their current leaders are disciples of Siyad Barre who carried his orders to the letter.
"The Somali people in the South became ungovernable. They need a benign father-figure dictator," a 50-year-old woman, who had witnessed her city, first destroyed by General Barre's multiple rocket launchers and mortars under the command of general Morgan and was later finished by the warlords, told the surveyors, making the Mediterranean-style city of two million inhabitants look like Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the pilot of Enola Gay dropped his first atomic bomb on the twin Japanese cities.

Somalis looked back on a long-past age of glory, of Somalis having spent long as the satrapy of British, French, and Italian colonial administrations, followed by corrupt civilian regimes, but Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre crossed these colonials and corrupt civilian regimes to find his precursors Mohamed Abdulle Hassan and Ahmed Gurey, whose glories he meant to relive and restore.

How do Dictators win the admiration of their people? Dictators always promise that they alone can deliver stability, and like to pose for the cameras, cuddling babies to get that message across.

During his tenure, it is the promise of stability that led people to embrace him, often overlooking terror, atrocity and the cult of personality. Later, after he is gone, he is missed for the same reason: for the stability he had introduced with the help of a host of dreaded security agencies, and his crack Red Beret bodyguards.

One of his lasting legacies was the introduction of the first Somali script in Latin; despite behind the scene-heated opposition by religious zealots who wanted that Somalia as a Muslim country should adopt Arabic as the official language. After stern warning, no more single word was heard from them. They knew that to confront him was tantamount to committing suicide. Many of us still recall Ololihii Far-barashada, the nation-wide relentless campaign to introduce the new script to the nomads and farmers.

*******

XAWAALA UNDER SIEGE AGAIN!

After a hiatus the Somali remittance companies are under siege again, accusing them of money laundering and devious links with terrorist organizations in the Middle East and in different other places. One newspaper in Texas went as far as saying that the Somalis who run these companies employ Machiavellian strategies to send millions of dollars to shadowy characters in the Middle East under the pretext of sending the money to needy families in war-torn Somalia. The amount given by these editorial writers is staggering-billions of dollars.

In one of my past Talking Points I had pointed out that Xawaala is an informal banking system based on trust and it is so old that even Chris Colombo did not yet "discover" Americas when the Xawaala system was in full gear in the Muslim World, longer than when Chris's sailing ship landed in the "New World" and wrongly thought he was in India, calling the natives "Indians".

It was first developed in India and the Middle East before the introduction of Western banking practices, and is currently a major remittance system used around the world. The operators of the system transfer money without actually moving it. Money transfer without moving is a definition of Xawaala that was used successfully in countries like Somalia whose banking and other financial institutions have been destroyed in the civil war more than a decade ago. In this cyberspace age, the operator sends the money by Internet, charging the sender few dollars, and presto, the beneficiary receives it in a matter of minutes.

I don't know about the alleged millions of dollars going to international terrorists, or what the Western media prefers to call "Muslim terrorist" organizations, such as Osama's Al-Qaeda (The Base) network. What I do know, however, is that the 100 or 50 dollars from economically hard-pressed Somalis in the Diaspora regularly goes to skeleton-looking mothers, grandmothers and malnutrioned kids in war-ravaged Somalia, and to others languishing in squalid refugee camps in neighbouring countries, such as Utanga, Kakuma, Dhoobley, Harti Sheikh etc.

The Somalis are not alone. Immigrant workers, from Mexico and the Philippines, for example, have gone through the mill of "illegal" money transfer system in the 1960s and 1970s until the operators transformed their money transfer systems into fully licensed thriving-money spinning agencies. The difference is that the Somali operators happened to be Muslims, and that might have really caused the problem with companies like Al-Barakaat for example in post 9/11.

Abdusalam Omar, who prepared a significant report for the UNDP, Somalia, on the subject of Xawaala had recommended that: "The operators of this system must undertake to transform their operations into legal, efficient and viable organizations that comply with recognized international financial standards in order to meet the needs of their customers for years to come."

In short, they must be transparent and cooperative with the panic-stricken law-enforcement authorities in the United States post 9/11 and open their books. This is not only good for their businesses, but for the hungry and neglected people at home as well. Also the operators must respect the laws and regulations of the United States and Canada, because it was North America where they made their fortunes and enjoy relative peace and freedom, thousands of miles away from the brutal warlords and their militia gunmen.
On the other hand, the money remittance managers should be given the benefit of doubt until proven guilty, and not demonize them.
By M.M. Afrah©2004
Afrah95@hotmail.com


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