Somali Nationalism

How the U.S. misread the
aspiration for nationalism in Somaiia.

“The U.S. has misread the deep desires and hopes of the Somali people,” according to Bishop Mvume Dandala of the All-Africa Council of Churches in Nairobi. Speaking to a group of leaders of The United Methodist Church meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, Bishop Dandala said the consolidated gains of the Islamic Court have occurred because the Somali people desire stability and self-determination.

He said the tendency of the U.S. to focus on terror leaves it open to misunderstanding the legitimate concerns of people who have lived under the yoke of oppression and corruption. The Islamic Courts have routed warlords and brought stability to Mogadishu for the first time in years.

“The people fought to overcome the corrupt government of Said Barre,” Bishop Dandala told the group,”and the upshot was that warlords gained power in many enclaves. And the warlords became corrupt and did not serve the needs of the people.” Given the power of the warlords, the central government elected a few years ago had no chance to succeed, according to the bishop.

The Islamic Courts have mobilized the people to resist the warlords and, “surprise, surprise,” he said, “they have begun rolling back the power of the warlords.”

“The U.S. failed to read a desire for freedom and saw only Islam, then the potential for terrorism,” he said. “The U.S. supported the warlords.”

Because the U.S. looked through this lens of self-interest, and not at the legitimate desires of the people for a stable state, it missed the larger vision. The Islamic Courts have exploited this desire and consolidated the people by claiming to throw off the imperial powers.

“You cannot ‘save’ a person you do not love and whose interests you do not have at heart,” Bishop Dandala told his listeners. “If you desire to assist this continent to overcome its problems, we must prioritize the needs to assist the people so they know what they’re dealing with. After analysis, joint partnership with people and institutions of moral integrity is necessary so we can approach advocacy together.”

Without this concern, he said, international agencies miss what’s happening on the ground and Africans of means, tempted by quick money, “actually sell what resources Africa has.”

Bishop Dandala told the group, “If a moral custodian like the church cannot stand up and address this problem, it will not be done.” He called on churches in Africa and beyond to confront corruption and abuse of human rights as an expression of Christian responsibility for the earth and its peoples.

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