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24 May, 2012

Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud
Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud
What can young people do to tackle tribalism, which is dividing Somalia? This was one of the central themes of discussion at a lively interaction between young members of the Somali diaspora in London with Osman Jama Ali, former Deputy Prime Minister in the Transitional National Government of Somalia, and currently Chair of the Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy (SIDD) and Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud, former Director General of the Somali Foreign Ministry and Vice Chair of SIDD.

The event was held at the London headquarters of Initiatives of Change (IofC) UK on 17 May and was organised by Guled Osman a Somali Youth Leader and his team. The forum was chaired by Don de Silva, Head of Programme Administration at IofC UK.

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, Osman Jama Ali
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, Osman Jama Ali
In his opening remarks, Osman Jama Ali, who was also a Cabinet Minister in Somalia for 12 years, gave the group an inside view of the events, which led to the current situation in Somalia and the rise of clan-based affiliations.

Mr Osman Jama Ali urged the young Somalis to fight against tribalism and to revive Somali nationalism, so that the unity of the Somali people could be restored again. He encouraged them to organise themselves. He urged the young not to follow past mistakes – many government decisions, which were based on clan-based politics. He expressed his willingness to guide the youth and give them the benefit of this experience.

Ambassador Sharif reminded the youth they were the future of Somalia and would determine the course of history. He gave the example of the Somali Youth League, which mobilised trade unions, led the fight against Italian colonialists, and fought and won independence.

Somali youth in London: thinking and planning to contribute to the future of Somalia
Somali youth in London: thinking and planning to contribute to the future of Somalia
According to Ambassador Sharif, initially in Somalia there was peace and harmony, freedom of the press and a democratic society. The Cold War led to change of regime and rise of violence, culminating in the military’s stand against the legitimacy of the government. When Somalia was subject to the military, they used an iron grip to suffocate the freedoms of the people. Power became monopolised in the hands of a few. The lack of representation, lack of progress and the need for change, led to the upsurge, which resulted in the destruction of Somalia.

Ambassador Sharif stated that youth have the power and education to change history. They need only believe in themselves, challenge tribalism and believe in their country. Somalia has oil, minerals, agriculture, eight million hectares to cultivate, two rivers and is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. It boasts one of the longest coasts in the world with the most expensive fish which are plundered. The coast of Somalia is rich in oil. Somalia only lacks an enlightened government who cares about the people. Ambassador Sharif encouraged the youth to think, plan and be positive about the future.

What can youth do to tackle tribalism?
What can youth do to tackle tribalism?
Don de Silva circulated around the room, encouraging young participants to ask questions or make comments. Each one responded to this on-the-spot request with intelligence, integrity and a sense of commitment.

One participant asked what the youth could do about tribalism dividing the country.

Mr Osman Jama Ali commented that Somalis shared a common language, culture and religion. 'Pioneers are needed to facilitate national activities, with support from the international community and Somali diaspora through the transfer of knowledge', he added.

Another young speaker questioned how Somalis could create a one government, one nation, and one country.

How can we create one nation?
How can we create one nation?
Ambassador Sharif responded: 'Eradication of tribalism is up to each and every Somali. Somalis must work together to create an inclusive political system representative of all ethnic groups, where the government rules by law and treats citizens equally, working for the common interest of all Somalis. Organisation and education are power; the future is bright and realisable, if Somalis have the will to achieve'.

Concluding the event, Don de Silva said: 'History shows that mountains can be moved when small groups of people mobilise, work together and take positive action. We need changes in attitude to enable people to move beyond race, class and creed. We have many case studies of members of the Somali community who are making a difference, both in the UK and abroad. Each person here can make a difference. Individuals can initiate projects with their colleagues to make a common vision a reality.'

By Anita Amendra, Project Manager, IofC UK

Photos by Donna Noel

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