Why Somali youths are Somalia’s greatest tool to achieve peace

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By Amina Abdi

Despite Somalia’s uncertain future there is one thing that is unquestionable and that is, if given the chance the young Somali can ensure lasting peace in the country.

I was born in 1992. This means I was born one year into the war. There is a whole generation of adults who have only seen Somalia at war or who have never seen Somalia at all. I, like many other young Somalis fall somewhere in between. This “in between” is a quite unfortunate place to be in. There are many of us who were either born or took their first steps on foreign soil due to the conflict. We learned to call other places home. We learnt other native languages first. Yet there was still an undeniable longing for Somalia, even if the only thing you heard about the country was the number of people that were killed that week and/or how an incredible of a place it once used to be.  A child born when the civil war broke out in Somalia is now a 25 year old adult. An adult who, if they are anything like me, is coming to terms with some of Somalia’s realities in its current state.

Somalia has been labeled as a “failed state” for years now. The country is often used as a measuring tool to determine how bad the situation is in a country of conflict. Even though the situation in Somalia can be described as dire when you look at its political climate and security issues, the common Somali seems to be in denial about how things really are.

A Somali will show you pictures depicting how beautiful and peaceful Somalia used to be before he/she truthfully divulges what they really think about the country. It’s almost as if the act of telling people how Somalia once used to be erases some of the horrors we’ve seen throughout the years. This is probably because Somalia, failed or not, still holds significance to many people. Some of these people like those “in between” are trying to find and redefine what it means to be a Somali in today’s world.

To be a young Somali in this day and age is quite confusing. On one hand, you are reminded that you are the future of Somalia and that your generation will undo every negative that was done to the country and on the other hand you are  viewed to be too young to do certain things (to have a role in leadership for example). It gets even more confusing if you are a young Somali from the diaspora. No one will even take you seriously unless you can hold a conversation in proper Somali and have the ability to abtiris (naming the names of your father, your grandfather, great-grandfather as a way to state your genealogy).

“A child born when the civil war broke out in Somalia is now a 25 year old adult. An adult who, if they are anything like me, is coming to terms with some of Somalia’s realities in its current state.”

Worse, is when you’re told that you simply just ‘don’t understand certain issues because of your age, when in reality you might even have a better grasp of things because of being younger. Ironically, most of the issues that we have been told that we don’t understand are things that will affect our future. As odd as it may sound, it is usually our own people who make us feel foreign on our own soil. Understandably, a lot of those in the “in between” are defining Somalinimo (Somali identity, being a Somali) on their own terms because of the poor example left by the older generation. As much as our uncles and aunts would like to believe, Somalinimo isn’t how well you can define what our tribal affiliations are but it is rooted in our own personal connection to the country. This could explain why so many young Somalis from the diaspora chose to go back home, because of the need to reestablish that personal connection for themselves.

Despite Somalia’s uncertain future there is one thing that is unquestionable and that is, if given the chance the young Somali can ensure lasting peace in the country. We have proven that we are destined for greatness given the chance: Mo Farh, Warsan Shire and K’naan.

We are fearless and determined to make a change. In a way the civil war still rages within us because it is because of it that we are who we are. Also, it is because of it that we will become even greater. This is why it is so crucial, now more than ever, for the young Somali to take ownership of what is important to them in regards to Somalia. We have waited our whole lives for peace to be brought to us but now we should be the ones orchestrating the process for ourselves. As we’ve seen in the recent past, disgruntled youths have the power to bring down regimes and force those who’ve been ignoring them to listen attentively. Those in Somalia, those in the diaspora and those “in between” deserve to know what peace feels like in their country. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter how people determine our Somaliness in their eyes. All that matters is how willing we are to claim our country despite it still being made foreign to us.

The writer is commentator in International Relations, Peace & Conflict specialist. She can be tweeted @geekinthejungle