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TALKING POINT : Somalis' Seven Social Sins: Reflections by Muhiadin M. Ahmed

1. "Politics without Principle
2. Wealth without Work
3. Pleasure without Conscience
4. Knowledge without Character
5. Commerce without Morality
6. Science without Humanity
7. Worship without Sacrifice"1

Mahatma Gandhi

The term of "sin" tends to be applied in a religious context. However, I believe, like Mahatma Gandhi that, this can also be applied to social development as Gandhi did during the early twentieth century.

Like most Somalis, for many years I was trying to figure out the root causes of Somalia's current conflicts. Many ideas went through my mind such as colonization, tribalism, the civil government after independence, dictatorship, warlords and militia. Then, one day while browsing the Internet, I discovered the above quotations; this text from Mahatma Gandhi answered many of my questions and gave me a new perspective of Somalia's social, economic and political unrest. It is unbelievable how one single quotation can change one's thinking.

When I reflect on Gandhi's list of social sins and his interpretation of modernization, independence, the nation-state, hope, humanity, development, identity, equality, unity, faith, hard work, love, peace and prosperity, I cannot help but apply them to Somalia's society. Gandhi passed away a long time ago. He struggled in a different era, country and faith than my own, but I feel that we are connected to each other. Feeling the same pain! Sharing the same goals. Gandhi showed me how to see things from a different angle. This is my own interpretation of Somalis' social development, taking into account Gandhi's list of social sins.

Politically, several mediation effort have been made since the early 1990s, none was successful. Most of these peace conferences made headlines in the media. Some received support of the global community and resulted in temporary reconciliation among Somalis' leaders, but none attained the ultimate goal of making Somalia, a peaceful and prosperous country with an effective central government. Despite of all these conferences, there has been little or no implementation of the agreements made by the various participants-the leaders, the organizers. Those who attended and those who signed the agreement have rejected the implementation of all these agreements due to the "Politics without Principle" concept. In a rational society, there is politics and principle.
In general, principle has a wide range of standards and ethics depends on one's own ideology and belief. In Somalia's political context, I would interpret as a having series commitment towards our own words.
Unfortunately, most of Somalia's leaders do not even understand the difference between politics and principle. Hence, I am using the term "leaders" instead of "politicians" since everyone is considered a politician in Somali's current political situation. For the last fourteen years, there has been more than a dozen peace conferences in which Somalia's leaders made agreements, shook hands and embraced each other, but they walked away from every commitment they made and put their own self interest a head of the nation's. After nearly two years, the current peace conference, taking place in Kenya has almost failed to pass the first stage towards agreement, which normally is easier than the latter stages of the peace process. Thus, there are less expectations of success for this conference than any other peace conference. Instead of progressively moving forwards, we are going backwards. On the other hand, these peace conferences present a hope on the way attitude. The dialogue that is taking place in itself, will stop the killing of the innocent people and facilitate a formal discussion about crisis. Thus, will help us in taking further steps towards establishing a permanent peace in Somalia.

Economically, although there is no central government, Somalia's economy has survived and made Somalia, one of the most capitalistic society anywhere and at any time in history. With no price controls, and no taxation, any businessperson can make a fortune, but the downside of the lack of government affects all aspects of the society.
In a Somalia's form of capitalism, the rich gets richer and the poor become even poorer: Its current economic system is based on survival issues and many Somalis have died from starvation and malnutrition, while commercial food was kept in storage in order to be sold at a higher price. The warlords have been blamed for all aspects of this tragedy, but nobody mentioned the role of the business community in Somalia. Some of the warlords' source of income also comes from the local business sector and one might conclude that the business community has participated directly or indirectly in the Somalia's civil war. It is very important to distinguish between those who give financial support to warlords for profit, political gains and tribal pride; and those who are forced in the situation whether there is some kind of informal taxation or "protection service".

As a human being, we have a moral obligation to save others who are vulnerable and less fortunate.

Nobody can deny that Somali's economy is still productive and efficient even with no state to speak of and no rules and regulations. Unfortunately, Somalis' business community has failed to capitalize on its input in a positive way and has become part of the problem rather than the solution. Without rules and morality, Somalia's business has shifted towards illegality, whether it is growing and selling illegal drugs, inappropriately exploiting its natural resources, looting of public/private property etc. Sadly, the business communities are regarded as heroes and worthy of respect in all level of the society. This is not about the person who is conducting a legitimate business. My hat is off to those who make a living and support their families in the business sector. I fully support and encourage the entrepreneurship spirit of the business community.

Socially, Somalia is one of the least developed countries in the world. It has unlimited natural resources, but cannot effectively use its human resources. How could society develop without valid education or no education at all? Before the civil war, Somalia's education curriculum was based on what happened in other nations, mainly in Europe and the Arab world. This system of education has not promoted our history and culture. Somali nationalism has been downplayed and as a result it has increased the division among us on basis of tribe, region, etc.
There was a lack of critical thinking and differentiating facts from myths, which explains, why a Somalia's intellectuals or educators have not had the chance to assume a greater role in society. This education system also has not produced a strong society to bring about an acceptable level of human development. After the civil war, with no educational system at all, the current and next generation have fallen backwards and it will take some time to recover from this tragedy.

Somalia's current conflicts, can be solved through dedication to principle, work, conscience, character, morality, humanity and sacrifice with Hope, Development, Equality, Identity, Unity, Faith, Hard work, Love and Peace which we hope will lead us towards forming a peaceful, functional and central government in Somalia.

Ideally and traditionally, Somalis are supposed to be solving their conflicts under a tree anywhere in Somalia and should not have this crisis in the first place. PERIOD!
The current leaders should be supporting the current peace efforts that we hope will leads us to the formation of a new government.

According to the Gandhi's list of social sins, the new government will have little or no impact in terms of social, economic and political situation in Somalia, but it is still very important to have a government despite of its lack of power or status as Gandhi once said "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it"2. In other words, a weak government is better than No GOVERNMENT!

Remember, Revive and Represent SOMALIA
Muhiadin M. Ahmed "Abaas" lives in Ottawa, Canada


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Ma Run mise Riyo - By Amiin Amir

The Centre for Research & Dialogue (CRD)
The Somali-Canadian Working Group for New Generation
Midaynta Association of Somali Service Agencies - Toronto

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