Thursday, May 1, 2008

Somalia ... giving the Somali's back their country

Dear Colleagues

The violence in Somalia seems to go on and on and on. Why is this?

I have done some work in the Horn of Africa ... and in various parts of Somalia. During some of this work, I was fortunate to meet Michael Van Notton, a Dutch national, married to a Somali, and a student of Somali law and its culture and traditions. I was also fortunate to have to do some of my work in Somaliland ... that has functioned independent of Somalia (with capital in Mogadishu) for more than a decade, though as yet, not (as I understand the situation) formally recognised as an independent nation by anyone.

An interview today on the PBS Newshour helps to explain why the violence goes on and on and on. In the interview there was a Somali perspective and a US perspective ... and it was fairly clear that there was little or no "acceptance" of the validity of the Somali perspective ... rather that the US perspective was right, and that the US was right in being supportive of democracy and any group that opposed anything that was very Muslim.

The Somali tried to make the point that neither the Muslim Jihadists nor the Ethiopians nor any of the externally funded groups had any local legitimacy and that, more than anything else, the local Somali leaders and people wanted a way for their own legitimate leaders to be in power.

This is what has been successful in Somaliland.

This is what Michael Van Notten showed me when I was working in the area some years ago.

As I listened to the PBS program, I was struck by the totalitarian character of the US policy towards developing countries and democracy ... and reminded over and over again of the work Michael Van Notten had done in compiling information about the Somali legal system ... a system that predates the US system of law by hundreds of years!

When we want to look for the cause of violence in many places around the world ... we must in large part look to ourselves. Sad.


Peter Burgess