Wednesday, 13 March 2013


The Somali political commentator Dr. Mohamed Abas has recently penned an article entitled “Jigjiga Has Shown Its Warm Hospitality to Mogadishu” published in several websites.
In the article, Dr. Abas writes about the recent choreographed visit to Jigjiga by a Somali parliamentary delegation led by the speaker of the Somali parliament, Mr. Mohamed Sh. Osman Jawaari, and expresses the good impression this visit had left on him.

From the outset, Dr. Abas's intention is not to honesty relay what he considers as good news emanating from Ogaden in a balanced manner; he is a tendentious polemicist out to spruce up the image  of the criminal syndicate that rules the Ogaden, namely Abdi Iley and his gang. Acting as if he was an excited government reporter covering the arrival in his country of a delegation from friendly nation, the good  Dr. giddily goes on to entertain us with how well the guests were received and hosted in Jigjiga and magnifies the normal protocols of welcoming guests and presents it as if it was exceptional or extraordinary. Thus he presents the little girl who welcomed the delegation with flowers on their arrival; the Dhaanto band who performed for the guests; the gifts given to the delegation (the Macawiis & Bakoorad) and other non newsworthy things such as the places they visited and so on as successes worth celebrating and explains it with great detail.

Somewhere in his lousy reportage Dr. Abas loses the plot when admits that he has been mesmerized and reclaimed by the daily dose of propaganda aired from the Ethiopian Somali TV (ESTV), a channel created to bamboozle the Diaspora and win them over. As expected he repeats what he sees on ESTV - the familiar stories of development and peace which the Ethiopian regime wants to showcase about this region known for war, famine, human rights abuses and lack of development - and adds a little twist of his own by ridiculing and comparing Somalia's capital city Mogadishu to  Jigjiga (the latter city is roughly the size of Hodan district in Mogadishu) and claims that "Jigjiga and Mogadishu are not comparable now in terms of peace, stability and development...” Mogadishu, Dr. Abas says, needs to learn a lot from Jigjiga.

The role of intellectuals in society
The ability to influence the masses through the TV screen is indeed encompassing and ferocious, and it is normal for people to take sides depending on what they watch on the screens in their living rooms (in the West, the effective use of this technology is even capable of swaying millions and deciding the outcome of elections), however what is strange is for someone who claims to be an intellectual – and who admittedly lives thousands of miles away from the actual scene – to  swallow the specifically Diaspora tailored propaganda spewed from ESTV and present it as facts. This is in effect an insult to the intellectual vocation whose task in society is, as Edward Said put it: “…not to consolidate authority, but to understand, interpret, and question it….The intellectual vocation essentially is somehow to alleviate human suffering and not to celebrate what in effect does not need celebrating, whether that’s the state or the patria or any of these basically triumphalist agents in our society.” (Edward Said: Representations of the Intellectual.)
The so-called ‘leaders’ of the Somali Region - which Dr. Abas is apparently fond of lately – are unelected puppets imposed on the citizens of this region based on their subservience to the Tigrayan army and security officers who wield real power in region. Abdi Iley and those around him are not worth praising but deserve to be condemned and brought to justice.

Moreover, other than the ready-made propaganda aired on the Ethiopian Somali TV, the real situation in Jigjiga and that of the wider Ogaden region in general is that of a place under lock and siege, a place where independent journalists, human rights activists and international NGOs  are either expelled or denied entry. A place where the local people live in abject poverty, destitution, and fear. The cream of Ogaden society and its intellectuals are either in Jail, out of the country in exile, or killed. This is hardly a region worth emulating and I would advise our brothers in Mogadishu to avoid replicating the Jigjiga model.  In essence, Ogaden is a place ‘the man died’, to borrow the phrase from Wole Soyinka.

Dr. Abas knows about this sad state of affairs, but apparently for reasons only known to him, he has developed a blind spot for same the same Jigjiga regime he used to berate in the past. In an article he wrote back in 2009 entitled “Puntland Butchers Must Be Brought to Justice,” he took the Puntland administration to task for extraditing Ogaden refugees back to Ethiopia and recommended that retributive action be taken (by Ogadens) against Puntland: “Sometimes tyranny should be fought with counter-tyranny,” Dr. Abas thundered and then counselled: “If Somalis from the Ogaden region want to revenge, they have to remember that bringing Puntland butchers to the court of justice is the best revenge. Only then, the punishment will suit the crime committed.” I understood and shared Dr. Abas’s indignation at the time about the torture, killings, and humiliation of Ogaden refugees in Puntland, but what has changed? Was Abdi Iley not the same person who sent his goons to hunt down these refugees from Puntland and Somaliland as head of Security Bureau in the Somali Regional State? Or did we suddenly develop some kind a forgetfulness akin to those “who forgot that they’ve forgotten” (wa kuntu nasyan mansiya) as it is described in the Holly Koran?
We deserve more from the chairman of Jubaland Intellectuals–if this claim is indeed true–than this banal glorification of criminals who are tormenting the Somalis in Ogaden. I really suspect the intention behind Dr. Abas’s article. Is he, as a self-appointed Jubaland ‘intellectual’, sending a signal to the rulers of Ethiopia that the Ogadens in that part of Somalia are ‘good Ogadens’ they call deal with. Therefore the Ethiopian regime doesn’t need to panic about Jubaland becoming a sanctuary for Ogaden rebels (in which case he is not that different than the ‘Puntland butchers’ he was condemning yesterday and he needs to retract his previous statements and apologise to them)? Or has Abdi Iley all of a sudden become some kind of Ogaden messiah, as the Americans famously say: “He may be a SOB but he is our (Ogaden) SOB,” after all he has lately been harassing and tormenting non-Ogadeen tribes in the Somali region?

Dr. Abas’s current gaffe reminds me (again) of another critical article he wrote about Bashir Goth in 2010 (Mr. Gosh’s Article Represents an Old Disease) accusing him of being a clan scribe armed with “poisonous pens full of venom and whose aim is to spread secessionism and an archetype of disintegration among the Somali people.” Fortunately Mr. Goth seems to have atoned and re-embraced Somalism with grace while Dr. Abas has done 360 degree in the opposite direction and is now in the business of glorifying murderers in name of Ogadeen clan.

Surely Mr. Goth, and Puntland, deserve apology and retraction of the slurs hurled at them by Dr. Abas as he has changed course. I know both of them will not get an apology, for Dr. Abas is a present day Somali regardless of the titles he waives around himself, and today's Somalis are notoriously known to insist on their righteousness even when they're dealing with the devil. So what is my intention? It is to make the man fall on his own sword and measure him with his own stick. That is all. Indeed this is not the first time that a self-described 'intellectual' offered himself in the service of tyranny and will certainly not be the last. My only wish is that Jubaland intellectuals will distance themselves from this impostor who is besmirching their good name.
Nuradin Jilani.