FOR almost three decades now, Somalia has been a war-torn land.
The situation in Somalia is for the most part observed through Western interpretation, particularly in African countries that were formerly European colonies.
Because the Somali people are non-Christian, but Muslim, it is easy for the West to distort information in their favour and against the Somalis.
As a result of this continued allegiance to Western churches such as the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican etc, the Somali people’s struggle to liberate themselves from colonialism and white oppression has been labelled terrorism, and their attempts to liberate their coasts has been labelled piracy.
Few understand the history behind this conflict in Somalia and thus incline to the false and essentially Western interpretation of the events taking place in that land.
To fully comprehend the Somali people and the ideology they possess today, we will have to look at the history that made them what they have become.
The Somali people are black-skinned and wooly-haired. Their poetry suggests their ancestors migrated from Arabia.
The Somalis believe they are kinsmen and descendants of Muhammad the prophet of Islam and that Somalia is a blessed land their ancestors were promised and given by Allah.
For as long as they can remember, the Somali nation has been homogenous in culture, religion and language. They are all Muslims and they all speak the Somali tongue. They also use Arabic to read the Quran.
Somali names also attest to their origins from Arabia. This serves as evidence that the original Arabians were not mixed, but black skinned.
The land of Somalia, though hot and dry, is rich in pastures and streams.
The Somalis maintain a nomadic lifestyle, herding camels and goats. Somalia is strategically located between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, leading travellers and traders into inland Africa, Arabia and to India.
Somalia was the biblical land from which frankincense and myrrh grew in abundance. Somalis lived peacefully, sailing and fishing on their coasts and roaming their land with livestock in search of pastures for centuries.
The tribulation of the Somali people began with the coming of the white people into their land, around the time of the infamous Scramble for Africa conference.
Britain, Italy and France coerced the neighbouring Christian nation of Ethiopia to jointly invade Somalia so as to access the strategically important coast of Somalia.
The Somalis, as devout Muslims, do not subordinate to colonialism and oppression.
In 1895, a Somali man called Muhammad Abdul Hassan returned to Somalia from his pilgrimage to Mecca. He was a sage and taught about the power of simple faith.
He saw how the land was being divided by the colonial powers and began to speak to his people saying: “All Somalis should work together as Muslims. If the land is yours, then why are you not in government? If Islam is your religion, then why do you submit to infidel leaders?”
In response to the Western-backed Ethiopians who were plundering and dividing Somali land, the Somalis joined ranks to form a militant group called the Dervishes.
The Dervishes were devout Muslims who rode on camels, armed with swords and rifles, fighting against the white settlers and liberating their people.
Muhammad Abdul Hassan was at the forefront of the liberation movement which used guerilla tactics to destabilise and weaken their enemy.
The Dervishes were brave and invincible and conducted many successful raids on the whites.
In 1899, Muhammad Abdul wrote a letter to the British settlers saying: “If you want war, we shall fight you. But if you want peace, then leave.”
The British labelled him a rebel against the British Empire and organised a multi-national force comprising Europeans, Asians and Africans in their proximity.
Unshaken, Muhammad wrote again saying: “I wish to rule my own country and protect my own religion. We have both suffered in battle. I have no fort, no houses, no cultivated field, no silver or gold for you to take. All you can certainly get from me is war and nothing else. If you wish for peace, go away from my country to your own.”
The British called Muhammad ‘the mad Mullah’; accusing him of insanity solely on the ground of his blatant rejection to colonialism.
Meanwhile, the Dervishes were gaining popularity with well over 10 000 men, women and children in their ranks.
Britain, France and Italy then changed strategies and called for a ceasefire. The Dervishes became free and the whites were concentrated only in the southern part of Somalia and had retreated from the interior.
The whites created secret councils among some Somalis to advise them on the activities of the guerillas so as to effectively plot against them. Britain reluctantly withdrew its troops and left just a few in the north of Somalia. Before leaving, the British armed certain Somali groups they called ‘friendly’ with guns, horses and spears, with the intent to cause internal division among the Somalis.
These so-called friendly clans had been especially armed to re-ignite old clan rivalries among the Somalis and this eventually led to civil war.
Once the British began receiving reports of fragmentation among the Somalis, they quickly returned to Somalia and claimed the coasts.
In 1913, after underestimating the power of the Somalis, a British captain named Richard led an attack against the Dervishes. His army was completely destroyed and he was also killed. In fear of a spread in white settlements, the Dervishes made a fateful decision to partake in settling and building forts, so as to establish a state, rather than continuing with guerilla warfare.
Unfortunately, the new structures limited their mobility and made them fixed targets, unlike before when they had nothing to lose. The British made a vow after 1919, at the end of First World War, to crush the Dervishes. The following year, a major multi-national expedition of air, ground and navy forces was sent to Somalia.
They used planes to bomb the fortresses and they did much damage, taking countless Somali lives. The fortresses were crushed and though Muhammad escaped with a few of his men, they were forced to flee for their lives.
Sage Muhammad Abdul Hassan is remembered as a figure of revolution. He articulated Somali beliefs, merging in with Somali culture.
The events of that first war against the whites led to the foundation of the Somalia we see today. History seems to be repeating itself. The bravery, devotion and ideology of Sage Muhammad Abdul Hassan and the Dervishes is praised and remembered in Somalia through Somali poetry, which is an important part of their culture.
In 1969, Somali military officers took over the country and ousted the foreign-backed government.
A mix of scientific Socialism, Marxism and Islamic law (Sharia) were adopted to form a new government.
By 1972 Somalis began using a written language inspired by Arabic characters to enable them to write in their own language. Rural and nomadic families were targeted for education and by 1975, women rights were being implemented and exercised nationwide.
The leader of the country in this period of peace and prosperity was called Muhammad Siad Barre and his rule was effective in a land comprising descendants of historically devout Muslims like the Dervishes.
FOR almost three decades now, Somalia has been a war-torn land.