SUNDAY EDITORIAL |
In the anarchic world created by warlords, the so-called "Islamists" have given anarchy a new definition.
The ignorant who are armed and merciless cannot stand a world where there are schools, functioning hospitals and media organizations. Under such circumstances, the ignorant feel alienated from society and naturally resort to violence to achieve what they wrongly believe is a permanent solution to a problem. Ignorant people, jaahil in the Arabic and Somali languages, live in every corner of every country in the world. Yet, in Somalia, the ignorant with no educational background or civilized social upbringing have been armed by power-hungry politicians intent on keeping our homeland embroiled in a ceaseless and destructive cycle of violence that gets worse by the day and ever lessens Somalia's chance of restoring national peace and order after 19 years of anarchy.
In the anarchic world created by warlords, the so-called "Islamists" have given anarchy a new definition. New types of deadly violence – suicide bombings, remotely-detonated explosions, mortar shells, and targeted assassinations of prominent individuals – have been common in the Somali capital Mogadishu since Jan. 2007, when Ethiopian troops invaded to dislodge Islamic Courts Union (ICU) rulers from regions in south-central Somalia. The carnage since has killed upwards of 18,000 civilians and thousands more soldiers, guerrillas and clan militiamen. Political alliances have been broken and new ones forged, while death and displacement was the violent recipe for Somali families.
No one has survived this new round of carnage on Mogadishu streets. No one can live in a land where the chance of a mortar shell or a stray bullet ending one's life suddenly and violently is as normal as expecting a knock at the door on Sunday afternoon. But, perhaps, the most dangerous job of all is specially delegated to journalists searching for the truth, seeking answers in a bloodbath among brothers fighting over ideology, even as mothers' tears dry up after nearly two decades of abandoned sorrow.
The eruption of the Somali civil war in 1991 and the subsequent exodus out of the country by the upper class was followed by the arrival of ignorant nomadic communities who poured into major towns, inheriting national infrastructure and destroying everything in sight because they lacked the knowledge to make good use of their newly seized assets. Somalia is still in the midst of a civil war, which has undergone several stages, worsening by the day as the brutal and despised warlords were replaced by merciless men claiming to be "Islamists" and causing wanton havoc throughout the country. The common denominator among the warlords and the Islamists was, is and will forever remain the urge to use ignorant people to maim and target worthy individuals and educated people, who might oppose the self-destructive ideology prevalent among the warring factions.
There is no question that radio stations in Mogadishu have taken an active role in the civil war period (post-1991) as the various clan-owned "independent" radio stations spewed clan hatred and propaganda that led to clan militias taking up arms and waging endless and destructive wars. During the two-year Ethiopian army presence in Mogadishu that ended in Jan. 2009, Mogadishu radio stations incited the public by allowing various factions of Islamists to speak regularly on the radio stations condemning then-President Abdullahi Yusuf as a "Western stooge" and portraying themselves as "Somali liberators." The radio stations actively campaigned against then-President Yusuf, while falsely representing Islamist rebels as Somali freedom fighters and referring to them as "Mujahideen".
Few months after Ethiopians withdrew, Mogadishu radio stations changed their rhetoric and began to turn the public against Al Shabaab by portraying the rebels as Somalis who are "not from Mogadishu." In Somali clan terms, Mogadishu's Hawiye clan-dominated society was again being misled for political reasons as clan interests always supersede national interest. Suddenly, rumors began that Al Shabaab leaders have wives and families in faraway regions, like Somaliland, Puntland, Baidoa and Kismayo, which are peaceful while Mogadishu burns – as the story went. This change of rhetoric, fueled by Mogadishu-based media, began in Sept. 2008 when Al Shabaab shelled the airport and airliners avoided using the airport for weeks. To incite the public, the radio stations perpetrated propaganda that Al Shabaab does not attack airports in other regions – i.e. Somaliland, Puntland, Baidoa and Kismayo – but is cutting off the people's lifeline in Mogadishu in order to hurt the locals, i.e. Hawiye.
Somali journalists should not use media assets to propagate hatred. The radio is a powerful tool in Somalia's oral culture and plays a crucial role in daily politics. This, of course, does not justify the targeted assassinations of media personnel by killers intent on holding Somalia hostage for the benefit of a few, who manipulate and use ignorance to keep their greedy and immoral grip on power. We strongly condemn those who order assassinations against journalists, aid workers, religious scholars and other members of Somali society. They should remember that in the long war between good and evil, good will always triumph against evil.
Lastly, the media should be used to inform and educate the public about today's depressing reality in Somalia and to offer a light of knowledge as a counter-balance against ignorance.
Garowe Online Editorial,