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By Ismail Warsame
Opinion Columnist

European nationalities, nations or countries had entered the Age of Reason often known as the Enlightenment. European intellectual movement of 17th- 18th centuries had begun to deal with issues of reason, religion, God, nature, science etc. This had become the basis for European advanced political, economic and technological progress. It is the basis for Western democratic self-government and social contract, introducing the separation of the state and religion (church) and installation of checks and balances in government (Parliament, Executive and Judiciary.)

In a different era and much earlier, from 8th century to 14th (622 -1258), there was an age called the Islamic Golden Age with the manufacture of Islamic gunpowder, among many scientic and technological achievements.

Here is Wikipedia entry of that period: [The Islamic Golden Age (Arabic: العصر الذهبي للإسلام‎, romanizedal-‘asr al-dhahabi lil-islam), was a period of cultural, economic, and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 14th century. This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, the world’s largest city by then, where Islamic scholars and polymaths from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the known world’s classical knowledge into Syriac and Arabic“.]

There was steady decline since then. People of Islam got bent inward to internal bickerings and scramble for spoils of Jihad wars. Eventually strong thinkers, theorists, philosophers of Europe took over the lead to pave the way for European superiority in all fields of human endeavors. “European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition” played critical roles. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent figures included Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith.

Where do Somalis fit into the story?

The most progressive system Somalis had ever devised is tribal Customary Law (Xeer.) That is the case and we should note here to use it for reference. But, there are so many noises in the country by people who are either totally ignorant or miseducated and don’t know what they are taking about. What system of governance are they looking for? They know nothing but tribalism and they still have the instincts of primative society: Survival. Under this regime, the Xeer is the ultimate and most advanced system of self-government. Are such people equipped to critique insanely advanced system like evolution of power, decentralization, federalism, confederalism etc.? Empirically (by experience), we know most Somalis are inclined to understand either one of the following through own culture or life experiences.

  1. Tribal Xeer (customary law);
  2. Rule of the strongman (centralized, city-state, dictatorship).

Tribes or clans act as checks and balances of power in a shared tribal government, until a strongman or tyrannt emerges as it had happened in the country in October 1969. So, since Somalis have yet to enter the Age of Enlightenment, let us try to work out ways to improve our tribal system, and stop criticizing more advanced system of federalism. By Somali tribal standards, 4.5 is one step forward. But I warn you, I am neither saying it is good, nor I am advocating for a tribal system. But, since you are stuck in the old ways and don’t want to reason with the experiment of new governance ideas and societal transformation, you will have to deal with the 4 5.

And since nothing else, except tribalism, exists in the way of Somali native system of self-government in the history book, tell me which one of the above two rules you would prefer to live in.

[Updated since posting]

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