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Somali Castro

The Awdal Of Today Is The Adel Of Yesterday (We don't want Somaliland)

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"The Awdal Of Today Is The Adel Of Yesterday"



Adel, a renowned empire in the Horn of Africa, had far-reaching repercussions in the history and culture of the Horn. From the 11th century to the 14th century, Zeila and Harar were cosmopolitan towns sitting at the top of a dynamic empire stretching from the Red Sea to the Hawas Valley. The success of Zeila as a trade centre with Arabia, the Indian Subcontinent and East Africa is the result of an empire with mixed economy; agriculture, livestock and trade.


As a port, the city of Zeila grew to be a commercial centre but more importantly a centre of education and multiculturalism. Knowledge acquired through trade with a variety of cultures and peoples elevated the city’s stature in the Horn of Africa. Awdal’s connection to the most famous trade routes of the ancient world is evidenced in the lyrics of the preeminent folklore dance, the Zeili’ {Zaylici} which still dominates the stages and theatres in the Horn of Africa. The Somali lyrics have incorporated Hindi, Turkish, Arabic, Oromo, and Afari words and tones and adopted them into the basic structure and rhythm of the Somali Heelo – a precursor to the present day rich mosaic of Somali songs and poetry. A page in this website will be dedicated to this amazing folklore dance. By the 14th century, Adel Empire was the envy of nations. Despite the progress and development that Adel was making, all was not well. Abyssinia and Adel where at war in which over two-thirds of Abyssinia was captured. Abyssinia appealed to the Europeans for help and as a result Adel’s charismatic leader, Ahmed Gurey, was killed in battle with the help of the Portuguese.


The expansion of Adel was driven by religious fervor. The spread of Islam and the betterment of life were the ultimate goals in distinct opposition to the Abyssinian expansion driven by an unquenchable thirst to bring more land into the domain of the feudal kings. As people converted into Islam the Adel Empire never looked into ways to entrench the permanence of their power base in the newly captured lands. This policy of laissez-faire became easy prey for Abyssinia which took advantage of the absence of centralized control and formal political strategy; factors that may have played a large part in the demise of Adel.


A number of authors on Adel dwelled on the role of education in the Empire. Two centers of education, Zeila and Harar, developed formal and informal educational institutions. These institutions conveyed deep ethical values and morals crucial to the proliferation of enlightened citizenry. The codification of a culture conducive to the propagation of higher standards of ethics and morals uncommon in the vast majority of the Somalis at the time has been and is both an opportunity and a threat to the well being of Awdalians. These values have endured into the present and would bear out to be a liability in the Somalia dominated by a nomadic culture and a political atmosphere of despotism and dictatorship devoid of the requisite values and ethics necessary to nation building.


In the 1800’s when Europeans made contact with the Horn of Africa, Awdalians had a skeptical view of them. European incursions into the Horn of Africa reminded them of old wounds especially the battles with Abyssinia acknowledging the European hand in the doom of Adel. European contact was shunned and despised. In Zeila, it was Haji Diide who demanded that Europeans “wash their feet before getting on their boats to avert taking our soil in their shoes”. The Haji represented the aversion of Awdalians towards Europeans who openly sided with Ethiopia. Awdalians resisted that contact with passion. Ethiopia, who as always, was keen on ensuring the death of Adel lobbied for the incorporation of Awdal into Ethiopia decrying the famous “Christian Island in a sea of Moslems” chant, and as a result Western Awdal was became Britain’s gift to Ethiopia despite the agreement between Awdalians and the British [The Gadabursi Treaty] “to respect the integrity of the land of Awdal”. Eventually, Awdal was divided among the three colonial entities: Ethiopia, Britain and France.


In the face of more powerful enemy, Awdalians resorted to passive resistance such as ban on cooperation with the colonizers. Thus, British and the French in British Somaliland and French Somaliland were forced to down scale their colonial policies until they could come up with ways to bypass the Awdalian opposition. It took them several decades to understand the dynamics of old alliances and manufactured their own using tribal affiliations and blood lines as means to break down barriers to colonial resistance. Once they found the ropes, the politics of colonialism acquired satanic proportions in the Horn of Africa.


The late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a period that put courage under fire; a period of controversy and contradictions; a period when massive propaganda was minted by the colonial powers and their stooges to put the last nail in the coffin of the Awdalian dream. Awdalians were ridiculed for standing up to the white man and demanding back their God given sovergnity. Loaded with resources unseen in the Horn of Africa or in the rest of Africa, the colonizers built alliances with tribes in British Somaliland, French Somaliland and Ethiopia. Legend has it that Awdalians are a jealous and envious people because the British and French would not promote them beyond the rank of inspector. As one colonial stooge whispered it to another, the legend became a household word to the extent that even the late dictator, Siyad Barre, is reported to have said that the Gadabursi are like “Indians”; meaning they work hard, do not steal. It is imperative to ask the question who would the British and French colonial masters promote? The answer invariably is: they will promote those who carry out the colonial agenda to its fullest without resistance in any form or shape.


The division of Awdal between Ethiopia, French Somaliland and British Somaliland was the turning point in the history of the Awdalians. The physical division made Awdalians easy prey for political reprisals, under development and even mockery. Upon division, Awdal’s neighbors embarked upon a policy of encroachment which continues until today. In many instances, these policies are sponsored by government authorities either in Djibouti, Somaliland or Ethiopia. One example is the recent claim that Djibouti is hosting a large number of refugees originating from Awdal. The plan is to settle nomadic groups tribally affiliated with the government of Djibouti in Awdal. Ethiopia’s constant reshuffling of administrative regions has also been a source of ever–present dismay for the social and economic development of Western Awdal.


The repression of Awdal is not limited to encroachment and economic exploitation. It has become a strategy to negate Awdalians any development. Despite the economic potential of Awdal, neither Somalia nor Ethiopia invested in its economic viability. The region, on both sides of the border, is rich in agriculture, livestock, minerals, fisheries and the prospect of oil and natural gas in commercial quantities is exceptionally promising. The aversion towards Awdal’s development has not gone unnoticed by the representative of International Aid Organizations in Somalia. A UN development Report on Somalia had this to say about Awdal and the Somaliland Administration headed by Egal:


Access to international aid has proven to be a more complex issue in which Awdal has fared quite well despite the central administration. The Cigaal administration has consistently resented the relatively high levels of aid provided to Awdal since 1992. This has included the relocation of most aid agency compounds to Boorama during the civil war in Hargeysa in 1994-1995. Aid agencies have favoured Boorama because it had remained a peaceful, stable environment conducive to rehabilitation and development work. Agencies cite the absence of extortion and threats, excellent local counterparts and a culture of self-help in Awdal that stands in sharp contrast to many other operating environments in Somalia. This has, however, irritated Hargeysa. In 1994, the Cigaal administration went so far as to declare a popular and effective UNOPS official based in Boorama 'persona non grata', a move which led to street protests in Boorama. In 1997, aid agencies are again under strong pressure from the Cigaal administration to reduce their projects in Awdal and redirect efforts in Burco, where government needs to demonstrate that it can "deliver the goods" to the Garxajis clansmen agreeing to return to the Somaliland government fold.


History is replete with examples of nations whose course has been diverted; on whose destiny befell a dark cloud of misery and misfortune. In history also abound examples of nations that defied the odds and ultimately reached the pinnacle of the infinite potential endowed in the unison of a society’s will to stand tall and proud. In its long history Awdal has seen the ravages of war and the perils associated with social chaos. A society needs a degree of enlightenment to comprehend the setback of war and its inherent vices. But that enlightenment comes with a degree of humility that can easily be misinterpreted. To the arrogant nomad, humility is seen as state of being intimidated and this has on many occasions in history soured the relationship between Awdal and it neighbors. Awdalians need to be persistent, consistent and constant in their determination to return to greatness. The road of persistence is arduous; however, it pays off for those who dare to travel it. Awdalians have the tools and the equipment for that road. They have to realize they need to make that journey.


It has been observed by some that Awdal today, in the absence of government, is more developed than during the reign of the previous two governments in Somalia. This has given many Awdalians a false sense of security and pride. The Awdalian situation may in some cases be better off than that of most Somalis. But it is by no means close to what it should be or where it should be. Can we argue that being dead is better than being terminally ill? Awdal is terminally ill. The cure for this terminal illness is known and available. Awdalians have ignored the distinctiveness that made the Adel Empire. They opted to be blind in order to blend-in but failed to comprehend that blending-in takes you out of your elements. The strengths and the values that made them great 11 centuries ago are still the ones that make nations; they are the same values preached to the societies of the developed world, taught and encouraged in their schools. The revival of Awdal is in the hands of Awdalians who can change the status quo. It begins with a realization of who you are and the state of your affairs; followed by a commitment to the cause of revival with a relevant plan and a road map.

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