& Tony Iltis
Over the last 12 months a new bilingual newspaper, Codka Dhallinyaradda Soomaaliyeed (Voice of Somali Youth), has been published in Melbourne by activists who were part of the Western Suburbs Community Coalition Against Racism, which organised a march of 300 people in Footscray in November 2003 to protest acts of racist violence by local police.
Liibaan Cabdi Daahir, spokesperson for Codka Dhallinyaradda Somaaliyeed, told Green Left Weekly that the purpose of the paper is to create both solidarity among Somali exiles with the struggle for democracy in Somalia and solidarity between Somali-Australians and the broader Australian community.
"It reflects an uprising of the oppressed Somali people against the cliques of thieves, illiterates and profit seekers who for the last 14 years robbed us of our right to make a contribution to the 21st century and more importantly cut us off from the rest of the civilised world", Daahir said.
Since the military dictatorship of Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, the north-east African country has been divided between rival warlords.
The perspective of the paper, Daahir said, is "one that takes into consideration the idea of transnational nationalism". He explained that mass emigration of Somalis has occurred over the past 14 years and many of those emigrating have made new lives for themselves in their adopted countries.
"Transnational nationalism", Daahir said, "is an important phenomenon that can promote a better understanding between two nations on one hand and between a nation and its people on the other".
The struggle for a united, democratic Somalia remains an important focus of Codka Dhallinyaradda Somaaliyeed. "The political desire of Somalis has remained strong despite attempts made by the warlords to derail our nationhood. The civil wars they generated in order to hijack the aspirations of the Somalis (through tribal affiliations) has fallen short of the political desires of Somalis", Daahir explained.
He was scathing about the role of both the corrupt Somali warlords and the "international community" in the current round of Somali peace negotiations between rival warlords being held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. "How can the same political leaders, who dragged the nation back to the Stone Age, all of a sudden determine the future of the Somalis?" he asked.
The peace talks are being organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the member states of which are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Eritrea.
"If the international community were to understand the basic requirements and human rights of the Somali people, they would understand that these requirements and rights could be fulfilled creatively by the concept of regional integration. One must understand Somalia is nation imposed by artificial post-colonial borders", he said, referring to the fact a large part of the Somali population lives within the borders of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.
"Therefore, it is important for us to achieve complete freedom of movement within our territory that we traditionally occupied at the beginning of the colonial era — without the imposition of artificial limitations caused by artificial post-colonial borders."
Codka Dhallinyaradda Soomaaliyeed is also attempting to address the question that Daahir described as "the biggest problem facing Somalia today apart from the lingering corrupt clan leaders — the brain-drain" caused by the emigration of the best-educated Somalis due to the clan wars that have ravaged the country for the past 14 years.
"We have to encourage the reversal of the brain drain", turning it into a "brain gain whereby the Somali professionals living in Western Europe, America and Australia at least attempt to play a constructive role in their ravaged country".
He also stressed the paper's focus on solidarity between the struggles of Somali-Australians and other struggles for social justice in Australia. "We want our Somali readers as well as our Australian brothers and sisters to lay the foundations for a greater collaboration that cements friendship and more importantly provides a platform for shoulder-to-shoulder support, tackling issues to do with poverty and wars."
Daahir expressed the hope of building a relationship with the Socialist Alliance, noting its growing "grassroots support among the unions". He suggested future collaboration on the "many issues that we have in common".
From Green Left Weekly, July 7, 2004.
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