Youth activist Mohamed Hassan–Somali youth are at present face huge task in trying to restore order back to their beloved country. This is not one with a simple duty but with many challenges and also countless rewards if successful. With over 75% of the population, Somalia has seen its youth participate in both positive aspects of the country and also negative. Youth have witnessed themselves being sidelined in decision-making forums while at the same time at the frontline in combat defending leaders who clearly have shown to have no regards for their wellbeing and future.
A young girl saluting the Somali national flag
History tells us the Youth of Somalia have been the driving force in establishing the state from colonial rule. 13 young activists formed the celebrated Somali Youth League (SYL) in which they had protested, lobbied for the rights of the nation. All over the country, SYL members are seen as iconic and were the drive for the nation as they had been pivotal to see Somalia with self-rule away from British and Italian ruling. It was a movement with a fast paced united action and the youth had regularly met with one another and build a support system amongst the public with nationalistic mindset awareness. We must remember at that time, patriotism was easily built, as they had not been any sort of federal or clan system rule not like today. The nation was young and so was its ambition.
With the revolution of the Supreme Revolution Council (SRC) taking charge of the nations affairs on 1969, newly commander of Chief Siad Barre was also very supportive in driving the youth of Somalia forward. Youth in Somalia were cautious with no challenge to the coup. The SRC promoted youths to education, creating a system to facilitate the newly graduates to set off from their homes to rural areas and began off the mass nationwide education drive. This was very crucial as it enabled youths to empower and educate those far and out on the Latin alphabet writing Somalia had picked. Youths, who had access to free education, felt that it was an obligation to educate their fellow Somalis and give back to the community.
As the years of prosperity had run on and a major civil war escalated in the early 90s, it was the youth who were leading the frontlines once again. The nation split into clan fragments and Somali youth had again seen themselves now being pushed as foot soldiers. Manpower was crucial for all clans with militias starting to form throughout the country. Militia groups needed soldiers and a destructive ideology was set upon to the youth forcefully or with promised incentives to support their clan. Meanwhile behind the scenes, it was the older generation who were gaining power and wealth on the back of the youth.
on the turn of the century, youths of Somalia once again had witnessed themselves as being the victims with dangerous ideologists sweeping the nation. As the early and mid 90s war destroyed the educational system and all aspects of institutions, children grew up with no awareness whatsoever to the cultural or religion life. This meant that ignorance was to be widespread right across the country. It paved way for those with another agenda to misinterpret teachings and drive youths from the regional and rural areas to their own advantage. Youths had once again seen themselves in the frontlines waging a war to fellow Somalis in a pretext alien to our society. Ignorance to the teachings of Islam and the beautiful culture Somalia possess sidelined, youths were driven to missions to destroy anybody who had disagreed with their teachers. A huge amount of blame to these acts can only be the collapse of all system.
Somali youth are now at their most pivotal era the nation has seen. The tasks are high and wide nevertheless one that needs for its youth to stand up united once again. The challenges are there for all to be seen.
Challenges Somali Youth face
· Disunited (There isn’t a clear one voice for Somali youth.)
· Clan loyalty more greater than youth solidarity
· Security challenges not only impact the youth but whole population
· Cultural aspects highlight for elders to take full lead in all aspects
· The system. (Youth are subordinate to adult elites who make political decisions)
· Unemployment had lead to very low moral and economic impact on youth.
· Migration is wide across the whole region in East Africa and affecting the lives of youth in the country.
· Frustrations and concern that reconstruction efforts in Somalia are not addressing the root causes of the 25-year civil war.
· Lack of institutions available to support and nurture youth
· Short spaces available for platforms to engage
· Lack of awareness amongst youths
Advantages for Somali Youth
· With estimation of 75% population of the country, Somali youth make up majority. Clearly a major win for Somalia if seen from a worldwide prospective view.
· With a united voice, this is force that cannot be stopped to gain on its needs.
· Highly active and conscious in political views
· Globalization means access to information is beginning to enter everyday lives of youths more now than ever.
· Engaging with huge Diaspora Somali youth across the world can only mean positive for future.
Actions to take for Somali Youth
· Create an atmosphere of unity amongst youth groups/unions
· Set up a united voice with the full intention of providing a louder voice
· Raise awareness campaign on the devastation clan separation has caused
· Reformulate and bridge the gap with traditional elders of youth participation
· Engage with leaders concerning future of the state
· Facilitate youth workshops to restore a sense of national identity
· Campaign and advocate for a youth quota in the parliamentarian representation
· Engage with women and minority groups
· Network and lobby Parliamentarians for legislations on youth rights
· Engage and facilitate forums in universities and colleges with students
· Lobby for a youth debates on major television/radio outlets
· Facilitate and use sports to send a message of unity
· Coordinate regional debates amongst youth groups across the country
· Organize nationwide peaceful rallies on youth rights on occasions such as 15thMay (National youth day)
· Lobby for political parties for youths inclusion
· Regular meetings between unions/groups
· Set up magazines on youth involvement in politics and public life
· Internet debates to engage and build network with the Diaspora
· Establish a network with youth groups/unions in Africa and the region
· Promote the capability and resilience of Somali youth to positively affect the political/social needs.
Youth of Somalia have huge capability to reach potential if ignited. This is evident from history and only requirement is to mobilize and establish a firm united voice. This will nevertheless be a huge challenge and its fruits are limitless. The plus side at current moment is how politically youth are aware and their huge representation in society. The concern is the cultural sidelining and not having any decision-making formulation within their community. Of course, this will only require from them to be aware of the exploitation that the clan itself which roles them as the frontline activists or foot soldiers, will be worthless without its youth. This can only be enabled through awareness and empowering the youth in Somalia.
Mohamed Hassan (Dj)