By Hamza M.O Egal
The recent social debate or debacle surrounding the announcement of the youth conference in the Somali capital of Mogadishu has highlighted something that most people of this nation have felt but largely ignored.
Often during my constant back and forth travels to the motherland I would encounter stringent inquires regarding my arrival. “What NGO do you work with? Or which organisation are you intending to work for? Which politician are you related too? Or which government post are you here to appropriate?”
These lines of inquiry would fleetingly change once I confirm that my trip is to prospect private opportunities or that I was simply on holiday. Nevertheless as a member of the perceived diaspora youth, I can enthusiastically say that there is an underlining classism element that is constantly displayed by members of the diaspora and mostly presumed by the local youths.
This is evident from the economical, educational and social superiority when it comes to employment in the massive International community jobs available, which is mostly reserved for the diaspora. The same can be said for the governmental posts whether technical or of the political nature, again most of the young people in these positions are of the diaspora.
There are two major faults with this practice. Firstly I don’t believe someone who has lived his or her life in the peaceful and prosperous countries of the world can truly appreciate the solutions more than one who has lived through the hardships of a failed state. Secondly it would be irrational to presume a political solution can ever be found without the consensus of every Somali citizen.
The local youth have seen hope disappear and rematerialise under the scorching sun and as soon as a little peace was found, self-servicing know-it-alls with foreign passports ended up taking the most lucrative opportunities. Don’t get me wrong I am not playing devils advocate here, I am trying to rationalise the grievances of our local brethren, which carries much justification.
On the other side of the spectrum the technical abilities and the will to risk life and limb by the diaspora youth, who carry genuine resolve to bring about positive impact must be acknowledge and rightly so remunerated for their endeavors. It is quite defeatist to give someone a job just because he or she is a local when they are under qualified or lack in experience.
I recall one summer evening when I found myself surrounded by a number of International NGO heads operating in Somalia. The question I posed was “why were they inclined to hire diaspora Somalis who had no or extremely limited contextual knowledge of the country instead of the locals?”Furthermore understanding completely that the international wages paid to these individuals would often be spent in Nairobi or back in the Western World. The answer was simple; the social and linguistic advantages offered by the diaspora and not necessarily technical abilities were the major factors.
The reason I support the locals receiving most of the opportunities in the country is based on the economic empowerment effect, mind you this is not trickle down Reaganomics. In this instance the more local youths who are employed the more wealth that would stay in the country on two very different fronts a) the locals would have more purchasing power boasting the economy b) the debt which Somalia incurs from these huge wages would be drastically reduced due to the local rates.
Nonetheless the most important equation to all this would be the level of advancement by the locals who have found it hard to progress in the quagmire of state failure, lets be honest the confidence of a well spoken savvy diaspora youth is intimidating and automatically triggers a defense mechanism in the locals. The goal is to have a well-rounded group of people from both sides who at the very least are seen to be complimenting each other.
I welcome the conference even though I personally view it as a piecemeal effort. One can always hope that it sets the precedent for a continuous development of the communal disposition of our people. Regardless of our past it is time we the Somali youth embraced and lead by example, what better way than to show true unity of intellect and spirit.