Tragic situation shouldn’t be used to laugh at Somalia

Sunday February 26 2017

Suna East legislator Junet Mohamed.

Suna East legislator Junet Mohamed. Gitau Warigi rightfully took exception to the MP's insult directed at the Coast Regional Commissioner Nelson Marwa on national television. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ABUBAKR OGLE
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In his article last Sunday, Gitau Warigi rightfully took exception to Suna East MP Junet Mohammed’s insult directed at the Coast Regional Commissioner Nelson Marwa on national television (“Junet Mohammed should be told there is nothing special in being Cushitic”).

However, the writer went beyond castigating Mr Mohammed and used the incident as an opportunity to rubbish an entire ethnic group. The language, tone and narrative were both inappropriate and disgusting, to say the least.

Let me state upfront that I watched the programme and what Mr Mohammed did was utterly despicable. To go out on national television and liberally throw insults at anybody, let alone a senior government operative simply because you do not agree with the way they work, is unbecoming of any leader.

But in the course of calling out Mr Mohammed, the columnist himself fell into the same trap that he was unbraiding the MP for. On the basis of the uncouth behaviour of one individual, he racially profiled a whole ethnic group, while at the same time casting them in the most disparaging light.

Driven so much by the hate narrative he spewed, Mr Warigi perhaps forgot that the moderator of the talk show, Mr Hussein Mohammed, is himself a member of the so-called “Cushites”, just like the MP.

Yet the respected anchor of the prime time news went to great lengths to demand that the legislator apologise to Mr Marwa and withdraw the offensive remarks. Unable to obtain a retraction, the anchor profusely apologised to the administrator on air for the unfortunate incident.

CUSHITIC MINDSETS

It is, therefore, dishonest for the columnist to use the MP’s utterances as the standard for his perceived Cushitic mindsets to the exclusion of the ethical and professional conduct displayed by the TV news anchor.

Mr Warigi instead persisted on his clear agenda of unmitigated bias and apparent disdain and malicious stereotyping of the Somalis and the larger Cushitic group.

In his reckless pursuit of a parochial, petty and unsubstantiated labelling of the Cushites as a supposedly egoistic and criminal enterprise, Mr Warigi also had the audacity to lump together Majority Leader in the National MP Aden Duale and the Suna East MP in the same basket despite knowing that they are in opposing sides of the political divide.

He conveniently stated that they share similar worldviews simply based on their common Cushitic heritage, a far-fetched imagination indeed!

As for Somalis being conveniently in various political formations, there is nothing “Cushitic” about this. Depending on the political circumstances of the day, all communities in Kenya have found themselves supporting political parties and coalitions with different, sometimes opposing, agendas.

This will not end, as communities are rarely the homogenous entities corralled into one mass whose mindsets are warped as Mr Warigi painstakingly seeks to depict of the Cushites.

Yes, the Somali nation-state collapsed three decades ago, and its people share origins with the Somali ethnic group in Kenya, as well as with other Cushites across the world. But this is no different from the Luo, Maasai, Sebei and other communities in neighbouring countries.

SHARE COMMON ORIGIN

To thus argue that a given behaviour in one group in a given community in the neighbouring country is symptomatic of the entire mindset of all those communities that share a common origin is both nonsensical and hugely ludicrous at the most.

Mr Warigi struggled to bring perspective in what he believed was a common Somali group think. He sought to provide mischievous punditry. But he laid bare his ignorance and utter cynicism. That was just bad journalism.

Moreover, the tragic situation Somalia finds itself in currently should be a cause for concern and deep introspection by conscientious journalists.

It should never be used to laugh at a community as the columnist did. While it is easy to write it off as a localised conflict to understand the Cushitic mind and therefore to be trifled with, the incidence of piracy along the Somali seashores not so long ago, largely disrupted global commerce.

Mr Warigi further celebrated the oppression of the Oromos in Ethiopia and their domination by the Tigray and Amharic Semitic stock simply because somehow, in his imagination, the former who are also of Cushitic extract, were being taught a lesson.

In fact, the three tribal groupings are actually all of Cushitic heritage. I once plied my trade as a journalist and during those old good days, we were for truth, no matter who told it.

The writer is a Member of  the East African Legislative Assembly