By: Nuradin Jilani.

In March 2009 the former bureau head of Information, Culture & Tourism of the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia (SRS) Mr. Guled Casowe, who is now in jail charged with ‘crimes against culture and religion,’ told the VOA Somali Service in an interview that his ministry was planning to exhume the body of the Somali Dervish hero Sayid Mohamed Abdille Hassan from a graveyard in a place called Reegiito in Bali and rebury him in his old Fortress on the Sarmaan mountain of Iimey in the Somali Region (Ogaden). Mr. Casowe said two reasons motivated his mission: 1) To restore and preserve the cultural and historical legacy of the Sayid to Somali Region; 2) The tourism potential and development this would bring to the region in general and in the Iimey area in particular. He further emphasized that his ministry was interested in the cultural aspect of the Sayid and not in the armed liberation struggle history of which he was famous. To this end, the Somali Regional State had named a Conference Hall in Jigjiga, which service as the most important meeting place in town, after the Sayid: Hoolka Shirarka ee Sayid Maxamed Cabdille Xassan.

It is now two years since that interview and the Sayid’s remains have not yet been found. The Somali Regional State seems to have given up its search as far as we know. To this day, the great man remains buried in mystery as he lived.

The question is: why is the Ethiopian regime searching for the grave of the Sayid? Why do they want to rewrite his history? The answer is cultural control and manipulation.

What is culture?

The Kenyan born prolific writer and professor of literature, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, who is a man regarded as this century’s most eminent African cultural fighter, supplies the following apt meaning: “Culture is a society’s identity, consciousness, psychological survival and sense of belonging” (Moving the Center, The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms, p.77).

Culture is also ‘collective self image’. “Culture carries the values, ethnical, moral, and aesthetic by which people conceptualize or see themselves and their place in history and the universe.” (Italics mine).

Ngugi further writes in another essay: “To make economic and political control effective, the colonizing power tries to control the cultural environment: education, religion, language, literature, songs, and every expression. In this way they try to control people’s values, their world outlook, and self-definition.” (Writers in Politics, p. 36).

Dr. Ngugi stands out from his peers for the way he tactically connects neo-colonialism’s economic and political control to its cultural manipulation in modern African and Third World countries. He argues whereas in the past colonialism used the school education system when they were in control of the territories to mould and control young colonized minds and inculcate in them their values and world outlook – a process he describes in the title of Bob Dixon’s book Catching them Young – it’s done today through the media, the arts and television. The end point is always the same now as in the past: to make the colonized – and the exploited – identify with the values, self-conception and world outlook of the colonizer.

Once that is done and the colonized are made to identify with the values of those who’re plundering them, the rest of colonial dozes are easy to administer. Yesterday’s colonized children who are now adults with colonial minds and presumably running their ‘independent’ countries as grown-ups become eventually, since they have no distinct values of their own and have not crafted one, The Mimic Men V. S. Naipaul’s so powerfully wrote about in his novel by that title. (Decolonizing the Mind, p.17). The murdered anti-Apartheid South African writer Steve Biko wrote about this phenomenon in his book, I Write What I Like, when he said: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.

These mimic men are then left to police their restive and hungry population while their resources are looted, absolving responsibility of wrongdoing for the ones who are actually doing the looting behind scenes. Not only that. The robbers can then cynically shout from the sidelines, “Have we not given you the independence you so desperately wanted? Don’t blame us for your failures.” Meanwhile, the raw materials still go to the same destination of the colonial era days, often returning in military hardware placed in the hands of the mimic men. As a result Africa’s development and prosperity has been arrested. And the result has been disastrous: it has produced a leadership whose conception of power and its exercise is modeled on colonialist practices (during colonialism uprising were put down and crashed), a leader who loses no sleep after annihilating thousands of his own people in crackdowns, and academic who thrives on writing learned treatises on the backwardness of his people. (Moving the Centre, P. 130)

The colonial doses administered in childhood are reaped bitterly in adulthood in ways more subtle and unimaginable, and unless the mentally colonized child probes the process that went into making him ‘an animated puppet’ and a ‘mimic man’ and reconnect with his roots, in the process discovering that his history was not, as it was shoved down in his tender and unsuspecting mind, ‘one long dark night’ bereft of any redeeming qualities, and that, like all human-beings he had his highs and lows, unless he does that and get his self-confidence back, he will become that slave, which Ngugi so passionately wrote about, “who is happy that he is slave and fated to be slave forever”. As that great Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero summed up: “Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child”.

In case my reader thinks I am a bit overboard and exaggerating – as the argument has it, our people are immune to this kind of mental slavery; they stand on the shoulders of great men and history – I suggest that you take a closer look at the conduct of so-called Liyuu Police who take pride in slaying their own people. These young, mostly uneducated rural men are handsomely paid and indoctrinated in such a way as to make them believe that what they are doing is right and just. In their training manuals, more time is spent on brainwashing them than preparing them physically for combat. At the graduation ceremonies of the new recruits, selected pro-government religious personalities, who are part of the indoctrination machine, deliver lectures about the virtues of fighting for and defending their country against aggressors – one of these religious mercenaries was recently comparing the Liyuu Police to the Sahaaba of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and telling them ‘you’re Mujahedeen who will go to paradise if you fall in battle’!

To grasp the severity of the situation further, one also needs to be acquainted with behavior of the Amharic speaking, beer drinking, Ethiopian Civil Service College trained cadres who are appointed by the TPLF to run the regional administration after they complete their political and cultural indoctrination. Men like the former “Culture Bureau Head”, Guled Casowe, who introduced to our region the now widespread act of videotaping the dead while dancing on top of them, the shameful practice of forcing innocents to admit crimes they did not commit on camera and circulating it on the internet, and the more sinister one which he was accused and charged with, that of luring young girls to perform sexual acts and recording them. Of course Mr. Casowe could not have done all these dirty things without the blessings – or rather actual participation – of his boss who later turned against him, the current president of Somali Region Mr. Abdi Iley, a man whose horrific actions words fail to describe. Men like Abdillahi Hassan “Lugbuur”, the former president Somali Region, whose job these days is to write low quality articles about how Ethiopia is a great ‘civilization’ and how Somalia was wrong to attack Ethiopian in the 1964 & 1977 war (clearly a case of brainwashed intellectual, if Lugbuur can be described as such, writing ‘learned treatises’ about the wrongness and backwardness of his people).

Nuradin Jilani


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