In a recent interview, the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, expressed with some nostalgia the memory of the brotherhood that once linked the Italian fascist colonizers of the Mussolini era to the African people. He spoke of a people-to-people relationship, inviting the “owners” of the arable lands and plantations, without reflecting on the period when the plantations between the two rivers in the Horn of Africa were unjustly taken from the indigenous owners and cultivated by the Italian colonialists. The latter exploited and dehumanized indigenous workers, forcing them to perform arduous and inhumane work. When has a certain brotherhood ever materialized?
He should be ashamed of himself for making such a request. As an African, he should reflect on his words and their consequences. Before speaking, it would be appropriate for him to find out more. Fortunately, today’s Italians, like many other peoples in the contemporary world, have developed a critical awareness and have dissociated themselves from the crimes committed in the past. Similarly, Africans today, along with all those who have suffered historical injustices, have worked to overcome the painful past by writing about and condemning colonialism as a crime against humanity.
I want to communicate a thought derived from my dual identity as an Italian and an African to today’s Italians.
Dear Italians, I urge you not to return to the plantations. If Italy were to return, let it be to support projects such as that of the National University, one of the most significant in the field of authentic, equal, and beneficial interpersonal relationships for both peoples, which had already started in the 1980s. This is the type of collaboration that should characterize an eventual return.
Returning to recover the land is unnecessary, as it was obtained illegally. There is no refund for properties obtained unlawfully during the fascist period nor for industries such as that of the Duke of Abruzzi, for which restitution is impossible. If Italy were to return, it should do so to compensate for what was wrongly perpetrated in that period.
As regards the “Messenger,” who acts as an exclusive representative of himself, I highly recommend reading works such as “Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon (1967) and “Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression” by Hussein Bulhan (1985). Furthermore, it might be useful to explore texts such as Hegel’s “The Phenomenology of Mind” (1966), Mannoni’s “Prospero and Caliban: the Psychology of Colonialism” (1968), and Orlando’s “Slavery and Social Death”. (1982).
I hope this enlightens him not to distort the message, aware as an African of the horror in the words accompanying his outbursts. I am not the spokesperson for the people of Somalia, since they are capable of expressing themselves independently. However, I find myself speaking as an African and a Somalilander, who would like to convey profound disgust at the words uttered by those declaring being in the role of leader of a nation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Jama Musse Jama has a PhD in Computational Linguistics, and has extensive research publications in mathematics, ICT and the role of art and culture in development. Founder of the Hargeysa International Book Fair, and currently Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland, Dr. Jama has also a Senior Research Associate position at DPU, University College London, UK. Dr. Jama can be reached @JamaMusse or email: jama[@]redsea-online.org
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