Somalia`s New Tongue Twisting Names

Posted on 09/04/2011


First, Roobdoon Forum has to commend the creation of regional administrations that is based on “Do-It-Yourself” democracy or “bottom-up approach”.

As a rule of thumb, the renaming of geographic spots should be permitted in instances of preservation of a historical and cultural heritage of the peoples who inhabit in those regions. That is, it can be tolerated for the purposes of the return to the names widely known in the past.

However, the problem is that some of the new regional names seriously require some attention and a formula under which all Somali regions should have an agreed Somali names.

The new administrations, formed in the last two decades, forged names that are new to the Somali ears. They called their entities Somaliland, Puntland, Midland etc. Even if they concocted these names to test Somalis` level of sensitivity and reaction, these attempts are challenged and some of them would meet a disgraceful defeat and a bad name for those who planned it.

Many Somalis do not agree to names that are anglicized or borrowed to replace Somali ones – such as Somaliland, Puntland, and Midland. For them, to accept the renaming of these regions as such constitutes a betrayal in regards to the use of geographic names that do not have both historical and cultural symbolism to them.

During the colonial era, it was common to change names of places like streets, towns, and regions just to be named after a colonial officer or even a European town. However, since independence (and before this failed State) Somalis were taking more pride in their roots and heritage.

Giving Somali regions to imported or anglicized Somali names has no real significance that would make it worth to fight and shed blood. However, its usage reflects the continued state of inferiority complex inherited from the colonial period. It also reveals the contradictory thinking of these Somali leaders and intellectuals who manifest a thought that is in favour of Somali causes against the alien culture. They manifest in despising Somali names, on the one hand, and glorify Somali culture and language, on the other.

By using these imported/and anglicized Somali names, the Somali people will remain victims of the backward mentality of these leaders. Instead of perceiving all the richness of the Somali language and literature, these leaders seek to borrow foreign terms, driven by the love of foreign taste.

Adding Salt to Injury

Adding salt to injury, Professor Mohamed Abdi Gandhi made last week another unreasonably arrogant gesture when a new foreign word, Azania*, is named to parts of Somalia.

It is indisputable that Gandhi is a Somali scholar and he deserves respect. The name Azania will not prevent the Forum from confirming this fact. However, our concerns are justifiable due to the fact that Somali people were excluded from the process of defining themselves.

It seems that the new name was intended to appease our neigbour, proving that Kenya has really the control button to Jubba regions of Somalia.

Many Jubba residents have already denounced the move and indicated that the new name showed lack of experience and sensitivity on the part of Gandhi and his company. The name Azania will increasingly come under attack. Many will point out and complain that the word symbolizes the coming autocratic rule in the Jubba regions of Somalia.

Changing the names is not the only matter in here. The issue is that people have not voted to change the name of their region into something unpronounceable by Somalis. Therefore, many view this new name business as a trick in which a few want to sow discord and spread conflict among Somalis.

Somaliland officials have numerous times offered an explanation for the anglicized name they gave to parts of northern Somalia, although they received a flood of protests against this foreign naming. It is clear that this anglicized Somali name has been invented by clannish elites and chiefs of the Isaaq clan and they are trying to prove their ownership of the whole northern regions of Somalia. Their excuse for maintaining the colonial name is “to protect and retain what was then the British Somaliland”.

The Forum stresses that the names Somaliland, Puntland, Midland, and Azania have been coined by non-Somalis and thus suggests to be changed. These terms are associated with foreign-pleasing concepts.

Many Somalis want that the regions that are now called “Somaliland” “Puntland”, “Midland” should have been dropped the “land” from its name. Although the new names Azania (only pronounceable as Asaaniya in Somali), Puntland (as buntilaan) do not pose any serious tongue-twisting problems for the Somalis, it will force Somalis, who have accustomed not to have the phonetic sounds of “P” and “Z” in their Somali alphabet, to add it.

Moreover, because the name Azania is closely associated with southern parts of Africa (from Tanzania to South Africa), people from Jubba regions of Somalia will likely be unyielding in calling themselves to Azanians.

Did Gandhi choose Azania as Somali name just as part of his quest of authenticity and get rid of the well-established Somali histories and names?

The short answer is NO. The names Jubba and Gedo, for instance, are not colonial or foreign names.

Then, why do Gandhi and other revisionists want to obliterate what is truthfully their past and replace it with mythical ones?

The answer is probably that the Somali intellectuals are deeply affected by the scars of the long civil war and subsequently are experiencing a sort of psychological complex (such as westofication, arabization, or afrocentrism). These intellectuals are therefore struggling to obliterate the names and histories of this ancient people called Somalis.

They are imposing their invented or borrowed names and histories on Somali regions, in order to treat anything but Somali names and histories as if it is the only true one. Their adage in geographical names became as synonymous as “the mythical histories and names are much worth than factual names and histories of our settlements, mountains, seas, and rivers”.

In the last two decades, having a foreign taste is not an unknown malady in Somalia. The Forum noted that Somalis in general, have been drifting away from their Somali culture, putting Arab and Western identity to the fore when defining themselves. Somalis should instead stop defining themselves in terms of colonialism or greater regional identity and start themselves in terms of Somali tradition that is based on national cohesion and shared patriotism.

Despite the feeble historical records, the Somali oral tradition taught us that ancient Somalis established a unique culture and settlements in which its names have endured. Although Somalis are in fact Muslims and adopted Islamic ways one thousand or so years ago, they have yet a distinctive language and culture that is different from other Muslims.

The Forum says to those Somali scholars, who are charmed by foreign names and feel that they must emulate it: have at least a little faith in your Somali culture.

Source: Roobdoon Forum
Wednesday, April 06, 2011