By Liban Ahmad
Until recently, most scholarly publications on Somalia were written by non-Somalis, particularly Western academics.
Thankfully, this trend is now being reversed by Somali scholars in the diaspora, whose research on this war-torn country has increased knowledge of the politics and society.
Unfortunately, much of this scholarship is tainted by the clan or ideological interests of the authors.
While author bias seeps into most academic research, Somalia’s is often marred by the fact that individual scholars view themselves as spokespeople for their clans, and, therefore, often tilt research in favour of those clans.
Some Somali intellectuals in the West delight in fabricating lies to attack living or deceased politicians of rival clans. Objectivity is not in their book.
Recently, for instance, I read two essays — one on a popular Somali website in which I. H. Warsame alleged that former Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (1967-1969) accepted bribes from Emperor Haile Selassie on a visit to Ethiopia in the 1960s.
The other writer, M. H. Ingiriis, was reviewing a book on Somaliland, and argued that Egal brought peace to Somaliland by bribing his opponents.
What caused two Somali diaspora intellectuals to besmirch the reputation of a politician who cannot defend himself?
If you are familiar with post-1991 Somali politics, it will not take you long to figure out that Egal was attacked posthumously by rival clan members.
Another writer, Fahad Yasin, has described Puntland as the Kurdistan of Somalia.
Such descriptions, which reflect the author’s ignorance of the Kurds’ struggle for a homeland, get picked up by other academics, and distort the narrative about Somalia.
While Somalis in the homeland are resisting being swayed by these hate narratives, diaspora intellectuals are conjuring one obstacle after another in essays and briefings to keep Somalis in perpetual inter-clan war mode.
Mass disinformation by Somali diaspora intellectuals is both a symptom and a cause of the fragmented Somali communities.
Before the State collapse in 1991, diaspora intellectuals agreed that there was a need to bring to an end to the political violence of the military dictatorship of Siad Barre.
Since the collapse, political violence by clan-based armed opposition groups has driven a wedge between members of the Somali intelligentsia.
The debate often takes place between diaspora intellectuals from the major clans who have taken it upon themselves to relegate Somalia’s minority clans to the status of “others”.
Somali diaspora intellectuals are silent on the inequalities between the majority and minority clans. They have killed the prospect of Somalia being a diverse and tolerant society.
If Somali diaspora intellectuals, who are more well-resourced than their home-based brethren, cannot pluck the courage to avoid the clan-line when discussing political violence or the legacy of leaders, then our hope of a prosperous Somalia will remain on hold indefinitely.
A mind committed to disinformation or academic dishonesty is more dangerous than warlords with ruthless militias.