Somalia: The Role of Youth in Somalia's Past and Future
Views:116 | Monday, July 2nd, 2012 | By


Somalia marks it 52nd year of independence. Some would argue that Somalia is in a far dire state than in colonial times, after a collapse of the central government in 1991, conflict has ravaged the horn of Africa nation.

But Somalis have been turning it around lately, in an effort to rid itself of the "failed state" moniker that has been attached to the war-torn country for the last 20 years. Despite military intervention from almost all of Somalia's neighbors with the go-ahead from the international community, it seems that the country has rekindled hope and things are actually moving in the right direction.

However tangible progress in all levels of government, security and development can be sustained if leaders can reel in and gain support from the youth, more than half of Somalia's population.

Somalia's independence in 1960 was based on political activists organized by educated youth who grew up facing oppression by British and Italian colonialists. One group that stood out and was the first political party in Somalia was the Somalia Youth League (SYL). Others like Somalia National League (SNL) National United Front (NUF) and United Somali Party (USP) were also crucial in pushing the movement that achieved the goal of independence.

SYL, formerly Somali Youth Club (SYC) was formed in 1943 while Italian Somaliland was occupied by Britain. When SYL was formed in 1943, 12 of the 13 original members were all under the age of 30 with majority in their early twenties.

Anti-imperialists at that time got their motivation from Sayyid Abdullah Hassan known as the 'Mad Mullah' by the British, who carried out an anti-imperial war against the British and Italians. Despite his controversial methods a large amount of Somalis regard him as a freedom fighter.

SYL and other groups like it achieved their independence through peace not war, and thanks to their charismatic members aroused all levels of Somali society and would gain widespread respect from Somalis across the board. SYL would be the first elected political party when Somalia took its independence in 1960.

Fast-forward 50 years and youth are still the decisive factor in Somali politics.

The terrorist organization Al Shabaab (the youth in Arabic) has wreaked havoc on Somalia since their split from the dissolved Islamic Courts Union (ICU). When speaking to Al Shabaab agents they believe that they are fighting a war against imperialists.

Whatever their reasons Al Shabaab has been able to lure a large amount of youth to do their bidding.

With large levels of unemployment, poor education and the restriction or extreme difficulty of travel to neighboring countries to get a better life or receive an education; youth have been left very little chances.

Youth were the paramount in gaining independence and forming a government, a role that traditional elders have been tasked.

The political arena in Somalia needs to actively include youth; which the majority of whom believe or act like it is not their responsibility to change the history Somalia.

In the words of Puntland General Saeed Mohamed Hersi while speaking at the celebration of Somalia's Independence Day:

"The majority members of SYL who gained the freedom of Somalia were in the twenties. Life is more than a new phone or the latest gadget, the youth of Somalia need to realize that the history of Somalia will depend on how they act."

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