Somali Public Discourse: A Cesspool of Intolerance and Hatred

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An AI generated image of group of Somalis engaged in a passionate debate | Photo: AI for Gorfayn

| Opinion

Since the beginning of the Sool region conflict and the signing of the infamous MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland, the discourse surrounding Somaliland’s independence has reached unprecedented levels of polarization among Somalis. This dichotomization has deepened the tension and also given rise to an alarming surge in extreme rhetoric, ad hominem attacks, and cyberbullying.

The issue of Somaliland’s independence, a longstanding political quagmire persisting for over three decades, shows no signs of imminent resolution. Instead, it has become a breeding ground for exceedingly slanted debates, devoid of compromise and constructive dialogue. Supporters and opponents of Somaliland’s independence alike have drawn rigid lines in the sand, refusing to entertain opposing viewpoints and resorting to emotionally charged rhetoric.

The discourse on Somaliland’s quest for independence, however, is just the tip of the spear. The escalating intolerance towards differing viewpoints has become deeply entrenched in contemporary Somali discourse. This is neither an exacerbation nor a hyperbole, but a manifestation of a nascent and prevailing culture.

In recent years, there have been an organized factions on social media platforms, politically driven groups whose political positions are rooted primarily in identitarian group thinking. Within these circles, anyone who dares to dissent from their perceived group is subjected to attacks and harassment.

This lack of willingness to engage in civil discourse stifles progress and certainly threatens to erode the diversity of views. In an environment where compromise and understanding are dismissed in favour of uncompromising positions, the very essence of learned disagreement is lost. We’re teetering dangerously close to an authoritarian model of communication, where a meaningful dialogue becomes an increasingly unattainable prospect.

What are the potential consequences of this culture of intolerance? How can we counteract such polarization, and is it the right time to address it? These questions merit discussion and also demand answers.

Embracing diversity of opinions
The current state of Somalis reflects progress compared to a decade ago, with remarkable developments in reconciliation efforts, socio-economic development, and progress in democratization and state-building. However, these momentums, albeit slow-paced, are fragmentary. In such fragile progress, what the country and Somalis at large require is not polarization and the exacerbation of conflicts but rather a healthy dialogue founded on understanding and the accommodation of diverse perspectives.

To promote such dialogue, tolerance is imperative. Regardless of one’s stance on contemporary political issues, resorting to attacks and character assassination against those with differing viewpoints only weakens the integrity of arguments and enables a culture of bullying, thus undermining the credibility of any cause. Engaging in respectful disagreement and embracing differing perspectives are critical steps towards dismantling these primitive modes of argumentation. This shift can be a stepping stone for a more inclusive discourse that encourages understanding, tolerance, and, most importantly, progress.

Failure to embrace diversity of opinion can have far-reaching consequences for the nascent reconciliation process. The continued prevalence of polarized rhetoric and identity-based groupthink risk fuelling further violence, undermining efforts towards finding a durable solution to the three-decade-long stalemate.

In conclusion, the growing polarization in our discourse is not helpful for a society like ours, which is very fragile and deeply divided. Moreover, the pervasive influence of social media has exacerbated identitarian thinking, leading to further polarization within communities and hindering any meaningful dialogue. This detrimental trend must be suppressed, as ad hominem attacks further accelerate the current division. Somalis need to understand that in the twenty-first century, no amount of collective thinking and identity politics can add any value to a democratic society. We need to embrace the diversity of opinions, and the time to embrace it is now.


Gorfayn is an independent and non-partisan online publication that provides an in-depth analysis on Somali politics and public policy. Our aim is to have an informed citizenry. If you wish to write for us please email us your first draft at editor@gorfayn.org

Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi is a lecturer, researcher, and independent environmental health and safety consultant. He’s also a staff writer at Gorfayn where he writes about environmental, climate change, social, and cultural issues.

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