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Who owns Kismayo and theProper Names of Some SomaliCommunitiesWritten by Sadik B AbdullahiJust last night, watching a Kenyan TV station, Iheard someone address the Somalis as ‘oriya’.The man who was trying to prove that the Luosare accommodative of other communities intheir native Nyanza was referring to a Somaliwho was once the mayor of Migori – a town inthe western parts of Kenya. The man, forwhatever reasons, thought that the propername of Somalis is waryaa – which he evenevidently mispronounced.Whereas I agree with the central themepostulated by the writer when he asks whoowns Kismayo, I believe he also committed anoffence similar to the one committed by thatLuo man. The writer mistakenly believed thatthe Ormas are different from the Gallas when infact Galla is a derogatory term used against theOromos.I don’t know the origin of the word Galla but allOromo speaking communities I have interactedwith abhor being termed as such. Even as wehave many disparate groups in Kenya thatspeak the Oromo language including twoSomali clans, I am yet to come across someonesaying that Ormas in Kenya are different fromthe Oromos of Ethiopia. Thus, the Ormas, whoonce straddled huge parts of southern Somaliaand the current North-Eastern Province ofKenya, are the same people as the Gala ourwriter was talking about.Another grave mistake that was committed byour writer was terming the Bantu communitiesin Somalia as oji. In as much as thesouthernmost part of Somalia that I have beento was Galkaio, I know oji, or so I have readfrom many sources, stand for today in Italian.Actually the proper word is oggi. The Somalis intrying to denigrate the numerous Bantucommunities in Somalia used this word toportray them as people who do not possessthe relevant faculties to think beyond the day.How so unfortunate that someone will today inthe 21st century continue propagating thesame profanity, though unwittingly. As alearning lesson we should all strive to avoidusing such derogatory words against anySomali community and endeavour to learn theirproper names or names agreeable to them.Coming back to the question of who ownsKismayo, I also realize that the writer is not sofamiliar with that part of Somalia. Indeed, theBajunis, who our good writer doesn’t seem toknow, are the owners of Kismayo. Interestingly,this reminds me of a conversation that I oncehad with a waiter in one of the restaurants inGarowe. I can’t really remember how Bajunisended up in our conversation but what I can’tforget is how my waiter friend reactedimmediately the word Bajuni came out of mymouth. Shouting, he told me that Bajuni is anoffensive word that people from his place usepejoratively against others.I don’t know from what part of the Somalispeaking lands my friend came from but Bajuniis a name of a people who mostly reside in thenorthernmost coast of Kenya that bordersSomalia. The Bajunis, who speak a dialect ofthe Swahili language, refer to the southernmostcoast of Somalia as their homeland. In fact,Kismayo is a Swahili word that means the upperwells. So, we should thus recognize the Bajunisas the rightful owners of Kismayo who not onlybequeathed it its name but also preceded thenomadic Somalis in inhabiting Kismayo. Bajunisstill live in Kismayo and especially in the islandsadjacent to the city which bears the samename: Bajuni Islands.On the same note, I remember stories from aKenyan friend in Dubai when I lived and workedthere. My friend, a man of many hats, is, amongother things; a marine doctor, a former KenyaNavy officer and a deep sea diver; and wouldregale me with stories of his many “medicaladventures to the lands of the Bajuni” readKismayo and adjacent coast towns and islands.He would occasionally venture to this part ofSomalia to perform minor surgeries especiallycircumcision for young Bajuni boys. Anyway,this is to just show you how emotionally theBajunis are attached to Kismayo.Most interestingly, a long serving MP for LamuEast in Kenya was born in Bravo in Somalia andschooled in Kismayo. Though a Barawa himself,he represents a largely Bajuni constituency inKenya. The Barawas too speak a Swahili dialectwhich is distinct from the one spoken by theBajuni people.To most southernmost Somalis though, theBajunis do not fall under the umbrella termSomali Bantu. This is despite the fact thatSwahili is a largely Bantu language. The termthus is reserved for the Mushunguli and otherriverine Somalis of Bantu origin. I know verylittle of the Mushunguli and these other SomaliBantus other than what I have read on theinternet and some academic articles I once hadaccess to but at the end of the day, we shouldtreat all Somalis regardless of the brownness oftheir skins or the texture of the hair asbrothers and sisters and remember that in theDay of Judgment what will matter is the gooddeeds that we performed in this world.

Who owns Kismayo and the
Proper Names of Some Somali
Communities
Written by Sadik B Abdullahi
Just last night, watching a Kenyan TV station, I
heard someone address the Somalis as ‘oriya’.
The man who was trying to prove that the Luos
are accommodative of other communities in
their native Nyanza was referring to a Somali
who was once the mayor of Migori – a town in
the western parts of Kenya. The man, for
whatever reasons, thought that the proper
name of Somalis is waryaa – which he even
evidently mispronounced.
Whereas I agree with the central theme
postulated by the writer when he asks who
owns Kismayo, I believe he also committed an
offence similar to the one committed by that
Luo man. The writer mistakenly believed that
the Ormas are different from the Gallas when in
fact Galla is a derogatory term used against the
Oromos.
I don’t know the origin of the word Galla but all
Oromo speaking communities I have interacted
with abhor being termed as such. Even as we
have many disparate groups in Kenya that
speak the Oromo language including two
Somali clans, I am yet to come across someone
saying that Ormas in Kenya are different from
the Oromos of Ethiopia. Thus, the Ormas, who
once straddled huge parts of southern Somalia
and the current North-Eastern Province of
Kenya, are the same people as the Gala our
writer was talking about.
Another grave mistake that was committed by
our writer was terming the Bantu communities
in Somalia as oji. In as much as the
southernmost part of Somalia that I have been
to was Galkaio, I know oji, or so I have read
from many sources, stand for today in Italian.
Actually the proper word is oggi. The Somalis in
trying to denigrate the numerous Bantu
communities in Somalia used this word to
portray them as people who do not possess
the relevant faculties to think beyond the day.
How so unfortunate that someone will today in
the 21st century continue propagating the
same profanity, though unwittingly. As a
learning lesson we should all strive to avoid
using such derogatory words against any
Somali community and endeavour to learn their
proper names or names agreeable to them.
Coming back to the question of who owns
Kismayo, I also realize that the writer is not so
familiar with that part of Somalia. Indeed, the
Bajunis, who our good writer doesn’t seem to
know, are the owners of Kismayo. Interestingly,
this reminds me of a conversation that I once
had with a waiter in one of the restaurants in
Garowe. I can’t really remember how Bajunis
ended up in our conversation but what I can’t
forget is how my waiter friend reacted
immediately the word Bajuni came out of my
mouth. Shouting, he told me that Bajuni is an
offensive word that people from his place use
pejoratively against others.
I don’t know from what part of the Somali
speaking lands my friend came from but Bajuni
is a name of a people who mostly reside in the
northernmost coast of Kenya that borders
Somalia. The Bajunis, who speak a dialect of
the Swahili language, refer to the southernmost
coast of Somalia as their homeland. In fact,
Kismayo is a Swahili word that means the upper
wells. So, we should thus recognize the Bajunis
as the rightful owners of Kismayo who not only
bequeathed it its name but also preceded the
nomadic Somalis in inhabiting Kismayo. Bajunis
still live in Kismayo and especially in the islands
adjacent to the city which bears the same
name: Bajuni Islands.
On the same note, I remember stories from a
Kenyan friend in Dubai when I lived and worked
there. My friend, a man of many hats, is, among
other things; a marine doctor, a former Kenya
Navy officer and a deep sea diver; and would
regale me with stories of his many “medical
adventures to the lands of the Bajuni” read
Kismayo and adjacent coast towns and islands.
He would occasionally venture to this part of
Somalia to perform minor surgeries especially
circumcision for young Bajuni boys. Anyway,
this is to just show you how emotionally the
Bajunis are attached to Kismayo.
Most interestingly, a long serving MP for Lamu
East in Kenya was born in Bravo in Somalia and
schooled in Kismayo. Though a Barawa himself,
he represents a largely Bajuni constituency in
Kenya. The Barawas too speak a Swahili dialect
which is distinct from the one spoken by the
Bajuni people.
To most southernmost Somalis though, the
Bajunis do not fall under the umbrella term
Somali Bantu. This is despite the fact that
Swahili is a largely Bantu language. The term
thus is reserved for the Mushunguli and other
riverine Somalis of Bantu origin. I know very
little of the Mushunguli and these other Somali
Bantus other than what I have read on the
internet and some academic articles I once had
access to but at the end of the day, we should
treat all Somalis regardless of the brownness of
their skins or the texture of the hair as
brothers and sisters and remember that in the
Day of Judgment what will matter is the good
deeds that we performed in this world.

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