Who are the ‘Beizanis’? The Beizani are a Somali clan whose ancestors came to Somalia in the early 1900s, during the Colonial era. This era was the period in which Somalia experienced an influx of Italian colonial settlers along with thousands of skilled workers from different parts of the world.
At this point in time, Somalia did not have skilled workers. Natives were tribal people who practised a pastoral life style based on primitive clan values. Their world did not extend beyond family, the tribe and village. Nomads roamed freely with their livestock. Borders and boundaries introduced during this era did not limit the nomads from roaming freely. In any case, boundaries and borders were imaginary lines with no physical mark to indicate where territories began or ended.
Unlike British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland brought skilled workers from other colonies such as Eritrea, Libya and Ethiopia. As Italian Somaliland prospered, more people with skills came from Italy, Yemen and Oman. Indian settlers came along during the British rule in south of Somalia. These skilled workers contributed in the building of Somalia, especially Mogadishu. Agriculture was also flourishing; the colony started to export agricultural goods to Europe which in turn contributed the boom of the country.
Within this mixture of diverse people, work was divided and the Italians were the ruling party. The Eritreans were clerks and lawyers, Ethiopians were mechanics, Arabs were storekeepers and furniture makers and Indians were traders of gold and silver. Highly valued hand crafted gold was exclusively made by the Indians. The official language at the time became Italian and as such schools were taught in Italian. As children from all these ethnicities went to school and grew up together, they became one people. A clan of their own. They were known as Beizanis.
Another group of people also have come to join this diverse and multicultural community. Children raised by the missionaries. Orphaned children were cared for by the Italian missionary, most of them did not have known parents and some were given up by mothers who were unable to care for them. As these children grew up, they recognized themselves too as Beizanis. These groups of people were free from the ties of clan loyalties. For them, the love of Somalia was and still is far stronger than the emotional attachment of any clan.
Beizanis lived in Mogadishu (the largest city at the time), Merca (or “Marka” as it’s known today), Brava, Jawhar and Kismayo. Beizanis are every bit as Somali as the dominant clans claim to be. The difference is that the dominant clans are loyal to their clans first, and Beizanis are loyal to Somalia only. Unfortunately, a civil war broke out in 1991. As clans fought over dominance, the humanitarian organisations and international communities went to great lengths to satisfy the warring clans. Productive and peaceful clans were condensed into half a clan, while the Beizanis were completely eradicated from the picture. The Beizani community are Somalis and stakeholders of the country that are not to be ignored.
Beizanis wish to contribute in the rebuilding of their country. Unfortunately, all of their land and properties were looted. They are unarmed, marginalised, abused and unrecognised by the international community. Somalia needs the Beizani, even if the big clans don’t. Civilized behaviour must return to Somalia if we are to move from this phase of clan quagmire and into a brighter future.