Changing The Dance

By Barry Oshry

“Today I am very happy for having assisted the signing of the peace deal…between Somali factions who have been fighting for almost 14 years… My little contribution to the process was: I made a copy of the article you gave me, The Terrible Dance Of Power, and I gave it to one of the participants in the peace process; he found the article very interesting and made several copies for his colleagues. He called me…yesterday saying that my papers made a huge impact to everyone that read it, and asked me to translate it into the Somali language…As you can see, a simple article can make a difference in an intricate process.”

This excerpt is from an email from Ahmed Sheikh Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia currently living in Canada, to his colleague, Diana Cooper. On a business trip to Nairobi, he found the Somali Peace Talks were in the final signing process and he felt compelled to make a contribution. His sharing of The Terrible Dance of Power with the peace delegates and their sponsors was, in his words, “a huge success” and “a good wake-up call for many Somalis”. Since then Mr. Sheikh Mohamed has created the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies--Somalia, along with a web site that has become one of the most visited web sites around the world for the Somali diaspora and on it resides The Terrible Dance of Power.

I wrote The Terrible Dance of Power several years ago. When I learned how it found its way into the hands of the Somalia peace delegates, I was stunned. To think I’d almost passed on writing it. I had turned down an invitation to speak on organizational development in international affairs. After all, what did I know on the subject? I was pressed to speak at the conference and write a paper so I did some research and uncovered an archetypal theme or “dance” playing itself out in many of the then-current (as well as present) war zones. Over the years The Terrible Dance has been published in a small organization development journal, staged by the Seattle Public Theatre, and has made its way to college classrooms, all of which has been gratifying. But to think The Terrible Dance had an impact on the peace in Somalia was overwhelming to me.

What Mr. Ahmed Sheikh Mohammed did for the country he loved is inspiring. He helped his countrymen to “First, see the dance. Second, to abandon their arrogance and righteousness. And finally, to stop the dance and create a new dance…to rebuild what they have destroyed in the last 14 years.”

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