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Disillusioned with the state of affairs in Somaliland?

By Mohamed Obsiye


This article is meant as a contribution to the discussions which appeared on several web pages on the internet initiated by few critical people including Mohamed Bashe, Abdirahman Jama, Dool and others. In the following I will give a brief commentary on the last article by Mohamed Bashe whom I regard as a rising star among the Somali intellectuals. Secondly I will elaborate more on some of my previous article which I suspect Abdirahman Jama has missed in his critique of my previous writing.


“Ninowna dowlad baa Xamar (read Hargaysa) fadhida ha u durbaan tuman”, Tima Cadde, italics mine


It takes brave people like Mr. Bashe Bashe whom I regard as a rising star among the Somali intellectuals to unreservedly reflect on the state of affairs in Somaliland. I completely support Bashe’s well founded argument in his article “Somaliland: Dayowga iyo Asqowga Maanta!” which appeared on http://www.somaliland.org/opinions.asp?ID=06091101. Bashe’s references to the experiences of Diaspora visiting the country reminds me  triggered to adapt the above quotation from a poem by the famous nationalist poet Tima Cadde who said the above words after a failed visit to Mogadishu in the early 60s.


Mr. Bashe rightly directs us to a much needed discussion on the state of affairs in the country in his analysis of the shortfalls of Somaliland government particularly with regard to the diminishing authority of the government. It is true that Las Anod has virtually disappeared from the mental map of Somaliland, whilst Erigabo has long become a No-Man’s Land and that Burao was economically neglected by successive governments in Somaliland. So is the road to Borama as risky as it was before Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was inaugurated as president of the Somaliland Republic. One might argue that such policy resembles those of the previous governments in Mogadishu all of whom were accused of extreme centre-periphery policy where the centre (Mogadishu) was developed at the cost of the periphery (i.e. Hargaysa). However, in the current situation Hargaysa is itself a periphery. The Hargaysa hospital has become notoriously a source of infection and decease fermenting laboratory rather than a health centre. The hospital was undoubtedly in a better condition when in 1982 a group of young intellectuals raised the issue of the hospital. Apart from few new residential dwellings built with money from Diaspora remittances, much of Hargaysa looks more like an open air war museum than the capital of a country.


Confused rhythm of insurgency


Siad Barre gave his preceding civilian government nine years before launching the 1969 coup to eradiate what he called nepotism and misappropriation of public funds. He led the Somalis to believe that he, instead, would establish a more just and accountable government. When Somalia lost the Ethiopian war, certain sections of Somali population turned against the government by accusing Siad Barre of failing to keep his promises. With nepotism still the rule rather than the exception plus death and destruction caused by the war against Ethiopia, the first Somali resistance movement was born in 1978 exactly nine years when Siad Barre forced his way to the throne. History has repeated itself. We cannot tell what Abdirashed Ali Sharmarker would have done had he not been assassinated but we know that Siad Barre did not accept defeat until he was forced out of his Villa Somalia in disgrace in 1991.


Unlike Siad Barre’s case history is refusing to repeat itself in Somaliland as it neither does in the rest of Somalia. It might be argued that the chaotic situation in the country has even confused the rhythm of insurgency. Whilst Siad Barre gave 9 years his predecessors and was given 9 by his successors, how many years do the Somalilanders have to give to the Hargeysa based Elderly Club or the Visionless Politicians before realizing that the time is ripe for a change?


Fifteen years since the declaration of Somaliland many people are simply not happy with the state of affairs and are rightly disillusioned with the “hadda ayuun bay ugu fiican tahay” argument or the often cited “nabad aan waddanka meel kale ka jirin baynu haysannaa”.


Are we being led to believe that lack of security was the main cause of the start of the armed struggle against the oppressive Siad Barre government? To be fair to Siad Barre under the “Gaal dil, gartiisana sii” principle, lack of security became an issue only during the running up to the armed conflict in mid 80s. In other words lack of security was not the cause but rather the result of the armed struggle against the government forces.


Another important distinction is that during Siad Barre era, the oppressive system was targeting the intellectuals and the wealthy. People were dying fit and they would be called “Mujahedeen” if they died for a good cause. Nowadays people are being wasted to death. Not only intellectuals, but the vast majority of the people in the country is dying slow deaths. What do we call them? Certainly not Mujahedeen! Behind the rhetoric and empty slogans of ‘No more Faqash’ there is an untold and unprecedented suffering of an entire nation. Although I am not suggesting that we take a “Mullah brooms sweep the best” approach similar to the Mogadishu one, Somalilanders, however, have every reason to demand a regime change.


There is no short cut to state building


With regard to Abrirahman Jama’s article ‘Kacdoonka Maxkamadaha Iyo Hiyi kaca Federaal Doonka’ I disagree with him in pigeonholing me as a federalist. To me federalism is as good or as bad as secessionism. In my article, “The Quest for Statehood in Somalia” the point I was trying to make was that the Social Contract approach to state formation which means that the individual surrenders his/her sovereign rights to a higher order authority (state) and thereby legitimizes the state to rule him/her has only succeeded in terms of arranging security at the very basic level. However, I was not suggesting that federalism, con-federalism or any other form that unites Somalis under one rule is by default an answer for the Somali plight. Neither am I suggesting that secession will automatically remedy our ailment. In this regard I am merely challenging the simplicity and naivety surrounding the secession of Somaliland whereby we took everything for granted. To me the fundamental problem is still not being addressed.


The zero sum game


In my view the Somali political elites are engaged in a bitter zero sum game where those who are in the ring are trying everything at their disposal to keep outsiders at bay and defend their misappropriation tool to their last tooth, whilst those outside are trying to make their way into the ring by any means. In my view this scenario will continue. It might be a suggestion that we need to understand that there is no short cut to state formation in Somalia given the general context in the country both in terms of resources and in terms of the sound political leadership.


The formation of a union in 1960 did not bring about the progress Somalis were longing for, perhaps the same way secession has done to the country. Somaliland leadership like its counterparts in the South lacks visionary leadership. In this context, we might argue that with the secession not much has changed in the political landscape except that the zero sum game is now being played in Hargaysa Stadium rather in Mogadishu. And whilst the political elites are involved in a bitter zero sum game, the civilians are on their part playing a blame game: some blame the absence of international recognition for their misery. Some blame Ethiopian involvement whilst others blame the culture of warlordism. For now we are stuck in a political and an ideological impasse. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Perhaps yes. Only time will tell.


Mohamed Obsiye
London, UK

E-mail:  [email protected]


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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