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Somalilanders point of view in the debate

Abdulkadir J. Dualeh


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Any one who objectively reads the opinions expressed by the various Somali groupings, and who is endowed with an elementary level of intellect, can fail to notice that fear, the master of all passions, is guiding all our opinions. 


The predominant fear underlying these opinions seems to be a perceived fear of tyranny by a majority, by a religious grouping, or by an unaccountable government.


If that is, indeed, the root cause of our predicament, then let us calmly explore solutions and debate the pro and cons of solutions.  I say let reason wakeup and let fear take a nap, at least temporally, and let us deploy our intellect in discovering practical mechanisms that can alley our fears and reassure every community.  Such an undertaking will require all of us to abandon rigid obedience to the dogmas of our groupings and judge solutions by their merit


Our common goal should be the prevention of tyranny.  The solutions can be varied.


 Somaliland is conceived on a republican system of government and is committed to perfecting and institutionalizing this system.  I will give you the principles and reasons that impelled me to arrive at such a conclusion. If you are cynic whose mind is made up before the arguments are made and whose mind is impervious to evidence, facts and proof, then you are part of the problem.  If you are a skeptic who is swayed by facts, evidence and logic, then I offer you my creed.


I will not bore you with stale legalistic jargon or debatable histrionics.  Such arguments lead no where and do not illuminate solutions to the relevant debate about prevention of tyranny. 


Instead of challenging the principles advocated by Somaliland, critics indulge in smoke screen non-issues such as: patriotism and lack thereof, union vs. non-union, Sharaia law; a need for national government; whether Democracy and Republic are foreign ideas or not.


I will start with my take on these subjects.  


Patriotism, to me, signifies loyalty to one’s land and one’s government.  My loyalty to our land is always unconditional. My loyalty to a government is always predicated on the conditions that it is founded on a credible system that addresses my security needs, protects my liberty, provides me with good justice and secures my freedom. To be sure, I have other needs, but those are of less fundamental value to me, and I could support a government that fails my expectations in that regard. In my judgment, Patriotism in any other form is either misguided, or ambition deceiving itself and others in sanctimonious confusion.


The value of Union:


 I lived miserably and woefully under a bad Union of Somalia for 30 years. I lived freely and joyfully in a portion of that old union for 15 years. A portion of a good union, with mechanism for preventing tyranny can, therefore, be better than the whole of a bad union.


Since no government which fulfils my fundamental needs exists in southern Somalia at the present time, the debate about union is academic, irrelevant, insincere and futile.


An imbecile can draw a line on a map.  It takes a genius to build a prosperous nation. The level of freedom and rights offered to the citizens, not the size of the land, should be the measuring standard of progress.  On that basis, let us compete side by side. Let us engage in the battle of ideas and allow the Somali people to judge whose deeds match his proclaimed principles and conviction.


Next comes the question of who originated the words and ideas of a Democracy and Republic? 


Clearly, the words are foreign but the ideas carried by the words are distinctly ours. For over 200 years, leading members of our fore-fathers have congregated under a tree to deliberate and debate the issues of war, peace, tribal tranquility, welfare and justice.  The idea of Democracy is, therefore, innate in our society.


A republic comes into being when multiple tribes decide to form a nation. Due to distance and other logistical reasons, it is no longer feasible to assemble the whole of the tribes under a local tree.  Instead, each tribe elects one or more representatives and sends them to an assembly held in a central location.  That, briefly, is the gist of the idea contained in the word republic. There is nothing alien about that.   It is the method adapted by Somaliland.


What about Sharia law? 


Sharia law tempered by mercy, indulgent to gods creations, true to the original spirit and intent of the law rather than craving the letter of the law, dispensed by judges with the right temperament, skills and knowledge, argued in front of qualified judges by learned religious councilors and advocates, with provisions for appealing errors, is acceptable  to me.   


However, the text of the law is only one component, perhaps a minor component, of a vast Justice system. The law is only as good as the quality of underlying justice system and the quality of the people who dispense it. Absent good judges and good system, the law is stale.  


How do we arrive at a good system and good Judges, councils, etc?  


I offer you the process of elections.

Some may ask: isn’t the idea of elections foreign to us? Why can we just allow the best folk in our midst to conduct our affairs? I say to you: elections are merely a good tool invented by good minds to identify the most qualified leaders in our midst. You must understand it is difficult to verify and evaluate the competence and sincerity of candidates without some sort of an examination. After all, the innermost secrets of human beings are hidden from us.  These innermost secrets will be revealed only when we enter the tomb, stripped and bare.   


The examination is simple but rigorous. all candidates are required to debate the public, explain their ideas to the public, compete against equally qualified candidates, proof their competence, offer solution to current problems , respond to contradictions discovered by opponents. In this process, the adulators will be caught, the intemperate will self destruct, the feeble minded intellectual imposters will be exposed, and the hypocrites will be uncovered.


It is a difficult examination but the candidates who pass such an exam will be those with the right temperament, real intellectual prowess, and knowledge of the issues.


The collective judgment of a large number of people evaluating the candidates is less likely to err than the judgment of a few. I grant you no system is foolproof.  Some weasels will pass the test. The contingency for such a scenario is to frequently repeat the elections so that those who fooled the public the last time will fail the next time. Therefore, the election process is the only way to screen candidates and identity the best in our midst.

Somaliland has adapted such process and I support it.


What about a national government of a reconciliation formed by a group of well meaning people. 


Any government constituted in a system other than the election process is likely to be flawed and prone to deception.  My preference for reconciliation is to build institutions from the ground up and go from local to national.  I advice that each one of you return to your region. Earn the consensus of those you claim to represent.  Build a good system there.  Only then can we meaningfully talk about next steps.  It is hard work, but it is the only forward.  Let us not be lazy.


In conclusion:


Civil wars are dreadful things, but they are the mechanisms providence uses to force progress. Those societies that correct past mistakes and build better systems can accept their losses. If the result of our civil war is an arbitrary  re-imposition of failed systems merely because we are tired, then the losses and sacrifices of past Somali patriots would have been in vain.


You are the sons and daughters of literary geniuses.  Men like Raage Ugaas, Hadraawi, Isamil Mirreh, sannagub, Ali Sugugle, and multitudes of other illustrious names   these are your profound philosophers, your magnificent social scientists, your incomparable playwrights, masters of jurisprudence.  These are your Shakespeare, Aristotle, Beethoven, Tolstoy and Luther.  


Your geniuses have speculated and explored the most unfathomable ideas of love, of liberty, of fraternity, of politics, of jurisprudence, of right and wrong, of war and peace, and even on the geography of heaven and hell.  The work of any one of these home grown genius contains as much knowledge as the collection of Shakespeare, the most celebrated UK literary giant.


The wisdom, sagacity and sensibility of these giants is lacking in the current Somali intellectual elite.  These qualities are present in the general public. Multiple times, the public have been offered unelected governments with all kinds of tribal arithmetic.  The public has proven to be not as shallow as expected by the political engineers of these peculiar and hollow governments.  Time and gain, the public was not fooled by gilded façade masking underlying ill-conceived and rotten structures.  It is the bankrupt political and religious leaders who fail to grasp the notion that a good system is more important than individuals.  Instead of getting the message from the public, these leaders rail against it, accuse the public of tribal ignorance. 


I think it is time for those who seek to lead us get the message and stop regurgitating stale, smoke screen non-issues about patriotism, Islam, national government, union, foreign ideas. 


If you agree with me that the only way to prevent tyranny is to set up a truly representative elected government with a decentralized power, then we have agreement.


Let us stop wasting our time and energy on slogans and clichés and let us talk about substance. Let us work towards building an elected government in southern Somalia as the first step.


May Allah bless you all and help you see the light.


Abdulkadir J. Dualeh
E-mail: [email protected]

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