By Mohamoud Ali Gaildon
Monday, April 23, 2007
Please accept my sincere apology for using your nickname in the title of this missive to you. Tradition dictates that I, a man many years your junior, address you in a manner that befits your grand stature among Somalis of all clans and your seniority in age to me. That you can relate to how I feel and, thus, commiserate with me in my discomfiture at having to use your nickname I am sure. I was born and bred in Aden, the town that presented you to the Somali nation; and I spent most of my schooling in Erigavo, Dayaha and Sheikh, a region that you hail from. It is, therefore, in the grand spirit of the manners fed to both of us since childhood that I apologize to you.
Ahmed M. Mahamoud "Silanyo" Chairman of The Kulmiye Party
You have never heard of me; but you may have seen me, a tiny figure among many, in Dayaha boarding school, many years ago. You spoke to us as we sat cross-legged on the dirt under an umbrella-shaped tree at the center of the School’s garden. Such size and shade of an acacia tree I have never seen! Like so much of Sanag region, the tree was legendary. The Sayyid himself used to tether his horse to this majestic tree, we heard. (Unbeknownst to you, you may have actually stood on the very spot where more than half a century earlier the Sayyid may have delivered one of his epic poems.) Now, however, and for this one day, you were our Sayyid. With a smooth and deft blend of vigor and tenderness, you spoke. Motivational themes of advice and guidance spouted forth and held captive serious and eager kids many a mile from kith and kin.
Dayaha, I should emphasize, was a desolate valley surrounded by hills. If not for the brook and the books and each other, the students would have felt in a prison of sorts. Unlike today’s boys with guns, we fell in love with the books. And for some of us, that romantic affair continues to this day unabated. It could have never been otherwise, could it, with the likes of Hurre, Dalab, Dhegaweyne, Abdi Hussein Mattan, and Ismail Dualeh Qambi as educators. Such were the days when Somali boys from the countryside and the remotest villages could hope and dream. Such were the halcyon days of yore!
Dayaha, however, has fallen on hard times, as has Somalia as a whole. Gone are the days when a Somali child could laugh and play in peace or hold a book and have a dream. Gone are the days when we could think of ourselves as a nation and not as clans. Gone are the days when an Ethiopian boot on our sacred soil was a national shame. And so have the days when a leading Somali of the highest educational and professional standing could travel to an out-of-the-way boarding school and, like an enlightened parent, gather young, promising boys around himself and inspire them and challenge them and point the way to a bright future—a future that to most, it pains me to say, never arrived.
I have got carried away; for these are times not to daydream but rather to rise to the challenge and face the dreadful reality before us.
Sir, the former North East Region of Somalia (now, Togdheer, Sanag, and Sol), an area we both hail from, is in grave peril of being swept by currents well beyond the control of its people. Careworn locals stand at risk of being dragged one way or another and the peace and security they have enjoyed for over a decade and a half are about to slip away. What do you think your role should be? Is it a time to grandstand and follow the frenzied mob, or a time to be the voice of reason and save the people from the looming inferno?
You will agree with me that your dutiful pupil, albeit for one day, is entitled to ask questions, which I hope you will take as questions deferred from that shining moment of years ago. As my former teachers will tell you, never did I let a question slip away. With you, however, my inquisitive mind chose to relax and relish the moment. References to Ibn Khaldoun and Sheikh Zubeir, obscure to me at the time, I put away in the back of my head for retrieval at a later date. That later date has now arrived.
The drums of war sound ominously as dark clouds gather over Sanag. It is spring. The earth is soft and verdant. The scent of blossom wafts over the air, and the twitter of the birds mingle with the piercing chirps of various insects coming back to life in the rainy season. It is time for milk and honey, time to sing and dance, time to wed and mate, throughout good old Sanag, the mythical mother of the Somali nation. It is the sacred land of proud Sanag with its tradition in the east, vibrant energy in the center, pluck and grit in the west, coming together in harmony and a prefect blend. And the clock ticks away to mark the hour when the guns begin to roar.
And yet, and yet, it need not be, if we could only use our minds right. The origin of the conflict is not whether Sol and Eastern Sanag belong to Puntland or Somaliland but rather Somaliland’s irrational policy to separate all of the former North from the former South. Somaliland’s attempt to secure the “border,” inherently a vicious act of violence, is a threat to peace for many people of different clans and different regions; for to reach the “border,” Somaliland forces will have to stomp over a local populace determined to remain part of Somalia. On Somaliland, therefore, lies the burden of choice: Respect the will of the people of Sol and Eastern Sanag, who pose no threat to anyone, or start a war that can benefit no one. Should, God forbid, the choice be war, how many more lives of every age and from all clans, East and West, will go in flames?
It is not for me to give advice to Somaliland’s leaders, as I am one who adamantly holds onto Somali unity. Yet, places like Eil Afwein, Erigavo, Dayaha, Burao, Sheikh, Berbera, Hargeisa, Borama, Amoud, and the many wonderful people I have known over the years since childhood beckon to me. Nostalgia overwhelms me. So, let me say it is my earnest hope that Somaliland will not throw caution to the wind. This is a venture fraught with tremendous risks, both militarily and politically. Will and valor, always in high supply to the sons and daughters of Somaliland, cannot the place of wisdom take. Raw emotion dulls the mind. Single-mindedness can so easily lead to simple-mindedness. Miscalculation is a recipe for disaster.
Why am I writing to you? I really do not know. Is it the frustration of a middle-aged man, unwilling to let youth slip away? Is it the babble of a lunatic? Or the musings of the roving, restless mind that has been my affliction since childhood? Perhaps, perhaps not.
At any rate, let me say to you THANK YOU for the moment you granted me and many others so long ago—a moment that for me continues to shine through the fog of time.
Mohamoud Ali Gaildon
E-mail: [email protected]