The So Called Somaliland: The New Sick Man of the Horn of Africa

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

All over Somaliland there is a high degree of anxiety, cynicism and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, which has not been seen since the fall of Siyad Bare’s regime. People are unhappy with the country’s direction and the situation in the country seems to be very reminiscent of that of Somalia in the latter years of 1980s.

The former “beacon of hope” has finally shown 1980s Somalia-like symptoms of state collapse and is diagnosed by Somali political analysts as the new “sick man of the Horn of Africa”.

Most of the people in Somaliland have lost faith in President Silanyo and his administration. The president, because of his remarkable qualifications and exceptional experience, was expected to form a government that becomes a focal point where tribal interests converge or one that becomes an integrative locus in which tribal rivalries are eliminated or directed to the advantage or benefit of all the people in Somaliland, but instead his administration has become a divisive element in intertribal relations. There is also a general feeling in the country that the president is encouraging tribalism and using it as a tactic of a divide-and-rule policy.

It’s not hard to recognize the difficult situation the country is facing. The image of the frail president that we occasionally see on the television reading a five-minute speech from a script and the incompetent officials that surround him is itself a testimony of the general situation of the country. Don’t they say a picture is worth a thousand words?

However, the most serious threat to the stability of the country is the widespread perception that clan-coated corruption has become out of control even though corruption has generally abated and more progress has been made under Silanyo Administration. According to reliable press reports, there have been numerous cases of corruption allegations including kickbacks and illegal transfer and acquisition of government properties, buildings and contracts by ministers and other individuals that are related to the president.

The illegal selling and transfer of government properties has taken Somaliland corruption to a new level, which has not been seen even in Somalia to this date.

Another threat that poses danger to the country is the erosion of public trust in the courts because of government interference in the justice system. The government put an enormous pressure on the judiciary system and eventually judges have become mere puppets used by the government to silence the press and the opposition. The closure of Hatuf and Hubal newspapers and the imprisonment of their editors by judges confirm the collusion between the courts and the government.

There are also other cases that reflect the general situation of the country that are worth mentioning. The recurring mass demonstrations that are resulting in deaths and injuries of innocent civilians and the massive exodus of the youth from the country despite the death traps waiting them in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert are examples of two cases that reflect feelings of frustration and desperation caused by lack of job opportunities, good quality and accredited university education, justice etc. The unlawful occupation of the parliament by government forces and the unprecedented beating and detention of opposition MPs by the RRU are, for instance, two other incidents that show the absence of rule of law in the country.

The situations in Awdal, Eastern Sanag and Sool regions are even worse. There is a widespread anger in these regions against the Somaliland government, which they believe to be favoring certain clans and marginalizing others. The absence of Awdal, Eastern Sanag and Sool regions from the top positions of the key ministries (finance, foreign, interior, justice, planning, and education), parliament, Supreme Court, military, police, security, immigration, central bank, attorney general, auditor general etc is proving beyond doubt the existence of a two-tier government, in which one tribe occupies the upper tier portfolios and the other tribes occupy the lower tier ones. Add to the above list the top position of the newly appointed national election commission. The list goes on and on. The irony in here is that the incumbent of the most important cabinet position – the foreign minister and international cooperation – of the Somali federal government hails from the eastern part of Somaliland. What does that show? I leave its answer to the public.

The marginalization of Sool, Eastern Sanag and Awdal regions and the improving situation in Mogadishu reenergized the dormant pro-Somalia supporters and dampened the energy of the pro-Somaliland block in these regions and consequently have given birth to Khatumo state, Awdal state, Maakhir state and the council of Awdal elders.

Khatumo state is strongly determined to dislodge the eastern regions from Hargeisa by force. It has already established an armed militia and controls several towns in Somaliland including Buhodle, Sah Dheer and numerous villages.

On the other hand, the council of Awdal elders under strong domestic pressure from both the pro-Somalia and pro-Somaliland camps recently went to Hargeisa to seek Awdal’s fair representation in government departments and state institutions. They met the president and shared their concerns with him and stressed the importance of forming a balanced government. That was two months ago and they are still waiting to hear from the president. The president’s long silence has been a momentous occasion for those who are opposed to Somaliland and a frustrating time for those who support it. The latter still hope that the president will not treat the elders and their concerns with disrespect. The former have already turned their attention to Plan B and elsewhere. The defection of Sultan Wabar, one of the most trusted sultans in Awdal, is a morale booster to those who oppose Somaliland and is an unexpected serious blow to the credibility of the dwindling Somaliland supporters in Awdal and President Silanyo’s Administration. Furthermore, the military response by the government to Sultan Wabar’s call for Awdal secession from Somaliland will just alienate the decreasing number of Somaliland supporters in Awdal, which the government cannot afford to lose. It also destabilizes the most peaceful region of the country at a time the western part of the country is racked by conflicts.

But in spite of the potentially explosive situation that exists in the country, people who still support the president say the country is in good hands and there is nothing to worry about. They argue that the president is not a power-hungry dictator but a statesman who always rises to the occasion as he did in 2003when he peacefully conceded defeat after a virtually tie election.

But will he rise to the occasion again and keep the country from plunging into anarchy and violence?

ALLAH knows and time will tell. However, in the face of impending crises the president cannot remain silent. He is expected to show leadership, get involved in the political discussion and make credible effort to assure the public that he is ready to hold an election that is free, fair and transparent. He is also expected to talk to Khatumo leaders without preconditions and seriously address the concerns of Awdal elders and other worried citizens across the country, in particular, those of “Madasha “.

I hope that the president is not affected by the changes that come with time and is not corrupted by the absolute power that he possesses and that he will rise to the occasion. But more importantly, I hope that the people of Somaliland will join hands and refuse to watch unjust events as they happen without doing anything.

Abdulkarim Hassan (Matan) Ali

About the author and the purpose of his writing
The author has obtained a BSc degree in Civil Engineering from Somali National University, an MSc degree in Civil Engineering from Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts and a PhD degree in Structural Engineering from University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario.

He was born in Aw Barre, Ethiopia, grew in Borama and presently lives in Ottawa, Ontario Canada.

As a citizen, the author feels obligated to share with you his observation and concerns about the state of Somaliland and the course taken by its government under the leadership of President Silanyo, which he has been closely following for the past four years. That is the sole purpose of his writing and he hopes that it’s fair and balanced. The author has no hidden agenda and holds no ill feeling towards any clan/tribe or anyone. And he invites you to be a judge in what he has written. But, be an honest and just judge, not one that is prejudiced and influenced by the evil of tribalism and ignorance, which are plenty in that part of the Horn of Africa known as the Somali peninsula.

Abdulkarim Ali  source