After 21 years of aggressive quest for international‘recognition’ and ‘independence’, Somaliland looks to have changed course. The U-turn of Silanyo’s administration is telling the story. Anecdotal – and not empirical – evidences show that, Silanyo administration have come to terms with diplomatic reality. That is why they have formally embarked on ‘actively’ participating reconciliation conferences held for Somalia.
But what beats me is, what turned president Silanyo‘timid’. Of course, everyone has weaknesses. But “timidity” is a foreign element in his list of weaknesses. He is never known to be a coward. He is among the few Somali politicians who has the guts to speak the truth to power, come hell or high waters. My point? Why is the president refusing to take coward’s way out and commit political suicide to tell the better truth – black and white?
I think, we need to understand the dilemma, the man found himself in. It is not like taking candy from a baby to turn around and tell chauvinists and tribal hardliners:“guys, we hit a dead end, and we are going nowhere with our quest for independence. We will remain in the union. And that is why we decided to negotiate with the TFG for better terms, Period – end of press release”.
That is the hot news to come. And I have tuned my radio on BBC to be among the first to know.
Before the D-day, allow me to put the turns and twists of failing strategies into context.
Somaliland politicians employed antagonistic strategies to disgracefully end the ‘unconditional marriage’ of the two regions in July 1, 1960.
The first strategy is the voodoo of tribalism. Hold your horses, I call it voodoo because in Somalia, TRIBALISM borders with voodooism. Voodoo is a sort of religion that has its origins from Africa. In voodoo, all logic is defied and instructions of mythical spirits of dead people – through voodoo priests – are heeded unchallenged. They have to be appeased with bloody sacrifices to get peace and wealth. And if these spirits are displeased, war and poverty are purported to follow.
In similar vein, Somali tribal leaders use mythical names of deceased ‘ancestors’ to cocoon and intimidate the common into submission. They conflate their interests with mythical names – Dir, Darood, Hawiye, Raxanwayn, Isaak , suchlike.
These are devil’s and demon’s names. Aren’t they the demons that blow out hatred between us and plunged our country into the mayhem that we bogged down for 21 years?
Many believe they never existed in the first place. Even if they did, what is their use? They don’t make sense at all – unless someone resolved to live in the past with superstitions.
What is my point? In Somaliland, the voodoo of tribalism is found to be a potent instrument to kill the nerve of nationalism. London taxi-drivers-cum-politicians mastered the art of tribalism from the hotly debated street-chatting –Fadhi-ku-dirir as common known – of ‘Southall’. They come back home with small thinking – full of tribal jingoism – to assume ministerial posts. That is why they have nothing to offer other than tribal hats that symbolises hatred, ignorance and disunity. It is phony but it is an effective step-stone to the corridors of power in Somalia.
Somaliland ‘politicians’ have taken voodoo of tribalism to an extra mile. They used this potent tool to implant superfluous animosity and hatred in the blood stream of ‘their’ people against other Somali communities. Look at the dictatorship-era MIG plane monument at the centre of Hargeisa to fathom this. What message does it convey to the common man?
Allow me to hypothesise what comes to the mind of the common ‘man’ when viewing this monument. He gets a cynical impression of other Somali communities. He thinks Somalis hate Hargeisa and its people. And that is why ‘they’ used warplanes to destroy them completely. He does not understand the complex ideology of tyranny and totalitarian regimes. His untrained microprocessor translates information into a language that he understands – tribe and tribalism. That is why they don’t ask why? But instead ask whose tribe? They can’t just get it.
The second strategy is the well-acted political show. Let’s give credit where it dues – this was plausible. Somaliland taught a lesson to African countries on how to conduct credible and democratic elections with minimum donor support. Traditionally, It is rare to defeat a sitting president – with the access to state machineries – in Africa. But this took place in Somaliland.
It took everyone by surprise – Multiparty democracy, emotional referendum, ‘free and fair’ elections and smooth transition of power keys from one elected president to another. But that is not end of it. The strategy had its dirty part. Some of the politicking was sham and reeked desperation.
“Given an option between joining Ethiopia and remaining united with Somalia, we better go for Ethiopia. Because Somaliland ‘people’ and Ethiopians have natural nearness and close blood relations”, a senior Somaliland politician is on record lamenting these utterances in mammoth rally at centre of Hargaysa. Although everyone knows that it was a charade and the opposite was true but the small ‘man’ in the rally cheered him with passion. The best response of such verbal diarrhoea was to leave the rally immediately to posture disdain. So that he can tell this to the birds in a deserted venue.
The recent petulancies of the Adna Adan that branded all Somalis – their Sheiks and Sharifs – as‘pirates’ and ‘terrorist’ is stilling lingering the heads of many. She posed the bizarre question,” who wants to join pirates and terrorists”? It was as outrageous as it was unprovoked utterance.
As the wife of one of our iconic freedom fighters and former Somali Prime Minister, Adna is respected as national symbol. And she is expected to comport herself with national decorum whenever she is making public utterances. Tribal jingoism and divisive politicking was the least we expected from her.
Somalis over the world are the two sides of single coin. You need to put you thinking hat to fathom this. They are known to have one identity, Somali-Warya – no more, no less. And we are proud of that because that is what ‘closely’ holds us together as brothers and sisters in foreign land – thousands of Kilometres away from home. It was weird to differentiate the ‘children ’of a single ‘mother’ as democrats and liberals in the north and‘terrorists’ and ‘pirates’ in the south. Such argument doesn’t hold water.
Ask yourself where the top leaders of Al-Shabab whom America put millions of dollars bounty on their head are from. Aren’t they the sons of Hargaysa and Burao? What did she want to say?
The biggest failure of mother, in Somali traditions, occurs when she fails to recognise ‘her’ children from others. And I think, Adna failed this test for the first time.
I am not on denying that she is a legend that is larger than life in our social and political life.
In fact, one can convincing argue that she is the only‘man’ in our male-dominated world of politics that is capable of cutting a deal when push comes to shove. But unfortunately, she dropped points in last remarks. Why did she abandon the unconditional love of Somali mothers?
My unsolicited advice to her would be, your remarks reeked gratuitous hatred for ‘your children’, mam, but you don’t have to apologise – we can forgive you and forget about it because of what you have done for ‘us’. But my humble advice to you mam would be – don’t dig deep in a hole that you are in.
My last argument is economical. The quest faced monumental failure because the books are not balancing. Somaliland is poor because it is poor. Apart from livestock export, its economy is heavily dependent on the indirect foreign aid, which is currently on the decline. After 21 of breastfeeding, the baby failed to stand on its feet. The INGOs and UN Agencies in Hargeisa are faced with dire fund deficiency and donor fatigue.
These elements of ‘global governance’ don’t flourish where there is peace and functional local system. They impose themselves where local systems fail to provide services. This is global phenomena. And that is why the donor interest is shifting to the CSS – South and Central Somalia -away from Somaliland and Puntland. My point? Economically, Somaliland cannot ‘go’ it alone. It does not have viable natural resources to meet the needs of its growing population.
You should not be hoodwinked by the two Hotels – Ambassador and Mansoor. There is nothing in between. That is why many Hargaysa University graduates die every year in the desert between Sudan and Libyan or drown in the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of illegal immigration to Europe for survival.
I am not a geologist but my little bird never reported any plausible oil exploration discoveries in Somaliland like Puntland – despite both off-shore and inland attempts.
The only hope left for Somaliland is the highly contentious but already marked well in Holhol in deep interiors of Nugal valley. You can take this to the bank – this is the main reason why Somaliland is hell-bent on winning its love triangle with Puntland over Sool and Sanag regions.
But this is going to be a “blood diamond”. It puts the beacon of peace into head-on collision, first with Khatuma state and later in a titanic clash with Puntland. What could be the end result? Methinks, Somaliland will be forced to give up and go home with scares on the face. But it won’t go without a bitter fight. The gloves will always be off for unfortunate confrontation and bloodshed.
That is the worst case scenario in which president Silanyo is trying to avoid. That is why visionary leaders thoughtfully strategize beyond the wishful thinking of the common man. I hope that is the line of his thinking.
By: Saed Faadi,
The author is a topical commentator.