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|Open Letter To Ahmed Mohamed ‘Siilanyo’|
A. M. Ali Hashi "Dhimbiil"
"Circumstances make man, not man circumstances." - Mark Twain
Sir, my name is Dhimbiil and I am a patriot of Somaliland. I believe in writing to our leaders about my country whenever I feel the Republic is undergoing difficult times. This tradition of writing and debating our public issues on a broad national canvass has had - as you are well aware - a sterling tradition in our country for a long time. This tradition was put to the sword by the dictatorship that we overthrew. I believe in this tradition and that is why I writing to you.
Sir, I am worried about my country as you are. Your current preparations through the political party you founded to contest all levels of government, demonstrates your commitment to leading this country through this intricate and complicated process that we are trying to root into our social and political landscape. In a past ‘open letter’ I urged you to do this during the time of the late president. I am glad that you have taken this political route of asking the people of Somaliland to vote for your candidacy and your political party - even though this has happened after the transition. No repetition of your achievements is needed here, nor is there any need to dredge up you record; suffice to say that you are a political giant in a field of ordinary politicians.
This perception has the added responsibility of an elder whose weight in our social and political matters carries authority in the country when it comes to warning the nation on the ways of humanity. Quite recently, you have reiterated this responsibility in the international press. Statesmanship sir as you are quite aware has its responsibilities. Let me at the outset set the record straight: I am not a member of your political party. However, if you were just another ordinary politician, I would not be writing to you because I know you believe in this country and you were part of the movement that liberated this country and therefore sir, people listen to what you have to say.
The central political issue of our time - given the experience of Africa - is to find a political process that is, by and large, legitimate. The record of African political illegitimacy need not be recorded here, suffice to say that, thirty years of lost opportunity and thirty years of continental dictatorships, gross human rights violations, and massive corruption has left the majority of the countries that make up this continent reeling from the subsequent suffering and torment. Africa has become synonymous with autocracy and military rule; it has become synonymous with corruption and massive starvation, and finally with civil war and genocide.
As I write, the military has taken over in the Central African Republic; reminding Africa that the struggle for democracy and Africa has just begun and this particular example will serve to remind the continent that the forces of regression and military dictatorships continue to plot against popular democracy. Somaliland will hopefully condemn this practice of illegitimate politics and hope that the people in that country demand a return to civilian rule immediately.
Indeed, right here in our neighborhood - the horn of Africa - another dictator has risen from the ashes of the Eritrean revolution, Issayas Efowrki is holding our sisterly country of Eritrea hostage, he has sent leading members of that country, including the Vice -President, the head of the Armed Forces, much of the cabinet, elders and leading journalist into detention without any access to the writ of habeas corpus. Their whereabouts are un-known. Half the diplomatic corps of Eritrea have resigned, Eritrea in a word, has been sent to the dark ages. We share with Eritrea a struggle against dictatorship and oppression and the idea of self-determination. The regression in Eritrea is a dark and ominous sign of the continuing betrayal of the peoples struggle and their rights to democracy.
In Djibouti we have in Ismael Omar Gelle a tin pot dictator who lives on foreign aid while plotting against this country. In Sudan the military holds the country to ransom and democracy has been exiled, in Ethiopia our closest ally and neighbor, the Meles Zenawi government has yet to live up to its promise of direct multi-party politics. Kenya is the only country in our neighborhood that has achieved multi-party elections and is on its way to rescuing Kenya from the corruption of the last regime. We live, to say the least, in the toughest neighborhood in Africa.
The people of Somaliland have been through their own struggle, the memory of this conflict is still fresh in the popular imagination. The Somali National Movement (SNM) which you served as its fourth and longest serving chairman, fought and defeated one of the largest and best equipped armies in tropical Africa. The dictatorship, backed by the then Soviet Union and arms shipments by the Reagan administration, was confronted by a movement of young men and women who defied conventional military logic by directly confronting the dictatorship. They liberated us from a tyranny that we believed would last forever.
The dictatorship’s power was everywhere, its dread and might at close quarters, its spies and hanger-on in our hamlets and tea-shops, in our towns chasing after our young men in the mid-day sun to fight "invaders", the NSS and the Hangash were everywhere, the dictatorship seemed like invincible police state. The social and cultural fabric of society had been invaded by a cancer of division and suspicion based on the dictatorships strategy of divide and rule. Thugs and petty thieves posed as ‘governors’ and ‘ambassadors’ the entire bureaucracy had ‘PhD’s’ from the university of Villa Somalia, the dictatorship, to put mildly, put a knife to the center and things fell apart.
The Somali state, and its most senior officers, in its highest hour of treachery, plotted the genocide of Somaliland, not unlike the Rwandan government and the recent genocide in that tragic country. Had not the people of Somaliland fought the dictatorship, this country would have been wiped out of the memory this crooked part of Africa. During the darkest times of this dictatorship the people of this country, ordinary men and women, military officers and political leaders from Somaliland committed themselves to their heritage of rebellion against oppression, and regained their humanity.
Once liberated the human condition set it. Self-indulgence, greed, ostentation, deceit, false pride, false consciousness, and the personalization of politics took over as politics in the early days of our first government. In fighting and factionalism based on-pure deceit; a criminology that was learnt from the late dictator became part of our politics. Clan representation, a calculus that defies logic and indeed democracy became our political system. The final outrage was the betrayal of the country itself and the ensuing conflagration.
The civil war; one of the most traumatic and darkest incidents in this country, where brother was set upon brother, and father against nephew, and mothers against sons, where those who liberated the country pounded each other with the arms surrendered by the forces of the dictatorship, is a stain on the moral sheet of our politicians. They, our leaders, collectively, bare ultimate responsibility for this outrage on the people of Somaliland. A people it should be remembered who sacrificed everything to free this country. The people of Somaliland have forgiven each other, and have learned a very important lesson: no politician is going to lead them down the path of war ever again; Somali Landers have become a mature people who believe in peace, order, and good government. This leadership from the people must be an example to our politicians and must be a lesson to the country on the pitfalls of national consciousness. The people of Somaliland are an enduring and resilient people. The character and will of Somaliland is second to none. We are as well a democratic people, a race that has been called fierce and republican. We are in word: a people with predisposition to democracy.
The late Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal left this country with a legacy, that legacy is the constitution of Somaliland. Before the constitution came into force, the country was on edge, the social infrastructure was searing, and the nervousness in the country was at a high pitch. Two social forces and two diametrically opposed visions of the country opposed each other. Every Somalilander was anxious; will the political process be transformed into armed conflict? Or will the politics of the country be settled in a peaceful and democratic process? The second President of this country and the leading politician of his time, died as Somaliland was creeping closer to conflict. The death of the President was mourned by the whole people; it was also a cathartic time. The one man who represented such political heat within society was no more, the Shiir Beeled system that brought the late president to power passed on with him as the constitution came into force with the ascendance of the new president. The political template of the country followed the will of the people and foundational change has occurred.
Sensing the end of a certain period of history and the beginning of another the people of this country went to the graveside of their son, Mohamed Hajji Ibrahim Egal and said goodbye forgiving this president as is customary in Islam and praying for his soul to rest in that eternal peace in the heavens. No one had ever seen such a gathering in Somaliland as the one witnessed in Berbera, the president had meant a lot to the people, and they were witness to the end of a something great and the birth of something new. A new era had begun.
Sir, you were part of that government and its record as was this president. However, you have also chosen to participate in this new era, this new era of transition, here is where I believe you have a responsibility, a duty, to caution our citizens on the transition to democracy and many pitfalls that seem to widen as the days go by. Your added responsibility of a leader of a political party need not greatly confuse the two roles. There is a role for you play as a leading statesman in the country and your role as a candidate for the Presidency.
Sir, elections are a pillar of democracy. Elections tend also to cause at times, and in the heat of passions, confusion and bedlam. The people of Somaliland no doubt will vote peacefully and with dignity, they have done so twice now. The elections for the presidency is different, it is the election of the highest official in the country. It is the symbol of the people of Somaliland. Sir, recently, the fractionalization that we are famous for has reared it ugly head, political parties and personalities are switching parties and beliefs in record numbers. Parties are crumbling and coalescing into larger ones. This is healthy, but only to a point. For, the underlying traditional structures will be appealed to, by this process, to the detriment of the issues of this election, which are basically: experience or change. The message must go out that political parties represent beliefs and not simply a coalition of traditional forces. Recent movements in this direction ought to be condemned and defrocked as a game of politicians that the people of this country are tired of. The uncertainty of what the voter will do is the beauty of democracy. When the voting ends only one party will stand and its leader will assume power. This in itself is a great victory for Somaliland, for the first time in recent memory voters will determine their leaders.
Sir, I believe it is your responsibility to add your voice in this election process to those progressive forces that want to make sure that violence will not be an option after the election. That the political party that loses will accept the results of a fair and free election; that your voice will be clear during and after the election on issues concerning the peace; that you will personally ask the country to observe the dignity of calm and patience as we participate in these historic elections; that your voice will not only be a voice for the political party KULMIYE but a voice for Somaliland; that, if the people of Somaliland elect someone other than yourself you will be the first to legitimize - when free and fair - the new president of this republic, an expectation that is not only directed to you but to all the contenders; in a short: that you sir irrespective of the results will remain a pillar of calm and dignity and a symbol of reason to the people of Somaliland in these dramatic days.
I wish you the best of luck in the coming elections.
God save Democracy
God save Somaliland
A. Mohamed Ali Hashi ‘Dhimbiil’