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|Respecting Human Rights is the Law of the Land|
Ali Gulaid, CPA
The human rights the Rayaale administration is violating and the civil liberties it is eroding, which Africa Right has recently catalogued and released, has infuriated few in the diaspora. On the other hand, a disturbing analysis of Somalilandís budget (use of resources) that revealed fiscal irresponsibility, abuse of power, gross mismanagement, deliberate waste of meager resources and misplaced priorities, was received without furor - as if systematic corruption is a birthright.
Briefly, Africa Rightís report has documented numerous incidents of human rights violations and systematic erosion of civil liberties, while the budget analysis I have compiled demonstrated unprecedented levels of mismanagement and bad governance. For example, President Rayaale is the highest paid elected public official in the whole world, higher than that of Bush according to the adopted budget of 2003. Similarly, Vice-President, Ahmed Y. Yassin is paid higher than the Vice-President of the United States. Ridiculous. Indeed both reports are damaging to the reputation of Somaliland, however the reaction they generated were starkly different: one muted, the other loud even though orchestrated. But the underlying reason for the reactions was one and the same: keep it under the rug; let us not fuss about human rights infractions and fiscal mismanagement right now, and let us not wash our dirty linen in front of the world community, lest it may cost us recognition.
Freedom and human dignity come before political recognition. The suggestion of tolerating inhumane treatments now, trusting that the perpetrator (government) would outgrow and ban them later after recognition is received, is a sacrifice Somaliland can ill-afford. The Somaliland diaspora should know better. In North America and in Europe, abusing your family is not only reprehensible but it is also against the law punishable by hard labor of many years behind bars. Studies about family relations have concluded that espouses that donít report and endure abuse eventually pay the highest price. Obviously, tolerating abuse encourages more. The obligation to intervene, chronicle, report and stop such infractions isnít only the duty of the human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Africa Right but it is also the duty of the global community as a whole. More importantly, the constitution guarantees these rights and civil liberties and the government has a fiduciary duty to protect the inalienable rights of its citizens and like any family the government should be held accountable for human rights violations under all circumstances. Recognition doesnít factor into the human rights equation.
A different stroke for different folks, some argue. That is discriminating, objectionable and unacceptable. Sadly, some of my colleagues in the Somaliland Forum argue that Somaliland is too young to understand, too inexperienced, too illiterate and too nomadic to care and to bother human rights issues. The implication is human rights and civil liberties of those who are less fortunate deserve to be violated. First, human rights are inalienable: That is god given and like life no one has the right to take it away and the level of education and social status doesnít factor in the human rights equation either.
Second, committing human rights violations at an early age might prove costlier to break it at a later age. It is not cost effective and the benefits are: none. Only good behavior and good governance are redeemable at the international forums.
Governments are repressive by nature. Granted that, it is always prudent to be vigilant for surreptitious human rights transgression. But the human rights violations being committed against the people of Somaliland today are blatant and that should be a poignant remainder of the not so distant past. Recently, an American ex-State Department official shared with me that Hargeysa has the dubious distinction of being the only city in the world where fighter jets took off its airport, bombarded the city and its citizens and landed at the airport of the city they just attacked like nothing happened. Did it really happen? Some might argue.
Thanks to the mighty pen of Ms. Rakiya Omaar, the world-renowned human rights activists, that has drawn attention to the plight of Somaliland. And thanks to the diligence and the dedication of human rights organizations like Amnesty and Africa Watch headed by our own Nightingale Rakiya, the international community has registered and chronicled these memorable incidents on its minds and its records. The carcasses are plenty and the scars are too horrific to disguise and dismiss and now that the international Court is established, the international community is on the footsteps of the perpetrators. Justice would be served swiftly and that should deter the would-be violators. Of course, human rights violations committed today arenít of the same scale as that of the "faqash" disturbing pattern is emerging and if it isnít exposed today, then when? And who would be a better activist to do so than Rakiya?
It is time to be vigilant. Considering that the majority of the current administration is former members of the infamous National Security Service (NSS), which oversaw the death and destruction of the country, the likelihood of relapsing into the old habits is pretty good. For that, it isnít the time to be complacent and marginalizing human rights violations; and certainly not the time to sweep it under the rug; rather, it is time to be vigilant.
Bad behavior shouldnít be rewarded. For those of you who are concerned of how this negative publicity would affect Somalilandís chance of recognition, rest assured that it wouldnít enhance Somalilandís position. But sacrificing human rights to gain recognition and facing the international community with a well-rehearsed grin like a totalitarian society isnít contemporary at this age. The end doesnít justify the means. And by the way, enhancing Somalilandís image would take more than faking a grin: whole lot more. Practicing democratic principles, respecting human rights and civil liberties, separation of powers, accountability, transparency, free and fair elections, curbing corruption and waste, working at least 16 hours a day, allocating resources according to need would go a long way in improving Somalilandís hand.
Compare that with these malfeasance: rigging elections, bankrupting the coffers, printing election money to cause unnecessary inflation, appointing sixty ministers to help for the campaign, violating human rights, chewing "qaat" 8 hours a day, pulling down $515,900 and $188,700 respectively (compare that with $400,000 and $181,000 the salaries of President Bush and Vice-President, Dick Cheney) as a yearly salary while the meager salaries of the security forces, a paltry yearly sum of $216, remain on arrears three months at a time; while the mentally unstable are languishing in the hospitals; while kids are unschooled; one could go on and on. This isnít what I have envisioned. These negative practices are enough to cancel out any goodwill accrued for Somaliland.
Frankly, the detractors of the Africa Rightís report arenít disputing about the facts. As a matter of fact, there was nothing new on the report. The local newspapers have extensively written about most of the incidents the report documented. The fear of the detractors is that Rayaaleís administration would be no match for the credibility and the professionalism of Africa Right in the international community. The pen is mightier than the sword. Interestingly, the critics of Africa Rightís report have failed to denounce the fiscal irresponsibility of the regime, which the budget analysis has uncovered. Misappropriating funds isnít a birthright but human rights are. What a double standard!
Once faqash, always faqash is a maxim that I found meaningful in anticipating the intentions and the activities of the former ex-NSS officers and their associates. And that is why I wasnít surprised to learn that Faysal Ali Warabe was the first to attempt to discredit Africa Right and its work. Some are never rehabilitated. May the rest of us aim for higher marks on human rights and realize that respecting human rights and civil liberties are constitutionally guaranteed. And that is the law of the land.