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Somalilandís Road To Self-Sufficiency
By Abdullahi Hussein Daud
Somalilanders of all walks of life have a common desire: all want their country to be independent, not only politically, but also economically. In other words, all would like to see a self-reliant Somaliland. Theoretically, the elected government has the responsibility to turn peopleís dreams into reality, but is the government up to the task? What should the role of opposition parties and concerned citizens be?
In Somaliland, the Ministry of Planning has the responsibility to set the nationís short and long-term economic development plans. These plans address questions pertaining to the state and the outlook of our national economy in three, five or ten yearís time. When sound economic plans are put in place and implemented, one can predict the direction and degree of the national economic progress. Even when a country is unable to achieve its economic goals due to problems beyond its control, it can always ask others for help. However, it is a completely different story when a country does not have any vision to reach its long-term self-sufficiency goals. This is exactly the case for Somaliland. In a ceremony in which he was transferring his post, the former Somalilandís Planning Minister, Mr. Afi, was quoted as saying by a section of the press that the ministryís main responsibility was to register and regulate NGOs. This means Somaliland entrusted its destiny with foreign NGOs and specialized UN agencies. In todayís Somaliland, the NGOs and U.N. agencies support, among other things, almost all hospitals, schools, roads and water supply projects. One may ask then: what is the use of our three dozen ministers? Well, the ministers are there to inaugurate UN sponsored conferences, and to unveil plaques of new schools and hospitals built by foreign humanitarian agencies. Like a beggar who is adding up his sadaqa collections at the end of his long day, Somalilandís former Education Minister, Yusuf A. Dualeh, proudly counted, in the last day of his office, the number of schools built by UN agencies during his tenure.
From government ministers to peasant farmers, we have become a nation dependent on assistance. On the upper limit of Somaliland's economic ladder, the cabinet members, and other high-ranking government officials spend big junk of their time recommending their relatives and friends to vacant U.N. and NGOs positions. Other less influential government figures fight over such issue as to who will rent his bungalow or Land Cruisers to those agencies. On the other extreme of the economic ladder, poor farmers in Aw-Barkhadle and elsewhere wait for years for an irrigation engine from NGOs. There is, however, a cost to pay for being a free rider. The biggest cost, for instance, is to swallow your national pride when begging others for assistance. Look at the situation in our public schools. What kind of nation we are when we cannot develop textbooks that reflect our national ideology for our children? The prescribed textbooks in Somaliland do not mention the word ĎSomalilandí. Why? Since the development and printing of these books are funded by UN agencies, the word ĎSomalilandí has been willfully omitted. The textbooks that our children read everyday donít contain the name of their country because the UN doesnít recognize Somaliland. The UN is subjecting us to the same humiliation that was meted out to the then Americaís African slaves who were denied the right to use their own names.
Where are we headed for?
The ruling party, UDUB, miserably and repeatedly failed to turn the economic conditions of the country around, despite having numerous opportunities to introduce real changes. Other than exploiting clan politics, bribing opponents and going after opposition parties, UDUB has no vision to lead the country out of the current economic dependence. The party thinks that it can yet fool the nation by its false promises. President Riyale and his followers should know that they can fool some people for sometime, but they cannot fool all the people all the time. Since cheating in election results is no longer an option, the ruling party must show the people why they should vote for its candidates in the coming parliamentary elections.
However, the problem does not lie with the ruling party alone. The opposition parties have no vision either to challenge UDUBís modus operandi. In the last elections, KULMIYE party missed a golden opportunity by wasting its time and resources on highlighting past liberation struggles, and dancing around the SNM glory, instead of presenting a viable economic policy for Somalilandís economic liberalization and development. The opposition parties must come up with a solution to the countryís economic problems, if they have any hope of gaining a lionís share of parliamentary seats for the forthcoming legislative election.
A non-partisan think-tank
Apart from political parties, non-partisan think tanks have a major role to play in transforming countryís economic outlook. Just like the way Dr. Hussein Bulhanís Somaliland Academy of Peace and Development has assisted the country in its democratization journey, the country is desperately in need of another think tank that can help it progress towards self-sufficiency. To have credibility, think tanks must remain non-partisan in the countryís infant stage of democratization and economic development.
Abdullahi Hussein Daud
Minneapolis, MN, USA