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Somaliland Non-Governmental Organizations’ Double Sword Phenomenon And Lack Of Government Oversight
It is not surprising to see a number of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in a poor, underdeveloped country that is recovering from a civil war. In fact, in the case of Somaliland , where peace and the rule of law prevailed for the past 14 years, it has allowed the number of NGO’s and their sizes to increase at an unprecedented rate.
Since Somaliland is not yet recognized as an independent state, more money passes through NGOs than as a direct aid to the government from the World Bank, IMF, or wealthy donors, according to reports.
Who are the NGOs and how do they operate?
To begin with, suggesting that the local areas depend on their assistance publicizes NGOs’ main contribution. Their image is usually created by fine slogans.
The better ones provide training for unskilled labor and give microeconomic loans for start-up businesses. They are also involved in humanitarian and financial development, and in emergency relief.
Some exist to nurture self-serving individuals who hide behind the NGOs’ names and spend most of the aid funds by enriching and indulging themselves. In the process, they award themselves and their relatives generous salaries, perks, and preferred access to Western goods and credits. Critics think that in most poor countries of the world, NGOs have evolved into vast networks of patronage.
The worst NGOs, however, have different approach. They set up their economic leverage in such a way that it would allow them with absolute recklessness and utter impunity to impose their will and agenda on the very same people that they are supposed to be serving. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and the general financial means, in essence, transform such NGOs into an alternate, or de facto, government that is usually as abusive, venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace. That makes them inconspicuous malevolence.
Who Governs NGOs?
In Somaliland the NGOs’ culture is novel to the public. Mostly the poor literate citizens misconstrue NGOs intentions and innocently place their trust in them without hesitation. There are no laws that would govern the NGOs’ activities and, apparently, there is not a single governmental branch capable of monitoring and regulating them.
By comparison, developed nations, typically, have strict rules that limit NGOs’ operations. Such institutions are often referred to as ‘not-for-profit’ organizations. They are mostly prohibited from participation in political or partisan causes. In fact, if an NGO wants to take part in some political activity, it must inform the government its intentions. In that case a separate law may allow it to exercise its desired service. However, it becomes subjected to greater scrutiny.
That way developed countries put checks and balances on the services of the NGOs. In the course of the year, some of them are required to file detailed reports about their activities. NGOs may be subject to an audit by different governmental entities such as the state or the federal department of the revenue or the Justice Department. At the end of the year, some of them may be required to submit their financial reports, showing receipts where the money was used and even where their funding is coming from.
Where is the funding coming from?
In Somaliland , the financing of NGO's is invariably obscure and their sponsors remain unknown. The bulk of the income of most non-governmental organizations, even of the largest ones, usually comes from foreign powers. Many NGOs serve as official contractors for governments and religious organizations that, one way or the other, have vested interest in a particular country.
Gathering intelligence, burnishing their image, and promoting the interests of their sponsors may be some of the expected outcomes of the investments. The existence of a revolving door between the NGO's staff and the officials of the host country could effectively brake down a government’s bureaucracy by allowing the staff members to penetrate the political strata of the country. This way, a government that lacks in resources and suffers from a weak system may end up knowing less about the eagerly helpful NGOs than the NGOs may know about that government.
It is clear that Somaliland is no different than any other poor nation. Its system is not yet equipped to deal with the NGOs dilemma. Consequently, for the time being, most NGOs operating in Somaliland enjoy a great deal of freedom.
A recent NGOs’ meeting in Hargeisa, hosted by anti Somaliland organizations that have been covering up the country’s blight right under the auspices of the NGOs, is a blaring example of the far reaching political role they play.
This particular meeting has opened venues to other Somaliland haters to challenge the legitimacy of the country itself. The reports coming out of Somaliland has infuriated many of its citizens that live inside and outside the country.
What exasperated the situation is the reported heated exchange between Dr. Mohamed Rashid SH. Hassan (one of the most prominent Somaliland scholars) and some of the meeting’s participants. The boiling point was reached when they openly refused to acknowledge Somaliland ’s right to exist as a country. Instead, they sarcastically referred to it as ‘another region of Somalia .’
Many inhabitants who became familiar with some of the NGOs’ strategies began to suspect their motives. They feel that the NGOs are promoting an agenda of coercing Somalilanders into a false union with Somalia .
Using European financing, the recent so-called ‘umbrella Organization meeting’ was supposed to discuss how to coordinate the distribution of aid funds to Somalis in the Horn. The intentions may have been good. Many participants, however, have asserted their own political beliefs while disregarding the expressed interests of their hosts, the people of Somaliland .
Consequences to Remain Silent
Whether the latest news is correct or not, the government of Somaliland demonstrated how confused it is about its priorities. Too readily it brushed too many of the ill-placed comments made by the attendees of the meeting. Doesn’t the Government know that ‘Pride and Panic’ nerve is always susceptible to this kind of rumor?
If it is true, imagine how hurtful this would be to our public see the government has also completely ignored participants questioning of the Somalilander’s right to the hard fought for independence and freedom. People’s reaction to this kind of news has always a devastating effect. It has the potential escalation to create mistrust between citizens and the government, mainly around its ability to secure the nation’s interest.
The government should raise questions concerning issues that involve NGOs. It should oversee their activities and curtail their influence.
The new Parliament obviously has work to do in these areas. It must introduce and adopt legislation that would manage the NGOs. It must pass statutes that would censure those NGOs that mix aid with politics. In particular, the Parliament should curb operations of those NGOs that are plotting to solve Somali political problems using the backs of citizens.
Furthermore, the Government of Somaliland must not allow this clever enemy to hide behind the Freedom of Speech. Citizens have elected its government. One of its duties is to defend their sovereignty. Being “nice” and applying apologetic rhetoric has not worked; it is time to show ones backbones. Otherwise, during the next elections, the people will place their hopes with the opposition-controlled parliament.
One thing is clear: the situation is not conducive to co-existence between anti Somaliland operatives, who are hiding behind foreign do-gooders, and the indigenous, die-hard Somalilanders. It may even provoke a new call to arms among the presently still dormant freedom fighters.
Hadhwanaag USA Office