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Hirad On Somaliland: Manifestations Of Hysteria
I have had on occasions the honor of reading some of the commentaries and critiques penned Mr. Abdalla A. Hirad. I was not left in doubt that Mr. Hirad is die-hard opponent of Somaliland’s sovereignty and independence (as it is his right). And in most cases where Somaliland was not even the subject, I was inclined to disagree with him (as it is my right as well). However, in all occasions, I was impressed by Mr. Hirad’s civility and the smart and diplomatic (I suspect he used to be a Diplomat) manner in which he was able to present certain rather untenable arguments.
In his rather long rebuttal “‘Somaliland’: Haunted By Its Founding Mythology” of the article by Professor Iqbal D. Jhazbhay “African Union & Somaliland: Time To Affirm ‘Africa’s Best-Kept Secret’?” Mr. Hirad has displayed uncharacteristic manifestations of hysteria.
It has become a matter of course that every time when the cause of Somaliland’s recognition seems to make progress, its opponents are gripped by irrational panic. Like a man swept in a torrent, they seek help in the foams; like a jealousy stricken lady, who, though her husband is devotedly faithful, can not stand the sight of other woman within six miles of him, they go into frenzy. I am afraid that to my disappointment, Mr. Hirad has joined this sorry crowd.
In reading Mr. Hirad’s rebuttal, I was left in doubt whether he had really assimilated Professor Jhazbhay’s piece. He started by misconstruing the origin of the phrase “Africa’s Best Kept Secret.” My understanding is that the phrase is Professor Jhazbhay’s own and not Nuraddin Farah’s, the renowned novelist and son of my sister country, Somalia. Nevertheless, he continues to assert that Mr. Farah and “all good Somalis (and I assume he includes himself herein) would proud be of ‘Somaliland…with [respect to] the reported achievements of the region in terms of its relative peace and stability, compared to some other parts of Somalia.” This sound to me like eating your cake and having it at the same time. For if Mr. Hirad is honest about his pride for Somaliland’s achievements, why wouldn’t he allow the consolidation of these achievements through recognition instead of being part of the mayhem of these “other parts of Somalia.”? It is as if saying “I am proud of you, but drop dead.”
“I am a Somali from ‘Somaliland’.” claims Mr. Hirad and continues that “This sentence alone –I presume—says a lot more about the question of ‘Somaliland’ than Mr. Jhazbhay can ever say about the subject in a thousand-page book.” Congratulations! Although I am a bit confused of his citizenship, I propose that he keeps it whether it is that of Somalia, Somaliland or any other country. At any rate, it is natural that some citizens of Somaliland are against their country’s quest for recognition. After all we are a democratic country and everybody is entitled to his opinion or is it not so, Mr. Hirad? However, to assert that being a foreigner disqualifies one from having one’s own opinion on Somaliland or makes one less knowledgeable on the issues at stake in Somaliland than “a Somali from ‘Somaliland’” is disingenuous at best and dangerously bigoted at worse.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Hirad made no qualms about his prejudice towards Professor Jhazbhay by referring to the professor as “a South African of Indian origin” and advising the professor to devote his efforts and thoughts only “to the plight of the people of Kashmir.” He then went on to insinuate that the professor is on Somaliland leaders’ payroll “writing” their speeches “when they visit Johannesburg… I would rather that he keeps doing what he has been doing since his newly found contract with the oligarchy (italics are mine)—essentially that of lobbying on behalf of the leadership within the Muslim community of Johannesburg.” Now, if this is not attacking the messenger instead of the message, I don’t know what is.
I am afraid it has entirely by-passed Mr. Hirad, but Professor Jhazabhay’s message in his piece was the pros and cons of the recently published findings of an African Union Fact-Finding commission on Somaliland. The AU report found that Somaliland’s pursuit of recognition was legitimate and justified on legal, political and humanitarian grounds. Professor Jhazabhay’s arguments not only support and expand on this AU’s unprecedented stand, but also called on AU and African leaders to take concrete steps towards implementing these findings without further delay. And what is Mr. Hirad’s reply to this? Nothing! He would not touch the subject with a vault pole, lest he gets infected with leprosy. The reason is obvious: Mr. Hirad could not find valid points to counter these findings and arguments.
Out of self-inflicted desperation, he instead goes into a laborious and self-defeating dissection on a concept he (Mr. Hirad; not Professor Jhazbhay) calls a “return to the state of nature.” He explains that “when a civil society is dissolved, a compact disintegrates, a social contract crumbles or, in more common words—a state fails—there is a tendency for the constituent sub-entities to ‘return to the state of nature in which they were before’.” He identifies this “state of nature” as the clan. Amazingly, Mr. Hirad at once denies the Somalilanders their ostensible right to revert to this recourse declaring that “Somaliland … does not symbolize a return to the state of nature,” and then, eating his earlier words, grants them by asserting “that Somalis in all parts of Somalia have returned to ‘their state of nature’” and rhetorically asks “What makes ‘Somaliland’ different….Or is it different at all?” So I am confused: Does Mr. Hirad think we Somalilanders reverted to their “state of nature” or did they not? I don’t care two pennies one way or other, but the long and short of my view is this: If we did, we moved on and consequently built a State. If we did not, then thank heavens, we did not fall into that gutter of clannishness; the very curse that is still bedeviling Somalia.
Realizing perhaps that opposition against Somaliland’s momentum towards international recognition is a lost cause, or perhaps oblivious to it, he makes a curious concession that goes against the grains of the beliefs he so vehemently promotes. “The next safest thing to do” he writes, “is for the region [read Somaliland] to break up into its constituent clans to avoid unnecessary tension and civil war, so that those clans who wish to secede can freely do so and those who wish to stay united with the rest of Somalia can freely do so.” It is clear from elsewhere in his piece that the clans he referring to are some of those who inhabit Sool and Sanaag regions of Somaliland.
I might blamed as being cynical here, but in all their ranting against Somaliland, Hirad and his elk strongly warn against messing up with colonial borders. Mr. Hirad has an overwhelming number of supporters in this principle including most African leaders, global organizations, intellectuals and my humble self. Where we differ on this is that while I can gladly stick with it under any circumstances, Mr. Hirad seems to have unceremoniously abandoned this tenet seconds after it dawned on him that he can not use it in his crusade against Somaliland. Still adamant, he fall to another contingency: Violate Somaliland’s own borders and dismember Somaliland itself!
I am not much of a help to you on this issue of borders any longer, Mr. Hirad. Somaliland has known and drawn borders and international policy is against arbitrarily redrawing them. If “borders” somersaulted on you; if you have found them a double-edged sword; if they became a dose of your own medicine, it serves you right. For you have fallen into the pit which you were digging for others.
But I have no hesitation to debate the issue of one’s right to have the freedom to choose what one wants. I thought that the words “secession” and “break up” were taboo for Mr. Hirad unless you have the word “NO” in front of them, but here we have them coming from him. The fact of the matter is that all clans in Somaliland regardless of whatever region they live in have participated in its political discourse in the past when there was no outside inference and are free to continue doing so if they are left alone to so. And who are dead bent trying to deny them to exercise this right freely? Forces outside Somaliland. Like Somalia; specifically Puntland. The people in Sool and Sanaag regions or elsewhere in Somaliland do not expect any decency from the authorities in Puntland who had the insolence (nay, the cruelty) of denying Sool and Sanaag’s children badly needed immunization against diseases by attacking the Somaliland’s health workers who were send to provide these services, resulting in the death of many children. And they are smart enough to see the true colors and hypocrisy of a political system that will always delegate them to play second fiddle. Remember this: When Abdillahi Yusuf had vacated his warlord position in Puntland, his deputy who originated from Sool was expeditiously taken aside and a Yusuf clansman was installed to take his place. But that is neither here nor there. I for once agree with Mr. Hirad. People anywhere, everywhere should be free to decide what they want. I just hope that Mr. Hirad would go to Garowe and tell the authorities there to respect this right.
Critics of Somaliland have lost their shirts. In their blind antagonism and irrational critiques they shoot themselves on the foot, bury their head in the sand and when they are kind to themselves sprout self-contradictions. They sometimes inadvertently provide the best rationales for Somaliland’s statehood. For instance read these Mr. Hirad’s words: “There has been no entity – no state – in place for ‘Somaliland’ to secede from, as of the day when the government of Somalia collapsed in 1991.” If that is the case, it is all for the better as far as Somaliland is concerned. There is not an entity or State for Somaliland to stay with or re-unite with. Thanks Mr. Hirad, with detractor like you, who needs a friend!?
And now this: He calls Somaliland’s leadership “self-proclaimed” and an “oligarchy”. When was the last time Mr. Hirad heard about Somaliland, I wonder? The leaders of Somaliland are all voted into office in free and fair elections which were observed by international and independent monitors. Self-proclaimed leaders and oligarchies are not elected. When President Egal died, his son or cousin or fellow clansman did not take over the presidency of Somaliland. The change of guard was carried out by following the letter and spirit of the constitution. Compare this with what happened in Puntland when Abdillahi Yusuf was elevated as “president” of Somalia and the Puntland’s “presidency” fell vacant. Out of nowhere a Yusuf fellow-clansman was proclaimed “president”. Or when Papa Aidid died, didn’t Baby Aidid become “president” of Somalia? Mr. Hirad in effect calls black white and then white black. He creates his own facts. In his unnecessary discourtesy he insults the intelligence of the very audience he is endeavoring to sway to his points of view.
For the people of Somaliland, the matter of recognition has become a secondary and almost technical issue. While we admittedly welcome as positive developments the aforementioned favorable AU report and the support of eminent thinkers such as Professor Jhazbhay, we are not obsessed with this issue. Fifteen years of peaceful and increasingly prosperous existence without international recognition has taught the Somalilanders that perhaps this objective is not as vital as it may seem. The recognition is bound to happen sooner or later and, as strange as it may seem, these die-hard opponents as Mr. Hirad will, in their anti-Somaliland obsessive theatrics, be of immense assistance.
Regardless of recognition or no recognition, the more primary and important preoccupation is one of principle. It is the re-affirmation and defense of Somaliland’s independence. This independence is final, irrevocable and non-negotiable. Nothing on earth short of conquest will change it. And the people of Somaliland have a strategy of last resort should conquest is ever attempted. This strategy is to first to defend our land and win the war and repel the aggressor and if this fails then to ascertain a mutually assured destruction with the aggressor.
Why this immovable, seemingly radical conviction? The answer is simple. This is because of one irrefutable, tragic and documented fact; a fact that I have never heard, seen or read Mr. Hirad and fellow die-hard anti-Somaliland crusaders mention, acknowledge or much less show remorse for. The fact is this: The union with Somalia, despite Somalilanders’ original leading, unselfish and almost suicidal role in forming it, resulted in genocide of Somalilanders and attempted ethnic cleansing from their country.
Now, don’t jump into conclusions. I am not accusing Mr. Hirad that he personally participated in those atrocities as I do not know. However, it is same set-up that facilitated these unspeakable atrocities that he is advocating Somaliland to re-enter without spelling out how a reoccurrence of similar carnages could be avoided. But don’t bother and spare yourself, Mr. Hirad, the trouble of even trying. Somalilanders know only too well that the only fool-proof guarantee for a peaceful and decent life is to stay independent. Why should we risk it again? Why should we allow again the possibility of an enemy to use the airports of our major cities to launch bombers which drop their deadly payloads on the homes below just a kilometer or two away? Or artillery on the surrounding hills to finish the job? Never mind that these bombers and artillery were paid for by the very taxpayers they were used to massacre. If, God forbid, it were to happen again, it is preferable that the warplanes and the artillery come from the aggressor and are paid for entirely by the aggressor’s citizens.
Now having said, Somaliland’s priorities are the continued development of its political, economic, and democratic institutions. Great progress has already been made, but Somalilanders are right not to rest on their laurels. This is more effective at gaining international recognition and admiration than our leaders roaming around the world capitals and begging other countries’ leaders to recognize us. As it has already started to do, the world will notice us on its own.
As for Mr. Hirad, First take a little rest. I think you need it. Then keep the good work. It is beneficial to Somaliland!
Readers can read Mr. Hirad’s article in either wardheerNews or Hiiraan
Ahmed I. Hassan