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Somaliland: The Only Hope Remaining In Africa's Pandora's Box
A Somali anecdote says that the elders of a clan had agreed to call for a council meeting.
"Call all the elders," one of them said, to which a little boy who was up in the tree under which the meeting was to be held responded:
“Don’t call only the elders; call the intelligent people of the clan?” Realizing the sagacity of his words, the elders decided to include him in the meeting.
Over the last 15 years, Somaliland has been like that little boy, calling African elders to heed the voice of sagacity and wisdom on its issue, while African leaders have been blocking their ears and turning their backs to it.
Often described as “Africa’s Best Kept Secret”, Somaliland is the youngest and best example of an African homegrown democracy. Its statehood, however, goes back into the dawn of Africa's postcolonial history when Somaliland emerged as an independent and sovereign state from the British rule in 1960 as part of Africa ’s wind of change.
Amid the euphoria of nationalism spearheaded by Africa's liberation fathers of the day, Somaliland gave up its hard won independence to unite with Italian Somalia as the precursor of a greater Somalia, which included bringing all the Somali territories in the Horn of Africa under one national flag.
The dream of a greater Somalia has not only brought misery to the Somali people but has caused great suffering and instability to neighboring countries as well. Finally, the destruction and disaster that the successive Somali governments had exported to neighboring countries has come home to roost. With his army defeated by Ethiopia in 1977, Somalia's late military dictator Mohammed Siyad Barre turned his anger against the people of Somaliland. Under a scorched earth policy, he razed major towns to the ground; burnt villages to ashes and the whole population of three million took flight to refugee camps in neighboring countries.
When Siyad Barre was ousted from power in 1991, Somaliland people gathered under their famous acacia trees. With all their clans and all the sectors of the community represented, they made a unanimous and spontaneous decision to reclaim their statehood that they had naively gave up in 1960. Ever since, the Somaliland people have rebuilt their towns and villages, rehabilitated their farms, re-erected their schools and hospitals and reconciled among themselves.
Refusing to waste their precious time and energy waiting for foreign assistance and relying instead on their meager resources and their will, Somaliland people had embarked on a unique process of self-healing, peace consolidating and democratization.
Somaliland today has an elected president, elected parliament, elected local councils, a vocal free press and civil liberties enshrined in a secular constitution, a record that many African countries can only envy.
Honorable leaders of Africa, this is why in Somaliland we find it hard to understand why you cannot see the difference between Somalia and Somaliland, between lawlessness and rule of law, between a country that cannot stand up despite all foreign help and a country that helped itself to stand up and walk without any foreign assistance. How can you deny legitimacy to an elected government and extend your hands to self-imposed warlords and extremist forces that held their people hostage more than 15 years?
Honorable leaders of Africa, how can you hug, kiss and share food with dictators who created some of the worst human disasters in the world today and turn your backs on an elected leader of one of the most peaceful states in Africa. We are perplexed, your excellencies, why you love hotel politics and big budget conferences and loathe African traditional peace deals struck under the acacia trees. We wonder why Somaliland's homegrown democracy scares you? Is it because you think our example will set a bad precedent of self-reliance and self-reconciliation for Africa? Do you think such a precedent might deny you millions of dollars that you receive from the international community for peace making in Africa? Would you prefer to see us convert into another Darfur that could turn us into a milking cow?
Honorable leaders, Somalilanders wonder how you can meet in Banjul and not confuse Gambia with Senegal, while you confuse Somaliland with Somalia. We are confused by your double standards. You have bestowed your blessing to the death of Senegambia and you allowed Eritrea to secede from Ethiopia, but you refuse to recognize Somaliland's colonial borders.
Your Excellencies, you say that allowing Somaliland's independence will open a Pandora's Box; but there is one thing you are forgetting, all the evil has already been let out of Africa Pandora's box and Somaliland could be the only remaining hope to come.