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Somaliland Needs Salvation, What Should Be Done To Save It?
By Noah Arre
Somaliland Democracy Is By The People, From The People And For The People! And those who find that as a bitter dose that is hard to swallow, tell them, love it or leave it. Unfortunately, the fledgling democracy of Somaliland seems to be under total siege and some thing must be done so that it can survive from the impending catastrophe that seems to be looming on the horizon.
First, it is unfortunate and in fact stupid that some myopic, seemingly ignorant clan loyalists are constantly whipping the hearts and minds of the people of Somaliland. They are sorrowfully whining over trivial issues which may have the potential to create tensions that are capable of derailing the hard-won democracy, peace and stability of our great country, Somaliland! …a Somaliland that despite international isolation earned the praise and respect of the international community and described as Africa’s Best Kept Secret! The Peaceful Island In The Burning Sea! The Little Country That Could!
But to those Somaliland-born people, who have their bread and butter elsewhere, let us say, for heaven’s sake please do not wreck this sacred boat. It carries this sacrosanct fledgling democracy. Rather, it is necessary that together we address and debate over the nation’s burning issues such as: the high need of our country to break international isolation; the high need of our country to stand on its feet by securing international financial assistance for developmental needs; the high need of our country to address corruption and mismanagement of its already meager resources and the high need of the administration, judiciary, Guurti (Senate) and elected members to respect the rights of their people. It is too silly and in fact, really sickening that some clan loyalists are on the other side of the isle of Somaliland democracy, nationhood and togetherness. They seem to never learn from history and in fact fail to understand that only through peace, tranquility and democracy Somaliland can succeed and its people are sick and tired of wars, destruction, failure and mismanagement and only need to see the sun shine bright! Our people need their intellectuals more than ever before! So, as the intellectuals of the nation, what can be done to help especially at this critical juncture of the nation’s history should be the burning question that needs credible answer and solution!
Second, it is understandable that the administration through its law enforcing agencies puts criminals and those who break the law in jails but it is strange that journalists go to jail for just reporting a story even if that story is wrong. The right procedure was to refer the case to the court and let the rule of law take and play its role! And it is worth to keep in mind that one can always sue someone for defamation or insulting, but abusing power and placing other(s) in jail is shocking and has the potential to back-roll Somaliland’s hard-won praise as the Oasis of democracy!
Third, it true that only through hard and honest work nations can move forward. It is also true that working together brings success. But unfortunately it is also true that most ministers in Somaliland work only 2 hours a day and utilize their already meager budgets for their needs or on trivial things. In fact, it is said that corruption is rampant in Somaliland and that those in power maliciously use the carrot and stick policy for their survival. It is said that the Guurti (Senate) does it; it is said that the ministers do it; it is said that the elected members do it and it is said that any one who is in a position to gain from it does it! And the irony is that each official through clan exploitation has his own die-hard loyalists who surprisingly defend him at all costs come what may!
Assuming this is so, it is a repeat of the sixties and reminds me one stanza of one of the nation’s great poets: Haji Mohamoud (may Allah bless his soul) who in one of his great poems said:
”waashmaan kol ay ku tahay, ninkii taabay meel dheregye…. Iyaba waa tabaalaha waqtiga taynu aragnaayee! “Of corruption; if one has a position in the government, even the watchman, one is bound to become wealthy! But that is one of the ugly scenarios of the times that we see taking place here!”
In addition, inefficiency of Somaliland government institutions is so pervasive that one does not need to do much research to see how bad things are there. For instance, on a recent visit of the country, a friend of mine, a minister in Somaliland, gave me a tour of his ministry and finally took me to his office. Unfortunately, I was shocked when I saw his office was filthy and dusty that it looked like a deserted place. Cigarette butts lying everywhere were probably there for over weeks if not months or years. I asked him “Minister X why is your office so filthy?” Shockingly, his answer was: “those idiot employees do not want to do anything!” Then I asked: “why can’t you do it yourself first and I am sure others would follow suit. This shows you have learned nothing from USA?” Then, his response was complete silence apparently he was embarrassed and ashamed of himself! But I was lucky he did not put me in jail. The irony is that my friend used to go to a university in the USA back in the 1980s but to survive in that alien country, he used to work as a dish-washer at nights, a job that those of us who could not get were really jealous about, paid only 4 dollars an hour and would go to school in the day and considered himself lucky if he got a few hours’ sleep in 24 hours on his school library desk!
In another occasion, in our regular Khat sessions during my visit, I was asked, “what do you think of our situation here in Somaliland?” And my answer was; “anyone who compares you with how things are in where I work or where my family lives, USA, would think; it is hopeless here; but anyone who understands that out of your ability as the public, you dug yourselves out from graves,… civil war, have an elected government, peace and stability, will and should say ‘hats off for my people’ because you are really doing well and great! However, any one who visits your government offices at 9:00 a.m. finds that all are closed. If he visits those offices at 11:00 a.m., he would see the young, the old, well dressed women who hardly look poor; and intellectuals who sound well versed mostly in politics. But again by 12 noon, the place is deserted with no trace of any one including the watchman! This is a two-hour work per minister/employees per day… It is a recipe for disaster and failure!”
In another occasion, on my departure date, I was on Daallo Airlines desk at President Egal Airport. The place was teaming with well dressed people. But men usually seemed in big rush and anxious presumably to catch some one who would make their day while women, as usual, seemed relaxed till their last minute to see and say good bye to their loved ones. It was at there that I met a seemingly high government official and I decided to ask him few questions, such as the following:
“Hello sir, may I ask you a question?” I bet he could guess I was from overseas; so he said; “yes please.” Reassured, I said;
“This we consider is our home; it is our hope; and it is the only place when we come we feel safe!
Why in your Airport floor there are so many cigarette butts and dust all over the place?
Why do all its new glass doors have either cracks or chained with rusty iron chains?
Why can’t you hire some one to do all the cleaning as well as the repairs?
If you cannot afford, you could ask us, those from overseas to help pay the repairs! In fact, you can ask me now $30 and we are ready to pay that just to see the gate to our country is pretty! We pay fifty, sixty and even hundred dollars when just a police officer gives us a traffic ticket…legally or illegally in our homes in the West without asking a single question!”
Despite all these seemingly “annoying questions”, the guy was courteous and all he said was, we will! However, I doubt anyone did anything to date and I bet it is filthy this moment! This is unfortunate, but it is the sign of the times in Somaliland…a Somaliland that needs constructive moral and material support from its intellectuals whether they are inside the country or elsewhere. It is the times of the day for poor Somaliland whose intellectuals prefer clan bashing to considering taking any positive steps let alone contributing toward their country’s developmental needs!
In short, it is unfortunate but this is how much paralyzed Somaliland is when it comes to governing. This is how ineffective our leaders are in doing their job. This is how indifferent government workers are toward their responsibilities. And this is how ungrateful all of us are toward our country and people. And the irony is that clan loyalists are always there ready to defend this failure perpetrated by “their clan politicians and leaders” with their intimidating or insulting language when someone criticizes their clan-card-players! And surprisingly, those who live elsewhere in Arabia or in the far West many of who have never been back home for years are doing most of the damage by writing divisive, demonizing and deadly “us-versus-them” articles in their dazzling websites!
What Should Be Done To Save Somaliland?
Now that all our national institutions functioning seem to be deteriorating, now that respect of the law is seemingly faltering and now that die-hard clanists are on the rise, it is incumbent upon the President to defend the constitution. He can do that by leading the nation to a new direction. And the new direction I am proposing here is achievable if he only addresses and enacts the following two points:
(A) The President must dismiss any cabinet minister accused of corruption and mismanagement and replace him with anyone he thinks is capable of making a difference. And in doing that the President should not go by clan representation again because some how some day the nation must cross that barrier as it is the primary cause of the deadly disease that causes strangulation as well as policy stagnation of the nation! And should he do that, I believe he will be remembered as the daring president of Somaliland who broke the backbone of Somaliland’s demonizing iceberg… tribalism, nepotism, opportunism and all their associated evils!
(B) The President should authorize privatization of major institutions of the country: Berbera Port; Hargeisa, Burao, Erigavo and Berbera or any other city Water & Electricity, the Airport, the Customs Department and Khat imports… the killer but cash propagating drug consumed in the country. And in doing that, the government could automatically own 50% or more of the revenues without investing a single penny in any of those sectors and I am sure that many Somalilanders are awash with money ready to invest should they get the chance to do so!
However, in each city business privatization, some 25 to 30 business people, men and women, should be invited to bid, invest and own the new company. And in my opinion, it is highly important that major businesses in the Capital city, the Port of Berbera, the Customs Department in every Region as well as Khat imports should be shared by business people from all Six Regions at pre-negotiated percentages. And my point in proposing this is to ensure that the system accommodates all tribes in all major income generating sectors after all our nation has yet to mature in that area.
One beauty of this proposal, should it become a reality, would be that even those who cry foul over high taxes and hence support or practice tax evasion, corruption and nepotism, would certainly become die-hard defendants of their businesses and most would also certainly refuse to entertain hiring employees solely on the basis of tribalism because after all who is willing to drain his pocket for his “kin or kind” and then file for bankruptcy?
A highly commendable project worth studying and copying in this respect, is Borama Shaba Company and how much successful that project is. In a recent visit of Borama and a tour I was given to Shaba Company, I was amazed how kind and caring the company is toward its community in general and toward the poor in particular! Every one I met was extremely happy about how well he/she is treated by Shaba! I was also impressed by the diligent work of the company employees and how much motivated its managing committee is! In fact, today, the city of Borama enjoys a 24-hour running of clean and cheap water. And surprisingly I was told Shaba made a 100% profit within the first year of its operation alone! Hats off for the managing committee and employees of Shaba for the pioneering success story they realized for their people, city and country!
The Second beauty of my proposal is that those privatized major institutions would automatically receive immediate financial assistance from the international community whose slogan of the day is “help yourself and we will help you”. This is because certain world humanitarian organizations are willing to contribute toward investing in some projects “the Water and Electricity Sector” for instance, if concerned parties are willing to support the poor by providing them with low cost services!
The Third beauty of my proposal would be that the public in general and the business community in particular would in no way blame the government for nepotism and/or failure to provide the necessary services to its people. In addition, all policy makers, elected members and the executive body would never be under attack for lack of transparency and accountability!
It is therefore, incumbent upon you Mr. President that you take decisive actions on these burning issues and doing that today is so important for you especially now that you have declared to run for a second term for the office of the presidency of the fledgling democracy of Somaliland!
Likewise, it is incumbent on the intellectuals of Somaliland to positively contribute toward the progress and prosperity of their young nation or else they will have missed a chance that may never return!