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Could Somaliland War Of Words Lead To Conflict ?
By Mohamoud Abdillahi Rooble, Seattle, Washington USA
Can a newly born democracy flourish in a small country that is facing several internal threats, such as corruption, clan-based interests and lack of international recognition? Somaliland's future holds great promise and can serve as a model for a New Africa where tradition and modernity walk hand in hand towards freedom, peace and economic security for all. But it is now in the midst of an internal strife that can wreck this promised future.
Which way will it go? : Oh, but first let me remind the reader that Somaliland is NOT Somalia. Somalia is a larger country within which Somaliland geographically exists. Although Somaliland is not well known, it is not exactly tiny. While the population is only about 3.5 million people, it is slightly larger than England. It is bordered on the southeast and south by Somalia and Ethiopia, respectively and has ample coastline with the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
But the two countries are not at all similar today. In 1969 Mohamed Siyad Barre ended Somalia's experiment with democracy, when he led a military coup against the government. His own rule ended in 1991, when he was overthrown and Somalia was plunged into a state of civil war and anarchy that still continues. At that time Somaliland was quick to declare independence from Somalia. Over the years, it has managed to establish itself as a model of stability, good governance and economic discipline. And this is all without formal recognition as a country by most of the world.
However, some recent events are putting the promise of a modern, stable, democratic Somaliland to the test. One event is the incarceration of three journalists from the daily newspaper, Haatuf, published in the capital city, Hargeysa. Arrested in January for defaming the President and his family, they were recently given jail sentences of 2-1/2 years. Independent reports confirm that the journalists had clear evidence of misappropriation of funds by the first family.
While Somaliland's government bears no resemblance to the dreaded, late Somalia dictator, Siyad Barre, the government of Dahir Rayale Kahin owes some answers to the people. Haatuf journalists have indeed written about government corruption. But are their stories a threat to Somaliland's stability, or merely a threat to the image and 'well-being' (through corruption) of the present administration?
While the government actions against Haatuf, and the corruption that Haatuf talks about, are significant problems, they do not necessarily represent the degeneration of Somaliland. Perhaps it is just a glitch that will work itself out and Somaliland will continue forward toward greater freedom and security for its people.
In fact, President Rayale's accession to power showed positive possibilities when in 2003 he became the first Somaliland president to be elected in a free and fair election. Somaliland's movement from a poor, clan-based society toward a bright future is shown partly in its hybrid system of governance combining traditional and Western institutions.
In 1993, a community system of government was constructed, including among other aspects, an Executive, a bicameral Legislature, and an independent Judiciary. The traditional Somali council of elders (Guurti) formed the upper house, responsible for selecting a President as well as managing internal conflicts. Government became in essence a "power-sharing coalition of Somaliland's main clans", with proportional representation to the clans. In 2002 Somaliland made the transition to multi-party democracy, with district council elections that were considered the most peaceful in Africa for twenty years.
So, will she continue toward this bright future, or does the present 'war of words' with journalists indicate a movement toward authoritarianism? Many factors need to be addressed and resolved, so that Somaliland can maintain and improve its democracy. One of these is to have greater international recognition and thus, among other things, access to international funding and greater trade opportunities. This will help to stabilize Somaliland's economy and thus its democracy.
Source: Somaliland Times