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Our National Day: Much Ado About Nothing
With our National Day having just passed, our 16 th year anniversary requires some sober rethinking. While our nation was founded on great idealism and hope for the future, having triumphed against a great evil in our darkest hour in recent history, we have now returned to a state in which pessimism runs rampant. The actions of a certain political elite have resulted in the exploitation of our people and the betrayal of the ideals on which Somaliland was founded. It is incumbent upon every citizen, man and woman old and young alike, to ask the question of what we want. It is at this anniversary, though faced with an immense threat at our borders, a near extinct economy, and a kleptomaniac leader who has greatly abused his powers that we must make some of our toughest decisions yet. It is not a day to celebrate; the anniversary calls for remembrance of our fallen SNM heroes and deep reflection on the tumultuous road ahead.
In nation building, each and every individual citizen strives for unblemished building blocs of a just society where the rule of law not only exists but rather transcends every thing else. And no individual be it the person that is holding the highest position or the common citizen in the street should even ponder to bend, twist, break or manipulate the rule of law. We are witnessing an embryonic nation, Somaliland that is, in the throes of economic, social, and political collapses. It is a nation run by an executive tyranny, an entity imploring statehood recognition yet embroiled within a culture of political calamities. The political phenomenon that we are observing each passing day in Somaliland, especially the actions and inactions of President Rayale and his government depict and remind us of that abusive and unjust epoch we thought was long gone. Therefore, unless Rayale and his abjectly submissive ministers are confronted in an explicit way, such bellicose political behaviour will not likely cease.
To illustrate the urgency of change in the political leadership a set of topics will be shed light upon. They include the present constitutional crisis; the government’s foreign policy and matters of recognition; domestic policies; electoral pitfalls: the economic disaster of Somaliland; and, lastly, the threat posed by the external enemies of Somaliland. All throughout, Rayale’s questionable intentions will become illuminated.
Constitutional Crisis :
Rayale has recently extended the Senate’s (Guurti) term in office- an unelected Senate at that. Instead of holding elections, the nation’s political ‘leadership’ breached its constitutional powers and extended the existence of an effective arm of the regime. This was an illegal act carried through without consultations with the people’s representatives and resulted in a constitutional crisis. In no way could the President justify it as an act of necessity considering his blatant failure to consult the elected representatives in Parliament.
In addition to gross violations of the constitution, we are witnessing the effective abolition of it on an ad hoc basis to suit the present regime’s needs. Case in point, the dispatch of the internal security forces to Parliament on its inaugural day. While the parliament elected a candidate other than the regimes’ to the position of Speaker of the House, the security forces were ordered by the Executive to implement its wish- by force. Without exaggeration, it was in no little part the rank and file of the police force’s decision not to carry through the orders that saved Somaliland from disintegrating on that day. Here the President ordered the execution of MPs- a gross violation of the constitution and the people’s express wishes. It constitutes a monstrous overstep of his authority and, in fact, the commission of a criminal act sufficient for impeachment.
The present situation is unbearable and is betraying the principles we set out when we proclaimed independence from Somalia and declared a resounding NO to tyranny. We will not let tyranny reign on our land again.
Foreign policy failures:
On the subject of recognition the people have been mislead by this government. Not only is the government without any stated policy for how to achieve recognition, the President uses the claim that he is on diplomatic missions to vacation in Europe and seek dental treatment (hardly accessible in Somaliland by any measure) on the meagre resources of the country. His 56-day visit to Germany, England, and Norway being case in point, a world record for a head of state-level diplomatic mission! On return however, the President once again claimed that we were at the brink of recognition while no high level official had met him while abroad. Sadly, this case of deceit is not unique. The President has failed to be honest with the nation on Europe’s insistence that an African country recognize Somaliland before they do. Coupled with African hesitancy to recognize Somaliland, we are now faced with a dilemma. Additionally, it has also become clear that Rayale is unable to persuade other African states of our cause- though it is firmly grounded within the boundaries of international law and in adherence with the African principle that colonial borders remain as they were at independence. In any case, Rayale has proven inept at developing close and meaningful relationships with other leaders and a concrete policy for how to attain recognition.
Further, the old Somali adage illustrates the situation and the consequences that stem from this remarkably well: be a mountain or have a mountain to lean on. The government’s foreign policy has been a disaster, which has left us without allies in our region. To the East we have Somalia claiming part of our land, to the West we have Ethiopia who supports Somaliland’s enemy (Abdillahi Yusuf and his government), and Djibouti has been a supporter of ICU(/UIC)-remnants. If we move beyond, we have a Kenya and Yemen friendly to the TFG and Eritrea being an ally of the ICU. In fact, even agitators in Ethiopia (the OLF) support the TFG as a consequence of Rayale’s decision to frame their people as terrorists while seeking US support. The consequence of this has been a tremendous loss to the Somaliland business community. Somaliland is thus effectively left without allies and with a weakened business community to support our efforts to defend ourselves. Somaliland’s security and future existence is at risk, as in one of the most hostile and dangerous regions of the world Somaliland are left without an ally and have indeed alienated those that could constitute allies to our cause.
It should not be left unmentioned either that Rayale congratulated Abdillahi Yusuf’s “success” in ousting the ICU. Did he forget that Abdillahi Yusuf’s militia also occupies Somaliland territory- Sool and Sanaag? Does he not remember that Abdillahi Yusuf is the same man that vowed that he would defeat Somaliland and bring it ‘back’ to the South? How can our President endorse the same man that is committed to our destruction?
Domestic policy failures :
Related to the above foreign policy discussion, we have had the President’s failure to protect the homelands of our peoples. Parts of Sool and Sanaag have been under Puntland occupation for nearly 4 years without a robust response from the government. The army is overworked and yet it is not provided with the best possible organization and equipment necessary to protect the nation. It is still without a hierarchical structure and organization, which would maximize its defence and fighting capabilities. The fact that the country lacks a national radio is problematic for our defence forces too. At the present time they are in fact forced to entertain the obscene broadcasts of our enemies with devastating consequences for morale. The President and the Cabinet lack the courage, vision, and wisdom to adequately defend the nation.
Considering Rayale’s inability to construct a viable defence and security policy, the National Security Committee becomes an anomaly in his intellectually void vision. Its extra-judicial powers and acts are an assault on the people of Somaliland and its values. Detention without hearing or trial has now become common occurrence and the international community will indeed pay attention to this when we continue to seek recognition. We cannot afford to be labelled another pariah state- a failure within a failure.
Asides from defence policy, the President has proven a fiasco in terms of public policy and governance. Firstly, it is yet unclear to me why compared to China’s 22 central ministries Rayale has approximately 60 ministers. This seems like gross mismanagement, a waste of resources, and a hindrance to effective governance and policy-making.
Additionally, the electoral commission has been politicized. With the recent dismissal of the old commissioners, the government now thinks it fit to appoint a set of loyal commissioners. While the old commission had been criticized at some points, this was the only viable and generally agreed upon set of commissioners as the opposition parties had called for minor modifications to its make-up. Rayale’s dismissal of the old commission without consultation with parliament and the opposition parties demonstrates his scheme to dominate the political scene in a manner reminiscent of a dictator. To add insult to injury, the President now proclaims that the Guurti, whose term he illegally extended, will appoint two of the commissioners, him three, leaving the opposition parties with one candidate each. In Rayale’s world, two wrongs seemingly make one right!
Sadly, Somaliland is once again faced with rampant discrimination of certain groups like the Harti and Issa. The political representatives of the Harti in Hargeysa are continually neglected and marginalized. Considering that their region is under siege, it is imperative that their views and expertise be solicited. However, the President and his lackeys have the audacity to insinuate that the Harti representatives are spies of Abdillahi Yusuf on the occasions that they criticize policy. This affront on their integrity and loyalty to Somaliland cannot be tolerated as Somaliland will not be if it were not for the sum of its parts.
As for the Issa, the marginalization of their people in Awdal is not only offensive to the people of Somaliland but also led to the eviction of one of Somaliland’s few diplomatic envoys from Djibouti. It is of utmost importance to note though that a majority of the Samaron have suffered at the hands of Rayale for their refusal to follow him blindly. Rayale’s short-sighted political jockeying will only tear on the fabric of Somaliland and constitute one of the greatest threats to our nation’s viability. We need all and can discriminate against none!
Electoral Pitfalls :
In the Presidential elections of 2003, Rayale won with a margin of 82 votes. Though the election was fraught with irregularities and the results contested, for the sake of peace and stability in the nation the opposition accepted the results and awaited the next election. The statistics emerging from the Parliamentary elections in 2005 are horrifying. In the two regions where the President and Vice-President were elected from respectively one witnessed a staggering increase in ‘participation’. In Awdal, the turn-out rose from 68,396 to 133,144 (a total increase of 94.6%, or an effective doubling of the voting population in the course of two years) and in Saaxil it rose from 31,128 to 52,347 (a total increase of 68.1%). Though the Somaliland population is a growing and engaged one, population growth and civic engagement numbers do not increase at such rates in two-year periods. This is the rationale as to why Rayale finds a need in controlling the election commission, as this would only be possible with full and effective control of its composite members.
As Ikechi Mgbeoji rightly notes, “allegations of fraudulent or stolen elections in Africa often constitute the first early warning signals of imminent political strife, civil mayhem, and possible state failure”. While citizens abstained from reacting forcefully to stolen elections in the past, out of consideration for our quest for recognition, continued abuses can not and will not be tolerated.
The Nation’s Fledging Economy :
Economically, there is presently no viable and dynamic economic policy for the nation which results in a poor nation without an industrial economy. Our economy previously relied upon livestock exports, whereas the economy is now been obliterated and the country relies upon remittances.
The government’s policy for economic revival centers on a poorly calculated move to increase the civil service and a business deal with a Saudi citizen for the exportation of livestock. The livestock export is sold at a benchmark, a policy not even enacted by Siyad Barre’s faqash regime, and it effectively excludes the Somaliland business community. The only Somalilander that benefits of any significance is the President, as a consequence of the cozy kickbacks wealthy Saudi businessmen are known to provide.
As is well-known, Berbera port is the breadbasket of our economy. However, it has been regulated as Rayale’s personal fiefdom. Late last year, for instance, the al-Harbi Company – a licensed company that has done business in Somaliland for numerous decades – was denied entrance to the port and threatened with violent coercion when one of its ships attempted to dock and unload its cargo of oil. The basis was a monopolistic contract Rayale had arranged with Total as a supplier of oil to the country, while an already licensed local company was refused access to the market without reparation. Such an unstable regulatory regime removes trust in the country and disadvantages our local business community and thus removes the momentum for economic growth and employment.
Ironically, while steering a non-liberal state the President still manages to propose pseudo neo-liberal economic ideas. Instead of providing leadership and protecting the nation’s infant industries in the way Japan, South Korea, Singapore and others of their like have done, the President has marginalized the Somaliland business community by way of allowing wealthier foreign companies involve themselves ad hoc since they allow him to extract great personal financial rewards. All the while the nation is becoming poorer and is faced by a staggeringly high and depressing unemployment rate.
Moreover, inflation is rampant in the country and little keeps it from reaching Zimbabwean standards. The reasoning being that Somaliland’s currency is not only distributed by the central bank, but also by Puntland. The devastating inability to introduce and distribute our own unique currency is the source of this and Burco, quite ironically the birth-place of Somaliland, is flooded by the Somali currency of the Siyad Barre era. An implication being that the money decreases in value while real cost of living increases- a catastrophe for a society ravaged by unemployment and lack of purchasing power since poverty is reaching new heights.
In lieu of this, the government lacks the tax revenue necessary to develop the country and the President’s salary is sky-rocketing, making him one of the best-paid heads of state in the world; an amazing feat for a country he has been incapable of receiving recognition for. His wealth accumulation is based upon illegal acquisition of government funds and kickbacks and his denial of parliamentary oversight constitutes a grave breach of the constitution. Can a man that has placed the country in such a crippling economic position and enriched himself at the same time really be the President of our country? Any such suggestion is obscene.
Threats to the Nation :
Externally, the major threat to the nation resides in Somalia and its potential aggression towards Somaliland. This stems from the necessity that any leader of Somalia would be faced by for his political survival- namely the reunification of the old Somalia. Any leader of Somalia would be unable to justify his rule if he proves unable to successfully accomplish this.
Sadly, our neighbour to the South is ravaged by clan politics and rivalries. With the two major factions being the Darood, led by the Majerteen, and the Hawiye, led by the Habr Gidir (Ayr), we have observed the intensification of violence in Somalia over the last year. Neither has nationalistic aspirations, but bases their belief in clan supremacy and hatred for each other. A foundational principle of Somaliland is the rejection of clan supremacy, making Somalia a polar opposite of us. While we must wish the best for our neighbours to the South, we cannot allow our nation to be embroiled by the same disaster as they have.
Three things might arise from Somalia’s present conflict- all of whom will be relevant to Somaliland’s articulation of a comprehensive and robust defence policy. In the event of Hawiye domination of Somalia, they will view their success in having defeated Ethiopia and the Darood elite as a green light to launch an invasion of Somaliland. If the Darood were to win, their present occupation of Sool and Sanaag will inform their strategy as they will view themselves as already being half-way done their invasion. With the backing of Ethiopia, this becomes a particularly grave threat to Somaliland’s peaceful existence. Lastly, if a third-party were to be able to unite the both the Hawiye and Darood, as unlikely as it is, this faction would constitute the unification of Somalia and the greatest threat Somaliland could be faced with. The question thus become, are we prepared to fight back? Will we have the military capability to effectively counter an invasion? Rayale’s poor defence policy is an unlikely deterrent of these threats we are faced by, and we should not forget Rayale’s congratulations of Abdillahi Yusuf’s “success” in Mogadishu and his dubious loyalty to Somaliland’s cause.
It therefore becomes imperative that we do not allow our nation’s ideals be relegated to the sidelines. This would only weaken us in this time of crisis. It should not be doubted that Somaliland has its core of defenders who would never render their freedom, irrespective of political events to come. These defenders of Somaliland have proven their willingness to die for our country in the past, and should our dream be threatened true believers of Somaliland are willing to sacrifice it all again in a battle we will not lose. However, we need competent and loyal leadership to guide the nation through these difficult times and into a time of peace and prosperity, Insha’Allah.
Internally, the threat resides in poor leadership, corruption, and grave injustices and violations of the people’s rights. Rayale’s leadership is marked by inconsistency and contradictions, as was evidenced by his proclamation of Shari’ah rule at the time of the ICU ephemeral successes in Mogadishu while he shortly thereafter arrested one of our leading Sultan’s for advocating that our nation be governed by the divine principles revealed through the Qur’an too. What’s next, lo and behold, will he issue arrest warrants on himself?
The last major threat is the recent indications that Rayale would like to meet Abdillahi Yusuf at the insistence of Ethiopia. His party-spokesman have indicated that it is his constitutional right to meet whomsoever he pleases, but Somaliland custom and Rayale’s promises in the past have been that no President shall meet with an unelected President of Somalia. Only in the presence of opposition party-representatives and parliamentary members will any such meeting be possible, lest Somaliland will face the forceful removal of the President as he will have exceeded his authority and betrayed the nation.
Viable Solutions :
The founding ideals of Somaliland centered on the fight against tyranny and a fight for freedom of speech and human rights, an independent judicial system checking abusive leaders, and a Parliament representing the views of Somaliland in its totality. The erosion of the balance presented by three independent, but cooperative, branches of power to the benefit of a powerful presidency represents an affront on the core features of our system of governance and a threat to the state’s viability.
In this time of crisis only a national government constituted of Members of Parliament representing all parties suffice. We have in recent weeks witnessed the President’s snub of parliament in his refusal to accept correspondence from it. The Guurti and the Supreme Court have become extensions of the Office of the President, and as such are unfit for the task of playing a unifying role. The consequence being that the future of the nation lies in the hands of the people’s representatives. They must act swiftly to rationalize governance and bolster defences, funnel the money embezzled by Rayale into health and education, and improve the environment for our business community so that the country may flourish and the coffers of the state have sufficient funds to prepare the country for the time ahead. Lastly, they must prepare the next elections which should happen in a timely fashion.
If the members of parliament are unable to act immediately and decisively, their next step is to retire to their constituencies and resign their posts. It is incumbent upon our members of parliament to inform the populace that the country has been hijacked and that we must act in a way reminiscent of our liberation struggle to remove Rayale and his co-conspirators from their posts and institute a new set of elections. We must not be the contemporaries responsible for irreversibly damaging Somaliland’s evolutionary process which has yet to be completed.
If history has thought us anything, evil prevails whenever good humans fail to act in confronting the injustices imposed upon them by their oppressors.
May Allah (S.W.T.) bless Somaliland and its peoples.