last two decades, Somaliland has earned a reputation as a peaceful oasis
in a zone of conflict. When asked why Somaliland is peaceful while
southern Somalia is sinking further and further into war and chaos,
Somalilanders and scholars often say that it has to do with the fact
that the British colonial administration did not destroy Somalilandís
traditional structures. Abdirizaq Aqli, a Somaliland intellectual,
however has gone a step further in his research and found that the
situation of Hargeysa in the late nineteenth century was similar to that
of Somaliland these days, in that Hargeysa was then a peaceful oasis
surrounded by a sea of turbulence. But if scholars are still debating
why todayís Somaliland is stable, Mr Aqli knows why Hargeysa was
peaceful in the late 19th century, and it had to do with the character
and leadership of its founder: Sheekh Madar.
Abdirizaq Aqli elaborates his thesis in a small but gem of a book
entitled Sheek Madar: Asaasaha Hargeysa (Sheek Madar: the founder of
Hargeysa). The book is a fascinating mix of history, politics and
sociology of religion, held together by a narrative of Sheekh Madarís
biography and how he succeeded in transforming Hargeysa from a site of
conflict between pastoralist clans into a mutli-clan settlement based on
farming. One of the obvious conclusions from Mr Aqliís book is that it
pushes back the date of the evolution of Hargeysa as a peaceful
multi-clan center from the conventional view that says it took that
character after the second world when the British moved their capital
from Berbera to Hargeysa, to at least several decades earlier. The book
also makes clear that Hargeysa was established as a result of native
efforts and not because foreigners decided to live there.
Sheekh Madar comes across in this book as someone who was well versed in
Somali culture and the Islamic religion (he spent over twenty years in
Islamic studies in Harar) but who was also willing to engage the modern
world. He did not allow his knowledge or status to get to his head. He
kept his balance throughout. That is the secret to his success.
Abdirizaq Aqli has done Somalilanders tremendous service in that his
work allows Somalilanders to re-take ownership of their history and
culture which were either suppressed or claimed by southerners who
re-named it as the history and culture of Somalia. The retrieval and
re-examination of Somalilandís history and culture should go
hand-in-hand with Somalilandís restoration of its political sovereignty.
Abdirizaq Aqliís book is a good step in this direction. We in the
Somaliland Times are proud to be part of these efforts and for the pages
of our sister newspaper Haatuf to have been the place where Abdirizaq
Aqli first shared with the public his ideas on Sheekh Madar in the form
of a series of articles which later became a book.
The Somaliland Times is also happy to announce one more item of good
news: the expected establishment of Somaliland Studies as an independent
field of study towards the end of this month. Stay tuned.