By Adam Muse Jibril
In contrast with the widespread general fiasco in most parts of Somalia territories, the Somaliland’s Peace and State building process has been considered as an exception rather than the rule. Although it is an ongoing process built by trial-and-error endeavors which faces massive challenges, yet what have already been achieved led to considerable worldwide appreciation. However, the questions as to how Somaliland has been able to achieve what has been done so far, and whether these attainments can be sustained, or whether the Somaliland example can be generalized so that to add something positive clue to the political standstill in Somalia and the region in general, are indeed legitimate questions reflecting the widespread and deep-rooted cries in the Horn of African region in general. On the other hand, as all noticeable human feats usually related with shortcomings and even failures, so the Somaliland experience can’t be exceptional. On the long walk to peace and state building course both substantial successes and avoidable hazards have been experienced. The following note is a modest attempt to register the basic attainments realized as well as shortcomings that Somaliland had been experiencing through a long sequence of events that stretched from 1991 to 2022.
From Armed Struggle to Peace and State building
Supporters, Sympathizers, and opponents alike largely agree that regardless of some miner gaps, Somaliland’s successes raised up above many African countries’ achievements that had the same post conflict experiences. Consequently, Scholars and researchers underlined the manner in which the peace and institutional building have been managed in Somaliland without major external assistances. Questions were also raised about how the introduction of the democratic system was attained and sustained over three decades. Evidently, all those achievements in Somaliland have been possible in spite of formidable hostilities and animosities, such as economic embargo and political isolation from all corners in the region and beyond. Benjamin Moscovici, Spiegel International Newspaper, wrote a ‘Miracle on the Horn of Africa’ describing the Somaliland achievements. The authentic drive behind these achievements were resolute exertion on reconciliation and consensus building approach, which is true to the culture of ‘Pastoral Democracy’ (by Prof. I M Lewis) Because of the following concrete principles and approaches: Peace and Institutional building efforts were entirely based on reconciliation and consensus building of free will, Bottom-up approach, Dependence on Local resources, that eventually led to Democratic model consisting of two models, modern and traditional hybrid governance.
These specific efforts and approaches have jointly shaped the ‘Hybrid Political and Security governance system in Somaliland, in other words, coherence of two historically and culturally divergent systems, Traditional African-Somali System of governance, and modern (Westminster Multiparty Democratic model) had jointly represented in these streams where the experience of Somaliland is all about. Nevertheless, without critical look at this worthful historical battle which continued almost about forty years journey to come to where it is now would remain incomplete and imbalanced story. The nature and magnitude of the mistakes and conceptual gaps that were happening throughout state building processes need to be registered. On this regard, the lack of conceptual understanding about the state building and democratization shaped the major obstruction. The following points highlight on whatever oversights, and missteps associated with the historic achievements Somaliland has been realizing since its re-emergence in 1991, in other words the shortcomings of which emanated from lack of enough understanding by the political elite about the challenges ahead:
Function and Legitimacy of Guurti: The gap between what had been achieved and what were considered as shortcomings in relation to Guurti’s functions and its legitimacy are closely related to the outcome of the idea of amalgamation of Traditional and Modern arrangements. The abovementioned achievements materialized as the Somaliland’s model of governance generated both remarkable advances and avoidable mistakes, these mistakes and loopholes when accumulated without correction turned into crisis. As a result, the country’s reputation and status as a shining spot on the African map had been damaged due to lack of understanding of the importance of the traditional and Modern combination as hybrid political and security governance as interdependent component parts of one single system ensued miracles. This particular way of thinking helped Somaliland democratic experiment cross the line of uncertainty towards reasonable degree of stability and sustainability.
Unfortunately, since then the Council of Elders had lost direction, and much of its reputation and arguably its legitimacy dilute. Regardless of the great job the Guurti has been doing and the enormous outcome of their devotion that constituted an indispensable part of the overall role played by the Parliament, yet the fact that they had not been elected or reappointed raised a big question mark about their vey legitimacy. This question doesn’t reflect a mere practical issue, but in fact is a sign of lack of conceptual clarity about the value of the hybrid political and security governance in Somaliland.
Absence of pre-arranged strategy on long-term level that defines the milestones needed to be reached in the future resulted the main weakness that led to the problems that are already in place, and which led the hybrid system gradually losing the horizon for reformation and promotion of the system of governance to stand as two streams in one main political system within predetermined state building policy.
Institutional Building: The fundamental issue of the State building in the post-civil war in Africa is centered in the Institutional building and therefore, the top priority agenda for the leadership in Somaliland remains in the Institutional building. However, without clear vision about the very concept of the state institutions and their role, the issues of peace and stability is neither manageable nor sustainable. That is why, that although Somaliland has walked a long way towards this direction, yet there is a gap between what had been achieved and what could have been realized. That means that the institutional building endeavors have fallen much shorter than the extent of expectations, because of lack of understanding about the historical significance of the Institutional Building within a framework of Nation Building Strategy. Obviously, whatever shortcomings emerged were due to the fact that politicians have directed all of their attentions to the every-day practical politics, and gave no consideration to the theoretical aspect of Institutional Building issue. They have been dealing with the problems on a trial-and-error manner, ignoring the fact that without elaborated strategic plan, politics remain in cyclical spontaneous events of action and reaction, and that is exactly where the problem remain missing the required attention it deserved.
These shortcomings materialized in the way that the Somaliland political parties had been dealing with practical politics regarding the Institutional building. In 2010, when Kulmiye party won the election and Mr. Ahmed Silanyo assumed presidency they immediately discharged all experienced technocrats and replaced them with clan-based party supporters mostly simi-illiterate. This was a major setback to the state building process. That means any party which will come to the power in future will follow the same track.
Clan-oriented Political Parties, the real obstacle to progress: On practical level, the idea of creating pollical parties in Somaliland had entirely been by the creativity of president Egal and his application within his innovative Nation Building strategy. Unfortunately, the Party Building Policy in Somaliland has been experiencing problems of standstill, which was due to lack of many factors, the most important of which was lack of clarity of the party Building Policy by the political leadership, mostly about the issues of transition, growth and developmental perspectives, in which certain constructive steps needed be taken to better and higher level of progress. President Egal’s move to this direction was due to his deep understanding and conviction of the multi-party democratic system. It is important to notice here that he had faced huge resistance to convince the greater part of Somaliland political leaders, mainly Islamists. When president Egal passed away, there emerged a very serious vacuum of leadership which created a gap in the Somaliland Nation Building project in general. It was a gap between concept and application, between vision and practice. After Egal however, the party building policy lost its long-term vision as there was nobody who could add to the kind of theoretical capacity to deal with the complex issues related to party building within a long-term plan of Nation Building Project. In the post Egal era, the absence of national strategic agenda met a general disadvantage that negatively impacted on the overall process of State Formation, mostly on the intellectual level on which the Party Building issue is among the most important areas where visionary ideas were badly needed. Consequently, the three political parties suffered under severe lack of new thinking through which they could have creatively forwarded programs for
building mass organizations such as youth, women, and trade unions outside of the clan-cercle to build on them patriotic ideals rather than clannism and short-term interests. Moreover, the parties needed to be school of thoughts so as to be able to educate people on the party’s political, economic and social agendas. The purpose behind Party Building policy ought to promote the party’s capacity to build a higher level of development organizationally, politically and educationally in order to be able to produce new generations of young leadership with ideas that are compatible with the contemporary world outlook.
On the other hand, the party building policy is a respond to the need to help political parties rise above clan constituencies by developing its capacity on both quantitative and qualitative dimensions of growth without which the party would remain a seasonal organization without horizon of development. On this regard, contemporary political party must combat ideological and political opponent ideas and policies. For instance, in our region there are radical ideas such as Islamic radicalism, Ethnic militancy, and tribalism all of which constitute threat to peace, stability and progress. These different kinds of intolerant trends can be active inside the party and Society, to defeat such radical ideologies the political party need to have both clarity and devotion, otherwise it could fall short than the cause they claim to be adherent.
The Rights of Women, Serious Conceptual Gap: The issue of the Somaliland Woman’s Rights in the Participation of the decision-making Processes remained one of the dominant issues under discussion for more than a decade towards which has not yet been taken a fitting step. The open-minded people would like to elevation the question as to why in a Democratic Oriented country like Somaliland women failed to attain such fundamental rights. Sensibly, there can’t be rational grounds that make the Somaliland women remain lacking their rights. However, one can attribute this problem to the following backgrounds:
Socio-economic and Political Backwardness related to traditions, heritage, legacies and Religious Radicalization, which has taken epidemical proportion in our region constituted the bases of the state of affairs on which the Clan leaders and Community elders perceived women as dependent on men and, thus must remain as housewives and human reproduction subjects only. This Perception placed women in a disadvantageous position in the Somali Society as well as in many other Islamic Societies on Global level. However, the Somaliland Political system failed to put the issue of the rights of woman on the top of the Nation Building, agenda denotes the weaknesses of the political elite and the lack of national building consciousness.
Environmental Degradation and lack of awareness: Global Environmental degradation issue represents the world’s most critical phenomenon faced by the contemporary history of mankind on which the very existence in our planet would depend on, and the life on our earth would entirely be at risk if proper steps are not taken to change the way humans treat with the environment in order to be rationalized, and the world’s outmost attention is not directed to the conservation and creation of culture friendly to the nature and construction of a Green World.
Somaliland is amongst the least developed countries in the world and less emission generating than any other country, but has no less responsibility in saving the nature. It is crystal clear that here in Somaliland the issue of environmental conservation was not been given enough space of care in the current-state building project. However, critical viewpoints relate this issue to the absence of sufficient environmental awareness in the Somaliland political elite, and lack of conceptual understanding of the interrelationship between development, environment and politics as well as inter-dependence of the worldwide efforts to tackle the deterioration of the world environmental conditions.
The house of Somaliland. One cannot have Somaliland with imagined order alone: The issue of what Somaliland is, which embrace all citizen’s rights has been a critical question since 1990s, but the Issaqi political elite, with the exception of President Egal, and possibly Ahmed Silanyo have not been fully aware of the exceptional significance of all-inclusive Somaliland in real sense. Dr. Ali Khalif Glaidh had tried his best to make the issue of power sharing balance between Issaqi and none-Issaqi clans clear enough, he aimed to have the kind of Somaliland he wanted. Unfortunately, the Imagined Order, which means false and illusory world that you have in mind, but which doesn’t reflect the reality made that thinking a failure. The gap between the real Somaliland and imagined Somaliland is seemingly enough to creating an identity crisis of none Issaqi people in Somaliland. That is why there is a bad and urgent need to fill that gap.
Conclusion: The above enumerated restraints, gaps and limitations emanated mainly from two sources, the first belongs to an objective reasons that interrelated with the under-development of our society with the absence of robust middle class independent from the radical traditionalist oriented political forces, the Second causes emanate from specific weaknesses derived from the inexperience and lack of sufficient conceptual enlightenment on the state building issues and lack of tolerance by the political elite who look to the horizon much shorter than required scope and needed capacity to solving complex conflicts. Consequently, these gaps and loopholes mentioned above are clear expression of those historical shortcomings that in combination constitute integrated forms of challenges that can’t be bypassed simply because you want to do so. But to offer all mantal and material required factors as available, first and foremost of which is theoretical understanding of the issues related to Nation Building dilemma, not on local level but on African and Global levels.
As to the question about an alternative to Somaliland raised by some radical opposition cercles as a better option, the only response to them should be big NO, and regardless of all those abovementioned weak-points and loopholes there is no negation and no better option that reduces the significancy of the historic achievements Somaliland has been realizing over the years, that is why there is no realistic voices offering other choice than the State building and Democratization in Somaliland, instead there is an urgent need to conflict management and conflict resolution with reform oriented political program.