HARGEISA, 2 September 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Whenever there is a political standoff in Somaliland all the doom mongers crawl out of their sewers and start telling the world that this latest political confrontation is the one to signal the end of the Somaliland State! But is it?
It is hard to find many places in the world with the unique arrangement and problems that Somaliland has. To millions of people, it remains an important part of the Somali Republic. To millions of others, it is a sovereign and independent nation. This is why whenever the democratization process in Somaliland hits a snag it attracts comment from supporters and opponents inside and outside Somaliland. The supporters of Somaliland are almost always domestic whilst the opponents are mostly external. In other words, the pro-unity camp resides mostly in Somalia whilst the pro-independence camp hails mostly from Somaliland.
Now Somaliland has a new crisis! It seems that the president of Somaliland has ejected an organization that was helping the country with voter registration and other issues to do with the democratization process. It is reported that the opposition parties are outraged by the actions of the president and have refused to take part in the elections that are due to take place on the 27th of September 2009! It is understood that their anger stems from the fact that the elections were postponed three times already and that one of the major reasons for these postponements concerned the need for voter registration! We’re told that the parliament (or at least its Somaliland equivalent) has disagreed with the president’s decision but that members from his party have disagreed with the parliament and were consequently suspended. We heard that the president ordered the police to surround the houses of parliament and ensure that his evicted members be forcibly reinstated and allowed to take part in debates relating to the elections. We understand that the opposition parties have mobilized their supporters and that demonstrations have taken place in various parts of Somaliland (but mainly the capital and houses of parliament).
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The events and situations related above are all true and clearly confirm the political impasse taking place in Somaliland. However, no one was killed, no buildings were burned and no property was destroyed (save a couple of chairs in the parliament chamber). The way these events have been reported however is what causes many to believe that the end is nigh for Somaliland, but is it?
It is an election year in Somaliland. All political parties are positioning themselves in the most aggressive way possible. All parties want and hope to win. Therefore, the mud is sure to by flying, the accusations dispatched and the insults overflowing. The opposition talks about the secret service history of the president whilst the government supporters retort by mentioning the greed of the eighty-year old opposition leader. The opposition badmouths the president’s wife and talk about her alleged interference in government business, whilst the ruling party sneer at the political immaturity of the opposition. Furthermore, one group accuses the president of being a Somali mole whose ultimate aim is to sneakily return Somaliland to Somalia, whilst the other accuses the opposition leader of having covert dealings with the Somali Republic! In short, both sides are waging dirty political campaigns and spreading negative rumors about the other. Yet, again, nobody died!
The above was all about the internal squabbles in Somaliland and how a rumor and counter rumor is the order of the day there. However, this internal rivalry and political horse trading is also, unwittingly (or maybe indifferently), feeding the external pro-unity hyenas! Now observers from Garowe to Mogadishu to unpronounceable places further south are all (prematurely) declaring the death of the State Of Somaliland! Where in the past they would lay into the entire idea of Somaliland and insult its people, they now, having imagined a glimmer of an opportunity, are praising Somaliland and giving it brotherly condolences for a dream that was not fulfilled! Worse still, they patronizingly offer advice on the best way forward and how Somaliland and its people shall only prosper by returning to the Somali fold!
The pro-unity minority crowd are themselves divided between the government of Somaliland and the opposition. They are unsure of which of the two has the more fertile ground. On the one hand, there is plenty of mileage in referring to the president’s history as an ex- employee of the former Somali dictator and a dictator in the making himself! They can not pass this delicious opportunity to sneer and scoff at a people who defeated one dictator only to be assaulted with another of their own! On the other hand, there is much to be said about an opposition that seems to be outmaneuvered and outgunned. The sentiment seems to be something along the lines of ‘this man is going to bring you and your country down. Come and join us in the South and we shall overcome him by virtue of sheer numbers’.
Then there is the Free Press game. Apparently, the Ogre of Hargeisa has banned Free Press and like many African dictators before him, he is keeping his poor people in the dark! But does any country really need free press in the age of the Internet and satellite TV? Could the president of Somaliland ban the BBC for instance?
The best argument the pro-unity crowd have is the one about an elite group of Somalilanders holding the country hostage to their whims and opportunistic fancies. Yet this was said of the first president of Somaliland. It was said of the second president. It is said of the current president. It is said of the leaders of the opposition. It is said about many of the Somaliland businessmen. The first and second presidents are gone but Somaliland remains. The current president will sooner or later go and Somaliland shall remain. The leaders of the opposition will, in the future, be replaced by new leaders and yet, Somaliland shall continue to be.
Somaliland resisted against all the odds. It resisted against the former dictator Siad Barre with all his power and the support of the outside world. It resisted against a deadly civil war that has devastated Somalia. It resisted against the terrorists and their sympathizers. It will continue resisting everything that is against the humanity, democracy and injustice.
There is a Somali saying “When there is a disagreement, the stupid person thinks it is fighting”.
As long as nobody dies may the hyenas laugh, the opposition wags their fingers and the president rewrite the constitution. It is all good clean fun and it adds to the maturity and progress of Somaliland.