HARGEISA, 16 September 2009 (Somalilandpress) – These two last weeks without doubt have been among the most difficult in Somaliland’s short political history. From absolutely nowhere and without any warning it appears as though what was a month ago a calm nation in the process of preparing for a delayed but democratic general election had turned into a violent, thug ruled state where even the Police and Honourable Members of Parliament were sucked in by the violence and turmoil taking place in the streets.
This bloody and shameful episode in Somaliland’s history has cost the lives of three demonstrators in Hargeysa, led to the brief closure of Parliament by the president as well as ruined the reputation of the now dishonourable Abdirahman Mohamed Jama (Xoog) who disgracefully pulled out a gun in the Parliamentary chamber whilst it was still in public session.
Even worst, this incident by the dishonourable Member has not only shamed his own political party but has also brought the entire Political system into disarray as it implies that where dialogue fails or is not useful as a means of achieving what parliamentarians seek, it is acceptable to bring a concealed weapon as an insurance policy to getting what one want through the legislative process. As a result of all of these events and the continually delayed general election, it is not hard to see why some supporter of and investors in Somaliland could be having second thoughts about the nation as whole for it appears to be losing its peaceful, friendly and forward looking direction.
The cost of the political violence in Somaliland is immeasurable and will have a lasting affect politically, socially and economically for all those who live and work in the country. Ironically, in this months (September 2009) issue of the National Geographic magazine, published weeks before the violence started, Somaliland was described as an oasis of calm and gradual progress whereas Somali was referred to as the worlds most failed state and where the best and most reliable employer was the terrorist organization Al-Shabab which allegedly pays $150 a month to their fighters.
The pictures that accompanied the articles showed stark contrast between the war torn Somalia with its many empty shelled buildings and militia run streets and the tranquil streets of Hargeysa where in a side street the Photographer managed to capture a picture of young Somaliland women enjoying beauty and hair treatments at Zamzam’s beauty parlour. However, after the last two weeks of unrest and violence it would appear that this comparison maybe some what unreliable and premature as the Somaliland leadership cannot honestly claim that the nation has any moral or political authority over its war torn neighbour in the South.
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The rapid deterioration of peace and the heightening of the political tensions before, during and after elections in Africa are not uncommon but this toxic mix’s ability to destroy community relations, national economies and scar the collective national psyche is well documented in most African country’s, especially Kenya and Zimbabwe. Although the pre-election situation in Somaliland is not as bad as these two nations were at the time they were going to the polls, it has the potential to escalate and create the same level of damage. It is this damage that Somaliland must avoid at all costs for it will crush all hopes of future recognition and progress of any kind.
The main worry for the majority of law abiding, hardworking citizens of Somaliland is that these latest rounds of violent unrest will lead to some form of political sanctions from donor nations and groups such as the EU who may limit funding or cut political ties. In addition many NGO’s providing vital services such as medical treatments, health and welfare advice as well as contributing to the rebuilding of the old, battered infrastructure may feel that they need to suspend their operations as a result of fear for their workers safety. Furthermore, the large leisure industry which is supported by international tourism will suffer heavily as without the guarantee of peace, stability and safety, tourist will not come to spend their money in Somaliland. The consequences of this would be catastrophic for both seasonal workers as well as large and small business entities that are reliant on the tourism trade for survival.
The facts of the matter are not disputed nor should they be downplayed as the demonstrators are angry because of delayed Presidential elections and they just want their concerns to be heard. However, what a seasoned politician like Abdirahman Jama ought to have learnt through his own experiences and from Somalia by now is that violence rarely works as a vehicle of change and never can it be seen to be the route to progress. Violence is the enemy of democracy and the bedfellow of dictatorship and authoritarianism and as such should not be allowed anywhere near the political process let alone engaged in during a Parliamentary session.
Whilst Somaliland awaits the presidential elections the Somaliland government and people need to understand the importance of continuing the peace the nation has enjoyed for the last 16 years. Everybody has a part to play in the reconciliation process and Political parties, especially the opposition, must encourage their supporters to seek peaceful methods of venting their anger or waiting for the elections to vote in the government of their choice.
Somaliland has been the real democratic model for East Africa for the last 16 years. It has grown and developed above and beyond all expectations and all this has been possible because of the peace and political stability the people and government nurtured. Having come so far and achieved so much, one is optimistic that recognition will not be far off and for this dream to be recognised all those who have a stake in the nation must refrain from violence and once again return peace, stability and patience to the heart of Somaliland social policy. This is the nations only hope of restoring its former reputation.