Veterans around the world are venerated for their sacrifice and duty to nation. Their loyalty, heroism and courage are celebrated throughout their lives  and beyond. Their selflessness contributes to the psyche of a nation. Veterans have a place of stature unlike many. They are treated with respect, dignity and admiration.

They are given every support with available resources and the empathy that goes with it.

Their service is marked annually, in many countries, with parades and somber remembrance.

So why is it in Somaliland veterans have been shuffled to  the side. Forgotten and discarded like some old clothes. Treated as if we, Somalilanders, are embarrased to acknowledge their contribution to our nation’s past, present and future.

Granted some veterans have become more successful than others, for example the current President, Muse Bihi Abdi, is a veteran as are past ministers. Businessmen, academics and others of all walks  of life have had a successful transition from soldier to civilian.  The man pictured below is Ali Abdi Dheere.

He joined the rebellion and fought against the despotic regime of Siad Barre. After a distinguished service, he continued his education and became a lawyer.

In keeping with his years of training and service to others,  in an ultimate selfless act he gave a kidney to his ailing brother Mohamed. He flew from Hargeisa to Toronto, Canada for the successful transplant. A veteran, a scholar, an advocate and a humanitarian. Truly a man for all seasons.

The majority, however, linger in abject poverty with no health care, housing or jobs. The veterans of our great nation are languishing in such a terrible state they are beginning to question their past service. The living are maimed, physiologically frail, destitute and morally broken.

Their spirit is weak after taking lip service for years from successive governments. They are asking to be treated with the dignity and respect shown to veterans the world over. After all, they won the war of independence. Should they be given housing, cheap healthcare, discounts in every store?.Yes and a lot more.

The man above is called  Ibrahim Mohamed Jibril (Amare), he is the polar opposite of the lawyer Ali Abdi Dheere. He joined the struggle at the height of his youth. At the age of 18, when he could no longer stand what was happening, he left a career headed for post secondary education and all its promise to fight.

Throughout he fought valiantly and was injured in the last battles of the war. Today, he walks on crutches. Poor, barely housed and with a multitude of medical issues, he has nothing to show for his service but the shirt on his back. He feels let down by the system he put his life on the line for. He suffers from Veterans Remorse.

He is of the many who have been forgotten.

The nation has many problems and issues but we should not look away from  Veterans’ impoverishment. We need to speak up. Somalilanders should afford ourselves every opportunity to say  ‘Thank You Veterans’ whenever, wherever we can. We can start immediately in showing our gratitude by appealing to the international community to assist in veterans further rehabilitation. A veterans department with teeth, a special rapporteur with clout would be a practical and informed start in reigniting our enduring respect for our veterans.

Allaa Mahad Leh

Long Live Somaliland

Hassan Mohamed Abokor