Monday, September 19, 2005


Guled Ismail — London, UK — 18 September, 2005

While browsing the Somali websites I came across two pieces, an interview and an article that stood out from the usual traditional clan squabbles often masquerading as worthy opinions objectively aired for the good of the nation.

The interview was an exclusive for Awdalnews given by Mr. Ismail Hurre Buba, the Deputy Prime Minister for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Governemnt(TFG). The other piece was a travelogue and social commentary with a bit of unavoidable politics attached penned by Prof. Hussein Ahmed Warsame, a respected lecturer in one of the Arab Gulf universities. What these two articles had in common was that they were both from self-confessed “Somalilanders” Mr. Buba being one of the founding fathers of Somaliland. Both clearly stated they bore Somaliland and its people no ill-will and both expressed their opposition to Somaliland’s secession. Indeed Mr. Buba repeatedly mocked the whole project as “fantasy”, an interesting view from a man who deputises for a Prime Minster that pays once a year `visit’ to his own capital and a President who does visit every other capital on god’s earth except his own. Sweet irony aside though, the bruising Mr Buba did make one valid observation: That Somaliland is unlikely to be recognised anytime soon and that its politicians are deluding the people by dangling this mirage in front of the expectant masses. His solution was a simple one: reunite with Somalia.

Mr. Warsame was more equivocal as one would expect from a seasoned academic. His visit to Somaliland, which he trailed as trip to Borame and particularly to Amoud University, was full of the usual gripes about pot-holed roads, khat-chewing layabouts and incompetent civil servants that those accustomed to smooth highways and ordered societies in the West often complain about. But Mr. Hussein also had an opportunity to meet the great and the good of the land, including the President himself. After relating his bone-crunching experiences on the country’s roads and demanding action, he let slip that he did not support Somaliland’s statehood and therefore did not recognise the President’s authority or that of his government. Even more boldly he said so to the face of the place’s number two spook in a Khat-chewing session. Perhaps it was lost to the good professor that such indiscretions would have cost him his dignity, perhaps more in most African countries. I certainly do not recommend him trying that trick with some of the leaders in Mr. Buba’s government for he will most likely go back to his university limping and not from the bad roads.

Prof. Warsame characterised his political stance as `Federalist Somalilander’ which I took to be reunion with Somalia in another name.

But what both gentlemen failed to express is why they believe reunion with Somalia is beneficial to Somaliland or its people. How will Borame and its citizens be better off ruled from Mogadishu a thousand miles away than Hargeisa only few hours drive up those bumpy roads? What are the economic, political and social benefits that will accrue from risking 14 years of peace, freedom and even relative prosperity by re-entering into a union that so miserably failed them in 30 years of southern dominance and misrule?

May I ask Mr. Warsame to ponder if he genuinely believes that Amoud will be first choice for the country’s top university if the decision of building one rested in the hands of political masters in Villa Somalia or even Jowhar? Will even a valued Somaliland Professor get a chance to discuss his difficulties on Dilla Roads with a President Yusuf ensconced in a Mogadishan palace?
Of course one can argue that pan-nationalist unions are more than bread, butter and roads. It is about principals and national anthems and chest-beating patriotism. It is about realisation of grandiose dreams of bringing all kith and kin under one sky-blue flag. It is about regional geopolitics and being a big weighty super-nation worthy of respect from semi-hostile neighbours.

But many Somalilanders will counter-argue that they have been there done that and bought the bloody Tshirt too. The dreams were grandiose and perhaps noble but they turned into a nightmare and they woke up into a reality of no bread, no butter and plenty of very bad roads. They decided to ditch the dreams and stick to humbler realities.

Healthy diversity of views from Somalilanders is to be welcomed and encouraged for that is the hallmark of all self-confident and free societies. But those advocating the dissolution of the country and a reunion with Somalia should at least lay out the rationale behind their radical views. Otherwise they risk being seen as no more than treacherous voices hankering after a long-dead dream.

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