Saturday, July 3, 2010

A New Era for Somaliland?

In a recently-concluded presidential election in Somalia's breakaway region of Somaliland, a political party known as Kulmiye (unity in Somali) elected political doyen Ahmed Silanyo as new president after trouncing incumbent Dahir Riyale Kayin by a wide-margin in a free and fair election supervised by international observers. Ahmed Silanyo held several ministerial positions during the reign of the military junta that ruled Somalia with ironfist from 1969 until 1991. A holder of two college degrees obtained from educational institutions in Britain, Mr. Silanyo brings with him a wealth of knowledge and years of experience to Somaliand's stable but economically handicapped peripatetic citizens who have been victims of endemic corruption and gross economic mismanagement since declaring separation from Somalia proper in 1998.

Preceded in office by Dahir Riyale Kahin, a ruthless former colonel in the now-defunct Somali army, Mr. Silanyo inherits an enclave beset by many conflicting factors. A founding member of the Somali National Movement (SNM), Silanyo, in his heydays as a guerilla fighter, brushed shoulders with the likes of the despised warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed-the man responsible for much of Somalia's unending political entanglement. The acclaimed Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down features the disastrous American intervention in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope in 1993 and the hunt for General Aideed.

Somaliland's quest for separation from Somalia remains an issue of profound importance among Somalilanders who predominantly make the greater population of the former northwest and togdheer regions of Somalia. Despite the election that brought Silanyo to power remaining free and fair, absolutely no voting took place in the expansive Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions populated by the Dhulbahante and Warsengeli tribes who belong to the majority Darod clan. In fact, there have been reports of ballot confiscations, armed skirmishes between forces from Hargeisa and those of the Dhulbahante, and cases of defections from Somaliland armed forces.

In broader political science and macro-economics, the notion that the bigger the land mass of a state the better the prospects for economic prosperity seem to evade the thoughts of the feverish and shallow-minded usurper driven by opportunism, greed, and petty politics. Nations like the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Brazil, and India remain a force to reckon with in economics, education, and global politics. China, Russia, and the U.S. enjoy significant veto powers and have to their credit advanced technology, military muscle, and scientific explorations while tiny nations like Djibouti and Eritrea lag behind in all aspects of life. Some economists even call for the removal of Africa's imaginary barriers imposed by colonial powers.

The dismemberment of Somalia into cantons will only benefit those few wielding considerable powers; the rest of the citizenry will undoubtedly live in abject poverty. A case in point is a coverage posted on and referenced from IRIN news in which the pathetic living conditions of Hargeisa's marginalized minority Gabooye people are highlighted. Somalilanders consider the Gabooye as inferior, filthy, and outcasts who may not intermingle with nor intermarry other major clans. Despite being Somalis and Muslims, these people are to remain poor, helpless, and ostracized forever.

IRIN, the refugee online news source put the number of Gabooye living in Hargeisa at 8,000 families (48,000 people) mostly living on the fringes of poverty. Since the propspects of the Gabooye securing white-collar or blue-collar jobs have been restricted by ceturies-old Somali social classifications in place, their survival depends on the preservation of skills inherited from their ancestors. What remains left for them include routine house-to-house begging, work as blacksmiths, shoemaking, work in slaughterhouses, work in pathologically and epidemiologically disastrous environments, and anything else deemed unacceptable to the upperclass Somalis.

While we welcome Silanyo's election as president of Somaliland, what is worth comprehending is the importance of the wise saying, "unity is strength." About Silanyo's election, for sure we know one thing about African politics: not one single African leader has been credited with delivering his/her people from the bondage of corruption, mismanagement, embezzlement, clanism, and general decay. It would be an illusion to expect Silanyo to deliver fresh Manna and quail to the poor unrecognized state of Somaliland for now and for the foreseable future.

1 comment:

Rybu said...

Thank you for the article.

You state "In fact, there have been reports of ballot confiscations, armed skirmishes between forces from Hargeisa and those of the Dhulbahante, and cases of defections from Somaliland armed forces".

Do you have sources for this information. When world press coverage describes the election as free and fair, sources are necessary for statements such as this.