Hargeisa, Somaliland- Over the past quarter over a century, Somaliland defied the political anatomy of the Horn of Africa. This small nation established a fledgling democracy that warranted few names from outside observers. Some observers called it a “desert democracy” others, perhaps audiscooulsy, characterized it as “Africa’s best kept secret.” These labels are a rare testimony to Somaliland’s numerous gains. I, along with millions of Somalilanders, relish in those gains and only wish that Somaliland continues on this trajetocray.
Some recent developments, however, point to a worrying trend. Many of Somaliland’ hardwon accolades seem to be on the wane and the gains on an irrovacable reversal. The incumbent administration, for instance, seems bent on an increasingly petty affairs and the muzzling of dissenting voices. Two recent examples suffice in this regard.
First, the detention of Abdi Malik Musa Oldon and his subsequent sentence to 2 years in prison. Oldon was arrested for engaging in “anti-national activity and violating the soveriegnty and succession of Somaliland.” This vague reasoning is problematic on a number of fronts. For starters, it only serves to distract the people (citizenry) from the apparent failures of the government and creates an imaginary threat to Somaliland’s existence. The arrest also sends an unflattering picture about Somaliland’s record and damages an already blemished image.
Ofcourse some might rightly object to Oldon’s rhetoric, actions, and professed beliefs. Nothing, however, in his behavior, beliefs and message warrants his arrest if Somaliland truly wants to embody the image it projects to the international community. This also complicates the task for those of us who wish to see Somaliland succeed. Suffice it to say, I encourage the outgoing administration to grant clemency to Oldon and respect dissenting voices because the last thing Somaliland wants to become is a replica of the Siyad Barre regime.
The second example, albeit a lesser manifestation, is the recent cancellation of Dr Hussein Bulhan’s visit to Mogadishu. Dr. Bulhan was invited, as he relayed it, by members of the civil society and the intellectual elite in Mogadishu. He was tasked to lecture on Somaliland’s case for recognition and its desire to secede from Somalia proper. By all accounts, you will think that Somaliland will welcome such gesture and honor the invitation. Apparently, the government cancelled the visit and claimed, again vaguely, that it’s not the appropriate time among other unconvincing reasons.
This cancellation characterizes the sterile policy of the incumbent government. No one in Somaliland doubts Bulhan’s loyalty to Somaliland and the fact that his credentials offer noone better positioned to represent Somaliland. This development just goes to show the government’s unwillingess to engage in fruitful discussions with Somalia. These recent developments, therefore, do little to advance the aspirations of millions of Somalilander’s.
And if it takes this short column, on my part, to shed light on a growing stain on this government, atleast it will serve one positive purpose.