- Written by By Nur H. Bahal
Nabad iyo Caano – an SNM slogan during the campaign
Since the inauguration of Kulmiye Party as the ruling party of Somaliland and Silanyo’s achievement of his long sought dream to manoeuvre himself into the Presidential Palace in Hargeisa, the reverberating undercurrents of rancour and grievances have progressively expanded to curb the peace and stability enjoyed by Somaliland. At the centre of the many premonitions about Kulmiye Party’s long dreaded policies is the reincarnation of unadulterated tribalism.
The party’s slogan tries to capture the imagination of its perspective voters through three simple words: Unity, Justice and Development – Midnimo, Caddaalad, Horumar. These are beautiful words but can be applied differentially across the spectrum of people in Somaliland. The practical execution of that slogan came to mean that some are more equal, deserve more justice and development than others just like the SNM slogan of the time meant peace and prosperity for “us” only. Silanyo’s government is a prime example of the preferential equality among the Isaq rather the equality of all of Somaliland people’s. But then even when it comes to the Isaq, some are still more equal then others – a perfect embodiment of the true nature of tribalism.
Kulmiye’s leadership promised to clean up corruption. However, it is widely understood today that what is being cleaned up is everyone but the supporters of Kulmiye. The multitudinous sub-rosa deals and favours bestowed upon the faithful financial supports of the President’s supporters and kinsmen speak volumes about the kind of cleanup he promised. Somaliland websites are replete with petitions from groups, cities and tribes all of which elucidate that it is time that Kulmiye party scratches the back of the stalwarts who financed its campaign. It all comes at the price but none is greater then the price of kinship.
Behind these underhanded deals presides a cabinet dominated by members from the Diaspora. The President’s much touted small government has two glaring flaws: it is mostly made of individuals from the Diaspora who lack pertinent knowledge of the social problems of their former home. Irrespective of their academic credentials, these, probably well meaning individuals, are disconnected from the practical problems of the society. Secondly, the unfiltered application of western policies regardless of the culture and ways prevalent in Somaliland creates distance between the society and the current cabinet. A perfect example is Kulmiye’s platform which is a carbon copy of the UK’s Labour Party platform. Granted that new ideas and ways are necessary to move a society forward, the blind application of these ideas into a system that does not relate to their society is a whole different cup of tea.
Like many things copied from the West, Kulmiye also has a penchant for breaking promises. Politicians always think they can make as many promises on the issues most desirable to the voters only to find out, when they get to the destination, that these promises are mostly an impediment to the promises they made to their interest groups and their own agendas. That has happened in Somaliland at an even larger scale than anywhere else. Kulmiye made a 180º change of direction on new political parties, cleaning up corruption, freedom of speech, torture and imprisonment of tribal elders, violations of individual rights… and the list can go on and on. The difference in this case is that these are not simple promises that have been broken. They were broken for better reasons, for group reasons. The chariots of hell, however, are not the inherent weakness of Silanyo’s cabinet but rather the ideology and outlook of the Kulmiye Party and its members.
Kulmiye’s win marshalled an era thought to have been buried by the late President Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal (AHUN). Fully aware of the controversial position of the Somali National Movement (SNM) in the future of a Somaliland Republic, and reasonably cognizant of the cumbersome shortcomings of tribal leaders, the late president systematically weeded them out of power and influence. It is noteworthy that SNM was a tribal militia – an Isaq militia – that took arms to end the atrocities meted out to the Isaq by the then dictatorial regime. During their struggle and after the fall of the regime, however, SNM also committed heinous crimes against non-Isaq tribes. Egal’s philosophy relied on the factual premises that if Somaliland needs to survive as a nation with its tribal reality, she needs to shed its past. That past includes the SNM. This same philosophy was continued by Rayale’s government. Whereas the administrations of Egal and Riyale, though warped from the excessive weight of corruption, torpidly limbed towards a peaceful Somaliland void of the pre-war package, Silanyo’s administration opened the floodgates of tribalism with the unprecedented speed and agility of a voracious predator. The glaring retromorphosis of Somaliland is predicated on and made possible by an antediluvial SNM misconception of the genocide meted out to the Isaq by the then dictatorial government of Siyad Barre and a skewed reading of the gallimaufric realities of what was once called the British Somaliland united only under the impunity of colonialism. Whether SNM can repeat the colonial experience is open to debate. As the party of SNM, kulmiye over-fed the rapacious appetites of those whose sole purpose in life is to feed the dark side of their tribalistic musings with dragonnade intentions about other tribes. And it might be too late to halt them.
The Seemaal massacre which clearly implicated members of the top echelon of Silanyo’s government, namely his close political advisor and the commander of the armed forces, with enough evidence to warrant jailing the political advisor and removing the commander, is a powerful testimony to Kulmiye’s henotheistic mentality. That the perpetrators are still at large remains to be the single most concrete proof that the authorities are either powerless, in which case Somaliland’s claim to statehood is reduced to a fairytale, or that there is neither the will nor the inclination to apprehend them for the very simple reason that doing so will throw into disorder the rogue group politics that brought the ruling party to power. In his departure speech the commander of the army made an indirect reference to Salaan Carabey’s poem – a distant relative of Silanyo- “Xaashee nin libin kaa xistiyay xumihi waa yaabe” alluding to the mammoth favours he bestowed upon the president during the election, disguisedly stating that those favours had not been given their due merit. It is commonly believed that he probably expected to be granted a free reign to put into operation his atypical brand of adhocracy and dispense his brand of justice accordingly. How else could anyone justify the barbaric murder of people in their sleep? Killing with impunity continues unencumbered with its latest victim being Mohamud Ali Ardo (AHN) shot to death by a police officer when the driver of the truck declined to pay a bribe. Of course the culprit is still at large. It is neither surprising nor unforeseen that this is not a unique example. Such unprecedented loss of control by the state authorities has the potential to directly or indirectly engender a feverish seed of disintegration and regional or clan aspirations to abandon the Somaliland project. But worse, it is also a testimony of the re-incarnation of the militia mentality.
The announcements of Awdal State and the more recent Khatumo State have ruffled the political feathers of Somaliland and will continue to reveal its political paradox as long as they have the ingenuity to harness the goodwill of their regions without driving a wedge into the bonds of unity of their respective clans. Not withstanding its drapetomaniac ideology twinned with phratric structure and support base, Awdal State has managed to be noticed in the political circles in synergy with SSC. However, SSC’s presence on the ground and Somaliland’s hard-headed, uncompromising position on colonial boundary, without any regard for the cultural realties of the Somali, is driving the region into the abyss of war and bloodshed. The longevity of both organizations, and thus the fate of Somaliland, hinges on how well they can harvest the scruples of their respective regions and purge their political underpinnings of the clan drapes that keep their hopes and home bases divided and disunited.
All sides, in Somaliland, are driven by clan aspirations and gluttony moon-lighting as politicians. In addition to the wild fires of Somaliland’s disembowelment, the Presidential palace continues to ignite controversies, sideshows and bar jokes. The latest victim to be ensnarled in the web of militia mentality is the Vice-President.
There is a famous story circulating in Hargeisa that there is a man in the presidential palace who carries a long dagger. He uses the weapon to chase ministers and high officials whose ideals on national management do not converge with those of the president. The Vice-President may have been the last victim of the long chase along the corridors of the Palace. And may be, just may be, Silanyo was watching from an adjacent window with a spicy cup of tea in his hand secretly enjoying his sweating vice’s escape from the dagger-wielder’s taunts.
Somaliland’s Vice-President has been on a work stoppage for the last couple of weeks. The reasons for such action were the hot topic of discussion. Reliable sources have it that the Vice-Presidential powers were usurped by the Presidential Aides. The specific task taken over included the office of the Diaspora affairs which constitutionally comes under the portfolio of the Vice-President. Furthermore, the Aides fired people appointed by the Vice-President. The latest attempts by the President’s own clan to intervene in the controversy end in futility. These actus reus on the part of public officials, with a certain degree of backing from the president are all conspicuous indications of a house in disorder.
Why are these happening now? Was Riyale more politically astute then Silanyo? Or is Silanyo more daring and confrontational? All indications are that Silanyo is biting more than he can chew. A close scrutiny, though, reveals that he is acting more like a militia leader than a president.