Generation Somaliland: Who are we? And what do we share?

Sheikh Ahmed Sheikh Mohamed Walaaleeye being tied to the post moments before the Firing squad shot him

By Khadija Abdillahi Sheikh

When you hear the word ‘home’ what comes to your mind? Is it where you were born, grew up or currently reside? Is it the country of your parents? Or maybe it is where your children were born.

To me, Somaliland is home and for one simple reason: Here, is where I found myself. I share this sentiment with many others of similar experiences. We may not be of similar age, but we have several common characteristics and we are, Generation Somaliland.

Somalia is an unknown quantity to us: To some of us it was before we were born others were too young to have experienced the short lived glories of Somalia. They speak of one of the greatest military in Africa but what I see is AMISOM upholding security in fragile Mogadishu.  They speak of its captivating architecture but what I see is a city in ruins.  They speak of Soomaalinimo, Nationalism that brought the unity into being but what I see is her progeny Qabyaalada, Tribalism. Melancholy saturated stories of Xamar make no sense to us. We associate Somalia with civil war, famine, pirates and above all betrayal.

And we only know Somaliland: On 26 June 1960, Somaliland was declared an independent state briefly before it joined the Southern territories to form the ill-fated Somali Republic. An assassination of a president, a military coup, and civil war ensued.

Somaliland’s revolution is reproduced by the Arab Spring. Many of the Arab Spring events that have been unfolding in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria since 2010 are similar to events that took place in Somaliland quarter of a century ago. The bombardment of Syria’s Homs reminds me of the bombardment of Hargeisa in 1988 by MiG-17’s lifting off from the same city and gunning down barefooted refugees on their run to neighboring Ethiopia. Gaddafi’s mercenaries that were hired to contain the revolution against him were a reminder of Siyad Barre’s ruthless mercenaries who looted, killed, and raped in Somaliland. And just as peaceful demonstrators in those countries were met by live ammunition and apprehended, so were students who demonstrated against Barre’s regime in 1982 in Hargeisa sent to long periods of prison.

The difference between the Arab Spring and the revolution in Somaliland is that the latter prevailed and the ousted dictator Siyad Barre died in exile in Nigeria. Sadly, there was no Social Media to report on the atrocities committed against the people of the then Northern region of Somalia (Somaliland). And to this day media coverage of the mass graves recently discovered in Somaliland has been scant.

Since then, Somaliland was rebuilt by its people with little or no assistance from the international community. We’ve held numerous democratic parliamentarian and presidential elections; the latter resulted in a peaceful handover. How many African countries can boast of that? Our schoolchildren save their lunch money to contribute to the national campaign to rebuild roads and bridges or to give to the victims of recent floods in Somalia. Our triumphs have passed by unnoticed by the world for over twenty years.

We may forgive but cannot forget. For many of us, the injustices that our people were subjected to are impossible to forget. We even have a monument of a MiG 17 at Freedom Square to remind us of the fallen. It is difficult to forget because every house in Somaliland has lost someone. Somebody’s brother, sister, father, mother, uncle or aunt was lost. And what makes the loss greater is the fact that none of the governments that came after Siyad Barre acknowledged the genocide let alone apologize to or compensate the victim’s families.

My family had suffered firsthand when my uncle Sheikh Ahmed Sheikh Mohamed Walaaleeye was detained and later executed by a firing squad along with 9 other Ulema in January 1975. His alleged crime was protesting a new family law that challenged basic Islamic teachings. He was my grandfather’s eldest son; he was the backbone of the family. With his murder our family was never to be the same again.

In a recent broadcast interview with the wife of Siyad Barre’s then Vice President, she opined that the execution of the 10 Islamic Scholars in cold blood which went undisputed by the people of Somalia triggered the decline and eventual demise of the Somali Republic.

Finally, we should not be held hostage to the notion of a Greater Somalia. Somaliland should not be blackmailed into reuniting with the South while Djibouti is sovereign and the Ogaden is still part of Ethiopia and some of Somalia is known as the North Eastern Province of Kenya.

It is disappointing that today our people are portrayed as power thirsty secessionists, when in fact Somaliland was built on the premise of freedom and equality for all. And Somalilanders were the first to extend their hand (and flag) to the ill-fated union. Prophet Mohamed, Peace Be Upon Him, taught us that: “A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice’’. So, before even considering another unity there should be an acknowledgment of the wrongs committed against us which would be the first step in reconciliation. The next step would be to find an answer to the question: How can a unity with the failed state of Somalia benefit the thriving democratic Somaliland?

Regardless of our country’s lack of international recognition, we remain very hopeful. For both those outside (The Diaspora) and those inside, Somaliland represents freedom, hope and prosperity.


Khadija Abdillahi Sheikh

Follow her on twitter: @k_asheikh


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