Somaliland joined in Union with the Italian colony of southern Somalia in July 1, 1960 after just five days it won independence from British Empire. The three decades union came to an end after the former unilaterally declared independence in may18, 1991. The unity caused marginalisation to Somaliland’s people who resulted in military confrontation that flattened the major cities, killed ten of thousand civilian and internally externally displaced millions of people. Somaliland unlike its southern counterpart has managed to build relatively stable and working state structure: bi-chamber legislative, executive and judiciary. It also sustained viable economy and peace without much support of international community. Besides, it held successive elections proclaimed as fair and transparent by international observers. Today, Somaliland considered as a beckon of good hope in a region ravaged by civil war. It successfully averted a civil war that erupted in the beginning of 1990s.
All these good will seem to be in jeopardy after the coming into power of a Kulmiye party led government in 2010. Buroa again lookalike the epic centre of conflict after the incumbent government made series miscalculation, maladministration, nepotism, favouritism and human right violations. It is clear that Somaliland can’t afford a repetition of its bad experience that happened in the first half 90s- civil war. In the contemporary period the world don’t need another conflict to start somewhere else. About two decades ago, history has recorded a grim fact of the worst conflict that engulfed Buroa in which ordinary brothers and sisters from both communities turned against each other for reason one can hardly justify. Since then, a lot of work has been done to bridge the gap between these communities. However, the ascendency of a Kulmiye led government in 2010, some civil servants and highest government officials are deliberately creating situations that could reignite conflicts.
No doubt, it is the responsibility of the incumbent government to build community cohesion. A short-sighted tribal quick fix to benefit one or another clan will add further fuel into the already flaming condition. It is a duty of the government to design policy so that both communities fairly and equally share resources and political power in the provincial town. However, incidents happening the last three years corroborate to the contrary. Buroa is known for it difficult community relation from post-civil war 1993-1995. It was all successive government duties to Instead create favourable condition for building state institution and strategy of delivering standard service to all people resident of this town.
On the contrary, the Kulmiye led government, in the day one it assuming power, it engaged to dislodge one community from the town. High governmental official from the other community in the presidential office played the ill-thought policy to manipulate the whole Togdhere region’s affair allowing them to act as they think fit either partially and unfairly tilting the scale to their clan. To anyone with intellect, this is a grave mistake which will seriously jeopardise significant achievements Somaliland has so far made since it birth. It will also put a serious repercussion on Somaliland’s long quest for international recognition from international community. The nation has a lot at stake in making good impression on the reluctant international community. It will be self-defeating-strategy it sabotages its own aspiration.
The government has wittingly or unwittingly undermined the long established community cohesion in Buroa between prominent Isaaq clans: Habar Yonis and Habar Jaclo. It started with fraud in the election of local government to pave the way for majority control of the local council and automatically appoint mayor of the town. Both the mayoral and provincial positions are now controlled the clan of Ahmed Mohamed Sirayno, the President defeating the principle fair power sharing and giving free hand to manipulate the local council to the favour of the pure side t’s clan. Although, later on Buroa’s provincial governor, was transferred to another province through a relocation scheme government launched in theory to minimise nepotism but many suspect to install weak governor with grassroots level support. Besides, the provincial football team encountered serious clan based acrimonies after a sport minister who hails from the same clan as the Somaliland’s president openly and shambolically and took a side with the team members from his clan. This tribe spurred leadership at the ministerial level rendered the regional football team that held for a long time the national champion to deteriorate into the weakest one overnight after many players from the other clan joined another region team. The spirit of sportsmanship totally lost the yearly held Somaliland football tournament turned a tribal show case in which Somaliland people split in tribal lines. This seriously damaged the future community cohesion Somaliland wanted to establish. Paradoxically the government minister did not get any sacking or warning showing the government’s tacit approval.
Another serious transgression also happened when the Somaliland’s so called minister, with strong ministerial portfolio, Hirsi, started to directly govern the province bypassing the president’s appointed governor, ( Hamaraji) who now officially tendered his resignation. The circumstances surrounding his resignation initially were widely reported by Somaliland’s mass media as if it was directly related to the interference from Mr Hirsi. However, in a radio interview the governor himself gave to the Hadhwanagnews, he strenuously refuted the mass media’s claim and he stated that he left his position only due to personal circumstances not connected with issue of interference from any government authority. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the regional governor has been overwhelmed by numerous high profile issues that came one after another since his appointment as Togdhere region’s administrator. These issues have seriously undermining his ability to discharge his responsibilities. For example, he gave mass media statement in which he said that he was totally unaware of the person who instructed RRU police forces (a Para-military) after they shot died at least two people in two separate demonstrations staged in the town by individuals aggrieved by various maladministration and nepotism practices. People should be given the right procedure or mechanism to submit their grievance. Lack of these proper procedures will cause people to take the law into their hand, abuse of power by some officials, and distrust on the whole system by the people.
There is no doubt that now the mistrust has been sown in the regional administration creating deep suspension between the two communities. As a result, any issue will be immediately interpreted as if it has a political and tribal context. The incumbent government has done nothing to thwart this trend by devising policy of trust building between the main communities in the region. Rather they gave exclusive access to Mr. Hirsi to manipulate the situation in the town into his favour.
In circumstances that resembles adding a thorn to the wound in already desperate situation, a prominent community activist and ex-deputy governor of Togdhere, Guleid Dahir Samater was arrested in brazen pre-dawn raid carried on his residence in Buroa which he was transferred to high security prison in Barbara with heavily armed personnel and vehicles. After three days illegal detention, he was released and taken to presidential palace in Hargeisa where he met a number of ministers who were carrying message from Mr President and Hirsi. They apologised on the behalf of the government for the wrong detention he was subjected and promised him regular salary and a compensation on provided that he stayed in Hargeisa. Guleid took this offer as another transgression on the public right and as a personal insult to his integrity. He believed first of all they were wrong to arrest him and now he don’t conspire and give in into a corruptive gesture.
This brave man showed to them he stand that he would not stop his campaign of advocating for the rights and freedoms of his community. The government cronies accused him promoting tribalism sentiment and unrest in the region. These people clear failed to understand the fact that it is right If someone speaking on behalf of his community aggrieved by the state machinery. Rather this man should have be supported and government should have taken actions, not the vice versa. The cronies should have told their beloved Mr President to pay attention on Ministers who simply advancing tribal interest. He should have meet Mr Guleid in person and assured him everything will be investigated by an independent inquiry commission and community cohesion programme that benefit both communities will be openly transparently conducted. This caused the meeting to end without any outcome.
Later on his spouse narrated to the mass media the heavy brutality employed the RRU police forces to infringe in his private residence and harass other people, special his wife a d children who will be traumatised by the event and arrest him. This is a serious violation of Somaliland constitution and international law Somaliland is abided by. This detention could have been avoided by summoning the individual to the police station. However, we know why this brutal tactic was used. It was to gag and intimidate him and send a strong message to other who might support him from his community. This is serious mistake. Intimidation and silencing peaceful dissent will not be tolerated by anybody. Somaliland should not tarnish its image by acts committed by a government official who abuse their public entrusted duty. This is a stark reminder of the brutal Mohamed Said Barre’s regime which both Mr President was a member of and Mr Guleid, a victim as SNM. In another incident in which the community refused to acknowledge a transfer of a police officer from Buroa, protester were shot at indiscriminately and a brutal and disproportionate force was used in contravention of any international and national law. The supremacy of the due process of law was ignored.
It is in the best interest of Somaliland if it observes both national and international law. If such type of violation of human rights continue in Somaliland, the coalition of Somaliland community in Europe will not hesitate to seek legal remedy in both domestic, international courts. As you know, RRU police forces are funded by the European and USA. The primary purpose of this force is to combat terror related offences not to harass ordinary citizens’ legal dissent. They donors would review such support if they found out it is diverted from its purpose. We are happy to lobby the western government legislative members to look into matter if the Somaliland government would not rectify all mistakes.
The issue is simple. All people in Togdhere region should fairly and equally share resource and political power. As a result of this recurrence of such incidents we mentioned above, we cordially request the following recommendation to be implemented immediately.
1. The Somaliland government must appoint independent and strong governor.
2. Mr Hirsi or any person from clans inhabiting this region must be absolved from duty of involved in any affair that could cause contention.
3. The complaints of residents of east Buroa must be fully and independently investigated and rectified upon the recommendation.
These complaints include, favouritism, political strategy aimed to benefit one side of the town and civil and human rights violation against anyone who stood up and challenge the status quo among them
4. Set up an independent inquiry committee to analyse the friction point in the communities and how to make provisions that benefit both of them.
5. Launch a series of legislative framework criminalising tribalism, favouritism, nepotism,
6. Launch a campaign to create public awareness about conflict prone matter,
7. Giving the public to report any incident that jeopardise community cohesion.
8. Involve private, civic organisation and community to set up projects in which specially children and young people learn, play and work together to bring down the tribal sentiment.
9. All Somaliland’s towns and cities specially those inhabited by different clans are segregated in tribal lines, creating potential to live, work, pass leisure time segregated from one another and each other, such kind of settlement is not healthy and it is dangerous for Somaliland future stability. We recommend a town and city policies in which government encourage people to live in different places. Local authority through its town planning mechanism must give incentive for people to settle in mixed neighbourhood. The government must put in place policy in favour of people building in different area. Initially the government can focus on the educated and civil servant. They must be given to live in apartment around the town. Targeting the educated when the ordinary people see these elites they may change tribal affiliation.
10. Buroa is a fault line in Somaliland’s political seismic. if nothing is done immediately, it could spiral out of control. I am advising the president to order an immediate takeover of the town by an independent administrator and committee from both communities. Put a lot of effort on facilitating the ground work both communities work together. I would focus on investing on the young people. Tribalism must be given a red card by series of campaigns targeting the youth. You also must take action against anyone who jeopardise this project or advance tribalism. If you do this we could avert trouble in this part of the country and will help you to leave a concrete legacy. Mr President please doesn’t be remembered for a man who has left a deeply divided community in Buroa. History will judge you and god will also make you responsible in which two previously peacefully co-existing communities develop mistrust and suspension against each other. The stake is very high and we have to act now.
Finally let me end my long discourse by sharing some of my personal experience with you about this place. Buroa has a bad reputation both locally and internationally. I remember one day when I was chatting with the man in charge of Ethiopian consult in Hargeisa in 2011 in his office. Excuse me I don’t remember his name. I got problem keeping names for more than two days unless I regularly meet the person. I am not from Somaliland but I am a regionalist who strongly likes to see a stable Horn of Africa. After the Ethiopian representative found out my Amharic language, he asked me what I was doing in Somaliland. I told him my relative lives here. As you know, I start to brief him. European colonialism arbitrarily divided the borders without taking into account the ethnics, tribe or clans demography. As a result, two families were divided into two, three or sometime more countries. But when I told him majority of my relative lives in Buroa, he looked at me and said, “I was about to run away, you scared me the hell out me.” Cautiously surprised I requested him why he how I frightened him. He said, “Buroa people are extremist or fundamentalist.” Taken aback by the serious general statement I just heard, I started to look to the best way to convince him the fallacy his statement. “Actually the people of Buroa are not extremist” I uttered. “They are hardworking people”. But I have to acknowledge that the majority of them are uneducated and live in constant clash/conflict mentality. This is the history of the area since the last hundred years at least. The place was a melting pointing for many Somali clans. History shows that the occurrences of conflicts around this flash point. As the result, ordinary Buroawi people have developed wittingly or unwittingly hard-line status with no evil intention at all. They follow the moderate Islamic sect. Don’t take me wrong there will always be an exception. You can find an extremist person anywhere in the world nowadays. From New York, London, Sydney to Tokyo. A few months ago, brilliant Somaliland young boys’ and girls’ music band known as the “Star of Horn Africa” travelled to this town to stage a music gig. The music corps was attacked, their vehicles vandalised and the whole show was cancelled. The regional administration, police forces, the town hall could not do anything to help the young talented music group. If one sees why such attack happened, it has nothing to do with fundamentalism. It is lack of exposure to different culture. I hoped I had persuaded the consular. Those who do this thing are very few people. The majority of the people are not like that but their problem is their reluctance to take firm stand against the people who deviate from the norm. I can say, therefore, current problem in Buroa is not adopted by the majority. It is a problem perpetrated by a few individual at the grassroots levels and at the high government offices. If we remove these weeds at the earlier stage by coming together, I hope we could avert major disaster. If however, we remain complacent, they will take us for ride and we see ourselves deep in hot water. I have said a lot in this short article. I say goodbye until we meet in another sociologically oriented discourse.Thanks
Mr Observer from the United Kingdom