The Somaliland Dream: Dialogue Between Generations

Somaliland flag photo credit Photographer Yusuf Dahir

I am writing this piece to share some of my Somaliland dreams although I am cognizant that dreams are never static but dynamic and always evolving. I am trying to share a glimpse into my reflections on the topics so as to enthrall my fellow generation mates who are undergoing the same expedition of thought to consciously and collectively pursue the manifestation of our reality and how it fits in the long line of history and these forever changing times we exist.

The generation I speak about is the one born just before and after Somaliland has declared its independence; to be raised and educated in Somaliland or as my father puts it the ‘Made in Somaliland’ generation. We are landers in every sense and meaning of the word for we never have had to become anything but Somalilanders all our lives.

We usually discuss Somaliland in the present tense but most of the time in the future tense for we believe that its future and our future is one and the same. Somaliland is in our DNA and we are the components that make it; and thus our destinies are inevitably one and the same.  Therefore, our present Somaliland Dreams will hopefully become the reality, legacy and the future we leave for the next generations to live as well as an integrated part of Somaliland’s long storyline. And that is why, in my opinion, it’s crucially important to consciously determine and work towards our Somaliland dreams for their impact will not merely create a pleasant present for our generation but shape many years into the future of our nation.

This is not an attempt to overshadow the greater Somali Dream of my grandfather’s generation neither is it to bedim their noble fight for freedom. This is also not to question the honorable legacy of the armed struggle of my father’s generation which martyred thousands and yielded the Somaliland that’s stranded in our DNA neither is it a senseless trial to erase it.

The Somali dreams that preceded our time are history to us. We look at them with admiration and often bestow those who dared to take the heroic actions to their implementation and a lot of times paid with the highest cost, their lives, for what they believed was right. But we don’t feel the nostalgia of the good old days like our fathers’ generation simply because we haven’t lived that time and so we don’t have any memories from that time we long for. We are left with the plain facts of that time so our decision of whether it was a good time or not is completely dependent on the events that happened and their comparison.

We share their notions of freedom and independence and more or less still grappling for those same convictions they fought hard for but only in a completely different time under a contrasting circumstances.  But we also inherited their vices of clannism and tribalism. Moreover, we share their strong sense of nationality and natural tendency to resist anything and anyone who tries to interfere with our freedom. On the other hand, despite, those values we hold dear like our forefathers we have to live with the consequences of the decision they made, or shall I say their dreams, a good example would be giving up the independence of our country, Somaliland, hastily only in four days without taking enough time to seriously reflect on the possible repercussion of jumpily making such a major decision in such a short time.

My grandfather’s generation did not only leave us to live the consequences of their decisions but lived those consequences themselves. The nationalist poet Abdillahi Suldan (Timacadde) has best portrayed his disappointment and the sense of marginalization barely after a month of the unification; in August he composed a poem in which he said “Dareen baan ka qabnaayoo, Dugisii baarlamaankiyo, Dekeddii xamar baa leh, Berbera daadku ha qaado.” One year later in 1961 the people from the British Protectorate predominantly voted ‘NO’ for the constitutions referendum, nevertheless, no measures has been taken to address the issue at the time.

These two events and many others can easily show how early the Somali Weyn Dream failed. The failure to add Northern Frontier District (NFD) and Ogadenia to the Somali Republic from Kenya and Ethiopia respectively and the Djibouti’s decision to stay independent and not join the Somali Republic were all the last blows to the Somali Weyn Dream and shattered the high hopes of to the formation of a Somali ethnic state. The symbolic five-pointed star which stood for uniting the five Somalilands was no longer viable representation of neither the present nor the future of the Somali Republic.

The grievances of the people from the North, as they were known then, against the jointly formed Somali nation has been exacerbated by the dictatorial military regime of Siad Barre. Social and economic injustices, inequality before the law, unlawful execution and torture were subjected to the people of Somaliland.  A good example of how mercilessly people were treated is the imprisonment of UFO, a youth organization whose sole goal was community development; when they were taken to court angry masses majority of whom were school children and women held a demonstration only to meet with live bullets from the regime soldiers.

In 1988, at the height of the regime’s war campaign against the people of Somaliland, the government forces bombed Hargeisa city indiscriminately with Russian MIG-21 planes which were ironically taking off from Hargiesa itself. Similar massacres have also happened in the cities of Burco, Berbera and Gebiley and many other places; mass graves are found till today three decades later. The pitiless regime’s war against its own people left more than 50,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands have become refugees in all around the world, and thousands more are either traumatized or left with mental illness.

In 1991 when the freedom fighting forces of SNM successfully liberated and ousted the regime’s forces from the entire Somaliland British Protectorate successive conferences to discuss the future of the country has been held; these conferences were ensured to be all inclusive and so representatives from every clan residing in Somaliland has participated. The delegates has overwhelmingly agreed the reclamation of Somaliland’s lost independence on May 18th 1991 and thus effectively ended the three decades of the failed union.

After 27 years of self-governing Somaliland has made a remarkable recovery. Hargiesa, the city that was bombarded to rubbles is a flourishing cosmopolitan with an estimated 1.5 million inhabitants. A hybrid democratic system has guaranteed successful power transfers of 5 elected presidents. Even though, Somaliland remains unrecognized the world has come to know and its miraculous standing out from the ashes.

The world media has dubbed Somaliland as ‘Africa’s best kept secret’, ‘The miracle in the Horn’, ‘The beacon of hope’ and many other names to depict Somaliland’s improbable success and achieving the impossible of not only recovering so fast but also building a thriving democracy in this unlikely region has also puzzled the world community for many years and still does.

In spite of the unparalleled progress Somaliland has made the question of whether the objectives of the SNM liberators has been achieved or not remains. Also the question of the next stage of the Somaliland dream is very much relevant today and this question, I am sure, is occupying the minds of many of my fellow ‘Made in Somaliland’ mates.

We realize that despite the undeniably massive progress Somaliland has made there’s a lot more that could and should have been done. We look around us and see a resilient country with the potential to go to the skies only if so many things were and are done the right way. We see how clan is a major hurdle and working in the destruction of our high hopes for Somaliland. We see corruption and nepotism being practiced as if it’s just the norm and how that’s slowly failing the country.

We see privatized education to the point that what was supposed to be learning and teaching oriented industry is now nothing more than a profitable business with schools and universities opening like shops and restaurants with minimal inspection and control from the country’s Education Ministry. Similarly, and even more unfortunate, private hospitals are a thriving business with absolute freedom and no inspection. In fact, it’s very common to you receive an SMS advertising a new hospital and/or a ‘foreign’ doctor whom his qualifications are not specified other than the fact that he’s a ‘foreigner’. The tragically long journey just so that she could get a medical service to safely deliver is enough to sum up the medical state of the country.

Furthermore it’s really ironic tragedy that our people have been losing the livestock whose lives depended on and with some people even dying of thirst and hunger as a result of the recurring droughts over the past several years. But when it finally rains in the spring season the floods take people away and drawn causing the deaths of many; and directly go to the seas and in several months it’s highly likely that we start talking about droughts again.

Latest researches show that the unemployment rate is more than 75% with thousands and thousands of university graduates spending their times in tea shops mean while the public-private offices are filled with incompetent employees whose only qualification is the clan they belong to.

These facts and more are main the cause of the voices ringing from all corners of the country calling for change.

For the past two decades Somaliland has prioritized the pursuit of international recognition and whilst this pursuit is without a doubt important and even necessary ; I believe that there must be other priorities on top of which is improving the lives of Somalilanders majority of which live in poverty.

I firmly believe that the Somaliland Dream of becoming a prosperous democratic country is near impossible when a majority number of citizens do not have access to the basic necessities such as water, health and education etc.

The Somaliland dream remains deeply flawed when large groups of the society are marginalized both politically, socially and economically the only reason being outdated cultural beliefs. What good is the dream if all citizens cannot dream it together?

There will be no success in the Somaliland dream when tribalism is the dominating factor within the public service, ranks of the government and in politics; dividing the nation and producing incompetent and inept leadership. How then do we expect the materialization of the rapid development we hope for?

For a long time we focused on the reconstruction of our country but I suppose it’s about time we put improving the lives of our people first. Hence my Somaliland dream is to see the prioritization of improving the lives of the citizens starting with the provision of the basic necessities. I dream about a Somaliland where people are empowered through quality education so that they can contribute the country’s development and lead the nation towards prosperity. I envisage Somaliland where citizens are classified by their qualifications and not the clan they belong to.

Moreover, I dream about a Somaliland where all citizens are equal and special groups do not have rights over the rest unlike the animal farm’s ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others’; Somaliland with economic and social justice. My Somaliland dream is a Somaliland where each citizen can dream as big as he/she wants and all can dream together.

In many ways it appears we are living a completely different world but if you look a little closer you will see that we are fighting very much the same fights and so my Somaliland dream is to continue the fight that my grandfather’s generation has started and my father’s generation has kept fighting; forever aspiring a better tomorrow for my people.

What is your Somaliland dream?

Khadar Mariano

Written by Khadar Mariano


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

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