“We, Puntlanders, must cooperate or we are lost. Three million people who join in intelligent self-help can never be long ignored or mistreated” adapted from Du Bois, a black American civil rights leader of the NAACP*, late 1800s.
In Puntland’s 11th anniversary, we take the opportunity to renew our pledges of allegiance to our leader, Dr Faroole, and his administration. These are our wishes that have been echoed as we competed to vow our full support to our leaders in their recent trips to the US, the UK and beyond.
There is no doubt that Puntland possesses the moral fibre required to transform its realities, it has the virtues, the spirit, the self believe and the intelligence needed for a rapid progression. Listening and seeing the footsteps of the Faroole administration, which included the best brains in Puntland, some we had encountered in their trip, Ilka Jiir, Minster of Interior- Jimcaale State Minster for Democratisation and Federal Affairs, and Dhalla the Minster for Planning, shows that Puntland may well be in her way to economical, social and political recovery. Soon Puntlanders will find their place in this world, not as imitators but as creators of knew knowledge and understandings as we together advance on disorder. After years of obscurity, we accept that Puntland’s enemy is poverty compounded by ignorance, which is widespread and is not specific to few clans. However, we believe that Puntland has the capabilities to defeat these social ills. Puntland has inherited old survival skills from her ancestors, the few men and women who crossed over to populate the rest of the world and begun the journey of the modern human race. These ancestors bestowed upon Puntland a transcendent destiny which must be accepted; Puntland is here to inspire, to motivate and to awake the sleeping elephant of Africa.
The recent events in Puntland, the cold blooded murder of our Minster, Seefta Banaanka, and the death of our beloved former Police Chief, Juqurafi, however painful they maybe, brought us together to share our national grief. These challenges ground Puntland and are reminders of all that needs to be overcome. They also show that new skills are required. It will be foolish to expect change while Puntlanders fall back into some old habits or old ways that clearly have been demonstrated as destructive in the past. With the change Puntland desires must come, acceptance that some of our habits and old ways must change. Indeed there are many walls to redeem and so many bridges to rebuild. This is not to say that Puntland has not achieved remarkable changes. Far from being the case, it organised and invested heavily in the future through building the foundations for a safer, more prosperous, politically ripe Puntland.
Puntland and Somliland are realities founded due to the disfranchisement with the south. Many refer to former Somalia as a failed state; Somalia has indeed disintegrated, not much is left of the structure and unitary factors that made it a state from the first place. Puntland should accept with realism the unfeasibility of a reincarnation of a Somali state with the fortitude of the 60s due to the disfigurement caused by years of domestic violence and abuse. The marriage has ended; a reunion perhaps will and should be preconditioned. Puntland, therefore, should never apologise for wanting to join a Federal Somalia with devolved powers, whilst maintaining a national identity.
Of course there are agencies that cause a degree of nuisance by remaining aloof to our reconstruction movement. Their actions are antagonistic and aim to frustrate our efforts and to dent our spirit and morale. These are the petty criminals that cause pain such as the killers of our Minster, the selfish pirates, assassins of our faculties and aspirations - the khat sellers, and of course the NGO’s who under the slogan of conflict resolution, plant and nurture seeds of hatred. Agencies such as the ICG, with middle class, middle aged men who live and operate from affluent areas of Nairobi. Some of whom have long lost their sense of realities and with it their professional ethics. They pursue maintaining their standard of living through scavenging on aid to the poorest of people in Africa.
The ICG for instance has printed something they have claimed to be research findings titled “The trouble with Puntland”. This was not as much a trouble with the land as it is a statement of folly and arrogance that intentionally or out of thoughtlessness fuels conflicts not amongst Puntlanders only, but amongst Somalis, neighbours, Africans and other agencies. Their infamous recommendations include the bizarre suggestion that Puntland seeks to employ independent auditors from perhaps as far a place as my country Britain, the implications being that Accounting professionals in Puntland are not trustworthy. They also delusionally propose to suspend Puntland’s constitution, and condescendingly sanction Puntland authorities to yet another clan conference to build consensus around something. Perhaps short sentences such as (you are incapable of ruling yourselves) and (re colonisation is the solution) would have won them more respect from Puntlanders and the environmentalists for being frank and saving on paper. The timing of their report is also to be frowned upon, a time when Puntland was grieving its national loss. It obviously shows more sinister motives than it is taken for. Perhaps it meant to have a knock off effect on Puntlanders’ confidence and self believe. This should not come as a surprise knowing that ICG may hold grudges due to the suspension of their operations in Puntland by the former regime. To make things worst, the Horn of Africa Director of the ICG, went on to bully Puntland in his bizarre interview with Daljir radio. He used phrases such as “want International donors to force Puntland to reform” “We have the mandate” “I am in position to”. The report demonstrated patches of unrelated topics aiming only to discredit Puntland across a spectrum of issues. Much of the work is based on a hindsight interpretations and perceptions and lacks use of any rigorous research method.
Although not intended as such, one cannot help warming up though to the suggestion of a Pan D***** project. Unlike the writers of the ICG report, I believe it is worth examining how a Pan D***** project can join in with the grass root empowerment and the building bloc approaches taking place, blend in with the Pan Somali movement, the Pan East Africa movement, and of course with the Pan Africa movement. These movements complement each other as they all are working towards ensuring socially harmonised, more tolerant, politically and economically healthy Africa that can compete in the current climate of globalised world and labour market.
Puntlanders accept that nuisances are facts of life; we accept at the same time our weaknesses and the genuine grievances by people whom their lives and livelihoods have been distracted by reasons most of the times not of their own making. We accept also that we have been victims of 40 years of political disasters and 18 years of broken hearts. Our pain is real and magnified by the sheer fact that some of the very conditions that caused it still continue. However Puntland rejects being hostage to madness and committed herself to CHANGE, nothing should get her eyes off the ball.
I also take this opportunity to call for our brothers in “Ufeyn” to cease all hostilities and remind them that the age of clannism, and the retired tit for tat approach have ended. No Puntlander should be refused access to any corner of Puntland. Puntland belongs to all of us. I also remind them to not to hold Puntland back and become an obstacle to our collective aspirations. Moreover, I call for the government to nationalise the disputed land, refund whoever has any financial claims on the land in order to defuse this unnecessary conflict. In return the administration must promise to prioritise locals in any future employment opportunities.
In conclusion, I call for all Puntlanders to join the current intelligent self-help movement aiming to reconstruct our lives in order to reclaim our lost dignity and rightful place in this world. Puntland has no other choice.
By Warsan Cismaan Saalax