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| Friday, November 03, 2000 - 06:12 am |
Somalia has almost endured a decade of civil war and non-centralised government, there has been lots of death, destruction and displacement of people. While the mine detonated in 1991, the seeds of that destruction were sown long before that final bang. There were numerous explosions, preceding the big bang, which effected some sections of Somali society. While it also appears from the surface that Somalis are at loggerheads at every issue be it political or social, is it the case I wonder, that there is little or nothing to cherish as far as progress towards peace making is concerned? Are we confident enough to conclude that we disagree on more issues than we agree on?
Mapping out our disagreements, one might be surprised to find out that we actually agree on more things than we disagree. Just doing that delineation, one may be permitted to ask fundamental questions such as, Are we economically at war? It is my personal view that we are not. We see goods and services sweeping all across Somalia beyond tribal boundaries. Regardless of the methods used while delivering those goods and services in Somalia, such as employing armed securities etc, one will appreciate the clear intent between the tribes to do business and entrust on each other with commodities as serious as money. A perfect example is the money transfer services (Xawaalad) which operates everywhere across tribal boundaries. Of course we could have done better, and it is possible that some obscure businessmen might even be willing to do everything they can to maintain the present status quo. Nevertheless what we can judge from the over all situation is the existence of commercial peace between Somali tribes.
Are we socially at war? Once again I am of the view that we are not. We can observe the presence of individuals or significant groups from every tribe in almost every big city in Somalia. A man, who runs his business in Bosaso City, has recently told me that Bosaso City has transcended beyond tribal boundaries. He also told me that every tribe in Somalia can be found in Bosaso doing business, working or residing in Bosaso with equal rights and aspirations as any one who is originally from that area. While I heard the same stories from some friends that were from Puntland area, the admission of this man, who was not from Puntland area, was believed with much more authority. We also observe the cross tribal marriages, though not with the same intensity, still continuing across Somali tribes, this is a strong indication that there is no all out social war between Somali tribes.
Are we politically at war? Yes, in some areas of the country but not all over, in fact there is peace and stable governance structure in Puntland, Somaliland, Hiran, Bay and Bakol, and many others on town and city level. What is left as far as I can gather is Mogadishu and Kismayo and the areas between them. One can not also disown the continuing will among the tribes to politically dominate or get their fair share of influence depending on where you are standing on each other's interpretation.
Ironically, from the ashes of the civil war, Somalis are discovering self-governance and organically cherishing the meaning of a nation without any central government or a state. One might not dispute that one of the greatest advances, if not the sole, the civil war had brought to Somalia was the spirit of regionalism. People have been forced to seek refuge in their forefathers' homeland out from Mogadishu and from big southern cities in which much of Somali's urban population dwelled. Of course there was the reverse course as well, people pouring into Mogadishu and big southern cities from rural areas. This movement brought within the people the sense of belonging in their regions and the believe that live is possible in everybody's town and territory. This internal migration might prove to be the greatest social engineering that has ever occurred in Somalia in recent years.
Towns and cities that have been marginalised by Siyad Bare's rule and abandoned by preceding governments have seen the breath of live returning to it. It is been reported that Somalia is even much advanced than its neighbouring African countries, including Djibouti, in the field of telecommunications, since Somalia has one of the cheapest international calls in Africa and much of the third world. In Somalia today parents and patients pay teachers and doctors, and as such there is the emergence of large network of health clinics across Somalia as well as private schools. People, despite their low means, can access some healthcare in their towns. It is not the intention to suggest that all people have the access to the healthcare they need, that is not even the case with much advanced countries like US, but the access to healthcare in those areas today is much higher than when Siyad Barre presided over the most inefficient government we have ever known. This has been a contrast to one of my early memories I still remember from Somalia. When I was young I remember a distant relative of ours coming from Galkacyo travelling about 700 km to Mogadishu in order to be x-rayed as there wasn't any x-ray machine in Galkacyo at that time. Despite what has happened in Somalia for the last decade, that relative of mine can today get X-rayed, ECGed, Ultrasounded/scanned, endoscopated, blood tested, operated all in Galkacyo and at the comfort of his home.
With urban people returning to their towns and old cities we have also seen governance structures being established in much wider areas where even Somali governments could not have reached earlier. I happen to believe that one of Africa's major problem to be the lack of strong governance institutions in much wider areas. It seems that the plague have covered much of Africa that if you stepped out of the capital you hardly see the state prevailing in those areas. In effect what has happened in Somalia in recent years could be described as much of the foundation work already done for any future central Somali government. What they have to do is to just strengthen the local institutions that have been established at grass roots level. However this is not an attempt to declare that every thing is hunky-dory in Somalia but just to remind everybody who is trying to paint Somalia with dark gloomy picture to have the decency and virtue to admit, tell and illuminate the other side of the story.
At the back of all these setting, what I can not understand is why Somalia is portrayed as hopeless and hapless in every sense and meaning of the word. This believe is stretched beyond any proportion that some politicians in neighbouring countries see this as an opportunity to excel in integrity test and make history in their own right, assuming that all other interests are non existent. Somalis themselves believe that we have reached a point where to take any muddle which is put up in exile is much better than what we have right now. We are also being given ultimatums and deadlines that this ongoing conference in Djibouti is the last hope for Somalia. Well, who sets the deadline for us? As far as I can gather we have rightly earned our sovereignty and nobody, and I mean nobody is going to take that away from us. You tend to notice that the biggest justification you hear in defence of this ongoing conference in Djibouti is such assertions like " we just need to get anything, because right now we have nothing" While I can understand such affirmations coming from the people of Mogadishu or Kismayo or the areas between them, what I can not understand is the attempt to paint all Somalia with the same oil and brush in order to botch them up in the same gloomy bigger picture. I am afraid, despite my lack of comprehension, that attempt has so far been very successful.
| Friday, November 03, 2000 - 08:40 am |
The north-eastern area of Somalia has declared itself autonomous as the Puntland regional state government, and has been at pains recently to establish that it is not trying to secede.
This has brought it into some conflict with the openly secessionist "Republic of Somaliland" to the west, with its capital at the port of Hargeisa.
The main problem is that both territories claim control over the regions of Sool and Sanaag.
The dispute reached a head before Christmas when Somaliland and Puntland troops clashed in Las Anod, the main town of Sool region, which had previously been spared most of the chaos of the civil war that has disrupted the country since 1991.
Since that clash, Puntland has tried to distance itself from the breakaway Somaliland Government and to establish its credentials as an autonomous, responsible administration within Somalia.
The Xog-Ogaal newspaper of Mogadishu reported that Puntland had banned its officials from travelling to Somaliland after an incident in which the secessionist authorities had expelled a group of Puntland teachers from a conference in Hargeisa.
The statement from the Puntland government of Abdullahi Yusuf emphasised the administration's loyalty to the Somali Republic, which it accused Somaliland President Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal of having destroyed.
For good measure, Puntland accused European organisations and the UN of giving succour to the secessionist government, and thereby "encouraging the dismemberment of Somalia".
The Qaran newspaper of Mogadishu reported that Puntland, having failed to expel Somaliland troops from the disputed areas by force, had recourse to more subtle means.
Somaliland has yet to react, but Xog-Ogaal says both sides have been accompanying their war of words with a strengthening of security measures on their common border.
The press concludes that intemperate language and the piling up of hardware make another Las Anod incident possible.