Imagine being asked to bet on the lottery and to choose between Somalia and Somaliland. Best bet is that you’d have a hard choice and mutter-Somaliland, where is that?
Really, you would not be alone as pretty few people would accurately tell you where Somaliland is without a stutter. Except for a Somalian few outsiders are keen to go there. Some say heaven forbid when teased to go and stay there for a while.
Dozens confuse it for troubled Somalia and as one of my adventurous friend would say-one Somalia is enough for me. I would go baloney with two. But things are not as bad in Somaliland as it is a showcase that Somalians do have a dosage of living in peace and security in the Horn of Africa region.
It is precisely not the case of one bad egg as Somaliland for the past 10 years have been showing the other side of Somalians and that it is not all about al-Shabab, insecurity, the thoughts of al-Qaeda and piracy.
The enclave is showing the other side that it could cruise on the electoral process; elect a leader without reckless fanatism and naked Somalia that politics over the border remain pussy-footed. It all seemed like the story of the cross-eyed man and the man whose eyes are squinted.
Why don’t you look where you are going,? the cross-eyed man said to the squinty as they ran headlong on each other. Agreed, the squint-eyed man retorted: why don’t you go where you are looking?
That rather sums up how both countries are looked at. The one with huge problems is recognized while the one living in relative peace and tranquility is diplomatically shunned and treated as a victim of bubonic plague.
But Somaliland has baffled those who want it to take a tumble. It would go into presidential elections in September which in all indications will be peaceful not like the dagger-drawn affairs in Somalia next door.
The Goliath has dwarfed and Somaliland is showing that there is an alternative. It has an army, a national anthem and a flag. Though diplomatically snubbed because the African Union does not want to start a precedence to encourage breakaways, the country has the trappings of a well-run state.
Its progress has naked Somalis which should have been a figure from which Somaliland could have taken the cue but it’s the reverse, observed an ardent Somalian political watcher.
So with all the uncertainties in present day Somalia, how could Somaliland return to a United Somalia? The question makes it difficult to think of one Somalia in the foreseeable future as Somaliland has advanced by leaps and bounds.
The upcoming election however should be seen as another marker that Somaliland will go on as the lone ranger in the Horn of Africa. The election itself is being touted as the next best political advancement for Somalians.
“The world will judge us that we are not all pirates, al-Qaeda and the like,” Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahiri said, an apparent reference to the insecurity in Somalia. Arriving on a data for the upcoming election has not been plain sailing.
It was originally billed to be held in August last year and political scratching in two cities- Sanaage and Sool forced the Guurti, Somaliland’s Upper House to push it on to March this year.
The opposition parties were up in arms against the decision, forcing a compromise to a new date in April. Then it was a backward shift to March and then a two month shift to May.
Never has an election date been juggled around like in Somaliland. You would think but the chord was struck finally by the Upper House for September. By the way things are moving, the election is likely to see President Kahiri back in the saddle as even his contenders freely admit that he had kept the country on an even keel.
Somaliland is not immuned to the devastating global crunch, badly bruised all because many states have avoided the country like a bubonic plague. But it has soldiered on by keeping the budget within its means, ensuring few costly government missions abroad and resisting the attempt to embark on campaigns to get Somaliland recognized by the international community.
“We are making our deeds and achievement speak for us rather than us campaigning to be seen and recognized,” a government loyalist said. The ruling United People’s Democratic Party (UNDP) remains widely popular and keeps increasing its image in the run up to the election.
It has set itself the task of getting Somaliland to be recognized as an independent – a move which may though feel could be linked to a beggar’s dream. The party is trapped by this declaration which runs counter-tidal to the concept to keep states anywhere united rather that fragmented.
Many say the concept of Somaliland emerged as an independent state would be strongly contested by Somalia itself and there wont be any shortlist of backers. For all it takes, Somaliland is located on prime territory which could leave the rest of Somalia looking as parch or desert land. So it is doubtful if a future stable government in Somalia would look the other way on this or work out any compromise.
It is possible that Somalia is apparently showing little interest on the goings-on in Somaliland, allowing its leaders to make hay while warring factions in Somalia would eventually fuse their ranks march into Somaliland to pick up the laurels.
On the other hand, the two main opposition parties lack a vision as to what they want Somaliland to be in the future… whether to reform or go it alone. The Peace, Unity and Development Party (Kulmuye’s) leader Ahmed Mohamed Silanye remains a charismatic politician who believes that the upcoming election is there for the take.
His party’s blueprint spells out a brighter future for Somaliland by the provision of jobs and scale up education. The Kulmiyes said it will give agriculture a top priority and encourage more neighbourly ties with unnamed adjacent countries.
It did not give any indication how it would achieve these goals. The other opposition party, the UCCD (Justice and Development Party) fairs no better.
By Rod Mac-Johnson