Somaliland: Greater Somalia is a dream never Realized


Reporter Mahmoud A Walaleye interviewing Mary Harper inside a Somali Agal in HargeisaThis dream has always been a problem due to a perceived threat by Ethiopia, Kenya as well as Djibouti-Mary Harper

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The international community perceives anything with the tag Somalia as relating to Pirates instability and Al-Qaeda linked terrorism which is a very big problem for areas like Somaliland

This was said by Mary Harper a BBC Journalist during an exclusive interview with the Reporter Mahmoud Walaleye of Somalilandsun and Hornnewspaper immediately upon the conclusion of the Hargeisa international book fair where she presented her internationally acclaimed book, Getting Somalia wrong?

The African issues specialists also informed that the international community remains ignorant about the jewel that is Somaliland due to journalist failure investigate facts thus unearth the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful thus report accurately on all

Below are the verbatim excerpts of the interview.

Q. During the span of your profession have you been interviewed?

A. The first time I was interviewed was in Liberia in the 80’s just after the country’s civil war by very brave journalists from a local radio station.

Most of the time I have been doing the interviewing but since I wrote my book, Getting Somalia wrong? I have been interviewed many times by both Somali and international journalist. With the increasing number of interviews I am now most of the time sitting on the other side of the microphone which is a new experience for me.

Q. Have you ever met and interviewed any of Somaliland leaders, if yes, how can you describe their leadership?

A. I have met and interviewed all Somaliland’s president except Dahir Rayale Kahin.

The first one I met and interviewed was Abdirahman Tuur in Mogadishu after he had been in-charge in this country.

My most memorable interview was in 1994 with the late president Ibrahim Egal, an incredible and great risk taker, whose risk with Somaliland paid off handsomely. He was an amazing character who was never afraid of saying exactly what he thought. I will never forget the great man especially after an interview in which he told the journalist, how is Mary Harper? Is she still afraid?

He said to the interviewer, Mary Harper was me in the presidency during the civil disturbances in 1994 and every time there were sounds of gunfire she kept looking at the wall as if there was a snake moving up and down.

All journalists always laugh at me when they remember that interview.

I have met current president Silanyo several times mostly in the UK; he is an astute and appropriate leader for the country during this phase of its transition.

Q. Hasn’t international community realized as you said, “Another factor that works against Somalia’s viability as a stable nation-state is the fact that its ethnic, linguistic and cultural coherence extends far beyond its territorial boundaries.” And Somaliland has legitimacy to seek greater Somalia, when their self govern resisted unification?

A. There are a lot of paradoxes in the Somalia equation, major being the factor that distinct identity of Somalis be they Ethiopians, Kenyans etc. everybody in the world recognizes them as Somalis due to shared language, religion, physical features, culture etc.

The notion of a greater Somalia has always been a dream that has never been realized. This dream has always been a problem due to a perceived threat by Ethiopia, Kenya as well as Djibouti.

The threat perceived by these countries emanate from the fact that the three nations believe that the realization of a greater Somalia will ultimately include some parts of their land and for Djibouti the entire nation.

Q. In a 24 June Somaliland president Ahmed (Silanyo) appealed for help in responding to the drought that affected up to 20,000 households, we didn’t seen any media outside Somaliland make known except IRIN, do they need prefer killing and bombings, to cover?

A. The BBC covered the issue and made it headlines especially when Somalilanders contributed towards their drought stricken brothers in the south, an action that we at the BBC found to be very noble thus front page coverage.

On the other hand the international community perceives anything with the tag Somalia as relating to Pirates instability and Al-Qaeda linked terrorism which is a very big problem for areas like Somaliland.

For example we have just concluded the Hargeisa international Book fair where culture ruled with writers, poets and other artists both international and local converging.

The book fair attracted penguin books, Great Russian writer as well as visitor all the way from Brazil. I also launched my book here, the most important launch of this book because it was the first time for me to do so in Somali territory. I have done the launch in Bristol, London, Nairobi but thus here in Hargeisa means much more to me.

The media is fixated on the dark side of Somalia while negating the positive thus a need for a big rethink as the most important element of being a journalist is to report fairly and accurately. So the whole issue of Somalia being depicted as horrible and dangerous is a lie and I think journalists need to work harder to see the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful and report on all.

Q. How do you perceive the country’s media in respect of their ethics, and working environment?

A. Somaliland media is interesting, you have several newspapers some better than others, some really good.

At the same time the broadcast media is quite restricted here with only one radio station although the government is quite clever because it gets full control.

On the other hand journalists in Somaliland are also restricted in their work with frequent arrests for one reason or another thus the media environment is a bit complicated.