Somaliland: Hargeisa, a Divided Capital City


By: Jamal Madar

Somalilandsun: In Somaliland, we appear to have a government. It looks like a government, often talks like a government, and sometimes behaves like a government. But you can’t really understand the modus operandi of Silanyo’s government until you scratch beneath the surface and reveal that it is not actually a government but a small clique of utterly unscrupulous individuals pulling the strings everywhere in Somaliland.

This clique would go extra ordinary lengths not only to flout the laws of the land but also to wallow in the blood of innocents, if it threatened their best interests as in the case of the massacre that took place at Ahmed Dhagah and further afield.

Hardly anyone would disagree that the recent local council elections held in the country on 28 November 2012 split the country right down the middle. The nation is now more divided than ever before. And these divisions are more broader and have far deeper roots than one might think especially in the capital city, Hargeisa, where there is brinkmanship between supporters of Haksoor political association and the beleaguered government of Ahmed Silanyo.

In Zeila, there is bad blood between the Vice President’s clan and the indigenous ESSA people over the “manipulated results of the Somaliland local council election” which led to ESSA not being able to win enough councilors in order to propel one of their clan members into the mayor’s office in the ancient town of Zeila. The Vice President was accused to have directly interfered in the electoral process to tip the scales in favour of his clan. The Vice President did not deny this. As a result, the ESSA categorically rejected the outcome of the local elections. At least one person was killed and dozen others were injured over the results of the local election dispute. Attempts by the government to reconcile the two sides ended with dismal failure, prompting the minister of interior Mohamed Nur Arale to threaten the ESSA by saying, “We will not be at the mercy of any party as far as the peace and security is concerned”. The minister has been roundly criticized for stooping to a level of such immaturity and contempt.

For their part, the Gadabursi accuse the government of pandering to the demands of ESSA and trying to reverse the outcome of an election it claims to be fair and free.

The same “cooked” election results led to the complete rupture of relations between the government and Arab supporters of HAKSOOR in Ahmed Dhagah district. The Dhulbahante and Warsangeli are equally up in arms that the majority of their electorate has been deliberately disenfranchised, making it virtually impossible for so many to exercise their fundamental rights to discharge their civic duties. The blame for this loss of fundamental rights has been placed squarely at the feet of the chairman of National Electoral Commission, Essa Mohamed Jama by non other than the president’s special advisor on the eastern front, Fuad Aden Adde.

Needless to say, the government lost parts of its capital city after it alienated Arab as a result of the fraudulent election. Hargeisa is no longer a contiguous city as it used to be before 28 November 2012. The South West bank territory of Hargeisa remains a no-go area for all government functionaries including security forces. It remains outside the jurisdiction of the central government following the massacre committed by Silanyo’s security forces at Ahmed Dhagah district on 6th December 2012 in which three people lost their lives and scores of others were injured- some of them seriously. The ages of slain children ranged from 13-16.

It is precisely this state terrorism perpetrated by Silanyo’s government against its own citizens that led Ahmed Dhagah to become a renegade territory within the capital city of Hargeisa- a stone’s throw away from Silanyo’s seat of power.

Today, Ahmed Dhagah virtually remains a separate enclave within Hargeisa. Tax collection is a thing of the past, people buy plot of lands in droves and build their homes without planning permissions and without the hassle of much of the red tape and/or bribery that are usually associated with such an endeavour. Police stations and government offices are either empty or are manned by familiar faces friendly with the roaming local boys.

It still remains off-limits for government officials. Authorities either sneak in under the cover of darkness or stay out of the area completely depending on how pressing their needs are. Yet, surprisingly as it may sound, there are no reported crimes or anarchy whatsoever which is why so many people erroneously think that it is business as usual for Hargeisa- almost two months after the local election on 26 November 2012 when, in fact, that is not the case.

So angry are Arab young men in Ahmed Dhagah that every vehicle with identifiable government plate number that passes through Ahmed Dhagah or its environs is either impounded or are pelted with hail of stones if it fails to stop.

A group of henna-dyed elders who went out of their way to mend fences with the government was uncharacteristically castigated by fiery young clerics who believe that the elders had gone beyond the limits of the clan-family’s tolerance.

Spewing out their hatred and anger in every direction, Ahmed Dhagah women came out in force to have their daggers drawn with the government on Tuesday, 1st January 2013. Wearing red bands symbolizing the blood of the murdered protesters in Ahmed Dhagah, the women expressed their disgust at Silanyo’s government and its handling of what everyone now agrees to be a “plainly fraudulent election” as put it by the leaders of the two of the three parties that qualified for national party status. The ruling party, KULMIYE, was the exception, of course.

As if the rest of the Somaliland people are not aware of the brutal murders that took place in Ahmed Dhagah, the women took no prisoners as they spoke uncontrollably in front of rolling cameras, condemning the two houses of parliament for their collusion and connivance with the government.

As if that was not enough, the women and young men vowed to commit themselves not to allow the ministry of sports to hold the yearly Regional Football Tournament in Hargeisa’s only Stadium which is situated in Ahmed Dhagah district. Now, the tournament has been postponed to June because the government could not guarantee the security of the teams and spectators.

Sadly, what was once a warm relationship between Silanyo and the people of Ahmed Dhagah has unnecessarily turned into a deadly confrontation- a confrontation that seems to be steadily escalating to the point where lasting harm might be done to the country.

Certainly, the government is the guilty party here which is why the government prefers to remain low profile while its already tarnished reputation takes a merciless beating in Ahmed Dhagah.

The government and National Election Commission (NEC) collectively failed to answer until now why out of the so many electoral districts in Marodi Jeh province the ballot boxes from electoral district of Ahmed Dhagah [the stronghold of HAKSOOR] went missing? No one would explain or answer this question.

HAKSOOR’s formal ballot papers that have been correctly marked by voters to show their preferred candidates have been dumped and burned in the dry river bed of Hargeisa. It was an obvious criminal offence and an investigation should have been immediately launched but the government reportedly advised the NEC officials to ignore HAKSOOR’s complaint.

When supporters of HAKSOOR in Ahmed Dhagah began to protest against these injustices the minister of interior has deployed an-anti terrorist police unit to quell the protest by using live ammunition against the peaceful demonstrators. At least three people have been killed including two teenagers aged 13 and 14. Scores of others have been injured-some of them seriously. No one has taken responsibility for these cold blooded murders and no investigation have been launched whatsoever until now.

HAKSOOR officials took formally their complaints to the relevant chief justices of the district and provincial courts of the country but the justices were clearly instructed by the presidential palace not to entertain any complaints from HAKSOOR.

Hersi Haji Ali, the minister of the presidency, who is widely rumoured to govern the country, went to visit Edna Aden’s Hospital on 16th December 2012. Soon he found himself surrounded by nearly 300 menacing young men wielding machetes, sticks and stones. For several hours, he found himself barricaded in the Hospital only to be bundled out of the back door stealthily by the founder of the hospital and former foreign minister, Edna Adan. The president’s motorcade was greeted with the sole of shoes which are considered the ultimate insult in Somali culture.

Until now, the clique that runs the government remains in a dangerous state of denial. They acts as if nothing has happened, refusing to acknowledge that these events even took place while Haksoor supporters lodged a complaint against president Silanyo in London for unlawful killing of peaceful demonstrators- mostly school children.

This ostrich like behaviour is not a legitimate option though and represents a gross dereliction of duty. We can’t keep pretending everything is fine when it’s not. The Somaliland nation is bitterly divided at the worst possible time and a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Jamal Madar

London, United Kingdom