Somaliland: Hell Hath No Fury


Somal8landsun – The famous quotation from which the title of this piece is drawn is usually listed as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and it comes from a 17th century play penned by William Congreve called “The Mourning Bride”. The full quote is actually “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”

This phrase, in its totality, is extremely apropos for the relationship between the Silanyo government and the people of Somaliland over which it rules with an increasingly brutal iron fist. The Somaliland public swept the Silanyo regime into office with a maive margin in 2010 amid great expectations and even greater promises of what the septuagenarian political insider would deliver in economic advancement and international recognition.

With just over six months remaining of its first term, the Silanyo government finds itself the object of mounting public rage as the euphoria and hope that catapulted it into office has turned into hatred. The Silanyo regime has suffered many policy failures, e.g. it’s much vaunted change in foreign policy to enter into dialogue with Somalia which has produced neither tangible results nor improved relations between the two countries and has only deepened suspicion not only about Mogadishu’s designs against Somaliland, but also the Silanyo government’s true intentions. However, the core factor underlying the gradual and sustained transformation of public adulation into deep antipathy has been the unmitigated arrogance of the regime in dealing with any form of dissent.

The sad fact is that this government, which it must be remembered campaigned on a platform of press freedom which it accused the previous Riyalle administration of muzzling, has arrested more journalists and closed more media outlets, all with no recourse to the courts, than any in Somaliland’s short history. It has become commonplace for government critics to be woken up at dawn by the forcible home invasions of their residences by paramilitary RRU (Rapid Response Unit) of the police in full paramilitary gear, terrorising their families and children. The latest recipient of this “RRU-censorship” was the owner of HCTV (Horn Cable TV), a popular, private TV network, when his home was invaded by the RRU and his family was forcibly evicted.

The reason given for this egregious overreach by the government in using a SWAT force to evict a well-known, local businessman from his home, was that the property originally belonged to the state. Interestingly enough, when HCTV was supportive of the Silanyo regime, the status of the property as publicly owned was not an issue, yet when the network began to air reports about anti-government demonstrations in various regions of the country, the owner of the network was considered such a threat to public safety that the elite anti-terrorist unit was deployed at dawn to evict him and his family.

This culture of violence and impunity has been growing and, even more disturbingly, has begun to take a tribal slant. At the end of September this year, Captain Mohamed Aw-Rabah Yusuf and Lieutenant Jama Mahmud Hadi, the commanding officer and operations officer respectively of Somaliland’s 17th army battalion respectively were killed at their QoriLugud military post in Togdeer region by a soldier under their command. Apparently, the two senior officers had arrested the culprit for illegally selling weapons to local militias and he was incensed at their effrontery in arresting him for selling weapons to his kinsmen and, with the connivance and assistance of other soldiers at the post, he managed to escape detention and murder the two officers before escaping in a 4×4 vehicle that had been prepared for him. The disturbing feature of this tragedy and criminal conspiracy is that the culprit hails from the President’s clan while the two slain officers did not. Further, the fact that the initial response of the security services was slow in seeking to apprehend the culprit while his location in a nearby township was widely known among local people, exacerbated and intensified the damaging tribal slant of the crime.

This high handed and insensitive treatment is an enduring hallmark and feature of the Silanyo administration and even senior officials which have not played ball with the ruling, inner circle of the government have also had to bear the brunt of its fury, e.g. Abdirahman Yusuf Duale “Boobe” (the highly regarded former Minister of Information) who was summarily sacked after replacing two subordinates which had close connections to the Presidency.

The above forms only a small sample of the government’s style of brutal suppression of dissent, arrest, detention and beatings of reporters and suppression of the independent press, unparalleled official corruption within a culture of impunity and blatant nepotism. It is no wonder that public opinion has soured towards the Silanyo regime and there is an unmistakeable groundswell building for a change at the next Presidential elections slated for the summer of 2015. What is remarkable is the reaction of the regime to this public opprobrium; instead of seeking to change its ways and adopt a more thoughtful, caring and humble approach, it has sought to inflame opposition and instigate public disorder.

Somaliland public swept the Silanyo regime into office with a massive margin in 2010

This is so that it can claim that elections cannot be held due to the very disorder that it seeks to instigate, and so request the legislature to approve an extension of its term by a year or two. To this end, it has been dragging its feet with respect to establishing the new Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) which has already secured the portion of required funding from external sources, but not that portion due from the government. Unfortunately, the Somaliland public is very mature politically and it has understood the government’s game. Thus, despite repeated provocations, including heavy handed policing at anti-government demonstrations which have resulted in many civilian deaths with every single such demonstration during the last year resulting in at least one civilian death, the people have steadfastly refused to play the regime’s game and instigate widespread public disorder. Indeed, at one demonstration in Burao earlier this year, people were shouting, “Silanyo, we know what you want and we will not revolt, we brought you to power by our vote and we will dismiss you with the same vote”.

It is unprecedented in my experience for a government to seek to foment violence and widespread public unrest, while the people resist and insist upon political change through peaceful, constitutional means. This is the stuff of the darkest political satire, and yet in Somaliland it is the daily reality. The people have been repulsed by the corruption, nepotism, lack of vision and facile machinations of the Silanyo clique and they are determined to fire them at the next elections. In contrast, the clique is terrified of losing power and they are furious with the people for rejecting them, hence the fury unleashed upon its opponents and critics – perceived or real.

Before closing, we must address a crucial matter for Somaliland’s democratic governance and the accountability of public officials. The commanders of the security services must understand that while government officials are their bosses, the commanders have sworn their oaths to the people. Their actions are governed in the end by the constitution of the country and the laws of the land, and those that are found to be in breach of these laws will be called to account. Shooting unarmed citizens exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate in public is illegal, no matter who issues the order. Brutalising women and children in home invasions for the political opinions of their husbands and fathers is illegal no matter who orders it. We would point out to these commanders, that governments come and go but that the law and the rights of the people are immutable.

We started this piece with an adage, and it seems appropriate to close with another. There is an ancient saying that is often wrongly attributed to Euripides which says, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”. This would seem to apply to the Silanyo administration since, in their efforts to stir up public unrest and so extend their term of office (e.g. the recent failed effort to unseat the Speaker of the Parliament despite the Guurti-mediated agreement a year ago wherein the regime agreed not to interfere in Parliamentary governance matters) they are displaying all the symptoms of political madness. The immovable bulwark of Somaliland’s stability and success as an indigenous democracy is the political maturity of its people. As long as that maturity persists and is nourished by the wisdom of its elders, the hope and vision of its youth and the patience and forbearance of its people, the fury of a regime scorned as well as its mad machinations are doomed to failure.

Ahmed M.I. Egal
24 November 2014