Somaliland: Safeguarding the Brotherhood between Mogadishu & Hargeisa


Somalilandsun – If one thing can best describe the relationship between Mogadishu and Hargeisa, it is without a doubt the stormy surface of the ocean and its peaceful depth. In other words, the relationship between the two politically is like the stormy surface of the ocean, whilst their sense of brotherhood is like the depth of a peaceful ocean.

There are many examples that show the brotherhood between the two is still intact. For example, the intermarriage between both communities is still on and business partnerships between the two are still existent and growing. However, the political storm is as delicate as separating conjoined twins and the media, self-seeking politicians as well as educators at home and school are negatively fuelling the issue. We really need to be in touch with our inner true Somali self of brotherhood that we remained exile to it for many years and safeguard it even if we fail to come under one banner. We also need to revisit the initial union settlement and trace how the dysfunctional distrust began and escalated as Somalis say “Taladii Xumaata iyo gudniinkii xumaadaba dib ayaa loogu noqdaa”.

There is no doubt that Mogadishu had ill-treated Hargeisa and it takes a lot to make them willing to work with Mogadishu. But the ill-treatment has touched the whole Somali population and the vicious cycle of miss-treatment is still continuing and this led the conflict to be a one-way street with no street going the other way. It is surprisingly easy to go down that street, but it is often very hard to get back. The biggest distortion occurred when those who liberated themselves from oppression became oppressors themselves (yesterdays oppressed have become today’s oppressors). The only way to short circuit this cycle of hatred, violence and negativity within our broken society is justice prior to forgiveness, since without justice the embers of conflict may well at some point in time flame again. For social stability, justice is at least as important as forgiveness. This justice is achievable via Qudhac Tree Based Approach and this is what worked for many African countries that adopted their own style or approach.

For example, Rwanda at the beginning opted for remembering the past through trials (International Justice), but became disillusioned with the process. They then decided to revive their indigenous form of conflict resolution known as (Gacaca). There were a lot of positive outcomes and many Rwandans argue that it was the superior method for getting at the truth, reintegrating the perpetrator, encouraging apology and forgiveness, and promoting reconciliation in the country. South Africa opted for remembering the past through a truth commission, whereas Mozambique’s model was based on forgetting the past, not remembering it “The less we dwell on the past, the more likely reconciliation will be”. The long term effect of these approaches remains to be seen. It is also important to note that real life situations in which the issue of forgiveness arises aren’t much like that idealised rosy picture. Refusal to forgive results from sometimes far more complex and more morally significant and these shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Way Forward

For a trust to re-emerge between Mogadishu and Hargeisa requires a collective effort from both sides. Below is a summary of advice and recommendations on how we can collectively contribute to this cause:

1. Media:

The media plays important role in informing the public and without it we would know little about what is happening in Somalia. The key issue is when such a role is used to inflame rather than inform perpetuates negativity exacerbating the conflict between the communities. The problem with negativity is that it consumes individuals especially our youth which are our greatest asset and gives emptiness in return. Our youth are consuming media that reinforces their negative evaluation of the conflict, thereby contributing to their fatalistic and cynical attitude to North and South Somali conflict. The Somali media must live up to the importance of their role in our society (Liberty means responsibility). This is not to support censorship but to encourage media to balance freedom of expression with wider moral and social responsibilities. There are many things our media can do such as adopting “peace journalism” where journalists use the power of the media to help resolve conflict rather than report it from a distance.

2. Politicians:

Our politicians should resist the temptation to use hyper nationalist as well secessionist in a more opportunistic way to propel, deflect blame from their own shortcoming and keep them in power. They may pay off on the short term, but the carnage of the last century suggests that they produce view, if any, lasting winners. The problem is that our politicians are allowing their people to be sacrificed so that they could protect their own interest. This is not good leadership as real leaders sacrifice their comforts and the tangible results so that their people feel safe and sense of belonging. For example, the negative political statements made by our politicians from both regions created siege mentality among the public. Siege beliefs can have a serious effect on the attitudes and behaviours of the societies that hold them. Therefore, our politicians and the people of both regions need to take time to understand and debate this difficult and complex issue in an atmosphere which strives for the type of understanding that leads to, if not agreement, then at least a productive and workable compromise. The same atmosphere our ancestors reconciled their conflict under the Qurac (Acacia) tree.

3. Business Community:

The strength of the relationship between Mogadishu and Hargeisa lies in their trade interdependence and interconnectedness. By amplifying the trade relationship will eventually lead to re-emergence of trust between the two regions. Trade is one of the best grassroots activities of ordinary citizens trying to get along with one another and all this interaction yields not just the mutual gain associated with business relationships; it also creates personal relationships and mutual understanding. Pre and post-civil war trade relations between the two regions remains strong and the generation that were born after the civil war have not witnessed the major role the tradesmen and women from Hargeisa played in Mogadishu market.

For example, Jirdeh Hussein was one of the richest tradesmen in Mogadishu and many of his real estate assets remains intact. Below is the post-civil war photo of one of his well-known modern buildings in Mogadishu “Savoy Centre” and still remains strong. Some politicians might argue that he is a trader who wrongly put all his eggs in one basket, but real estate experts argue these buildings in Mogadishu are the best investments he has ever made even with Mogadishu’s current instability. That is an example of the politicians from both regions providing background music, which at times can get quite loud, but the important business gets done between the thousands of ordinary citizens from both regions that interact and transact with one another.

4. .Educators at Home and School

Children receive a great deal of this conflict related knowledge from their parents, elders, social surroundings and educational institutions. They key problem starts when these groups pass the heritage of enmities arising from historical traumatic events. This perpetuates stereotypes from one generation to the next, entrenching the conflict for many years to come. Negativity can only feed negativity and it is addictive, once we identified with it, we don’t want to let it go. This however does not mean that history should be ignored. The atrocities did occur and must be acknowledged. But it can be acknowledged as a grave mistake that is now recognized as a mistake, rather than painted as “typical” or “acceptable” behaviour.

Our educational system (teachers, schools, textbooks) needs to try to paint a fair, accurate and unprejudiced picture of the conflict. Through stories, discussions, and exercises, teachers can help students (of all ages and levels) understand the complexity of the conflicts that surround them, and develop appropriate responses to the current conflicts in their homes and communities, and nation. If we want to provide decent, fulfilling lives for our children and our children’s children, we need to get the Alif of their nurturing right and teach them not to allow negativity consume their lives, so that they will not struggle with the Albaqarah (Having a Meaningful life).

Finally one key advice to all Somalis is to avoid using toxic generalisation. For example if the person that committed the atrocity is from tribe X, does not mean the entire tribe X have committed the crime. We need to individualise the blame as individualising blame leads to an understanding of personal accountability and serves to not stereotype all tribe X as evil monsters. There is however a positive and accurate generalisation that enables us to interact effectively, have some idea of what people are likely to be like, which behaviours will be considered acceptable, and which not. They allow us to put people into a category, according to the group they belong to, and make inferences about how they will behave based on that grouping. There will still be differences between individuals from one culture, and with the same individual in different situations as Somalis say (Tol Waa Hal La Qalay).

The only problem is when the stereotype or generalisation is inaccurate, negative and hostile. For example, there are many people who create inaccurate and hostile quotes and poems and wrongly attribute to Farah Gololey and other well-known individuals such as Sayed Mohamed Abdulle Hassan to give their quote or poem credibility. This is morally a grave sin and it may seem trivial to the person, but in the eyes of Allah, it is one of the greatest sin. Similarly, those of us who comment on social media in a hostile manner, we need to be careful on what we write; it is not as trivial as you think. These comments will be read by our children and the children of their children and many will inject themselves into the narratives of those comments we made, leading to the embers of conflict to flame again. “Carrab Cunsur Waa Laga Dhowraa”.

Bazi Bussuri Sheikh