Few weeks later, following the Presidential election of June 26, 2010, a Western Scholar asked me this question: “is Somaliland democracy sustainable?”, and added …what you have done was an amazing achievement, but what is next?This question does, in fact, reflect not a simple observation, but profound knowledge about the rough road the transition to democracy in Africa is traversing, with a particular attention to the Somaliland’s spectacular democratic election performance. These anxieties, which express highly alert intellectual concerns, are both comprehensible and timely. The presidential election of 26 June 2010, its outcome and the manner in which the transition of power was conducted, had all exceeded the boundaries of expectations of observers at home and abroad. And thus were considered as mystic accomplishment.
It is particularly so, because these events had taken place in one of the least developed part of Africa, in terms of economic and social indicators, where economic, social and technological bases for such democratic presentations are yet to be in place. In a country where social classes are not fully crystallized and as a result Interest Groups are not yet formed on class bases, and where clan awareness and allegiance rises above all other categories of human consciousness.
All these facts on the ground have driven analytical brains to openly raise questions regarding the future prospect and destiny of the Somaliland democracy, in other words, where Somaliland is going to move from here. “This is a matter that requires attention and deserves an objective reading and responsible answers”, said the above mentioned Scholar. As one of those Somalilanders, who have been dealing with the theoretical aspect of these issues, for many years now, this question has provoked the core senses of my consciousness, and I have decided not to keep silent amides of a severe battle of ideas about the very identity of Somaliland and the fate of the democratic experiment of the country. An attempt to reconsider the issue I had already dealt with to a certain degree of deliberation has become unavoidable. As points of entry, the following issues have drawn my attention more than others:
1- Somaliland’s identity;
2- The concrete tasks and challenges ahead;
3- And how best they can be managed in order to make the achievement realized so far sustainable and endurable?
As an example and not as comparison, because of the great differences in space and time, the American National Identity is based on the Declaration of Independence adopted in July 4, 1776, which articulately expressed the essence of the historical legitimacy of their action, and the reasons behind their secession from Great Britain, which states… “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation-1”.
It is, therefore, obvious that the American history has been made in the way its people had, from that day onwards, been separately acting, and so did all nations on earth. Now that Somaliland had taken a similar action on the same direction in 1991, then what is about the Somaliland identity? To my understanding, Somaliland has also a strong point with reference to the right given by the UN Charter in relation to self-determination, which states: “…All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development-2”.
However, my intent here is to draw the attention of the readers to the conflict between values and politics in the so called ‘civilized world’ by virtue of which Somaliland has, hitherto, been deprived the right to self-determination. A thorough discussion on this subject is not my intention now, but rather to sort out the ways and means to persist the course of action through which these achievements were made possible.
Proceeding from the fact that the main thing in the history of nations is not to attain recognition from other nations only, but primarily to make history of their own first, and for this end, realization of a definite national character is an indispensable prerequisite for further achievements. No less importance is the determination to turn the task of ‘making of a Nation’ realistic and achievable. In this regard, the quest for Somaliland identity has already been attained and need not to be redefined. This identity is neither based on secession nor separation from Somalia according to the opponent’s view points, nor on the remarkable achievements in peace building and democratization only as Somalilanders perceived and normally been narrated. But, in addition to these achievements, the unique course of action maintained deserved to be highlighted.
Moreover, today’s question is why and how these achievements had been promising. Raising such a question is, perhaps, more important and valuable than set of practical achievements obtained in a dark corner where glow of light of vision is lacking, this was the law of life in any given time of the modern history. Here too, the central part of what is needed most is the persistency of the traditional approaches concerning to the dealing with the complicated problems that the post independence Africa had not been properly upheld. But tiny and poor Somaliland had been creative and successful. This is thanks to, not what some pseudo-experts have considered as “Civic Responsibility”-3 only, but thanks to the traditional mechanism of conflict resolution for peace and state building processes. Persistence of the same track to development requires further dedication and more scientific understanding in order to handle the current and potential sources of conflicts.
Such an understanding would pave the way to appropriate assessment of the enormity and intensity of these challenges, and would spur the rationale and clarity. Multidimensional, socio-economical, political and environmentally induced conflicting interests and concerns do exist in our society as well as in other similar developing societies. And although Somaliland was able to hold most of these conflicts within a certain sensible limits of non-violent status, the fact is that they will remain a century long fronts of conflict as long as the underdevelopment remains the dominant reality. And therefore, will require self-motivation, self-reliance strategy based on principled commitment in reconciliation and forgiveness policy.
This course of action is the only way to maintaining Somaliland’s national identity and turn the progress made deep-rooted and irreversible. Areas of current and potential Conflicts:I-Contentions among the Political Elite over the national cake: Politicized contentions among different sections of the urban elite, where politicians from various clan affiliations and regions are in ferocious struggle against each other over power and resources (the national cake), this is a general phenomenon everywhere in Africa. The entire violent conflicts experienced in this continent in the post-independence period, were directly related to irrational manner in which the competition within the urban elite over power-resource sharing issue had been conducted.
The complex kinship relations constitute the bases of the socio-political and cultural character, where the traditional clan system has been politicized and used by the urban elite, who by making use of the clan solidarity sentiments are pushing the nomadic population to be part of the political conflict. In the Somali context the following two extremist tendencies within the political elite have been identified as the most intolerant, single-minded, and absolutist political trends:-
1) Those who believe in clanism as their sole world outlook and practically act as central point of departure to their political career (Isaqism, Hatrism, and Samroonism etc.);
2) Politicized religious movements of different types and groupings that are tending to employ religion as a political ideology and as their staircase to power and resource. Unlike non-politicized conflict situations in the countryside, where societal setup of conflict resolution based on customary law, constitute the culture of peace deeply rooted in the pastoral and the Agro-pastoral societies, the politically motivated conflicts in the urban areas lack such a conventional wisdom.
II-Resource based inter-clan conflicts: One level of these conflicts lie within different clans and sub-clan entities on various fields of life, where neighboring clan communities are bond to inter into competition over water, land, and other shrinking resources. Moreover, the urbanization process made inter-clan relations increasingly more complex, to the extent that power sharing, on equal basis, became pressing demands by the clans. The reason is due to an excessive centralization of resources, in one hand and because of the steadily rising politicized clan awareness on the other hand. This has made the contentions of that kind increasingly acquire a clan character. Suffice it to mention that lack of disparity and equity in power sharing has been the root cause of the most of the civil strives experienced in Africa.
In the Somali context, however, non politicized clan conflicts have been relatively simple and therefore resolvable through traditional mechanism; of the Delegation (Ergo) Council of Elders (Guurti), Conference (Shir) compensation (Mag-dhaw), Oath (Dhaar), Consensus ( Go’aan-wadareed) etc. On these bases the Somali customary law and Islamic Share’a have worked for amicable solutions of conflicts. Regrettably, however, the entire setting of the mode of life and corresponding value systems, where knowledgeable elders in the Somali customary law (Garr-yaqaan) used to operate, are in a constant change and being overshadowed by new values, that represent neither the tradition nor urbanized enough , but transitional in nature.
And as a result, the wise-men in the field of conflict resolution are decreasing in number and increasingly lose traditional wisdom. Urban versus rural interests: Unequal economic, social and political relations between the urban elite and that of the rural population (pastoralists and agro-pastoralists) were firmly established in such way that rural population, the producers of the maximum values acquired by the livestock commercial class as profit, who, together with their Arab petro-Dollar partners, determine the prices and the exchange value in the livestock market and related import-export trade. On the other hand, the rural populations pay taxes to the state with, almost, short of roads, meaningful medical and education services in return.
Hence, the unequal terms of trade between the rural population and the urban centers encompass political, cultural, and psychological dependence of the rural on the urban centers, where the rural population have been deprived of the right of participation in the decision–making process. Needless to mention here, is the fact that the rural population are given attention only during election periods to use them as power basis for the urban state elite.
III-The rights of Women: In our very family home range, as well as in the society level, there exists an unjust, unfair and unwarranted practice related to the acquired rights and roles between men and women. The rights of women on equal access to the resources: property relations, education, employment, marriage, participation in the decision-making processes, are fundamental issues under discussion worldwide. In the oriental and African societies, and in ours in particular, where these rights are not yet been gained and not even been raised up to the national agenda level for serious discussion, and where conventional social division of labor made the role of women in the household relations as well as that of the society subordinated to men, and where progress towards emancipation of women had been constrained, not only by outdated concepts and value systems, but also constrained by civil wars, the consequences of which women and other vulnerable groups became its immediate victims.
As a result women found themselves obliged to carry out new additional tasks and unbearable responsibilities in earning family life-subsistence, in the household economy in general, as well as small scale businesses and local NGOs.Unfortunately, this fact does not match with their share in the decision-making institutions, at the regional and national levels, where women are almost absent from the three ruling national councils. Emancipation of women and other oppressed groups within the society is conceived as, not only, as moral obligation, but as a matter of historical choice between backwardness, stagnation in one side, and progress and prosperity on the side other.Faduma Babeker mohamoud, a Sudanese scholar has said..“in the oriental and African societies emancipation of women has been an area of immediate conflict, where forces of human progress and that of regression and stagnation involved in a battle for peace, human rights, and sustainable development -3.
IV-Man versus nature: A severe environmental degradation has been taking place in this country, which multiplied in the last four decades or so, as a result of mismanagement, and misuse of the natural resources. This is due, mainly, to overall absence of environmentally oriented national policy, a problem that was conceived by many scholars as a real man-made ecological crisis. The scope and the magnitude of this crisis had been seen as inconceivably critical and multidimensional, which encompasses:-
1) Land degradation: on soil-erosion, deforestation, desertification, salinity of soil. All these tribulations are due to man-made hazards in the form of over grazing, cutting of trees, most of which are closely related to water cement cisterns known as (Berka) in the heart of the grazing lands, and which have largely contributed to positive water stabilization system, but led, at the same time, to disastrous environmental consequence;
2) Destruction of ecosystems and natural habitats of the wild life-5. And continuous unchecked hunting and aimless killings of wild life (destruction of flora and fauna) as a result of the flow of automatic rifles into the Horn Region in the cold war period, and during the civil wars in the Somali Peninsula. Unplanned and haphazard urbanization process, characteristic marks of which encompass the semi- sedentary life acquired by the pastoralist communities taking place as a result of the berka construction system, has caused the ecological crisis.
A sustainable development can’t be undertaken in any country without environmental conservation, which means deriving socio-economic benefits from the natural resources while providing for the perpetuation of these resources for the future generations, in other words rational use of resources.V-Minorities Rights and the Remedy of the past wounds: One of the most unjust, humiliating, and unwarranted areas of conflict rests on the relations between Somali clans; and what is known ‘Sabb’ minority communities; Tumaals, Gabooyes, Yibro and others. Centuries old Social, political and economic inequalities, disparagements do exist between these minorities and the rest of the clan communities.
What is inconceivably illogic is that there are no tangible ethnic, religion or even skin Color based differences between them and other clans. And nobody knows where this malevolence prejudices and unfairness originated from and how it had been inherited. However, these prejudiced relations remain outrageous and unacceptable weak point in the democratic Somaliland system, and which casts a shadow of suspicion upon the entire outside world about Somaliland seriousness to eliminate these inequalities, as this will internally continue to be sources of tensions and conflicts.
VI-Conflict between Capital and Labor: Throughout modern history of Mankind, and with the full materialization of the Industrial revolution in Europe in 1850s , the issue of work has been posed on the basis of the great conflict emerged between “capital” “and labor”, between numerically small but highly influential group of entrepreneurs, owners or holders of the means of production and the broader multitude of people, who lacked these means, but who shared with them in the process of production solely by their labor-5. The conflict originated in the fact that the workers put their powers on at the disposal of the entrepreneurs, and this, following the principle of maximum profit tried to establish the lowest possible wage for the work done by the employers.
In addition there are other elements of exploitation related to the lack of safety at work and safeguards regarding the health and living conditions of employees and their families. This conflict is real and tangible, and rests on comprehensible manifestations. In the Somaliland context, one can foresee the alarming signs of conflicts between these two forces, whose performances in production of the nation’s meager and developing resources are crucial, but whose disagreement on fair distribution of the outcome of the work done that they have produced together would lead to a deadly conflict. Absence of clarity and lack of awareness from both the concerning parties, the state elite and working men and women, and the greediness of those who own the means of production is a potential threat to the nation’s peace and stability.
The above enumerated contending interests and tendencies among the different political groupings and social sections, as well as various clan interests in the society, in one hand, and between society and nature, on the other, constitute formidable challenges to lots of successive generations in the range of short, medium, and long term levels. It is important to observe that all these conflicting interests mentioned represent critical aspects of unresolved imparities and disagreements that will require an age long steady and unrelenting efforts to address the root-causes of these conflicts. What is decisively important is the fact that these efforts should not be based on daily tactical maneuvers, actions and reactions, unprincipled and opportunistic, dived- and-rule methods, which, hitherto, was the leading trend in the most part of Africa.
The extent and magnitude of these conflicting interests require an unconventional alternative thinking, a visionary national agenda for the transformation of the society. Such a visionary program would necessitate a long term strategic alliance among a wide spectrum of political forces, whose ideological views and final political aims might be different, but whose maturity and understanding motivate them to share most of transitory tasks and demands conceded by the requirements of development of their country. In this regard, a balance of power and resource sharing- fair-play- is the only way to resolving these conflicts. Absence of this visualization by the ruling elite would inevitably lead to a random and illogical shift to the opposite direction, to ascendancy of both of the two pillars of power; the political authority and the economic sector of the state to end up at the fall off in the hands of one clan- one-family alliance. Such an eventuality would inevitably lead to lack of legitimacy, popularity and support of the people, which in turn would lead to the wearing away of the foundation of the state building process, and to reproduction of conflicts and cycle of civil wars, more poverty and more backwardness.
A possibility of impulsive peoples uprising could turn into a reality. Sufis it to mention here that what is taking place in the Arab world, in 150 miles away, in Yemen, can reach here through the Internet, and which sends strong warning messages to the all leaders of the region, by saying; step up reforms on the direction of conflict resolution and reconciliation. The central idea of my argument, therefore, is that the move towards the multi-party democracy in Somaliland was an important step to the right direction, but this is never enough, as Western Democratic style reflects the sort of conflict management of mature class society at the level of the culture of the industrial societies. In these societies, all material and moral values were put at harmony with the equation of the majority rule. In a predominantly clan society, like ours, it is the consensus that can work.
The dissimilarity between the two is very obvious, in the sense that neither majority rule per se nor consensus arrangement alone would make enough mechanism to prevent deterioration of conflict processes from passive to violent. It is the both aspects of conflict resolution, traditional and Modern mechanisms molded together, that can do the job. In every juncture in the history of nations there are new decisive tasks that necessitate a corresponding level of social and political awareness, without which the road to progress becomes unknown. And therefore, probability of relapse turns into real possibility. Out of these concerns the justifiable question remains, what is to be done?
By Adam Musse Jibril: