Monday, June 13, 2005

SNM in Balance: The need for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Somaliland

By Bashir Goth

Al Jazeerah/Awdalnews, April 9, 2005

Twenty-four years have elapsed since the formation of SNM. This is sufficient time for emotions to be settled and to look back with clear vision and critical evaluation the struggle and history of the movement. The SNM was born out of bent-up anger, frustration, humiliation and disrespect for human dignity and human life. The formation of the movement, therefore, came into being in the heat of the moment and was mostly driven by emotion rather than by a well-laid political vision and national agenda.

Like any liberation movement with thousands of fearless, trigger-happy and adrenaline-thrilled youth in its ranks and fighting a ruthless and inhumane regime, it was futile to expect it to respect the rules of war and refrain from committing excesses. The one and only goal of the movement during its long years of struggle was to free the people and country from the tyranny of a military regime. The rule of thumb was all is fair in love and war.

Now, after almost a quarter of a century, it is high time that sober and wise people answer the hard questions. It is time to re-examine, analyze and re-evaluate the rights and wrongs of the SNM. It is high time that conscientious souls and responsible citizens look into their depths and come up with answers that go beyond the hackneyed self-righteous and self-congratulatory attitudes of the battle days. It is unhealthy of a society yearning to build a nation based on lasting peace, democratic norms, prosperity and human dignity to gloss over the truth and see men who portray themselves as the leaders of the whole nation acting as if they are just now emerging from the dust of the battle, adorned with all their armaments and battle cries.

It is high time that the former SNM commanders and supporters have to acknowledge the ugly crimes committed in the name of the movement in the same way they celebrate its good deeds. It is time to admit that the SNM had its victories and its defeats, its success and its blunders, its crimes and its share of responsibility for the plight of hundreds of thousands of Somalilanders, destruction and annihilation of whole towns and villages and the killing of hundreds of innocent farmers, businessmen, poets, intellectuals, elders, religious men and women and children for the crime of belonging to anti-SNM clans.

In celebrating the 24th anniversary of the SNM and remembering those who lost their precious lives for the cause of liberating their people from oppression and dictatorship, the former SNM commanders and fighters should also be courageous enough to remember the victims of the movement and should reach out to the women who were widowed, the mothers who lost their beloved sons and daughters and the children who were orphaned or maimed in the name of the SNM.

It is always easy, particularly in the clan-worshipping culture of our people, to sing the heroism of your own men and women and forget the heroism of others. One wonders whether it ever occurred to the former SNM commanders and fighters that as much as its music for their ears to be called Mujahidis, hearing such description may be loathsome to the victims of the SNM who are today law abiding and patriotic Somaliland citizens. What are the criteria for earning the honor of Mujahid or Martyr in a tribal society like ours, one may ask. In Islam it is known that anyone who dies defending the honor of his family or his property and his soul is a martyr. No one doubts those SNM fighters who fought with the good intention of defending the honor of their people, their property and their country as a whole against a tyrant regime deserve the honor of being Mujahid in the strict sense of the word but can any one deny the fighters of other clans who fought against the SNM militias in defense of their honor, their property and their existence to be decorated heroes and Mujahids of their concerned clans.

The former SNM commanders and fighters love to claim sainthood by repeatedly reminding their former adversaries that they have extended to them an amnesty blanket and have forgiven them for taking the gun against the freedom fighters. The question that the former SNM fighters forget to ask themselves is "who has forgiven whom? It is understandable that due to unflinching tribal loyalties and strong emotions attached to the struggle of the SNM, it might have been difficult to even contemplate answering this question at earlier times but after a quarter of a century it is not only reasonable but a moral obligation for both former SNM fighters and the militia commanders of the anti-SNM clans at the time to answer such question and other more difficult ones. It is time that Somaliland establishes a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in the style of the famous South African one and bring those who committed crimes in the name of the SNM and those of other clans who committed crimes in the name of defending tribal pride to face the rule of law. It is also high time to give the victims of both sides the chance to have their stories heard before a neutral court. Only in this way would all Somalilanders embrace the legacy of the SNM beyond its present tribal confines.


© 2005 Awdalnews Network


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