Friday, August 12, 2011

Somaliland finally comes out of its shameful silence

By Bashir Goth

Somaliland has finally spoken. It says it is ready to participate in the international efforts aimed at easing the suffering of the starving Somali people who are experiencing what the UN has described as the worst humanitarian disaster.

As welcome as this step may be, many conscientious Somalilanders, and other Somalis as well, may see it as too little too late.

As the world, moved by the unimaginable extent of human suffering caused by drought and war in Somalia, rushed to secure shelter, food, medicine and comfort for the tens of thousands of barely walking human skeletons arriving Mogadishu and Somalia’s neighboring countries, Somaliland decided to watch the unfolding catastrophe of its kin and kith with shameless indifference.

For almost a month since the UN officially declared famine in the regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle of Southern Somalia on July 20, 2011, starving Somalis trekked to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia while tens of thousands were internally displaced in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

All this time Somaliland authorities stayed silent. They even failed to issue a statement expressing their grief for the pain and suffering of the Somali people. No one expected Somaliland to airlift relief supplies to Somalia but everyone expected and wished if they could show some sort of solidarity with their brethren such as expressing their readiness to receive starving Somalis fleeing from war and drought to the peaceful land.

In a situation where the UN says one child dies every six minutes, Somaliland should have been the first to be shocked by the tragedy of the Somali mothers burying their emaciated children one after the other as the walk to seek help. It should have been the first to mobilize the world, the first to open its ports and airports for international aid, the first to share their meager resources with their famished fellow Somalis.

But the Somaliland administration waited for Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, The UN Special Representative for Somalia, to visit them in Hargeisa and appeal to them to help their Somali brethren.

And now after the entire world has rushed to the rescue of the Somali people, and after the entertainment and sports celebrities launched the Bob Marley campaign under the title ‘I’m Gonna Be Your Friend’ which is expected to reach a global audience of over 700 million in Facebook and Twitter, Somaliland authorities saw the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and get their share of the limelight and international focus.

Somaliland has missed a golden opportunity to reach out to their fellow Somalis, to heal the wounds of the past and to build bridges of future cooperation and brotherhood, an opportunity to pause and reflect on the realities around them; and above all Somaliland has missed an opportunity to prove to the Somali people and to the world at large that the peace and stability of Somaliland is more boon than bane for the Horn of Africa.

For further reflections:
1) A Somali mother’s sad lullabay to her child: Ha iga ooyine aamu
2) Spare a Moment