Thursday, February 09, 2012

From Garadag “State” to London Conference: Mr. Silanyo’s Checkered Journey to Power

Bashir Goth

As Somaliland takes a slide into the unknown, many questions come to the mind of those of us who advocated and still believe in the legitimacy of the Somaliland cause and have a great faith in the ingenuity and wisdom of the people of Somaliland.

Among the questions that race through the mind is whether this downward slope brought about by the Somaliland government’s rush to attend the London Conference on Somalia, will cause it to free fall into the abyss or whether the slide will be due to a temporary misstep after which Somaliland will regain her balance and will continue the journey with her renowned stride.

Is this hasty decision to participate in the London Conference and the unprecedented unanimous support given to Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo’s government by the legislative houses, political parties and some community elders an expression of desperation after twenty years of seeking recognition have came to nothing? Or is it an attempt to change tactics and to reposition Somaliland’s foreign strategy by adopting a new policy of engagement with the international community and the TFG instead of the standing policy of Somaliland’s successive governments’ that was based on digging in their heels? Is the government’s decision a pre-emptive action aimed at stymieing any attempts by the recently declared mini-states of Awdal and Khaatumo to be heard in the London Conference? Or is it a long and drawn out agenda, carefully crafted with shrewdness and deceit by President Silanyo and his henchmen to scuttle Somaliland’s sovereignty and trade it for a hero’s welcome and posts in Mogadishu?

To save time and space, I will leave most of the above questions open to be answered by time, but I will tackle the last one, speculating on Mr. Silanyo’s perceived intentions and agenda for Somaliland.

A Wounded Ego

Any observer who tracks Ahmed Mohamed Mr. Silanyo’s history will surely surmise that he has never forgiven the SNM Command for removing him from the SNM leadership in 1990 in Baligubadle and denying him to be the hero who announces the victory of the SNM over Siyad Barre.

At the time of Baligubadle Conference, Mr. Silanyo was almost six years at the helm of the SNM and the military regime of Siyad Barre was on the verge of collapse. But when Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur) was elected to replace him, Mr. Silanyo must have naturally felt cheated. Like any guerrilla leader, Mr. Silanyo would have definitely liked to be the one who celebrates the victory lap, raises Somaliland’s flag and be remembered as the founder of the new country.

It was Mr. Silanyo’s fate to watch Abdirahman Tuur and later Mohamed Ibrahim Egal claim the honor of being recognized as the founders of Somaliland. If someone else was called the founder, he must have told himself, he should carve his own legacy in the people’s psyche by becoming the hero of the reunification of Somaliland with Somalia. If anyone would think this to be a wild claim or a stretch of imagination, let us explore together the political legacy of Mr. Silanyo during the existence of Somaliland.

After leaving Egal’s cabinet, Mr. Silanyo stayed in political wilderness for a while, apparently brooding about his comeback and how he would revenge for his damaged ego.

He probably saw his first chance after Egal’s death, when Mr. Silanyo rushed back to Hargeisa and lobbied to be elected as Rayale’s Vice President. He even met Rayale face-to-face and asked him to nominate him as his vice president. He must have been dumbfounded when Rayale overstepped him and took Ahmed Yusuf Yasin, an unknown figure and a political novice as his Vice President.

The Odyssey Begins: Laying Out the Plan

Thinking that Rayale’s sojourn in the Presidential palace will be short and temporary, Mr. Silanyo formed his own party Kulmiye, pushing aside his clansman Suleiman Mahamoud Adan (Suleyman Gaal), who was the chairman of ASAD Party, by using his SNM credentials. Even at that time people who knew Mr. Silanyo closely made their own interpretations about the name he chose for his party. Kulmiye (unifier) they thought was a signal to where Mr. Silanyo would lead the nation if he was elected.

But the real blow to Mr. Silanyo came when Dahir Rayale Kahin, a non-SNM and a former NSS officer, defeated him in the first Presidential election 2003 on his own turf. This must have caused a permanent dent to Mr. Silanyo’s ego and planted in him the seed for revenge.

He launched a relentless mobilization campaign that went non-stop for almost six years. He used the tribal card, the SNM card and every plausible tactic he could muster to discredit Rayale even at the expense of destroying Somaliland’s image abroad. He rallied the Somaliland diaspora behind him by invoking the memory of the SNM struggle and tribal sentiments.

The Garadag Conference

When the second presidential elections came closer, Mr. Silanyo seemed to have panicked to the extent that he couldn’t trust his party base and instead convened the Garadag Conference of his sub-clan. This was the first time that a Somaliland national leader of his caliber resorted to clan politics. None of the previous three leaders, Abdirahman Tuur, Egal and Rayale, nor even Faisal Ali Waraabe, the leader of UCID, had stooped so low to publicly and exclusively convene their sub-clans and seek their endorsement. The Garadag Conference had converted Mr. Silanyo from a national leader to a tribal chief. His battle cry was: “It is our turn”, but his tacit message was that if he was not elected this time, Somaliland had to prepare for the return of his sub-clan to Mogadishu or what we may retrospectively consider to have meant the creation of Garadag State.

To prove this one doesn’t have to go far. The flight of Dr. Mahmoud Abdillahi Jama Sifir, Mr. Silanyo’s campaign manager during the 2003 election, to Mogadisho after Mr. Silanyo’s defeat was a stark reminder of where Mr. Silanyo would have led Somaliland if he won the election. The unceremonious return of Dr. Sifir to Hargeisa after Mr. Silanyo has won the country’s presidency in July 2010 is another manifestation that Dr. Sifir was only acting as an emissary for Mr. Silanyo in Mogadishu.

Many people were perplexed how Dr. Sifir could just return to Somaliland while the law banning Somaliland politicians who engage in politics in Mogadishu was still in place and many prominent people before him including General Jama Mohamed Ghalib, first police commander of Somaliland after independence and Somali police commander and minister of interior under Siyad Barre, were imprisoned and deported as a result. However under Mr. Silanyo well known unionists such as Osman Kallun, Jama Galib and others have just slipped back into the country without facing any charges. The only interpretation of this development is that these gentlemen probably knew well Silnayo’s stance on the sovereignty of Somaliland.

But while Mr. Silanyo was on one side showing magnanimity and the tolerance of statesmanship to his people and pardoning those politicians who came from Mogadishu, he on the other side denied giving the same treatment to those hailing from Awdal. Two Somali TFG MPs from Borama, Abdoo Shoodhe and Ahmed Huseein (Sitiin) were deported from Awdal, while a number of Borama youth and one of the Awdal diaspora were imprisoned for unfounded suspicions of being members of Awdal State. If this is not a deliberate act of mockery of justice of Orwellian proportions, I do not know what else to call it.

Another manifestation of Mr. Silanyo’s apparent links to Mogadishu was the sense of relief felt in the South and the congratulatory messages that Mr. Silanyo received from the various political forces and communities in Mogadishu during his campaign and after his election.

A policy of Alienation and Provocation

Mr. Silanyo’s first ministerial cabinet looked like an exclusive club. The Hargeisa humor mill immediately branded it as the government of “Xigtada iyo Xaynka” (relatives and in-laws). The stark absence of Awdal and Sool representation in key cabinet portfolios and senior government posts was another harsh reminder of Mr. Silanyo’s policy of alienation and injustice-induced frustration.

In a further step that reminded people of the tactics of socialist states, Mr. Silanyo launched a sweeping purge of the government’s civilian employees in an apparent step of cleaning the government house of UDUB sympathizers and making place for his own supporters. However, many observers considered this a calculated measure aimed at driving a wedge between the different clans of the community, particularly as the clans on the peripheries have taken the brunt of the civil employe purge.

While the writing was on the wall for all to see, it needed someone like Faisal Ali Waraabe, Chairman of UCID Party, to say it bluntly:

” Dalkii Qaylo ayaa ka yeedhaysa la leeyahay Eexasho Xoog ah ayaa jirta oo shaqooyinkii iyo dhaqaalihii midna looma sinna , Qabyaaladiina geeso ayey yeelatay waa in aynu geesaha ka jaraa, Beelaha iyo gobolada cabanaaya ee ay ka mid tahay Awdal iyo Laascaanood ay ka mid tahay waa in awooda dalka qaybtooda la siiyaa oo maaha in la isku koobooo in ay qolo qudhi qadato awooda sare..” Faysal Cali Waraabe (Source:

Faisal did not hide his fears that such injustice and lack of inclusive government could lead to the collapse of Somaliland:

“…waxaan idiin sheegaya in ay ahayd waxani waxyaalihii ay Somaliya ku burburtay in awoodii dalka ay reero kaliyi burbursaden Wadadii aynu ka dagaalanay ee cadaalad darada ahay in aynu marno maaha…” Faysal Waraabe. (Source:

But instead of rectifying these obvious injustices and addressing the genuine grievances of the peripheral communities, Mr. Silanyo has slapped them in the face again by removing all Somaliland’s representatives (ambassadors) and appointing new ones who in contrary to tradition did not include a single person from the Sool and Awdal regions.

Even when Mr. Silanyo sacked the country’s Chief Justice many people assumed that the position should go to the people of Sool who unlike those in Awdal were not represented in any key position in the country’s government organs. However, it surprised no one but those uninitiated in Mr. Silanyo’s policy of “segregate and provoke sedition” when he ignored the popular demand and had filled the post with one of his own people, thus further widening the fault line between his government and the people of Sool.

Cheerleader Opposition

What is astoundingly confusing and eerily suspicious is how Mr. Silanyo managed to silence all types of opposition from the clans of the central regions. Somaliland opposition on both the political and communal level used to be robust and highly critical of all previous governments.

The late President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal met tough opposition from both the political establishment and the people. He even survived a parliament impeachment by one single vote. This was the man who was the first Prime Minister of Somaliland after Independence, the last elected Prime Minister of the Somali Republic, the father of the new Somaliland and one of the most charismatic statesmen that Somaliland and Somalia have ever produced. But this brilliant leadership record and his skillful management of clan politics did not spare Egal from being the butt of a stiff opposition from political novices at the time such as Suleiman Mahmoud Aden (Sulieman Gaal) and others who gave him a tough time to fight for his political survival.

Dahir Rayale also did not enjoy a peaceful time in office as Mr. Silayo himself and the forces he mobilized have exercised no less than scorched earth tactics to intimidate him, incite hatred against him and eventually oust him.

But after coming to power, all opposition forces have suddenly become emasculated. The Somaliland Forum, the Diaspora group that was extremely vocal against Egal and Rayale and portrayed itself as the vanguard of Somaliland’s nationalism had suddenly fallen silent. The torrent of media outlets that peaked due to their gung-ho opposition to Rayale had laid down their gauntlets as many of them have been rewarded for their efforts with government posts and other favors. And the only few media people who dared to monitor the government’s wrong doings have been intimidated, gagged and at times beaten and ruthlessly incarcerated in dozens (Source: Guardian).

As a measure of counterbalance, Mr. Silanyo has extended the coverage of the official national TV and has opened a branch of it in the UK to use it as his mouthpiece and populate it with his former media cronies.

This is the leader that made freedom of speech a hallmark of his political philosophy and never failed to assail Rayale government for its treatment of the media and freedom of expression.

Plagued by internal conflicts, the two main opposition parties have ended up in disarray and many people point fingers at a hidden government hand in paralyzing them. This explains what happened to Faisal Ali Waraabe, the only vocal and bold opposition voice heard today.

Prominent community elders and respected religious clerics who dared to criticize Mr. Silanyo’s government such as Boqor Raabi were imprisoned or summoned to police for investigation. (Source: Only Boqor Osman Aw Mahamoud Buurmadow who currently resides outside the country remains a formidable opposition figure.

Lambasting Mr. Silanyo’s nervousness about criticism and his government’s heavy-handedness in dealing with freedom of speech and the disappearance of the role of the opposition, Hassan Essa Jama, Somaliland’s former Vice President and a highly respected intellectual and SNM veteran, said:

“…Immika labada maamul ee kala dambeeyey midna mabuu digiigixanayn (kii hore), kuwana haddaad dhinacooda jalleecdo oo aad xiix tidhaa adigoo cunnaha bannaysanaaya dhagaxu wuu kugu yaallaa. Waxaa la yidhi mayd maxaa ugu dambeeyey iyo kaa la sii sido, waxaa markhaati ka ah Faysal Cali Waraabe, Faysal waa ninka mucaaradada Somaliland ku keliyeystay sannadka iyo badhka maamulakani jiray, laba saddex eray oo uu meelahaa ka yidhi saska laga qaaday markhaati ayaad ka tihiin ee aan loo kala hadhin ee cid xaal bixisay aanay jirin ee cid ladqabe ka gashay aanay jirin ee rag iyo dumar la isu soo raacay…”

Elucidating the role of the opposition that Mr. Silanyo’s government wants to eradicate, Jama said:

“Mucaaridnimadu waa xil qaran. Mucaaridka iyo muxaafidku waa labada lugood ee qaranimadu ku taagan tahay. Haddii labada mid uun xanuun soo galo ummaddu waa dhutinaysaa. Markaa labaduba waxa loo baahan yahay in ay caafimaad qabaan si ay qaranimadu u sii waarto.”(Source: Ogaal News)

In an apparent disdain of the unwarranted cheerleading of the opposition and the public for government officials in every occasion, Mohamed Ibrahim Hadrawi, the renowned poet, admonished the youth in riding such a despicable trend by saying:

“Dhallinyaroy mid fadlakum sacabku waxba ma macneeyo ee sacabka iska daaya; Wallaahi waxba ma macneeyo oo waa jahli ee sacabka innaga daaya. Qofku wuxuu goobta u yimaad ma aha in uu sacabiyo ee waa inuu waxa la leeyahay wax uun kala baxo meesha..”

Gladdened by the truth of Hadrawi’s statement, Hassan Essa Jama added:

“…Waan u muusoobay oo waxaan idhi Ilaahayow yaa qodobkaa fahamsiiya siyaasiyiinta sacabka jecel. Siyaad Barre maan arag anigu oo aad baa loogu sacabin jiray baa la yidhi; oo isagaa xataa isu sacabin jiray marka loo sacabinayo….malaha Hadraawow sacabkii waad ka haqab-beeshee, waxaan aqaan qolooyin wali u jeellan oo aad ugu baahan…” (Source: Jamhuuriya)

This is indeed an unhealthy political environment; a country without checks and balances, without dissention, a country where the houses of parliament and opposition leaders just rubber- stamp the president’s dictates cannot claim to have a functioning democracy.

The majority of Silnayo’s cabinet members are expatriates whose only aim is presumably to get quick and tax-free cash to pay their mortgages in their adopted countries. They have no interest in rocking the boat and spoiling their newly-found fame and fortunes. It is again Faisal Ali Waraabe who illustrates the rampant corruption practices taking place in Mr. Silanyo’s government:

“..Wakhtigii dawladii Rayaale waxaynu maqli jiray musuqmaasuq jira, musuqmaasuqaasi wuxuu ahaa wax la wada arkayo oo aan dhaafsiisnayn mid xooga-xada iyo ku Guri ka dhista dalka, taasi saleelo ayey ahayd maanta Tan Siilaanyo waxa iskugu yimid niman xatooyatada iyo musuqmaasuqu heerku gaadhay Mortgages (Caymisyo) guryo lagaga iibsanayo Yurub iyo Maraykanka dee xogaagii aynu haysanay ma in danyarta loogu shaqeeyo ayuu noqon, mise in Mortgageka (Caymisyo) Guryaha Yurub iyo Maraykanka lagu bixiyo..” (Source: Qaran News)

Undoing Somaliland’s Hard Won Gains

One of Mr. Silanyo’s loyal Ministers who used to be a die-hard critic of the Rayale administration confided to me recently that he was surprised to learn that Rayale’s industrious Foreign Minister Abdillahi Duale had elevated Somaliland’s international standing to the extent that the country was on the verge of gaining recognition.

It is no secret that Somaliland had many regional and international friends during the Rayale-Duale period. Somaliland had enjoyed robust and close relations with Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, South Africa and beyond. As a veteran Minister, Abdillahi Duale had travelled wide and far during his long service and he established warm ties with many of his African counterparts and senior personalities of the African Union. This is why Somaliland was allowed as an observer in many regional conferences. A friendly, suave and gregarious personality, Duale had also built a pool of international academics and diplomats who actively advocated and campaigned for the cause of Somaliland. Dualeh did this without compromising the sovereignty of Somaliland in anyway. He is also known to be one of the few ministers who did not use his government post for personal gain.

Mr. Silanyo government has squandered all that effort to the extent that Somaliland’s ties with Ethiopia have become untenable and most if not all the international activists for Somaliland have disappeared.

The stability and security of the country, two factors that attracted great admiration for Somaliland had also suffered as the rate of criminal acts, clan conflicts and homicides have increased while the country has become a refuge for Al Shabab returnees who escaped from the Ethiopian push into Southern Somalia. Extremist elements that were kept under the government’s radar during Egal and Rayale’s administrations have become emboldened under Mr. Silanyo. The only explanation in my opinion for dismantling of Somaliland’s gains and allowing the security to loosen was to create a situation of heightened urgency to show Somaliland as a soft target for international terrorism as a pretext to invite foreign intervention and eventual return to the fold of the failed Somali union.

How Garadag “State” begotten Awdal and Khaatumo “States”

Instead of dissipating the image that Somaliland is a one clan-based entity as claimed by anti-Somaliland forces, Mr. Silanyo reinforced this concept by forming a government of Xigto iyo xidid. He deliberately avoided including people from Awdal & Salal in his appointed ambassadors, key ministries, police, military and intelligence commanders and the Chief Justice of the country. Even in his foreign trips he takes with him his close relatives. This is not an honest oversight but a shrewd calculation aimed at instigating sedition among the clans in the peripheries and pushing them to convene their own Garadag-style clan conferences to design their own future.

Unlike the policies of Egal and Rayale who saw the damage that any retrospective reading of history could do to the peaceful co-existence and harmony of the communities and hence avoided to invoke the memories of the civil war, Mr. Silanyo’s revial of the Mujahid vs Faqash rhetoric and his proposal of building monuments for the SNM fighters was another attempt to provoke the people of Awdal and Sool and to re-ignite in them old feelings of resentment, domination and fear.

Finally, the declaration of these peripheral states came as a result of Mr. Silanyo’s own doing. And in a strange coincidence the London Conference on Somalia has come to Mr. Silanyo as an extra bonus and appears to have quickly acted to capitalize on it in line with spirit of the Somali proverb: “Meel aan doonayey roob igu eri” or Rain has forced me to a place I wished to be. Mr. Silanyo’s media machinery has quickly moved in to mitigate any resistance by the people by using buzzwords such as: “we have been in a container for so long and it is time that we have to present our case to the world.” Perplexed by the weird mood of the people of Hargeisa, a young brother of mine has summed up the situation in a satirized email he sent me from Hargeisa, saying: “ Reer Hargeisa waxa galay saar lagaga soo tumi jiray Muqdisho…”

The Buuhoodle Fighting

It is also worth mentioning here that while “Awdal State” remains a peaceful and Diaspora youth-driven facbeook initiative with little reality on the ground despite hitching on domestic and negotiable grievances, the Buuhoodle war on “Khaatumo State” is a dangerous development that puts the peace and stability of the region in great jeopardy.

One cannot miss the role of Dr. Ali Khalif Galaydh who must have convinced himself that the only way he could return to the political scene is to follow Mr. Silanyo’s footsteps and go back to his clan constituency for endorsement and blessing. It was indeed a tragedy to see Dr. Galaydh trading his academic cloak for clan chieftainship and his professorship mantle for a militia commander uniform.

With the exception of unfortunate incidents and grave political differences, the people of Sool have lived in a relative peace with their brethren in Somaliland over the last 20 years. They did this despite many of the Sool people had never accepted the Somaliland secession. It is therefore painful to see a man of Dr. Galaydh’s status who at one time lobbed for a leadership position in Somaliland to use the brotherly people’s blood as a ticket to get a seat in the London Conference.

Dr. Galaydh was expected to play a bigger role. To be a man above the tribal fray, a peace-maker, an agent for communal harmony and a giant academic who understood more than anyone else that the root causes of all clan conflicts in Africa were nothing more than a rivalry on dwindling resources and sometimes on empty nomadic pride.

Both Mr. Silanyo and Dr. Glaydh are committing grave crimes in pitting the two brotherly communities against each other in such an internecine and meaningless war. Neither the sovereignty of Somaliland nor the unity of Somalia is worth wasting the life of the youth and destroying the livelihood of communities while both men have their homes and families tugged in peaceful places abroad.

In the internet age of the 21st century when the youth of the world are competing on education and driving world economy on their revolutionary innovation, it is a crime to kill our youth on hollow nationalism and sloganeering of yesteryears and for personal ego boosting. And for those who expect miracles from the London Conference, here is the first reality check for them; the Buuhoodle war is one of its first fruits.

London Conference: A virgin Defiled

In reference to the London Conference, it is important to note that despite the euphoria and the media hype surrounding it; the day after the London Conference ends, the reality of Somalia will still be the same. A country under siege, a country under International Trusteeship; a country occupied by Ethiopian, Kenyan, Ugandan, and other African forces. Al Shabab will still be a dominant force and piracy will still be rife in the Somali seas and beyond. The TFG leaders will still be bickering over the spoils of the London Conference. The situation of Somalia will unfortunately remain business as usual as it always has over the last 20 years with only one difference. This time the Somalis will have little say more than any time before in running the affairs of their own country or deciding the future of their people.

On the contrary, if Mr. Silanyo’s agenda is not thwarted by vigilant Somalilanders, Somaliland will wake up with a different reality. It will no more be the “Best Kept Secret of Africa”, the fabled oasis of peace and stability. The chaos in Mogadishu will spill over to it. The beautiful virgin will wake up the next morning to find herself defiled, disgraced and disheveled. All that she could hear in her disoriented mental state will be the harsh words that any raped and dishonored Somali virgin detests to hear “Ha la asturo” or let us help her to hide her disgrace, meaning that Mr. Silanyo will put Somaliland before an insurmountable fait accompli: Either she has to live in disgrace as a pariah forever or she has to accept a forced marriage”. A diabolical plan made in hell. I hope President Silanyo proves me wrong, damn wrong, and Somaliland thrives under his stewardship. Let his history be the judge.

February 9, 2012