Saturday, May 30, 2015

Somaliland’s Moment of Infamy by Bashir Goth

It was unbelievably shocking and painful to see Somaliland politicians and administrators outbidding each other in expressing their enmity and hatred for Somalism and the Somali people. 

While Somaliland politicians were falling over each other to be in at the front row of the festivities held in Hargeisa for Ethiopia’s 24th anniversary of the EPRDF’s overthrow of the Mengistu Regime, Somaliland authorities were blocking Somali refugees returning from Yemen to disembark in Berbera port while people of other nationalities were welcomed with open arms.

Although successive Somaliland governments tried their best to distance themselves from other Somalis, particularly, those in Southern Somalia, things have never reached such level of hatred and hostility.

There was even a time when Somalis saw an improvement in attitude when Silanyo government sent a Somaliland delegation carrying relief aid to drought-stricken people in Mogadishu in 2011. Many people saw this as a heartwarming gesture which showed that brotherhood among the Somali people was still intact despite Somaliland’s secession fait accompli. However things deteriorated quickly to the point that Somaliland today shamelessly and cruelly uses the plight of the weak and scared Somali refugees from Yemen as a political game.

As a Somali, hailing from Somaliland, and on behalf of the good people of Somaliland, I would like to give my apology to our sisters and brothers who cried for Somalism onboard the foreign ship, who were treated like Burma’s unwanted Rohingya by Somaliland authorities. There is no doubt that history will not forgive the leaders of Somaliland. Nor will decent Somalis, Somalilanders included, ever forgive people like Somaliland President Silanyo, Vice President Saylici, Interior Minister Ina Waran Cadde, Berbera Port Manager Cali Xoor-Xoor, Berbera Governor Fahmi Bidaar and all Somaliland Ministerial Cabinet who accepted and approved this ugly decision. They will remain accountable for your plight. We will name them and shame them. It is a dark spot in our history. Your tears and words will forever wrench our hearts…. “We are Somalis, we speak Somali…aren’t you Somalis” said one of the women passengers. “I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want to live in Hargeisa and Buroa and raise my children here. We don’t need any financial help from you, we have our money. Just let us disembark.” said a mother of six.

The returnees came from Yemen, haggard and tired. Seeking only peace and tranquility. They spent many years as refugees in Yemen. They were aliens there but they were welcomed. They dreamed of the day they would return to their homeland and kiss its soil. But when they did, they were rejected by their own kith and kin. 

As Somali Foreign Minister Abdusalam Hadliye said in an interview with VOA, Somalis went as refugees everywhere in the world, both to Muslim and non-Muslim countries, and they were accepted and welcomed. 

“I cannot understand, and all Somalis including Somalilanders cannot understand, why Somali people would be refused to land in their own homeland. This is a logic I cannot understand and I don’t think anyone else understands it,” he said.

It was reassuring to hear Faisal Ali Waraabe, Chairman of the UCID party, express a similar feeling in a statement to the BBC. The people of Somaliland from Borama to Berbera also expressed their outrage against this infamous action.

But I expected Somaliland opposition parties and Somaliland civil societies to do more. They should have been demonstrating and camping next to the ship, bringing food, water and other provisions to the people. They should have been holding a sit-in at the port, demanding that they would not leave the place and would rather all die in the heat until Somaliland administration accepted to allow the Somali refugee returnees to disembark from the ship. Above all, I expected Somaliland religious leaders to highlight the fate of these people in their Friday sermons or aren’t these people also Muslims apart from being Somali.

This is a humanitarian issue and the fate of the weak, tired, and war weary mothers, children and elderly is at stake. It is imperative that any human being in this dire situation let alone Somali people returning to their homeland should be welcomed. The life of these vulnerable people should never have been used as a pawn to score political goals. What a disgrace Mr. Silanyo for taking Somaliland to its moment of infamy.