The darkness drops again; but now I know
Those twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour comes round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The Second Coming. By W. B. Yeats
Greetings from Maan-hadal salon, one of the many happy watering holes in Hargeisa where everything under the sun is discussed and varied topics are skimmed through everyday with no explicit or implicit objectives. Loose, smooth debate and long chats are the inherent features of Maan-hadal. Many spirited conversations grace the eloquence and lively discourse of reasoned arguments and genial discussions that became the hallmark of Maan-hadal. It is sometimes referred to as the incubator of exhilarating and uplifting ideas. A talk-shop and crossfire par excellence! Self-styled political scientists and pundits fiercely exchange diametrically opposed views, with the very help of my beloved catalyst, the Awaday – that lubricates our social gathering and stimulates the intellect.
Though vocal, voluble and loquacious in conversations and articulate arguments and discussions plied back and forth, penned expressions were not forthcoming from Maan-hadal, lately. Renowned Maan-hadal physicians and anthropologists, who have been engaged in exhaustive diagnostic assessment of Somaliland’s illnesses, deliberated the need for a reincarnated SNM for the second emancipation of this beleaguered people from the degrading hegemony of the recreated henchman of the notorious Siad Barre’s regime. In this piece, Maan-hadal would briefly ponder the state of health of Rayaale’s tyrannical regime.
In 1997, the late Mohamed Ibrahim Egal handpicked Daahir Rayaale Kaahin as his new Vice President - a minion addition to his unwieldy and unpopular cabinet of Prima Donnas and mediocrities. He was sworn as a care-taker president after Egal’s death in South Africa on 3 May 2002. Rayaale won the presidential election held in 14 April 2003 with a margin of mere eighty votes. Rayaale’s election was clearly a protest vote against the Somali National Movement (SNM). As a resistance movement, the SNM had been successful in rallying the support of the populace against the repressive military regime. Notwithstanding its astounding feat in routing the unruly marauding forces of Siad Bare’s regime, the SNM tragically failed to come up with a viable political program to steer Somaliland towards the road to peace and recovery or to constitute a cohesive visionary leadership in the aftermath of the demise of the dictatorial regime. Taking advantage of the serious leadership deficiency that bedeviled the SNM, the remnants of the ousted regime and a jumbled assortment of cunning political prostitutes and crafty opportunists – locked in a marriage of convenience - took a firm hold of the newly-constituted authority. An apparent antithesis of the desired outcome of the peoples struggle for good governance
Today Somaliland remains helplessly tethered and stifled under a tottering tyrannical regime that bore unmistakable resemblance to the one it ousted in 1991. Trampled human rights, brutal and corrupt dictatorship, rapid urbanization, economic stagnation, diplomatic isolation, environmental degradation, and abject poverty are triggering unsettling unease and anxiety, aggravating further the plight of the largely impoverished population. Ironically enough, the Somaliland administration has been commandeered by the remnants of the very regime with which the people had fought against it, gallantly. The high and mighty in present-day Somaliland administration, including the strongman - Daahir Rayaale Kaahin, and the all powerful minister of Interior - Abdillahi Ciro, were faithful stalwarts of the authoritarian regime that committed horrendous crimes against the people of Somaliland. Both were senior ranking officers of the feared and ubiquitous National Security Service (NSS) of Siad Barre’s regime which was modeled on another equally notorious secret police – the former East Germany’s Stasi. As devoted informants, both Rayaale and Ciro stayed clung to the dying regime of Barre till the end, hoping to administer the last rites to the dictator.
Rayaale presides over a police state that routinely infringes on civil rights where the state of human rights continues to deteriorate at a rapid pace. His corrupt, repressive, and dysfunctional regime has the tendency to employ unsavory instruments to suppress dissent through kangaroo courts, press gags and detentions without trial. Rayaale and his large entourage of cohorts and cronies have not missed any opportunity to siphon off the locally generated meager revenue and stash the loot in foreign banks. They have demonstrated unrivalled ingenuity in exploiting the laws of the jungle to further their self-interest and detrimental hegemony in the most cynical way possible.
A resurrected National Security Service (NSS) – the notorious and most despised instrument of oppression of the dethroned Barre’s dictatorial regime – has been recreated and unleashed to keep the unwary public under surveillance. Men with known passion for undercover work and the art of eavesdropping keep preying on the unsuspecting civilian population and of course, Maan-hadal. Similarly, the infamous Red Berets of Barre’s regime has been reincarnated to safeguard Rayaale’s tenacious grip to an increasingly unpopular and repressive power.
The Rayaale administration regularly interferes and influences the performance of the judiciary system that persistently implements the Penal Code of the deposed regime. An omnipotent extrajudicial Security Committee – an exact replica of Siad Barre’s Guddiga Nabadgelyada, that comprises the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Defense, the Commander of the Police, the Commander of the Armed Forces, the Governor, and the Mayor of Hargeisa, has the power to arrest citizens without court order and indefinitely.
The Hargeisa Central Prison is overflowing with innocent persons arbitrarily detained by the unconstitutional Security Committee. The largely dilapidated cells are filthy and overcrowded while the communal pit latrines are full, oozing with foul smell. To satisfy Rayaale’s insatiable passion for punitive measures, the old Mandheera Prison has been designated as a detention facility for political prisoners. The prison population in Somaliland is increasing exponentially which may eventually force Rayaale to build more detention centers to lock up half the population, if the taxpayers could afford to foot the bill.
Rayaale spared no one in his ignominious lust for incarcerations. Editors and journalists of the two prominent and widely-read newspapers in Somaliland, Haatuf and Jamhuuriya, are repeatedly arrested and intimidated with a view to silence and suppress the spirit of free speech. Rayaale has not spared even the most venerated religious Ulemas and eminent clan leaders from his unrestrained extrajudicial persecutions. A case in point is the humiliating treatment meted out to the prominent politician and traditional leader, Boqor Cusman Buur Madow, after aptly criticizing the belligerent policies of Rayaale towards the Sool and Sanaag regions. The latest victims of Rayaale’s coercive powers are non other than Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gabboose and Eng. Mohamed Hashi Elmi - two highly respected political luminaries with reputable track-records. Dr. Gabboose and Eng. Hashi together with Jamal Aideed, another prominent politician, were arrested and detained at Mandheera last week as prisoners of conscience, accused of forming an illegal political party. Would this incident herald the much-awaited coup de grace of the despotic regime?
Somaliland is not strange to supreme ironies. Most of the innocent captives languishing in the overcrowded, untidy prison cells in Hargeisa and Mandheera are the yesterday’s heroes of the resistance war against the brutal dictatorship who spilled their blood for the cause of justice and freedom. With a new vicious dictatorship firmly implanted, history is repeating itself in Hargeisa today. How long would the people of Somaliland afford to tolerate the rule of the jungle and self-serving dictatorship?
Lost in oblivion, the Somaliland intellectuals continue to maintain a stony silence on Rayaale’s unrelenting power abuse and human rights violations and their long-term ramifications on prevailing peace and stability and the delicate symbiotic relationships between the clans that commendably succeeded in burying the hatchet. For many intellectuals, healthy and constructive criticism towards Rayaale’s callous regime is a virtual taboo. Any justifiable sound criticism is erroneously feared to entail adverse effect on the quest for international recognition. Likewise, the threat of Rayaale using the Gadabuursi card- a unionist constituency prior to Rayaale’s ascent to power – perhaps terrifies the majority of the supporters of the secession option. The intellectuals are also losing sight of the downhill slippery slope that Somaliland is fatefully and gradually being propelled to. Alas, apathy and indifference are the order of the day.
The best way forward for Somaliland is to unshackle itself from the yoke of dictatorship and solidify the pillars of democracy. Free press, independent trade unions and public accountability are sine qua non in ensuring the necessary checks and balances on arbitrary government. Certainly, Somaliland needs today the reincarnation of the SNM to liberate itself from the clutches of the re-born old tyrannical regime.
By A. Du'ale Sii’arag,