July 1, 2012 ·21 Comments
Part Two written by Ahmed Ali Kildhi; An interesting interview with Mr. Liban Ahmed Ashur, the former Chief of State Protocol at the Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Rose: Can you define “Leadership” and what does it mean to you?
Liban: Leadership is about far more than popularity or wearing a title. Leaders should be motivated by a desire to serve, to help others be improved, inspired and directed. Leadership is not always easy. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to do the right thing especially when you are in a power position with so many distractions and power bugs and parasites around you!
Answering the second part of your questions as to what “Leadership” means to me – again real leadership is not about titles, it’s about stepping up and encouraging people to do better; encouraging them to do the right thing. It’s about putting your hand up and doing what is needed.
Rose: Do you enjoy politics? Are you planning to become a full time politician? And can you tell us about your political role models – if there are any?
Liban: I think the questions are getting a little intense as we go further – “laughs”
To be honest, when it comes to “Somalis” politics is part of their lives if I may say, people here are politically alert and savvy. The majority of my people in general are very analytical and critical when it comes to politics and politicians, even the average person on the street may play the role of a politician and I think that could be a double sword edge – it could be a blessing or it could be disastrous. So coming back to your question – I will let you folks be the judge here and if you suggest that I could make a good politician then I may consider and give your advice a thought!
Politics is not new to my family – I have many role models, my father that I never met is my role model. I was not fortunate to meet him, he was killed by the dictator Siad Barre’s regime when I was only 40 days old – but I was fortunate to have a mother that used to gather us – me and my siblings – to tell us about our father and how of a great man he was. She told us that he was more of a politician than a “Colonel” in the army and that he wrote a book in Russian that was later translated into Somali and I am still searching for that book until today. I was also fortunate to meet my late father’s friends and colleagues who were proud of him and told me many stories about him and his leadership.
My uncle Omar Arteh Ghalib – the most prominent Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Prime Minister is one of my great role models, I was fortunate to meet him when the former dictator Siad Barre released him from jail after immense international pressure and have accompanied him on many trips and meetings when I was in my teens.
Also, my uncle the late Mohamed Jama Badmah – the former Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia in the 1960s, who was an astonishing diplomat, parliamentarian, teacher and a great father – May he rest in peace. His acumen, great personality and perseverance really inspired me.
Basically, I saw how politicians could be a positive influence in the community and I wanted to be a part of that.
Natalie – from the University of British Colombia: If that is the case, I think you were better positioned in where you were or even further up the ladder. You’ve told us that you are no longer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; can you tell us why? Have you decided to venture somewhere else?
Liban: Sun Tzu wrote – “All warfare is based on deception,” and I am sure you are aware that the definition of politics is a dirty one!
However, I will forever be thankful for the opportunity I was given to serve my people and my country. But right now I am looking forward to advancing my career and I am in the process of realizing my other potentials.
Natalie: “Other potentials”? I smell conflict, am I right?
Liban: Whatever may the textbooks keep saying about politics, the ground reality is that politics is the game of power that whomever in such a position plays to hold their domination and manipulation. The very scientific answers to the questions like ‘what is politics’, ‘concept of politics’, and ‘analyzing politics’ expose its evil spirit that goes 180 degree against the spirit of freedom and democracy. Therefore, one may ask – How can a game of power be a democratic one? And then we say there is democracy on earth! Consequently, the very definition of politics proves this assertion wrong.
Natalie: Can you be more direct please?
Liban: The most influential versions of the rule of law were the “Dicey’s doctrine” popularized by British jurist A.V. Dicey in 1885. Therefore, I must say that the absence of a just arbitration or a discretionary authority to clamor for could lead to immorally, unfair and iniquitous results.
Liban: Next question please.
Natalie: Going back to your statements, you’ve mentioned that the current government outlined its commitment to fulfilling all the promises during the long KULMIYE Party campaign. One of those campaign promises you’ve mentioned was – and let me quote you – “We fought for natural justice and procedural fairness in law, such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights of participation in civil society and politics such as freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition, and the right to vote. We fought for Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
With that being said, recently the President sacked three top officials after they were charged for corruption, but I’ve been talking to a lot of people, regular people here on the streets of Hargeisa, and some are very critical about the way the case was handled from the start and many people believe that it was a conspiracy and a political assassination. Do you think that’s warranted?
Liban: Since you have brought this up, I would like to inform you that the jailed top officials are great friends of mine and legally the accused is innocent until proven guilty. I can verify and confirm these officials’ high morals, ethics, dignity, reputation and determination to serve their nation and not steal from it as accused. Besides, this case has been appealed and is currently in the hands of the country’s Supreme Court and for that reason I do not wish to give any comments on it. However, I ultimately hope that justice is reached and runs down like water.
On the other hand, I look forward to putting an end to this litigation that divided the nation, erupted socially unaccepted squabbles and unforeseen state of affairs so that the government and the nation can together focus more on the nationally scorching issues and find serious solutions to our acutely deep-seated development and structural predicaments.
Natalie: Why do you think there’s such a widespread belief that the judge handling this case has been secretly approached by the government and was told how he should decide?
Liban: The independence of judges is enshrined in the Somaliland constitution and the structural arrangements by those fundamental laws demonstrate a clear division of authority between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches.
Therefore, I accept as true that the executive branch of the government represented by the President takes pro-active measures to safeguard the judiciary from undue interference in addition to ensuring that members of the executive authority abstain from meddling in individual cases which are in the hands of the judiciary.
Natalie: Do you think the Supreme Court will be free from government interference and with less controversy than the regional court?
Liban: I am certain that the country’s political leadership collectively agrees with me and fully acknowledge that the court room is not a political arena.
Natalie: The dictatorship that embarked the anarchy and chaos in Somalia was the fruit of the former dictator Siad Barre having too much power in his hands, however after reviewing the Somaliland constitution I have noticed that it surrenders too much power to the executive branch of the government – in this case the President – Don’t you think that it is very dangerous for one person to have such power in his/her hands?
Liban: The Republic of Somaliland has chosen the Presidential System, where the executive, legislative and judiciary are separate powers with checks and balances between them to prevent any of the three government branches or any entity from having too much power.
Natalie: So many expectations were voiced by pundits after President Ahmed Silanyo won overwhelmingly the presidential elections of 2010 in with 60 percent of the votes. Many thought that since this would be his first and maybe his last term, he would like to leave behind a legacy of great success in alleviating poverty and unemployment, establishing a working democracy and good governance, and creating a unified nation with social justice respected by the region and globally. Because of these objectives, people expected he was going to select mainly professionals to form a unified, strong, capable Cabinet as he promised during his long campaign. But many “Somalilanders” are disappointed and say that the President seemingly thought otherwise, they say that he has some good professionals on board but with no one taking care of the economy. How do you assess the current cabinet?
Liban: They say that President Nixon once expressed the hope that a competent cabinet and advisers could run the country which would allow him to focus his energies on the subject that truly fascinated him!!! – It sounds humorous don’t you think? The competence of Cabinet members in general and of the Somaliland Cabinet members in particular, is frequently put into doubt despite the fact that little systematic study exists on the topic – is your question based on a study or a research you or someone else made?
Natalie: You did not answer my question!
Liban: The meaning of ‘competence’ in this context is of course controversial and I am not sure if the research or the study you made is confined to the occurrence of ‘expertise’ and whether your findings include the indicators of professional experience from the subject areas for which the ministers are responsible for.
Natalie: You’ve told us that you’ve been in the region for over two years now, assuming that you’ve possessed enough experience in politics and the political personalities in the country. In your view – the current cabinet – is it a publicly accepted competent cabinet that the President was praised on appointing?
Liban: If you are asking about the appointed cabinet members with previous political experience from the relevant policy field as well as relevant educational and professional backgrounds, then in my opinion I believe there are a number of them i.e. the current minister of health Dr. Hussein is the right person for that ministry due to his profession as a medical doctor and experience.
The recently appointed minister of information Mr. “Bobe” is also the right person for that ministry due to his education background in journalism and vast experience, the minister of energy, mining and water resources Eng. Hussein is the right man for that ministry due to his education background and work experience.
The minister of national planning Dr. Sa’ad is also the right person for that ministry due to his vast education background, long list of achievements, the wealth of knowledge and experience under his belt.
The state minister of foreign affairs Dr. Mohamed-Rashid is also another high profile minister with immense education background and experience. The minister of agriculture Dr. Farah is also another high profile minister with a unique and lovable personality that brings with him vast knowledge and experience – and a number of other brand name ministers – and the list goes on.
Natalie: You have mentioned six cabinet members out of almost 30 ministers, my question was about “the cabinet” and not individuals. Hence, in your view do you think that they all posses the necessary relevant education, previous political experience and professional background?
Liban: Frankly, when such measures are used, the resulting pattern is that few government ministers are truly amateurs at the time of entering the Cabinet. Moreover, there are few signs that the level of expertise so understood has undergone any dramatic changes during the time period. These results speak against the views endorsed by some academics that ‘the problem of power of politicians is power without competence’.
If it is true that political experience has the potential to breed expertise in particular policy fields, it cannot also be true that the recruitment of full-time politicians as Cabinet Ministers indicates the absence of expertise – Do you agree?
Natalie: Somaliland is not an internationally recognized country, thus the need for a strategic, savvy and pragmatic foreign policy is extremely crucial. Do you think the current Somaliland minister of foreign affairs has the necessary experience and competence to handle your country’s delicate foreign policy?
Liban: I believe that our President carefully spearheads laying out Somaliland’s foreign policy and that the foreign minister is his selected herald. Furthermore I am certain that our President is in command when it comes to pointing out the flaws in our foreign policy if any and is in charge of removing any sense of complacency of his selected cabinet if necessary.
Natalie: The purpose of Employee Performance Evaluations is to inform employees of the quality of their work, to identify those areas needing improvement, set specific objectives for employees, and provide an opportunity to discuss career goals and the support needed to meet those goals. Do you know if the President has performance evaluation procedures in place to appraise his cabinet members?
Liban: Even if such a procedure is in place, it must be handled in complete privacy and confidentiality and no one should have the right to be previewed to it other than the President.
Professor Byron: from the University of Calgary – Regarding the somewhat instability and skirmishes in the Eastern regions of Somaliland, what solution do you advocate in ending the recurrent crises?
Liban: There is no other possibility but to accept the President’s call for a peaceful dialogue where all the living strength of the nation including the troublemaking elements on the ground would gather [and discuss], stop the aggression and the terror these armed groups compose on the country’s security forces and peaceful citizens. I have always advocated dialogue, because dialogue is one of the characteristics of democracy. Democracy implies a number of principles, namely fair and free elections, the recognition of the opposition, tolerance and dialogue and I congratulate our President for his tolerance. I must say that dialogue is a virtue, and through it issues that divide the nation may be settled.
Professor Byron: Recently a fictitious regional authority “Awdal State” was declared beyond Somaliland’s borders amid accusations of inequitable grievances, in addition to calling for a greater Somalia. However it appears that there was a political miscarriage in delivering it, can you tell us why?
Liban: The alleged AWDAL STATE was dead on arrival as soon as the people of Somaliland heard about it. Such a declaration was purported to divide the people of Somaliland and threaten their safety and security. Condemnations were rained down from all over the world; Somalilanders from all regions in Somaliland reiterated their overwhelming allegiance and support to their believed country, the Republic of Somaliland.
The general public, tribal leaders, religious figures, business community, intellectuals and the Diaspora have expressed their dismay, and chastised this fictitious declaration.
Additionally, the people of AWDAL region are known for their extreme caution, for-sight, deep intellect, high civic-mindedness, conservative principles, and dedication to duty, country and religion were shocked with this shortsighted and meaningless declaration and confirmed that these are nothing but fleeting fantasies in far off lands.
Furthermore, the proof that the remarkable people of Awdal were part and parcel and one of the pillars and the solid foundations the Republic of Somaliland was found on is the fact that:
• The previous President of Somaliland Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin (2002 – 2010) is the son of Awdal region.
• The preparation for Somaliland’s state formation conference and the withdrawal declaration from the union with former Somalia in 1991 was held in the capital city of Awdal region – BORAMA city.
• The success of the Borama conference is repeatedly credited to the people of AWDAL region that hosted the conference and to their respected clan and religious leaders.
• The second President of Somaliland the late President Mr. Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, was elected in Borama city the capital city of Awdal region at the “Borama Conference” in 1993
• The current democratically elected Vice President of the Republic of Somaliland H.E Eng. Abdulrahman Abdillahi Ismail “Saylici” is the son of Awdal region.
• Since Somaliland’s inception, Awdal region has been always well represented in all of Somaliland’s administrations where State Officials included Ministers, State Ministers, Vice Ministers, Director Generals, Governors, Chiefs of Police, Chairman’s of Law Review Commissions, Accountant Generals, Quality Control Commissions, Secretary Generals of Somaliland’s Upper House, Heads of Somaliland Appeal Courts, effective and influential members in both the Somaliland Parliament and the Upper House, regional and local authorities, in addition to numerous key positions.
This shows the importance of Awdal region and how it was a key pillar and a foundation for the entire important decision making in the Republic of Somaliland.
Therefore, such a declaration by few confused Diaspora elements is a tool for divisiveness and segmentation and no one exactly knows the exact geographical area they are talking about, its purpose and the structure of their figment are all unknown. In short, their declaration is an ambiguous falsehood and a metaphysical myth that has no legs to stand on, and no shoulders to lean on!
Professor Byron: How about the “Katumo State”?
Liban: The same applies as well. Both the so-called “Awdal state” and “Katumo state” were declared abroad by few individuals in the Diaspora who are believed to have ties with fanatics and troublemakers aiming to undermine and destabilize the Republic of Somaliland and its democratic achievements.
Both groups are propagating disinformation that their alleged territories don’t belong to Somaliland. However their claims are baseless, because Somaliland’s territorial borders are well-known.
Therefore, their only ultimate aim is to sabotage the peaceful people of this country, the newly and democratically elected government of the Republic of Somaliland.
Michael: Do you enjoy reading?
Michael: Who are your favorite writers and why?
Liban: Favorite writers? Mmh, let me see – Andrew Holleran, Zora Neal Hurston, Chekhov, Bruno Schulz, Roberto Bolaño, Javier Cercas, Clarice Lispector, Rebecca Brown, John Preston, Jamaica Kincaid, Kevin Bentley.
Also, I really enjoy the stories of Jorge Luis Borges for their magical complexity, their luminous quality. Milan Kundera and Jean-Paul Sartre for grappling with the really big questions of life while also managing to tell good stories.
Kazuo Ishiguro for just telling really good stories and keeping the message as subtle and understated as his prose. George Orwell for political commitment, brutal honesty, clarity of writing, and the precious insight that good writing is like a window pane.
Michael: What is your favorite hobby or hobbies?
Liban: I love reading good novels and I love playing chess. I also enjoy swimming, playing tennis, working-out and generally being part of doing creative stuff.
Michael: Why chess?
Liban: I like chess because it’s a great game. It makes you think and I enjoy all the strategy that goes into it and how it trains one’s mind to be able to think ahead better. It is also a fair game.
Michael: How is it a fair game?
Liban: Well, for many reasons: Both players begin with exactly the same army, they have exactly the same opportunity to win or lose. It has no physical requirements, including age and it is impossible to tell by looking at someone whether they can play chess well. It has no economic requirements.
Rich, poor, or in the middle… it doesn’t make any difference. A rich man can lose to a poor man or vice versa. And finally – Nothing is left to chance. No dice. No wheel to spin. No cards to shuffle. It’s just a beautifully elegant game and the closest that man has come to perfection is 90 feet between bases and chess.
The End – Freelance Journalists
July 1, 2012Follow @somalilandpress