OPINION | May 17, 2012

By Ali Yare

What is the need for maintaining a military base in the densely populated and residential neighbourhood? How could a civilian be tried in a martial court under the military law? Are these not the reasons why the people of Somaliland root out the former dictatorial regime by paying heavy price by their valueless lives and blood? These are the question that any decent Somaliland citizen should ask himself or herself.

A couple of days ago a confrontation that resulted in the death of seven civilians and military personnel and the injury of many others after a group of heavily armed youth launched an attack on a military base which they claim to have been taken from them illegally without no compensation. This attack and confrontation ensued after the legal mechanism in the Somaliland Republic has failed to handle the dispute in fair and judicious manner.

First of all, one would see no reason why the government maintain a military base in the middle of densely populated and residential area. The military is the defense forces of the nation that are designed to protect the country from external and foreign enemy. Logically the bases should have been relocated in the border area of the country and in arms length of civilian population. Only dictatorial regimes keep a heavily fortified military base within the vicinity. This military base was established by the former dictatorial regime of Mohamed Said Barre to control the Somaliland population. It is a fact that this land was confiscated from individuals without any compensation. The last four successive governments established in Somaliland after it had claimed back its independence from Somalia Republic had not attempted to evict the local people who were been able to claim back their illegally confiscated land after their return from refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

One would think that the days when the local population was suspected as enemies within had long by foregone. However, the decision to keep a military base within the residential area is a clear example that the Somaliland government has not yet grown out of the old mentality of being wary of its own people. If we do not see our own people on equal footing and be a role model for the next generation, it would be impossible to achieve stability and peace in our nation which has determined enemies all over the vicinity. This incident also clearly demonstrated that how the military and the police forces tried to handle the situation. There is no doubt that the military and the police have used excessive forces in defending their positions. It would be an insult to those European donors that finance the recurrent training and salary of the special police unit. Somaliland is expected to be an example to good governance and democratic value. What distinguish our nation and the thing we are proud of is our tolerance and respect for human dignity. We would not be any different from our brothers and sisters in Somalia Republic if we militarise every civil issues. Civilians who have been frustrated by the web of oppressions and systematic alienation would have no option than using all means necessary to defend their right. It is from the government we have to expect patience, tolerance and fair treatment.

Report coming from the local area confirms that there was a long dispute between the local people and Somaliland’s top military officials. The dispute has been taken to the court for a judicial settlement. However, it would be hard to expect the Somaliland judicial system would be in position to handle a case in which powerful military personnel and top official in regime are involved. Before the conflict there was a rumor circulating among the local population that their land would be contracted to crooked private companies engaged in clandestine land grab in Somaliland since the current government came to power. It is worthwhile to mention a number of companies owned by individuals who hail from the same Isaq sub-clan as the current president have been engaged in buying a huge tract of land in most parts of Somaliland. A recent contract awarding Dahabshiil, a multimillionaire company close the president, an exclusive right for the a destroyed cement plant in Berbera city has met stiff opposition. Dahabshiil has since abandoned its plans to take over.

A democratically elected government is expected to follow the rule of the law in solving issues concerning its own society. It is sad that the current Somaliland government has not been able to manage disputes that have arisen in every corner of the country. A case in point is the dispute currently on going in the Buhoodle area.

The election of a new government in Somaliland has brought a new dimension in the Somaliland’s volatile political dynamic. Recently it is reported that there is a widespread land grab by the government officials who are spurred by corruption. Many companies rumored to have strong connection with the current government in Somaliland are in race of land grab.

The naked incompetence of the current government was evidenced by the way the civilians rounded up after the confrontation was brought to criminal justice system. It is sad that a civilian government would allow non-military person to be charged, tried and sentenced in military court. A military court is specifically designed for military person who commit crime. There is no law around the world where a civilian would be tried in a military court. One would have justified easily if there was a marshal decree and the country was in emergency situation. As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is no any martial law in place in Somaliland. It is a reality that one would hardly deny that many civil strives have mushroomed around the country since the current government came into power. This is partly due to the disregard the current Somaliland government shows towards the long existing tradition of tolerance and respect to every civil and community rights and freedom in Somaliland.

It is worthwhile to make a note here the caution the former president of Somaliland, Dahir Riyale Khahin, made in his final speech during official ceremony handing the presidential power to the successor, Mohamed Ahmed. In his speech the former president made clear that he would appreciate if the elected president give priority in keeping intact the whole Somaliland as it used to be then. It is less than two years when this reality was shatter by the nepotism and flagrant disregard to the local population basic rights and freedoms. It would be a sad scenario if the current government does not heed the plight of its own people and handle every citizen in equal term. It would be an irony if the good cause all Somaliland brothers and sisters sacrificed their blood and lives turned into vain.

By Ali Yare