By: Mohamed A. Suleiman
In Canada where I live, there is a national holiday that is observed every year on November the 11th. The holiday, which is known as the Memorial Day, honors the Canadians that sacrificed their lives for the freedom that all Canadians enjoy today. The only institutions that remain open on this day throughout the country are the schools.
The wisdom behind opening the schools only on this particular day is quite obvious. We all know that in any nation the schools prepare today’s young generation for tomorrow’s leadership roles. Naturally, tomorrow’s leaders need to be well versed in the history of their nation and the sacrifices that were made by their predecessors. Canadians, being the ingenuous and intelligent people that they are, deliberately decided that their schools remain open on this national holiday so that students in the schools could experience Canada’s national history first hand and so that they would know and appreciate how the freedom that Canadians enjoy today was earned.
On this day, the students in the schools put aside their textbooks in favor of assembles and other activities that honor Canada’s war dead and the living veterans. The veterans visit the schools and give lectures and presentations that are designed to inculcate a sense of pride in the young generation’s hearts for their nation’s past. This allows the students to appreciate the sacrifices that were made for today’s freedom. In essence they are taught to “thank a veteran for their freedom”.
While many other nations in the world share this honorable tradition of remembering their heroes and heroines who paid the ultimate prize for freedom, it saddens me tremendously to learn that the people of Somaliland are being denied their indelible right to keep the candle of freedom burning through their schools, the most cherished institutions of any nation.
Over the years, the people of Somaliland have shown resilience and a superb degree of steadfastness to hold on to what they so dearly built through reconciliation and goodwill. Against all odds, they survived for seventeen years under an inept government and without any tangible assistance from the international community. The people of Somaliland made these tremendous sacrifices because of the glorious liberation struggle that was spearheaded by the Somali National Movement (SNM) that eventually rid the nation of Siyad Barre’s dictatorial and oppressive apparatus. Their love for freedom and the fact that they became masters of their destiny caused them to turn the other cheek whether they were dealing with an inefficacious, corrupt national government or an international community that largely denied Somaliland the most basic humanitarian assistance.
Rayale Kahin and his cronies should realize that the SNM is Somaliland and that Somaliland is SNM. The two cannot be separated since Somaliland is a product of the SNM’s long, costly, and courageous liberation struggle. They should know that the SNM is to Somaliland what the ANC is to South Africa or the PLO is to the Palestinian people.
This most recent insidious move by Rayale and his cronies, which is designed to deny the people of Somaliland to keep their most contemporary history alive through their educational institutions, is certainly going to ignite outrage in the territory itself and in the diaspora. It is a flagrant insult to the intelligence of the good people of Somaliland.
In the mid 1980′s, when the SNM’s liberation struggle was at its peak, I was the editor of a newsletter that was published by the SNM’s USA chapter that was published out of Falls Church, Virginia; a community in the suburbs of Washington, D. C., where many people from Somaliland who fled Siyad Barre’s scorched earth policy lived. In that newsletter, we used to give the Somali people and the international community a monthly dose of what was truly happening in the motherland. In the newsletter, we used to chronicle the atrocities that Siyad Barre’s forces were committing against the defenseless civilians in the former North West and Togdheer regions of Somalia.
How could Rayale and his henchmen ask the people of Somaliland to forget the brutality that the citizens of the north experienced in the hands of Siyad Barre’s government when that painful memory is so vividly engraved in our collective psyche? How could our students and tomorrow’s leaders be denied to learn about the mass murders, the lootings, the rape of girls and women, and the killing of innocent children that were all perpetrated by Somalia’s national government? How could our children be denied to know about the bombing raids carried out by mercenaries on Hargeisa and vicinity, including refugees who were fleeing the onslaught? How could they be denied to learn about the roundup, the incarceration, the summary executions of scores of intellectuals and leaders, simply because they belonged to a distinct social group? How could our school boys and school girls be denied to learn that the resistance that led to the liberation of Somaliland started with young students, just like them, who were courageous enough to throw stones in protest of what they deemed was an unfair oppression and persecution by a heavy handed regime?
As someone who researched and reported on those atrocities, it breaks my heart to witness that the government that was born out of the courageous resistance to those atrocities is forcing its citizenry to dispose of the history of that glorious human spirit.
This kind of disrespectful and misguided policy could only be propagated by a government where a former municipal clerk is the minister of education and a former colonel in Siyad Barre’s dreaded National Security Service (NSS) is the head of state. It is a stark reminder that the country that was liberated from the “faqash” is in fact ruled by “faqash”. How else could Rayale and his cronies expect the Somaliland populace to be oblivious to the sixty thousand martyrs that paid the ultimate prize for the freedom and liberty that they enjoy today?
Any human being with as a shred of decency in their blood would be appalled by the tricks that Rayale and his henchmen are playing with the children of Somaliland. Those of us in the diaspora should realize that silence is tantamount to collusion, particularly when it comes to the core values that we so commonly share and cherish. Our history is our history and we own it. And we have the right to teach it to our children through our educational institutions. Nobody should be able to take that away from us.
As the popular English saying goes, “those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat it”. The people of Somaliland should draw a line in the sand and tell Rayale and his cronies that enough is enough. A golden opportunity presents itself later this year when the presidential election is to be held. Let us make sure that we send Rayale and his cronies packing and let us make sure that we boot him out of office.
In the meantime, in order to keep the history of the SNM alive, we should force the ministry of education and the Somaliland government to introduce Raqiya Omar’s much celebrated book, “A Government At War With Its Own People”, as a text book that should be taught in every school in the Somaliland proper. If Rayale was implicated in the book as a participant in the atrocities that were committed in Somaliland, then so be it. He has never proclaimed his guilt or innocence and he chose to be tight lipped about it.
Let us send a loud and clear message and tell Rayale and his henchmen that the people of Somaliland can forgive but that they cannot forget.