Nearly all African societies suffer from not only ineffective governments but Presidents who refuse to leave office who throw their countries into civil war and almost always destroy their societies. Somaliland stood out as a society that has deviated from the known path until now. Somaliland is not Zimbabwe and the two societies are profoundly different in their ethnic composition.
However, recently Somali and Zimbabwe seem to have found convergent similarities. Mugabe refused to leave office after a highly publicized election and after a solemn promise to accept the outcome without a fight, but he emerged four days after the election and said ‘no’ to every road to peaceful exit. In Somaliland Dahir Riyale was busy for the past few years stalling every move to register voters. He did not want the country to vote and not trusting the people did not want them to vote him out of office.
As the days leading to his exit approached, he asked the NEC to write a letter postponing the timeline of the elections which would give the Guurti (House of Elders) the weapon to fight for him. NEC refused to break the law but Riyale’s Guurti extended the term of office for him and broke the laws that keeps all of them in place. Likewise, Mugabe, after he lost the election, scolded his entourage for not watching the vote carefully and compelled them to agree with him. Riyale and Mugabe’s similarities end here.
Mugabe is an old man. He spent more than 10 years in the wilderness fighting the white occupation. In short he found Zimbabwe. When he recently said in an interview ‘Mugabe is Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is Mugabe.’ It might be true that sadly in his old age, he seriously believes he found Zimbabwe and he has to remain in office until he dies. He might be confused into believing that Zimbabwe is his estate and he the owner of that estate. Therefore, since he fought for it he should always keep his treasure. He might not have envisioned for himself any other post except the President of Zimbabwe. But one wonders what does Dahir Riyale think when he refuses to leave office.
Somaliland was neither found nor saved by Dahir Riyale. If Mugabe was the one who saved Zimbabwe, Dahir Riyale is the one Somaliland was saved from. He was among the dark forces of Siad Bare who tortured innocent citizens for not adhering to the rules of his master. He was lucky to have been forgiven for his crimes and luckier even more for inheriting the highest office of the land. No one in the society rejected this lucky inheritance.
On the contrary, the people of Somaliland welcomed him and ignored all that could deny him office. Then, he tells us that he was chosen by the people and luckier still, they have chosen him over KULMIYE, the party that had all the war veterans in it. People then were a bit surprised of the outcome of a vote. They expected otherwise but being inherently democratic, they let him stay in office. Now the same people want to hold an election and vote for their candidate.
He is a candidate (the only one from his party) but he does not trust the people. Why not? They voted for him once – overwhelmingly, he tells us- why can’t he trust them again. It can only be that he does not have the confidence of being elected and he is afraid that the comrades who have rigged the votes for him last time have given up the job. Unless he lacks confidence to be chosen again by the public, he could not have gone too far transgressing the laws of the land, intimidating the same people who have voted for him. He needs to study his history and his legacy that will offer him nothing but shame. He cannot control people with intimidation. He and his comrades cannot suppress the will of the people. He should allow elections to take place and the people to choose their leader.
I think the people of Somaliland, opposition parties, National Election Commission and the international community should work together as soon as possible to register voters. That should be the focus of the land. Our beloved country should stay peaceful. Let the people work hard on saving their votes for the right leader in October. Now is the time to register voters and that should be the single vision.
Long live Somaliland. PEACE InshaAllah
Rhoda A. Rageh