Celebrating Independence

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She lives in Fharax Nuur village, her hut sits beside Mustaqbal Organization’s office where the young and old women of her village go in the afternoon to attend literacy classes.

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These are the children of Awadan village. Their huts surround the dilapidated structure that houses the women of Gurmad organization, where their mothers attend weaving classes in the afternoon.

Some of them were born during the war in mid-90’s some, after. They definitely didn’t witness Somaliland’s independence from the British rule, they will only hear stories about their colonizers from their elders. They may not understand the long running political debates about Somaliland’s quest for international recognition, they hear stories about the valiant effort of their fathers, uncles, brothers, aunts and mothers who have fought and died during the war.

Celebrations and ceremonies were held yesterday to remember the past and to commemorate the short independence Somaliland has achieved. There was a gathering at the public square, lunch of the intellectuals, government, civil society and international community members and a grand dinner with the President.

After the festivities and the lights go off, everyone goes to sleep knowing that this country still has a long road to travel. It still has to keep its balance and walk towards preserving its fragile peace, still has to take those painful steps to struggle and build a strong and competent leadership and it still has to stride to work its way for a democratic transition.

Someday if everything turns for the better, these children will look not so far back and find meaning in the celebration of independence.

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No chances

People here and abroad were shocked when demonstrators were arrested when Somaliland celebrated its 13th year of independence. What was more surprising was the immediate decision hurled at the demonstrators the following day when the Regional Security Council sentenced them to 6 months to 1 year imprisonment. Some however agreed with the government’s move, arguing that Somaliland couldn’t take any chances.

It has been approximately 2 and a half months since the ambush of the GTZ vehicle that killed their Kenyan consultant, 8 months since the Tonelli and Eyeington killings. Nobody has been brought to court. “Its still under investigation” remains to be the official answer.

The government seemingly has been quite security conscious lately. There were reports of people who have been picked up for questioning. One Somalilander from the diaspora was brought to the police station because he was caught taking pictures of the gate of the Hargeisa Central Prison. “The police said, they’re taking no chances, Somalis, foreigners as long as you look suspicious they will question you.” he narrated.

In my house, visitors and friends who stay late are usually questioned by my police guard. Apparently they got instructions that visitors should only stay until 12 midnight. It is a common knowledge that the country’s police force badly needs training. That is why, it’s good that they ask them politely, when they explain that its only part of their job.

I work late at night. Yesterday, I stayed in my veranda where my mefresh or sitting room is. Slumped on the carpet, I tapped my computer and tried to finish my report . I saw a flash of light from my police guard’s torch, as he walked around and checked the surroundings. When he stopped, I realized he laid down his mat and sat just outside the mefresh watching me.

I went on until my laptop ran out of batteries (government light goes off at 2:00am), it was 3:30 in the morning. “Ifrah, shaqo badan” (Ifrah too much work) he said. To which I responded, “ha ha, bes kalas” (yes yes, finished). Then we said our haben wanagsan (good evening), come to think of it, I should’ve said subah wanagsan (good morning).

My Roots

There was a huge demonstration yesterday. It was true that the shouts I heard from our office came from children and youth who passed by our office after attending the rally. The whole story is that people protested against the war at the center of the town, some said the people were by the hundreds close to a thousand. For a small city like Hargeisa that is something.
I was told that an effigy of Bush was burned, there were people carrying Iraqi Flag. The demonstration was peaceful. It just goes to show that Somaliland people are not indifferent from the war happening in Iraq. They too feel frustrated about the whole US aggression, they too feel that this war is not justified; there is no justification for war.

Situations like these make me appreciate my roots. I am glad that I came from an activist background because I was trained to organize demonstrations and was taught the rudiments of conduct of the parliament of the streets, because of this I realized my first reaction was not to be paranoid and panic instead look at the bigger picture and analyze the situation. I am glad that I did not come from a sheltered background for taking part in the movement back home honed my resilience in politically unstable situation.
I am glad I am a woman of color from a struggling nation like the Philippines.

Life Goes On

Clusters of about 50 people gather along the streets, in cafes, in restaurants, listening to BBC radio news in Somali. The television set in Darasalam is stuck in Al Jazzera News Network based in Doha, Qatar showed dead American casualties of the Iraq war. It was a welcome site for some people here who keeps abreast of the development in the war.

For us, well we make sure we keep are always in our best political behavior, we keep silent and avoid making political statements in public.
The Minister of Interior sent the international community a letter advising us not to go out in populated areas. Everybody tries to keep calm, everyone tries to do his/her everyday tasks. Life goes on.

There were news that some expats have moved to Nairobi.Its true, but not because of the war, some were out for holidays.

I will join my Filipino compatriots for dinner tonight. Carbonara and chili chicken with coconut milk with the wonderful company of Mary as guest, the British nursing volunteer teacher at Edna Adan Hospital. We’ll watch the news, enjoy the food and each other’s company. Tomorrow will be anbother day, that’s the way it is, we’re here on earth to live life.

The Elders Have Spoken

The symposium of Civil Society from Somalia and Somaliland ended today. Ministers from various agencies of the government of Somaliland were present led by the Minister of Planning. Interestingly, a representative from the Guurti (council of elders) was there who gave a wonderful speech addressing his brothers and sisters from the Mogadishu, Puntland and of course Somaliland.
He talked about how the various clans in Somaliland have come together, compromised and have united to rebuild a country who have seen the ravages of war. �We should come as one� he said. He also pointed out that the international community should also recognize the diversity among Somalis from the south and the north and commend the fact that North Somalia, now Somaliland has come to terms with their inter-clan conflict and that now have a peaceful country and an independent government. The elders of the north also pray that there would be a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the south.

“The elders did it all” said Fosia, a Somali officemate, while explaining to me how the elders played a critical role in establishing peace in Somaliland. “We had to compromise and forgive each other, even those who did us harm, who killed our people, who looted our properties sat with the elders to resolve the conflict. We had to forgive to move on, to have peace.” she added.