As Hiiraan prepares to declare its own state, adding another episode to Somalia’s tragic story of disintegration into clan Bantustans, I wonder if Hiiraan would go down the same road of insanity towards destroying the country’s statehood or would it chart a new course and usher in a new dawn for Somali sovereignty and nationhood.
The choice will definitely be that of the people of Hiiraan and its leaders but I would like to take the liberty to remind them a few shining moments of their history. Hiiraan was the birth place of great men who played a pivotal role in the creation of the Somali nation.
The generation of Somalis who grew up with the euphoria of independence, have cherished memories of the legacy of men like Adan Abdullah Osman, Somalia’s first President and a man who gave Somalia the pride to be the first country in Africa where an elected civilian president handed over power to his successor in a democratic process in 1967. Osman could have followed suit of other African liberation leaders who held on to power until they died or were overthrown by military dictators but he chose not to. And after leaving office, he lived as an ordinary citizen and a farmer without any involvement in the country’s politics until his death. This is a fact worth reminding the young generation who know Mandela as the only African leader who left the presidency after one term. Also Mandela was an elderly man of 81 when he left office which could have contributed to his decision not to run again but Osman was only 59.
Other remarkable independence figures of Hiiran included Abdillahi Iise Mahmoud, an SYL leader, Somalia’s Prime Minister under the Italian trusteeship period and first foreign minister after independence, and Sheikh Ali Jimaale, an independence leader who challenged Osman for the presidency and later served as a cabinet minister in the first post-Independence government.
It is such history that obliges Hiiran to take the lead in stopping the current spiral towards the disintegration of the Somali state under the false and abused concept of federalism.
It was Winston Churchill who said: “If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law”. And in today’s Somalia one can say that if you have half a dozen men, each one calling himself a president, then you definitely destroy the legitimacy and meaning of a President of a sovereign state.
According to sources, there are about 25 federal states in the world and none of them has the title of president for other than the leader of the federal state. As an example in the USA you have state governors and in India and some Commonwealth countries you have the chief minister, as the elected head of government in the province or state, while in the UAE you have rulers in each of its seven Emirates and only one president for the whole country. As far as I know only Bosnia Herzegovina has three member presidencies, each member hailing from one of the three races in the country. But even there, only one of the three serves as chairman of the council for every eight months in a four-year term. Switzerland also comes to mind but it has a confederation and not a federation. It has a seven-member federal council who collectively act as head of a state but each member is elected as chairman of the body for one year in the council’s four-year term.
Somalia, therefore, could be the only country in the world where the head of every clan-based state not only adorns himself with the title of President but indeed acts like one, literally negating the authority of the country’s president. It has almost become a daily occurrence to see the so called “State Presidents” being summoned to foreign capitals, meeting foreign heads of state and signing agreements dictated to them including military agreements that allow foreign troops to be deployed to the areas they control. Here, one may argue that if the ruler of a certain area of the federal government can invite foreign troops and sign agreements that infringe on the authority and duties of the country’s President, then it is very hard to deny that such a country is indeed a divided country.
To make an end to this “federal” nonsense, it is my wish that the people of Hiiran show real leadership in ending the country’s free fall towards anarchy and disintegration.
I know the temptation for the title could be too strong to resist in a tribal society where every clan reinforces its fences and raises its flag, but the existential question that faces every clan and every leader should be: What next? And what next should be quite obvious to every observer of the Somali political landscape today. A divided nation is easy prey to every scavenger. And the country is now literally divided into tribal fiefdoms calling themselves states. People who are homogeneous by race, language, skin color, and culture including religion are divided by walls erected by self-serving politicians whose main objective is to ingratiate themselves to their foreign masters as long as they can have the hollow title of “President” which can easily be replaced with the word “stooge” in the current Somali political context.
So how Hiiraan could break this trend? They can do it by rejecting the title of “President” for their highest executive and instead call him a “governor” or “Chief Minister” or whatever other title they could come up with. This may sound as trivial to some but it is indeed a serious matter and if adopted it could bring a monumental change to Somalia’s political landscape. Indeed one can argue that names really matter. They come loaded with ideologies, images, and perceptions. It was Confucius, the Chinese teacher and philosopher, who brought this concept home when he was asked what he would do first if he was a ruler. Confucius said the first thing he would do should be to rectify names. And when his confused friend asked him how that would change things, Confucius gave a him a long list of things that could be harmed including the structure of society and the dispensation of justice if names were not correct.
Therefore, to rectify names is what we direly need today in Somalia and by changing the name of their “state” leader from president to Governor or Chief Minister or even Ruler, leaders of Hiiraan could bring a sea of change in the thinking of the people. And this could encourage the weak parliament in Mogadishu to initiate a bill to change all the titles of “state” rulers from “president” to governor and to rectify the names of the mushrooming and meaningless “Lands” to their proper descriptions such as regions or provinces. This will be a small step from Hiiraan but a giant leap for the Somali statehood to borrow Neil Armstrong’s famous quote.
So the question is: Will Hiiraan be bold enough to change this damn title?