How DahabShiil club undermined Somaliland’s march to independence – Commentary

Published On: Monday, August, 20 2012 - 00:52:54 This post has been viewed 2394 times

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Dahabshiil’s impact on the country’s wider policies goes far beyond the logic. It openly nominates ministers, Hirsi Gaab, Sa''ed Ali Shire for instance, and fires ministers who refuse to implement its vested interests. Engineer Hashi, for example, is a law-abiding citizen, who refused to make tax exemptions and offer “leniency.” He was ultimately fired, which is the fate of everyone who ignores the company’s demands. Both these ministers, Hirsi and Shire, were un-heard of, never mind seen on the political stage – they were originally ordinary clerks in the company doing mundane tasks. - Just less than 30 years ago, Ahmed Mohamoud Siilaanyo, the incumbent president of Somaliland, and the founder of Dahab Shiil, Mohamed Saed were watching each other’s back and had been shoulder to shoulder with each other. They met in the early 80s while the President was in exile and Saed worked in a kiosk called Dhiig Shiil (which loosely translates to blood-smith or exploiter) in Diri Dawa, Ethiopia. As the chairman of the Somali National Movement (SNM), Siilaanyo had received funds from Issaaq sympathizers in the Gulf region and deposited the savings in the Dahab Shiil kiosk which sells cigars and foodstuffs. The chairman’s embezzlements were said to be injected to the kiosk as start-up capital to become a global giant. Though ill-gotten gains are said to never prosper, the embezzlements continued. In the later years, it was so hard to distinguish SNM Funds from that of the Dahab Shiil kiosk. Similarly, Berbera Port’s revenues and the company’s are one. Nonetheless, the clandestine activities that began years ago continue to this day.

Siilaanyo took money for himself and generously gave other Issaaqs’ money to his partner, not only as a loan, but also to possess it! Thus, the company dramatically expanded with embezzlements, kickbacks, and war-profiteering techniques. On the other hand, Dahab Shiil donated millions of dollars to Kulmiye’s election campaign – three times as much as that of Riyaales’ government, which borrowed the huge taxes from major businessmen including Al Jaberi and Saudi investors to keep the campaign alive. Without the tireless, unlimited financing of the company, it was certain that Siilanyo would meet utter failure; worse than his first fiasco in the previous election. But he lobbied ethically and convinced his tribe to hold grand conventions comprising the three major elements of Habusha, half of Issaaqs in terms of lineage. He proceeded to tell his kinsmen at the convention that any defeat would not be his alone but theirs also, which shocked the enlightened participants. “If I fail, the whole clan has collectively failed!” he uttered.

Just as the demagogue gave the clan’s blind supporters great momentum to push his hidden agenda through, apart from the Gar-adag Convention which played a part as well, the ultimate reward of his embezzlement and re-financing the company put him to power. He scratched others’ backs to get his own back scratched. That was an open secret. That was the story of the “insiders.” That was the story of the people, and that was my story too.

The firm’s paradoxical, fatal role in the government

Dahabshiil’s impact on the country’s wider policies goes far beyond the logic. It openly nominates ministers, Hirsi Gaab, Sa''ed Ali Shire for instance, and fires ministers who refuse to implement its vested interests. Engineer Hashi, for example, is a law-abiding citizen, who refused to make tax exemptions and offer “leniency.” He was ultimately fired, which is the fate of everyone who ignores the company’s demands. Both these ministers, Hirsi and Shire, were un-heard of, never mind seen on the political stage – they were originally ordinary clerks in the company doing mundane tasks.

In Wikileaks, Abdirashiid, the managing director said Ambassador Awil and the former Central Bank governor viewed the Dahab Shiil Company as a threat to their authority. In other words, he realized they found out his business malpractices, including violating the country’s core values: dream to recognition and the well-being of the people.

The behavior of the company is both contradictory and detrimental to Somaliland’s existence as an independent state. The company had accelerated a set of measures to dismantle the whole project: the building of blood banks for Puntland enemy forces during warfare in Sool’s liberation. The donation of half million dollars to Abdilahi Yusuf Yay’s weak government was perfectly anti-Somaliland and inexcusable. However, the company’s participation in national days such as 18 May Day or Maalinta Sheekh Isahaaq is largely symbolic! How hypocritical it is! But people have opened their eyes to it.

Many ministers and officials in the government are very much indebted to the company, despite the individuals who were planted in the system. Erro, the Speaker of Parliament, has became instrumental in Siilaanyo’s doomed conspiracies. His party, Wadani or National, is exactly the opposite; the party is more yes-party than the ruling party of Kulmiye. There is no effective opposition party in the entire country today! The donors see that, the people see that. There is no independent judiciary, no lively parliament, and no active opposition parties as well. Dahab Shiil Co. bought off the faith of all. The noisiest of all, Faysal Ali Warabe, has kept silent as he swims in oceans of bribery as well as empty promises. He became the mouthpiece of the regime (kacaanka). Even Riyaale finally fell to the trap. What a pity! The conman has begun a manhunt for all decent voices to silence all.

Political Maneuvering and the rhetoric

The recent talks between the presidents of Somaliland and Somalia have revealed a lot. The agenda of the conference war is absolutely irrelevant. The two sides discussed shallow matters regarding Somaliland’s future. Neither side mentioned Somaliland’s political fate in the future nor did Somaliland’s president explain his demands, the progress achieved through the talks, and what concessions he made. Instead, he focused on piracy and terror and Sheikh Sharif, the outgoing president of Somalia. That was insulting to Somalilanders. Nevertheless, Dahab Shiil once again succeeded his ambassador, Hirsi Gaab, to be physically present in the dialogue in Dubai to safeguard the company’s strategic interest. The company wanted a huge market and secession was not the interest of the firm. After all, Hirsi succeeded to lead the delegation in a different way.

Many analysts say the “illicit” affair of Siilanyo and the firm is a “Survival Bridge” and it is strategically “indispensable.” It is hard to imagine Siilaanyo as president without the crucial support of the company and vice versa. That is a raw fact. The clannish fans of the party whom I met here and there confirmed to me that “nothing would happen without the vital funding of the company” and I agreed with them.

Business-cum-politics firms

As soon as the president was sworn in, Dahab Shiil affiliates – Somtel, Hawala, foodstuffs importers and exporters, internet providers, and many others – aggressively launched their inaugurations to coincide with the president’s. All of these conglomerates are entitled to tax exemptions and have the licenses to bulldoze anything they want from wildlife to subcontracting airports and seaports. However, they are flourishing now, as predicted by the president. These groups of companies have at their disposal the highest authorities: government power, huge finances without certified sources and can remove any multi-national company that comes its way, repress poor masses, and bribe major decent voices calling check and balance in the power.

More liability than asset

The Presidency has been mostly occupied by either veteran statesmen and women or highly educated men and women or both, but now that is not the case. Former livestock middlemen with knives and clubs and men with vested interests are packed here. “I could not imagine being a minister as I never met one in my life…but when I joined the system, I was told I can easily fake it,” he affirmed. “Nothing can happen here without my endorsement and signature!” Two-thirds of the ministers are amateurs and have never been public servants in their lives. Having no memory of achievements whatsoever in their lives, they are pleased to be mere ministers and are indifferent to the country’s fate. Shoeshine boys are even thinking of one day becoming ministers, without having to go to school. Anyone can be a president provided that you have the expertise and the qualification for the top job in the nation.

Humiliation of the people’s intellect

When asked if he knew the subject of the ongoing talks, Vice president Saylici answered, “I am unaware of the contents of the talks, be they for unity or not!” Somalilanders are in agreement over how silly it was to hear the VP saying such things in a televised interview upon his return from Europe.

Such as disarray is an aftermath of lengthy calculation, it is a perfect scenario that was developed to embrace the new era as the talks are for unification. Will any of us want to meet Morgan, the brutal culprit in Las Anod roads or Las Qoray? Will any of us want the cancer, from which he recovered, to return? That is the case now.

Shiekh Sharif of Somalia apologized to Somaliland for the tragedy that happened to them during the dark days in crowds of elders in Mogadishu, hinting at a possible return to unity. In any event, a cocktail of issues are intermingled, but Somaliland’s overriding issue is that full independence has gone missing in the heart of the communiqué of all conferences from London to Istanbul to Dubai. Why? It is quite mystery.

The company’s interests is taking over the nations are ruining the country’s dreams of independence and nationhood, which is not easy to get. Over the past two years, the president entwined business with power politics to please his former right hand man, Dahab Shiil. However, if the President and his cohorts including the green foreign minister, whose main duty seems to become a private assistant to the President in every conference where he appears on local TV arranging paper work for the President, continue to take part in the future Somali conference, the international advocacy for our independence will automatically decline.

Furthermore, the President’s meeting with Xaglatoosiye, a ring leader of militia, casted a doubt over the fate of the nation. Why this at time? Why not meet before? And what has changed Xaglatoosiye’s mind? But the President Siilaanyo has reformed himself over the years; his strong faith in Somaliland has been diluted by certain forces or faded away. Siilaanyo is no longer the man we knew. Those radical changes in his rigid principles took no notice of us. Silent creeping reforms are underway.

Although the combination of power politics and businesses are a threat to any country in the world, particularly to ours, the demoting of the parliament to yoke of Dahab Shiil still continues. Both the President and Dahab Shiil-installed ministers are in one direction, that is, to unify Somalia, to gain better position and larger market respectively. Dr. Sifir, former Deputy Prime Minister, is now leading a low profiled life and working behind the scenes to accelerate the process, thanks to Dahab Shiil’s privileged club. But the question now is: will the people take to the streets in Hargaysa, Buroa, Erigavo, and Borame to foil the conspiracy or will they be pleased with mere Somaliland flag paintings on a few public places by Dahab Shiil Co. paying lip-service to them? Changes do not happen on their own – they need a vehicle to happen. Are you ready to be that vehicle?

{Dirye is Somaliland Activist and Volunteer. He can be reached at:[email protected]}


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