Dr. Yusuf Dirir Ali
Just yesterday I accidently met a Chinese-looking guy in a restaurant in Burao. An acquaintance of mine introduced us and from there we began our conversation. The gentleman was a Chinese Muslim from North-West China and he came to Somaliland looking for investment opportunities. Mr. Abdurrahman was upbeat and buoyant of the prospect of investing in Togdheer region. He spoke of the nice climate, the vast land mass with fertile soil that was never cultivated, the possibilities of developing the livestock industry into modernity and the many other unexploited natural resources in Somaliland and especially in Togdheer region. Our conversation drifted to the Somaliland population and I jokingly told him: “it is about the same size as inhabitants of a medium-size Chinese hotel – just about 4 million.” I added, hearing that he burst into laughter and alerted me “that is a bit of an exaggeration.”
Mr. Abdurrahman told me that he lately read from somewhere that we in Somaliland lost 50,000 lives to a famine in the 1970s and he politely wanted me to explain how that happened, when our country is so rich with natural resources. At that point I have realized that we wasted our time doing nothing, but talking and endlessly talking. I was embarrassed to be told stealthily that I belong to a nation that is intellectually lazy, a nation that never learns from its past mistakes and a nation not willing to plan and think ahead for a better future. Yes indeed, I was more than humiliated and I had no decent explanation to offer to Mr. Abdurrahman.
I admit, from the day we united with Somalia onwards that we have had many hurdles on our way, but these hurdles were of our own making and due to our uneducated poor judgments. As a nation we suffer of a psychiatric derangement known as a displacement disorder, which involves a shift from important to unimportant elements. We cowardly avoid tackling with reality and we look around for a scapegoat rather than looking at ourselves on the mirror and as a nation we blame our own inherent problems on others, including the weather.
We preoccupy ourselves and waste our precious time at variance on the clannish affiliations of the new members of the new president’s cabinet rather than putting emphasis on their abilities in solving our enormous problems. In turn, the newly chosen cabinet members appear on TVs bragging of their personal attributes instead of telling us what they plan to do to improve our miserable lives.
Our president does not do any better, because he wastes too much time avoiding to step on the toes of different clans and that is how we ended up jumping on the laps of these incompetent people time and again – isn’t that an ignominy?
Talking of scapegoats let us stumble upon our major problems head-on. Let us begin with the international recognition of our national sovereignty, did not the international community offer us the opportunity for a bilateral dialogue with Somalia on our future relations on a silver platter? Did we mange that in a smart way?
We talk a great deal of lack of jobs and opportunities of international investment; didn’t the UK government give us the opening to showcase our investment prospects to the world? Did we run home with that opportunity? What about educating our youth to the level of international acceptance, so then we can market them as qualified cheap labor and bring home much needed industries from all over the world? Have we done our best making lives easier for prospective investors by putting corrupt bureaucrats on short leashes? How are we going to forge friendships with other countries to get more international support?
What are we doing to offer food security to our people and how long will it take us to accomplish that? How are we going to deal with corruption and nepotism? What about power abuse and obstruction of justice? What about conflict of interest? What about human rights? The list of questions goes on frenziedly.
Unless we answer these questions and put an action plan on the works then we will only dig our heels on the spot and get frozen in time. These questions and many other more crucial ones can only be answered by having honest, bold and hard-working leadership. Let us see what countries that have fewer resources did accomplish in a short span of time and follow the examples of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The successes of these countries are attributed to a courageous and a good leadership. Equally, the advisory members of every leader are a reflection and a measure of his intelligence and integrity.
Are you wondering if my conversation with Mr. Abdurrahman was in Chinese? Then that is not the case – we are both fluent in Arabic.