A letter to the Somaliland Times
I would just like to register my support for your stand on the issue of the unlawful arrest and detention of the Haatuf journalists and the ones who followed.
I was born in Somaliland myself in 1961 and returning back to Somaliland again after 43 years in November 2005 was one of the highlights of my life, so proud was I of the efforts made by the people of Somaliland to create their own peace, stability and independence, crucially with democracy and the rule of law.
I was asked by so many people in Hargeisa, including on Somaliland TV, about what I thought about Somaliland's claim for recognition and why it was that the UK was waiting and so on. I was very enthusiastic about the call for recognition and I said so, although pointing out how happy the country could be with what it has done on its own, without recognition and dependence on foreign aid and so on. I have talked about the issue many times on my blog (http://charlesfred.blogspot.com), and I have signed petitions and so on.
However, now I feel that the people of Somaliland and all their supporters have been betrayed by the President and those parties who have been involved in this shameful episode. Very telling is the fact that the courts wanted to refer to the law of Somalia rather than Somaliland's own press law when reviewing the charges. Disgraceful.
I am a firm believer in locally tailored democratic institutions, together with a pluralist civil society where there are press freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of association and various civil bodies, from trade unions to women's groups and environmental groups and so on, non-monopolistic companies, the rule of law, an independent judiciary and so on. I thought that Somaliland was successfully on its way down the right path, but apparently not.
All the plaudits which Somaliland receives such as Africa's best kept secret and all that sound a bit hollow and false when compared to the current reality. For sure, no-one thinks or expects Somaliland to give up its independence, but recognition can hardly be a reward for good civil government, at least not now. And the scarey thing is that if a government wants to act like this at a time it is putting itself into the world's (or Africa's) spotlight with regards to recognition, one can easily imagine what it will be like when recognition arrives, along with all the World Bank loans, oil exploration concessions and so on..., unless things change at the top.
It is a good thing that there are elections in 2008 and let us hope that these are free and fair, as the others have been said to have been. In the meantime, I feel the biggest challenge facing Somaliland is the restoration of democracy and the rule of law and I appreciate the efforts made by yourselves to achieve this.