By Barkhad Dahir
Somalilandsun— The Gaboye clan in the Somaliland region is taking steps to achieve greater political rights after facing years of political, social and economic marginalisation through tribal-based discrimination.
A 16-member independent committee of traditional leaders, religious scholars and Gaboye clansmen on June 29th ended a month-long survey of Somaliland’s six regions to gather facts on discrimination.
“Because the clan has been missing from the Somaliland National Assembly for 21 years, and it has become aware of the barriers preventing it from taking part in politics [… ] a decision was made to create awareness and educate people,” said Barkhad Jama Hirsi, minority affairs adviser to the regional president.
“When no one [from the clan] succeeded in the [November 2012] municipal elections, it was determined that there is internal disorganisation and conflict,” said Hirsi, a Gaboye clansmen and member of the committee. “Therefore it became inevitable to look for a solution to the problem.”
During its survey the committee created a development sub-committee to work for the clan’s interests throughout the Somaliland region, Hirsi said.
A conference in Hargeisa will take place on a yet-to-be-determined date to share and discuss the findings from the committee’s survey, according to Gaboye elders spokesperson Sultan Mohamed Muse Abu Sufyan.
The meeting will bring together members of the Gaboye clan, including traditional elders, members from the diaspora, intellectuals and youth, he said.
“It is a group that is isolated from the rest of the society, and discrimination has resulted in not dealing with them or mixing with them,” Abu Sufyan told Sabahi.
“When it comes to work, our people are confined to work in jobs that other people do not take,” he said. “They are also isolated in residence. For example, in Hargeisa they live in a separate neighbourhood called Daami.”
The Gaboye clan also does not intermarry with people from other clans.
Abu Sufyan has four wives, all of whom are Gaboye. “If I had the opportunity, some of them could have been from other clans, but that is not possible for us at this time,” he said.
“Even if a woman is [initially] willing, she will not marry [a Gaboye] because of fears that society and her family would exclude her and her children,” Abu Sufyan said. “How can you discriminate against someone who shares your religion, neighbourhood and colour?”
Long-term discrimination has damaged the lives of minorities because they lack confidence to mix with the rest of the population, Abu Sufyan said.
“We are very concerned about these bad habits of discrimination,” he said. “Older adults have become accustomed to this culture, but young people want change and freedom.”
A collective uprising against such discrimination is necessary to effect change, said Ahmed Mohamed Dirie, a researcher with the Data and Research Solutions agency in Hargeisa.
“The wall of discrimination can be broken if hundreds of people including political leaders, clerics and famous people all marry women — with their consent — from the discriminated clans,” Dirie told Sabahi.
In 2011, Somaliland regional President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo appointed a committee to make recommendations on how minorities and women could take part in local politics.
After the committee issued its recommendations, the regional parliament’s lower house rejected them on September 1, 2012, saying it was illegal to give women and minorities a quota in the municipal council and Somaliland House of Representatives.
However, after Silanyo’s annual address to both houses of the regional legislature on January 30th, he submitted a proposal to institute such parliamentary quotas.
While Hirsi welcomed the president’s proposal, he said he was not hopeful it would pass. “Parliament does not look as though it will agree to and pass [a plan] to give us a quota,” he said.