Somalilandsun – You often hear about statements such as ‘the Somaliland diaspora must invest in Somaliland and take part in the development of their country ‘. What about if you exactly done that and after 16 years of investing $100,000 and incurring a debt of $20,000, find yourself being threatened by the same establishment that was asking you to invest.
Brothers and sisters this is the story of Yusuf Gandi Public library. Behind this story is a Somalilander who after being made redundant from his post in Ontario Government Department in Canada, decided to move to his mother land to open a public library that serves the people of Somaliland who were in dire need of a library at no cost. I love Somaliland and the people of Somaliland and those of you who know me well, know that I value the harmony and the unity of our people. This is why I have decided to write about this highly debated topic which can divide the people of Somaliland if not handled well. Let me give you a brief history of the library before I share with you my recommendations for resolving this problem.
During the preparation for his redundancy from 1998 to 1999, Ahmed Yusuf Ismail thought of the initiative to open the first non-government established public library in Somaliland. After being made redundant from his post in 1999 and having decided to move to Somaliland and open a public library, Ahmed Yusuf bought stainless steel book shelves, and shipped this and thousands of books he collected in Toronto to Hargeisa in summer 1999. He funded this with his redundancy money. The sole aim he embarked on this project was to follow the footsteps of his father, Yusuf Gandi who was one of the fathers of Somaliland education by providing free library educational facilities to Somaliland public. When he arrived in Somaliland he met Abdirahman Adami who was the Mayor of Hargeisa at the time and was shown the property where the library is today. There was a sign on the property that read ‘Hargeisa Public Library’. Ahmed Yusuf was given this public property to open the library and this is confirmed by a letter dated 20 March 2000 signed by Ahmed Jambir Suldan who was implementing late president Mohamed Ibrahim Egal’s approval to estabish GPL. As a result of this Government communication and approval, Ahmed Yusuf was able to open the first public library for 30 years in Hargeisa and soon Somaliland public who were thirsty for books and library facilities quenched themselves of this thirst and started using and benefiting from Yusuf Gandi Public library.
Ahmed Yusuf Ismail has been running GPL singlehandedly without any support from the Somaliland Government or local and international NGO’s. According to Ahmed, the 16 years that the Library was open no single Somaliland Minister visited the library including Education Ministers. This shows the challenges facing the library. When you do not have support from your own government running a public library, you will experience all kinds of difficulties like the ones the GPL is going through right now.
About 6 months ago, a Local Hargeisa newspaper wrote an article that informed the public the property GPL is built on has been sold to the Harbi Brothers Group – a Somaliland family business. After making inquiries, Ahmed found that this was actually the case and he was extremely disappointed and felt let down by his government in particular those who were involved selling this public property to the Harbi Brothers Group without his consent and the consent of Somaliland public who are in essences the owners of this property. During this time the library was shut down by the Government and it was only reopened when many Somalilander especially students protested against this injustice and complained to the President strongly rejecting the idea of selling the property GPL is based which was always a public property.
On Thursday 26 March, Ahmed Yusuf was called by the Head of Hargeisa Central Police station – Mr Mohamed Mohamud who told him that Somaliland’s Minister of Interior – Ali Mohamed Waran Ade along the Head of Somaliland Police chief Brig. Gen. Abdillahi Fadal want to see him. Ahmed was told at this meeting that he needs to move the library to another location and vacate the property voluntarily or face the prospect of eviction. Ahmed did not accept this and the GPL is still going through unnecessary threats.
Like Ahmed Yusuf, the Harbi Brothers Group have equal right to invest in their country. After all there is nothing personal about this issue and I believe with the right intentions it can be resolved. The ideal solution for this problem is to leave things as they were so that the public can continue benefiting from the services of GPL at its current location. I believe the land where the GPL is located is the most appropriate place in the heart of Hargeisa Central to accommodate the library users. Coercing Ahmed Yusuf and evicting him from the GPL property will be the worst outcome of this conflict. I advise Somaliland government against taking this kind of action as it will affect the unity and harmony of our people and will render our country to one where the rich and powerful prevail over the weak and vulnerable. The aftermath of such injustice will affect the security and unity of our people and will foster a culture of corruption and inequality. Ahmed Yusuf had right to buy this property when the government was planning to sell it if the previous government’s agreement to grant the library property to him was not going to be honoured. He should have been the first person to be approached by the current Government of Somaliland for the sale of the property. After all he invested 16 years of his time, money and effort providing the people of Somaliland public library facilities for free of charge on charity basis.
May Allah help us all to overcome this problem? Aamiin.
Mohamed O Maigag
Somaliland activist & writer