By Ahmed Kheyre
Somalilandsun – The other night I came across an old video of the late President Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal (AUN), leaving for a visit to Yemen and Egypt.
The airport that today bears his name had no resemblance to the one today. It was the old Hargeisa airport with a dusty tarmac, the 1958 terminal building, no VIP section, no new terminals, the old shed was paper thin, the soldiers on parade were emaciated and had ill fitting uniforms, the police band had rusty old instruments with only about six members and they sounded terrible.
Yet, among this wretched scenery stood the late President; smiling, hugging, cajoling, bullying, flim-flaming, taking from one hand to pay the other hand. The consummate politician, a born leader. And for all that political bluster, there was joy among those gathered to see him off and to see him return. Among those present, were former President Dahir Rayale Kahin, the late Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Yusuf and countless others, both supporters and opponents, as well as, our current President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Silaanyo”.
So, you have a picture of Somaliland just emerging from a devastating civil war, lean, hungry and eager, but with a sense of purpose. Today, we are fat, content and totally corrupted.
The late President looking dashing in a black suit, hair blowing in the wind, the usual cigarette in one hand infused those present with his energy. You could see the looks in the faces of the gathered, friend or foe, the energy emanated by the President.
The late President was on his way to Yemen to argue against the blockade of Somaliland’s lifeline, our livestock, and then on to Egypt to plead for help with education and other projects. He was not on his way to fill his suitcases with dollars. Today, Yemen is falling apart, and its refugees fleeing to Somaliland, among other places and Egypt is a basket case! As they say, Karma is a bitch!
Upon his return, to more joyous scenes, he departed for the presidency in a convey of rag-tag vehicles. No sleek, black or white, latest model Landcruises.
The video shows the ride down from the airport, atop that famous hill. As the vehicles make their way down, there is nothing. No Ambassador Hotel, no new villas, no skyscrapers, no new cars or buses or lorries. Nothing, just people on foot, waving and cheering.
The Hargeisa of today with its fabulous skyline was not in evidence. As the entourage approached and entered the presidency, still then, one building with no gardens or outer villas or arches, or peacocks, a few soldiers gave salute, and once inside, the late president took questions from the media. And what questions they were!
Respectful, yet grilling, hostile, yet fair, and he took them on. He was a master politician, serious, jovial, angry, conciliatory. He answered so many questions, either the video ran out or the media just got tired!
Today, we have a President unable or unwilling to face the media. Unable or unwilling to run the country. Unable or unwilling to be accountable for the actions of his family, minions and sundry freeloaders occupying the presidency. Our president came in to office with a thumping victory, cheers and plenty of goodwill. Today, that welcome and all the good deeds by the administration in the last five years are being sullied by those around the President, unwilling to face the public in elections, amassing great fortunes and hoarding all the offices of state, and many other ills.
Yes, Somaliland has come a long way, and sometimes, we see the past with rose tinted glasses. Lest we forget, there was a damaging internal war during the late Egal’s administration, there was poverty and lack of development. But, there was a sense of purpose. There was leadership, there was inclusiveness, there was tolerance and fairness, there was eagerness and hunger to create a new nation.
We have managed most of all those things, and there still a long way to go, but we do not have a leader. We have a president, who is old and tired. We have a political class who are community orientated and money grabbing.
But, there is a silver lining in these stormy clouds. In about 16 months. God willing, Somalilanders will go the polling booth, and cast their votes. They will have two choices; elect the same old tired generation of politicians or go for the younger and more purposeful generation.
And as usual, ordinary Somalilanders, the final arbitrators of this nation’s destiny will make the right choice. We need leaders, young, energetic and ready to lead. The wise council of our elders will always be there, but for a nation to forge ahead, the energy and sense of purpose of its youth is needed.