By: Suleiman Hersi
I would like to share some experiences I have with Somaliland. While I am a Djibouti national I was born in Somaliland. I spend all my early school holidays in the small idyllic town of Arabsyo. I always looked forward of going back to Arabsyo, to wander in the all day long between the huluq and Arabsyo “doox”. If someone had asked me what the paradise looked like Arabsyo will be the nearest thing in my mind.
All those changed in the summer of 1986. Indeed that summer started like any other one. Everyone was getting ready to the time of their life. Elders looking forward to refill their vitamins and energy levels by eating all kind of fruit (yes you could find a huge variety of fruits and vegetables in Arabsyo), while younger to organise the usual outdoors games. There is not a better place to embrace the nature than arabsyo in the whole of Somaliland.
Zeylah was usually our first stop from immigration checking and luggage searching. It used to be a formality to go through as children were not bothered that much. But that summer things have changed for the worse. My small bag searched and when I asked the police officer to help me to close it again. BOOM! SMACK IN MY FACE. How dare I ask such thing? Few stars in front my eyes and staggering forward I continued my journey thinking things will be much better in Arabsyo.
How wrong were I. Few days after settling in Arabsyo we were told to hide all our footballs shoes because SNM had left footprints with studs. Were SNM a football team? Were they the bad guys? People were whispering not always telling you everything. It does not help when your parents are different tribes as well. In short I was in the dark for everything mainly because of my young age and partly because nobody was trusting nobody.
One day, BA DA BOOM everything came tumbling down. There was a bomb which exploded next to a military camp near Gabiley (somewhere called “dhagax madow”).In the same afternoon we were arrested on our way to Gabiley rounded by some mean looking military men. Few who had a beard were dragged on the floor because there was this belief that SNM because they were living in the wild did not shave. Top drawer profiling if you ask me. Anyway we were asked to say our last prayers. My last thoughts were for my family. Then they changed their mind and brought us back to Arabsyo and were again rounded near the police station where we were told again to say last prayers. I am still wondering how I did not wet my short. At last we were told to come to the local theatre the next day as an important person would make a speech. In the meantime the curfew was 5 pm.
The next day everyone was forced to attend the speech of a certain “Koora jin”(the evil saddles and his infamous “farda Jin”(evil horses). (I later hear that he had become a good religious man. What a fake).We were told that they will conduct an investigation of the events that happened near Gabiley and will search the area for clues. And what investigation it proved to be. LOOTING, RAPING, AND BEATING IN THE HOUSES. What a nightmare. I was beaten because I tried to hold on my stereo.
The next day I was in the first truck out of Somalia and prayed Allah not to bring me back ever here.
For the next 26 years I travelled all over Europe and Africa but I never went back in Somalia which become Somaliland later. I was told things are different now. I have friends and family in Somaliland who swear that the situation has nothing to do with this dark period of late 80’s.
Why I am telling you this story now is because I am going back to Somaliland tomorrow and hope I will not be treated for PSD when I come back from Somaliland.
SOMALILAND HERE I COME.