Somalilandsun – No one who follows the work of Dr Edna Adan can fail to be impressed by her energy, her tenacity and her unceasing commitment to improving the lives of her fellow human countrymen and women.
When we look around us it is all too easy to become cynical about other prominent individuals, especially our politicians. We have a tendency to tar them all with the same brush and assume that they are all just in it for themselves. The reality is far more complex and often quite uplifting; there are many individuals both in the Ruling and other parties who have a genuine desire to work for Somaliland. Successive presidents have served with varying degrees of distinction, but all have endeavoured to navigate a difficult path and hold the nation together at a time when there are some both internally and externally that would prefer it if things went awry. Leadership places extraordinary demands upon individuals and we the public are often all too quick to sit in judgement, when in reality only the Court of History will be able to give a fair assessment of a person or administration’s real worth.
It may well be unfashionable to speak of duty these days, but it is a key aspect of effective leadership. Let us not forget that the word ‘duty’ come from ‘debt’ hence ‘due’ – ‘that which is owing’. President Silanyo has worked tirelessly to ensure that he has done his duty and has had the difficult task of encouraging others to do the same. Leadership always tests an individual’s mettle and especially in the case of government ministers. One of the greatest challenges is the fact that government ministers rarely if ever receive any training for the post that they occupy.
Some ministers take to the task with ease, others find it more of a challenge, whilst occasionally there are people who are totally unsuitable for the role that they have been asked to undertake. Often it is not the individuals that are at fault it is the institutions themselves and thus it is vital that mechanisms are in place to provide the right support, guidelines and checks and balances. We all need to guard against twin dangers of nepotism and complacency. Citizens rightly have high expectations of those called to high office, hence when things go wrong or when issues appear not to be addressed in a coherent manner then criticism is often severe. It is worth noting that recently the President of Sierra Leone sacked his energy minister and deputy energy minister for continued incompetence that had manifested itself in the form of daily power shortages.
Somaliland has many ministers of high integrity and whilst there are occasional failings, its’ record is better than a number of comparable countries. Where perhaps we all get it wrong is in regard to the lexicon of leadership. There seems to be an obsession with power, we hear talk of ‘holding on to power’, ‘exercising power’ and of the ‘corridors of power’, sadly to date I have never heard any one talking of ‘the corridors of responsibility’.
A greater emphasis on responsibility is important for all leaders as it reminds them that they are accountable for their actions or occasional inaction, it also helps recalibrate the thinking so as to enable a greater appreciation of the importance of service. It is beholden on us all to do what we can to serve the nation in a positive manner, and even when we feel the need to criticise, we should do so in a constructive spirit. Somaliland’s greatest riches are not what may or may not lie under the ground, it is its people. The current government like those that have gone before carries an immense burden of expectation and it is perfectly understandable that occasionally it falls short or gets things wrong, but periodic failings or disappointments must not be used to condemn all it in its entirety. If we are truly objective about it, much has been achieved, but yet more remains to be done.
Nation states the world over face monumental challenges, some of which are exacerbated by external forces, some are of their own making. Somaliland has some problematic neighbours, and yet generally it gets along remarkably well with those countries it borders and trades with. Internally the regions occasionally feel overlooked and this causes tension; this is a common phenomenon the world over. Some prefer to gloss over, ignore or dismiss genuine problems, but the true mark of greatness in leadership is the ability to acknowledge and address difficulties with pragmatism and good grace. For any aspiring democracy two of the most important elements are a free and responsible press and an independent judiciary. A robust media and the rule of law are crucial bulwarks against the threat of tyranny and the cancer that is corruption. No government likes its inefficiencies to be made public, but in truth it can have a very cathartic affect. As in all things leaders must be prepared to take the rough with the smooth.
In my personal experience Somalis know that nothing of any real worth can be achieved without effort. Whilst it is important to hold administrations to account, if Somaliland is to continue to move forward it is essential that it harnesses the remarkable dynamism of its people and resolves to look to the future with confidence. Every man, woman and child needs to play their part, and those in leadership roles must lead from the front with confidence, humility and in a spirit of quiet determination and service.
Mark T Jones – Leadership Specialist