Somaliland: Justice must be Delivered for Healing to complete its cycle

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More than three decades later, Somalilanders are still hurting whenever a southern politician comments on the horrific massacres that took place in their county. It became their habit to furiously fume with rage and indignation like a fizzy, then settle down instantly and move to another trifling topic about the local politics.

That anger and a deep feeling of mistreatment and unjust alienation are always there, simmering under the surface, waiting for any small stimulant to trigger it. the reaction periodically comes as a provocative comment from one of the ex-senior figures of the military regime, or an antagonistic action from the incumbent president and his cabinet.

The reaction always takes the form of an unorganized wailing, condemnation and, at times, self-deprecating blame; this haphazard response is understandable since Somalilanders has never passed the first grieve stage of the healing process. After the initial euphoric elation of independence declaration, they were faced with extremely exceptional circumstances that occupied their entire thinking process: the establishment of the newly declared state from ground zero.

Hence, they were forced to look inwards and start focusing on the internal challenges; the building of state institutions hand-in-hand with slow, laborious urban reconstruction, reconciliation and conflict management.

Like any other nation recovering from decades of subjugation, tyranny, and complete dismantling of national institutions, many internal frictions surfaced manifesting as direct tribal confrontations and, sometimes, infightings. Recurrent skirmishes between the victims of the same enemy multiplied the cost of the reconciliation, delayed the state-building project, and prolonged the healing process.

We successfully tended to the visible aftermath of the destruction that occurred to our cities and towns, prioritized tangle outcomes, but knowingly or otherwise, ignored the hidden wounds of that era.

Disregarding feelings could be due to our cultural behaviour that does not appreciate showing emotions, openly addressing sentiments, and elaborating on grieve, but prefers to keep the lid tight and leaves hearts to suffer in silence. As a result of that, a senseless comment from the criminals at large, Guul-wade as an example, ignites storms of furry from our side without reasonably weighting the incident to positively organize our action.

There are countries who have gone through similar circumstances like us; delivering justice was an integral part of their healing process. We built our nation on forgiveness and new friendship for all the citizens of the new state, but never addressed our attitude towards those individuals or groups who were prime drivers of the transgression and reside beyond the borders of our state.

Shall we pursuit justice by going after them with legal prosecution and actual physical elimination or leave them to history to judge them in its way. Our leaders and intellectuals never put these important questions for discussion.

And what about those of us who chose to abort the state-building and impede our reconciliation through forging an unholy alliance with the perpetrators of treacherous acts of killings, torture and rape against our people. Do they have a free pass to come back whenever they like or will they be facing tough measures for the years and sometimes decades, they were sabotaging our existence and assisting our sworn opponents.

Thirty years later, we are still in a mood of grieve, easily irritable and the shock that encapsulated our subconscious is refusing to dissipate, our collective memory is not yet ready to let go. Our national institutions (parliament, presidency, and political parties) are mature enough to initiate a discussion about how we will deal with this reality, and the intellectual community is capable of enriching the debate with the relevant historical context, legal backing, and political analysis it requires.

Those citizens who were affected the most must be given a platform to speak, their stories documented, and internationally disseminated. When we formulate a formal public stance against those criminals at large, it can be translated into an implementable action plan to counter them, trace those influential figures still surviving, and with the sight of justice in action, healing will commence and complete its course.

Until then, the cycle of provocation countered by a fizzy-like response will continue to manifest as an online outrage.

Dr Abdikarim D. Hassan

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