Over the last month or so, the ‘Qalbi Dhagax’ saga—the arrest and extradition to Ethiopia of a Somali citizen, who is understood to have served in the Somali National Army in the Seventies and Eighties—has consumed the attention of Somalis around the world. There have been those who have spoken adamantly against the Government, especially the President and Prime Minister; others, for different reasons, have withheld their criticism, claiming they needed more information to make a judgement or that to topple the sitting administration would be a step backwards for the country’s progress.
What has been lacking, however, has been a centrist position, which assessed the situation on account of the known facts. Without a doubt, to cast judgement— either in support of someone or in opposition to them—without any appropriate understanding or consideration of the facts is not to be encouraged. What readers can perhaps agree on, wherever they stand on the issue, is that the Government’s position was not helped by its prolonged silence on the matter. Such deafening silence leaves the airwaves vacant for others to speak out and ‘make the news’, fashioning a chain of events to suit their own interests.
Do we yet know the facts of the case? To this writer, there are a number of unknowns which are prerequisites for any action to be taken. In the absence of a trial, what were the grounds for the extradition? Many have noted that the concerned citizen—whose sobriquet one gentleman recasted as ‘Qalbi Saliim’, cautioning that we do not know whether the nickname in wide circulation is welcomed by its bearer and certainly does not ease the task of those doing his bidding!—was not involved in any activities for at least a number of years which could have made him wanted by any country. Another important unknown has been the chain of command responsible for giving the orders in the whole process. Did some detractors err in placing the blame at the feet of the President and the Prime Minister? Are they complicit simply by their position of authority in the country? Indeed, these commentators believed that the Government’s leaders had erred either way: either they had been complicit in the whole process or, more worryingly they claimed, the Government did not command sufficient control in the country, if an event of such a scale could take place under its nose without its knowledge.
One only need look at any contemporary map of Somalia to discover the Federal Government’s authority deficit, as it fights for control of the country not only against Shabab but also the devolved administrations, which many believe—as an increasing number of them which are speaking out in support of the Saudi-UAE alliance against Qatar —overstep the mark. As it tries to recover and rebuild after two decades without a functioning state with thoroughgoing governmental apparatus, Somalia’s people—in as far as one can take the online discussions across a number of fora as indicative, in a general way, of national consciousness— are increasingly speaking in a legalised language. The extradition (or at the very least, the process followed), some argued, was illegal—in direct violation of the standards of international law. While a move towards doing things by laws is to be encouraged, particularly after such the long period of lawlessness, certain trends stand in the way of this encouraging development. After the Bariire incident, many were up in arms, seeking to call those responsible to account. But this process was cut short. According to a well-placed source, The Powers That Be paid bloodmoney to the families of the victims of the assault. This may seem a return to the nineteenthcentury, where diya payments were common practice among warring factions and clans, competing over scarce resources such as waterholes and grazing land. If the Big Powers are being forced to solve disputes under a tree, whither the future— and can one hope that such things will soon enough be solved at a table, preferably on the floor of the nation’s courtrooms and Parliament?
An interesting dimension in the criticism of the Government has been between those who live in Somalia and those who live abroad, in the diaspora. There was certainly a sense on social media that the bulk of criticism came from those in the diaspora. What explains this phenomenon? One commentator felt that the dayuusbaro are given to hyperbole because they are so removed from the reality on the ground. On social media, one well-known journalist, who lives in London, was openly reprimanded by those in Somalia, advised to withhold his criticism, being told something to the effect “you have two countries; we only have one”. Does living abroad compromise one’s commitment to the truth? The import of this message was that any challenges on the ground—be that the downfall of the current administration because of these sagas—would affect those within the country’s borders and to a lesser extent, if at all, those further afield. Is this a reasonable supposition? Are those in the diaspora to withhold their criticisms unlike they take the plunge and resettle back at home?