For someone who was not raised in his father’s homeland – his for keeps, too, I was obsessively in love of a land I imagined was mine by default.
At 19, I, at long last, grabbed an opportunity to visit the land of my dreams – Somaliland.
On that first – and last – visit to my cherished ‘Somaliland’ which, to me, was an epitome of gallantry, resilience, righteousness, bravery & courage, democracy, zest for life and hospitality. My Somaliland.
For the first five to six months, I reveled in the sounds, scents and what was to me an exotic approach to life alien to someone who grew up in western adopted culture.
For those months, I lived with my parents who looked forward to introducing me to the land of my forefathers. Hargeisa, naturally, was a choice that none of the other cities could out best at the time. That is where we stayed.
My honeymoon with the country came to an abrupt end one afternoon soon after my parents left me to continue living in Hargeisa, where I started exploring for business start-up opportunities.
That afternoon, I woke up from a short siesta to load banging on the front gate of the small villa I was living in. Groggy and a little annoyed, I found three belligerent uniformed police officers banging at the door with bakoorado – walking sticks they were using as batons. There was an elderly woman with them. As soon as I opened the door, she started accusing me of all crimes in her book but kept coming back to me being ‘dhaqancelis‘ – an accultured, uncouth, degenerate who had been thrown back from a foreign country for rehabilitation.
The police and the lady did not ask me anything or take my permission. They just stormed past me shoving me aside into the house.
They kicked every room in, looking for God knows what. They even peeked into wardrobes and under the bed. I was living alone and they soon finished with the looking as there was not much furniture or hiding places to hinder them. The villa was only a three-bedroom affair.
They started throwing questions at me, asking where I have hidden the ‘girl’. I asked them what girl. That when two of them started slapping and spitting at me.
Curious neighbors soon crowded the small courtyard and a melee of shouting and shoving started. The uniforms won, and they dragged me out half-clothed into a dilapidated police care they called while they were searching the rooms.
I was taken to a place they called the CID – Criminal Investigation Department. I now know call it in my mind, whenever the nightmares return: the Criminally Inhumane Dungeons (CID).
The so-called investigators (detectives) there kept dragging me out day in, day out – and often ion the evenings – to make me admit to illegally keeping a girl in my house out of wedlock, introducing her to drugs and Marijuana, and to turning the neighborhood into a red light district. I had no idea what they were talking about. Some of them, it became obvious, were going through the motions for a reason I only realized much later to my expense.
I came to know this was all an age-perfected technique to make the accused keep coughing up more and more money. The longer the stay, the graver the accusations the more likely it was for inmates to keep the supply of Qat money going.
I was beaten with padded sticks on occasion. On others, I was made to sit out in the cold in my under clothes in order to make me bend to their will, to cower and cringe at the first voice of authority demanding answers I did not have.
I was distressed and disoriented at first. Talking to the other inmates and discovering their plight, later, turned my dismay into anger.
And, of course, there were these others who played the role of ‘soft’ cops asking you to give them money so you can get food and other little ‘favors’ from outside.
And this all happened – and through the instigation of – I was told the head ‘taker’ there: the department director, a man called Colonel Abrar.
He and his butcher ‘officers’ know fully well that they cannot pay for their habits if their cells are not filled to capacity at all times.
The place is an abscess on Somaliland integrity. It is a malignant outgrowth on decency. It is nothing but a dingy, flea market which trades on human misery. It is accountable to nobody – not to the Police command, not to the Department of Justice, not to Human rights organizations, nor to the general public. The Somaliland media has long since been subjugated to look the other way.
Even now, more than a year since I bought my way out of that hell hole, I am plagued by the trauma of knowing that such places still exist – and in the heart of a ‘capital’ city.
I call on His Excellency the President, the Ministry of Justice, the police Command, the national and independent human rights organizations to investigate. I am sure you will find there a good number of people who are being kept there without the benefit of defending themselves in a court of law for months and months – if not years – on end.
The place is nothing but a misery depot commanded by a free-wheeling misery-seller. Period.
Ahmed D Hussein