By: Asmahan Sheikh Mussa
I dedicate this short piece to all the men and women who lost their lives in the liberation of Somaliland from tyranny. To the brave heroes who perished and to those who are still alive; to those who were injured and those who still suffer from Post Traumatic War Syndrome. We neither hear their names nor do we pause to reflect on the magnitude of their sacrifice as millions enjoy the peace and stability that is synonymous with our Motherland. Today, I salute those who are alive and pray for those suffering and the martyrs.
Once again it is that time of the year. The air is abuzz with excitement and the social media is chattering away; the websites are filled with colourful posters depicting entertainers, local and from abroad. This is the month that the Somaliland flag is most revered. Somalilanders’ Facebook profiles carry the flag, and patriotism is high on everyone’s list. One can’t escape being asked if they are going to the Somaliland “party,” and, if affirmative, followed by “which one”? See, there have been two in Toronto in the past several years and this year is not different. Then, on the day—or rather the night—of May 18, patriots, young and old, congregate in the designated venues and wave the red, green and white flag singing “calanyahow ha dhicin, ha dheeliyin, weligaa dhisnoow.” How joyous the moment is! Everyone’s face is light, and the love our people have for their homeland becomes obvious.
This is all good, however, we need to step back from all the hoopla—the music, the beautiful diracs, the lovely venues, the greetings and laughter—and pause to reflect on the magnitude of this day. May 18 should not be about people’s inflated egos, clan/political affiliations, or how many people will attend any given event. It should be about love for the country and for those less fortunate.
On that fateful day on May 18, 1991, those known to the people of Somalia as “qaldaan” took their fate in their hands and reclaimed their hastily given-away independence. On that day, in the city of Burco, the people of the former Northern Somalia spoke with one voice, had one vision, and swore never to be marginalized again. They spoke as a nation under one flag. That same voice, unity, and that same good will, should govern how May 18th is celebrated. It should reflect on the cohesiveness of the country and should be rejoiced in one venue with one purpose. Unfortunately, this day has been turned into an egotistical event by two competing groups. Neither group has the interest of the Motherland at heart. Each is obsessed with who will put on the grandest show, while the importance of the day is lost in this quest.
As a fellow Somalilander and one who is guilty by association, it is my belief that the schism in the community has damaged our image in this city. Two posters both boasting “Xaflada Somaliland ee Toronto” adorn walls in areas in the city hostile to the existence of Somaliland. It is time the elders and the community leaders in this city take this matter into their hands and appoint a new committee for the commemoration of this historic day. It is too late this year, but, maybe, next year, the community can celebrate in one venue.
This article would be incomplete if I did not call on Somalilanders to remember and support the surviving veterans as well as the orphans and widows. Many are without the basic necessities of life and the funds raised in these events would fulfil many of their needs. For history not to repeat itself and to learn from the lessons of history, it is imperative to collect and document all materials pertaining to this significant era.
Asmahan M. Sheikh Mussa