Monday, 14 June 2010

Interview With Prof. Iqbal D. Jhazbhay

Issue 105 Jan.26-Feb.1, 2004
Interview With Prof. Iqbal D. Jhazbhay

The following are excerpts from an interview conducted by the Addis
Ababa-based the Sub-Saharan Informer with the South African Scholar
Prof. Iqbal D. Jhazbhay as published in the newspaper’s issue of Jan
16, 2004

SSI: What are the major implications of recent development in the
political contours of Somaliland?

Prof. Jhazbhay: In analyzing many of the international developments
and notably on the continent of Africa, we can see that within the
Horn of Africa, the future of the African continent is being played
out. It is here in the Horn of Africa that many of the key scenarios
would determine the future of the continent. Let me give you specific
examples; there is now a consensus amongst intellectuals and amongst
policy makers, that the key requisite for development is peace and
stability and what we are looking at is reasonable peace and
stability. So, in the case of Somaliland, we see reasonable peace and
stability has emerged. The question then becomes for the international
community, for intellectuals and policy makers, is that when you have
an area of the world, which is reasonably peaceful and stable that,
then requires that the international community, the intellectuals and
policy makers rise up to that challenge. People have toiled with their
sweat, with their blood, we cannot let down the children of
Somaliland, and neither can we let down the women of Somaliland.
Because our humanity is linked to the humanity of others. By
recognizing their humanity and their efforts, we are genuinely
recognizing the humanity in ourselves. So, I get a firm sense when I
look at South African foreign policy, we see no a creative move to
recognize peace and stability, we see refreshing move to say that one
of the goals of NEPAD is to encourage peace and good governance. If
that is so, it means that principle has to be applied concretely, and
fortunately South Africa has taken that type of approach when you
analyze South African foreign policy, you find president Mbeki’s
Director General for conflict resolution visited Somaliland in January
2003 to listen and to recognize the efforts of the people, the women
and the men who have toiled to bring about peace and stability.
Through their own indigenous conflict resolution methods, this is one
concrete case where the future of humanity is being played out in the
Horn of Africa and by recognizing the efforts of the women, children
and men of Somaliland, we are recognizing our own humanity and we are
giving concrete from to the NEPAD objective of supporting good
governance, peace and stability.

SSI: Why is it taking long for some countries to recognize Somaliland?
Prof. Jhazbhay: In the past, when we turn to the case of Somaliland,
you find that when the British arrived there, they needed Somalis to
guide them through. Now the fact that Somaliland has attained
stability, the irony is that there is a need of foreign interlocutors
to interpret the peace and stability and make it known to the world.
So, you see many well-known scholars, such as Professor Ali Mazrui,
doing so. So, this is the first irony I would have to outline in
unpacking the case of Somaliland. I think the real reason is the fact
that information on Somaliland has not been forthcoming, the flow of
information has been pretty restricted to certain Internet websites
and it has a lot to do with the unenlightened approach at time on
behalf of multilateral institutions. You find initially the UN, the
OAU at the time, had taken a particular type of approach but now there
are some encouraging sights. The AU is showing some positive signs. So
I think, one is the flow of information. Those who have been informed
are coming through very positively now. A good case in point is the
South African media now. There is balanced reporting on Somaliland. A
lot of institutions are reporting on Somaliland, institutions like the
Africa Institute, South African Institute of International Affairs,
the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa… and that has now brought
about a more informed awareness. That has also made the local
constituencies play a much stronger role. The same could be said about
the United States. There has been a steady stream of reporting on
Somaliland. The Washington Post ran a very enhanced article. In the
UK, there have been regular delegations to Somaliland. So I think it
is very much a fifty, fifty situation. More countries now have a more
informed sense and there are also many countries that do not have an
informed sense. Those who do have an informed sense, have taken
positive steps in analyzing the situation in Somaliland. It makes the
point that once again, newspapers like the Sub Saharan Informer, and
other world wide newspapers have a big role of informing world opinion
about the reality in the horn of Africa. The type of balance here is a
non-partisan approach. There is also another reason. There are
powerful blocks, whom I believe don’t have an interest in peace and
stability. Their main concern may not be the waters of the Nile River.
The main concern is democracy. You are familiar; in the Horn of
Africa, there have been some successful experiences in democracy. I
have described Somaliland’s emerging democracy in an article earlier
on. I described it: “as a success story, Somaliland is Africa’s best
kept secret”. And sometimes you find a deliberate attempt to suppress
information because of the emerging democracy. It has had successful
local and presidential elections. Ethiopia is now going to have
democratic elections emerging. The others will have it too. So there
are key blocks in the Horn of Africa, who are afraid of democracy. The
waters of the Nile River is one issue but the “huge threat” is
democracy. So it is in the interest of those who do not have an
interest in democracy to block the emerging democratic movements. I
think there is a consensus amongst key international pro-democracy
movements like the International Crisis Group, which described the
experience of Somaliland as one of the most successful experiments of
democracy in the Horn of Africa. So, to my mind, those are the key
reasons why you see this block of information, a deliberate attempt to
suppress information and democracy.

SSI: In this regard, according to a discussion with Mohamed Hussein
Idid, who clearly told me that it is encouraging, Somaliland is a
stable government but it would be to the whole advantage of Somaliland
and the horn of Africa, if they remain united to Somalia. Do you think
there will be a danger if the international community goes ahead and
recognizes Somaliland?

Prof. Jhazbhay: I subscribe to the view held by Professor Ali Mazrui.
This is a view held by many well-known specialists of the Horn of
Africa. The view is that, when you have a peaceful and reasonably
stable part of the horn of Africa, it should be allowed to grow and
should not be pulled off. The view of Professor Ali Mazrui is that
Somaliland has the resources alone to develop its institutions. One
day when the rest of what was empirically known as Somalia comes back
to shape Somaliland can possibly re-join Somalia. My related remark to
this issue is that the international community has to find a balance
between idealism and realism. The reality on the ground is what was
empirically known as Somalia, does not exist anymore. The related
reality is that 14 peace conferences and a huge amount of effort have
gone into trying to bring the South of Somalia together. In the
efforts of last year, some 9-12 million has been spent in the
reconciliation talks in Nairobi. There does not seem to be much light
at the end of the tunnel. Which suggests that a creative approach has
to come through, which says that half a loaf of bread. That was the
conclusion also of the well-known Professor Ian Louis, doyen of Somali
Studies. That is, to encourage half a loaf. In the future we may have
full one loaf. I think the big question, which I raised earlier, is
what signal are we sending when we do not want to recognize the
efforts of the people towards peace and stability. What message are we
sending when we do not want to recognize the efforts of people towards
good governance? They would say they have done everything possible to
meet the requirements of peace, stability and governance. What more do
they need to do? That’s an answer we have to give them, because it is
the future of the African child. The children in Somaliland, who are
under 20, have no memory of unity with Somalia. I think at the end of
the day Somalis are very keen to maintain contacts and co-operation
but given the fact that Somaliland went through what is known by human
rights organization as a genocidal experience in 1988, where the city
was flattened into rubble. The fact of the matter remains sound. Many
of those leaders who are now on the ground in the south have not come
up with any mechanism to show remorse for what they have done in 1988.
And the feeling on the ground in Hargeisa, you ask the elders in
Somaliland, their view is that they will not and never join the South.
They are willing to cooperate, share experiences and trade. But in
terms of the political experience the wounds are very fresh. It was
captured beautifully by one of the political leaders of Somaliland. He
said, you can see the walls here and you can see the bullet wounds. In
Somaliland, the bullet wounds are not only fresh in their minds but
they are still fresh on the walls. So there are some powerful
arguments, which emerge from the ground. So I can foresee the future
emerging where you would see a lot of NGO cooperation, you would see a
lot of trade cooperation, a lot of sharing of experiences. But clearly
when political unity is raised, the pains of 1988 are too fresh in
peoples’ minds.

Prof. Iqbal D. Jhazbhay is a senior lecturer at the University of
South Africa and a well-published researcher. He is a Director of the
Board of Johannesburg-based Institute for Global Dialogue and is also
convener of the Middle East study group at the South African Institute
of International Affairs. He also serves on the African National
Congress’s (ANC) Commission for Religious Affairs.


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