Saturday June 24, 2023
FILE PHOTO - Protests against Hirshabelle state president Ali Gudlawe and his deputy Yusuf Dabageed on January 2, 2022 in Beledweyne.
A bold wave of sentiment is cresting in the Hiiraan Region. The quest for state independence from the Hirshabelle State is no longer an undercurrent. Advocates argue with conviction that regional autonomy is not only justifiable, but it's also an existential imperative.
The litany of grievances driving this quest is long and potent. And it traces a stark picture of a region neglected, wronged and crying out for self-rule it has been promised but denied.
At the root of Hiiraan's push for autonomy lie allegations of the violation of foundational agreements with Hirshabelle State. These aren't mundane disagreements - they speak to the heart of how the region should be governed, of how its interests should be safeguarded. Yet, these agreements are said to have been trampled, their promises left broken in the dust.
This erosion of trust, these voices insist, propels their quest for independence - a bulwark against further erosion of regional autonomy, a protector of the rights of their people.
In addition to accusations of power misuse by the Hirshabelle State, the independence argument gathers more weight. Hiiraan's community leaders claim they are in a stranglehold - a framework that stifles their voices, misrepresents them and unevenly distributes power.
What does this mean for Hiiraan? It impedes their ability to tackle local issues head-on and to make decisions that resonate with the hopes and aspirations of their people. They believe state independence is the key to unlocking their potential - giving them the agency and authority to cater to their unique needs and values. And their case is compelling.
Let's delve deeper.
Violation of Foundational Agreements:
The repeated failure of the Hirshabelle State to uphold its foundational agreement is a sore point for Hiiraan.
According to the agreement, when one region secures the presidency, the other region should be granted the provincial capital and the base of the federal state.
However, for over three and a half years, Jowhar has retained both the presidency and the provincial capital, disregarding the established agreement and breaching the trust of Hiiraan's community.
Power Abuse and Disregard for Consultation:
Adding fuel to the fire is Hirshabelle President Ali Guudlaawe's pattern of dismissing and appointing officials - mainly from Hiiraan - without so much as a consultation. These actions are viewed as the wielder of power swinging the axe, undermining the principles of inclusive governance and exacerbating Hiiraan's feelings of alienation.
Failure to Support Anti-Al-Shabab Efforts:
Advocates for state independence say Hirshabelle State is not doing enough for the anti-al-Shabab uprising in the Hiiraan region. This successful campaign, led by the resilient Hiiraan community, nearly liberated all their territory from the extremist group. Still, Hirshabelle was noticeably absent from the front lines. Even more shockingly, President Guudlaawe dismissed Governor Ali Jeite, a key leader in the fight against al-Shabab. The President made this decision without involving the region's stakeholders, raising serious questions about his intentions.
There have also been allegations of collusion between Guudlaawe and al-Shabab, levelled by former Hirshabelle President Mohamed Abdi Ware. According to him, Guudlaawe plotted to remove Governor Jeyte in return for a handsome bribe. These allegations, made two months before Jeyte's poorly timed dismissal, add to the growing discontent within Hiiraan.
The region's financial struggles, further strained by Guudlaawe's attempts to control its tax revenues, have widened the rift between Hiiraan and Hirshabelle. To add insult to injury, the Hiiraan community is underrepresented in the federal government of Somalia, despite expectations to the contrary when they united with the Middle Shabelle region.
Taken together, these grievances make a persuasive case for independence. Hirshabelle should sit up, listen, and address these concerns before it's too late.