- (Idhanka-As always; it has to start with gagging freedom of speech. Not bad governance and corruption and not even rampant ignorance, disease and poverty. It is the oppression of the freedom of speech that is the Mother of All Warnings that signals whether a regime is going down the slippery slope towards dictatorship or not. Just look at history and dictators who fell out of grace after many of them started their rise to power as champions of human liberty and used freedom of speech and freedom of the press as their Trojan horses. The leaders who climb the reins of power on the back of the press are always those who hasten to silence it once they sit comfortably at the Presidential seat.
The reason is not difficult to understand. As the saying goes you can fool all the people some of the sometime but you cannot fool all the people all of the time, and I have to add that you cannot particularly fool the press any length of time. Once the initial euphoria is over, the press quickly returns to business and starts to play its role as watchdog. But when the press finds faults and exposes it, it baffles the new leader who used to hear only words of praise when he was in the political wilderness.
And in places where freedom of speech and freedom of press are not entrenched in the people’s culture before being enshrined in the constitution, any censure by the darling press will definitely invoke the leader’s rage. It is amazing how quickly these leaders forget their own words and their ennobling of the role of free press and free speech.
It may be that President Ahmed Mohamed Silaanyo and his Interior Minister have not yet reached that stage, but no doubt the incarceration of the editor of Waaheen Newspaper, Mr. Maxamuud Cabdi Jaamac (Xuuto), by the government of President Mohamed Ahmed Silaanyo for publishing material that is already in the public domain and the imprisonment of a prominent elder, Boqor Raabi, for criticizing the government does not sit well with Mr. Silaanyo’s previous positions on free speech when he was in the opposition.
In denouncing the incarceration of the journalist, all I would do is to entangle Mr. Silaanyo and his Interior Minister with their own words. Commenting on the imprisonment of Haatuf reporters by Rayale Government in 2007, Mr. Silaanyo, as an opposition leader, described it as ?a disgrace to our democratic process, our humanity and our nationhood…? Below are excerpts of Mr. Silanyo’s grand and applaudable statement in condemning Rayale’s record on freedom of press and freedom of speech:
?…Ugu horrayna waxa uu ka hadlay xadhigga Suxufiyiinta wargeyska Haatuf, kaas oo uu ku tilmaamay mid xaqdarro iyo dulmi ah. Waxana uu sheegay in cabudhinta noocan ah oo hore u dhici jirtey uu xadhiggani yahay mid si cad u xaqiijinaya mawqifka xukuumadda Madaxweyne Riyaale ka taagan yahay madax bannaanida saxaafadda, xorriyatul-qawlka iyo xuquuqda aasaasiga ah ee dadka.
?Taas [xadhiggaas] oo aan hubo inay ceeb weyn maanta ku tahay geeddi-socodka dimoqraadiyadda iyo dadnimadeenna iyo qaranimadeennaba,? ayuu yidhi Axmed Siilaanyo.
Waxana uu raaciyey isaga oo sharraxaya sida xadhigga suxufiyiinta Haatuf u waxyeelanayso Somaliland, ?Innaga oo maanta higsanayna oo dunida u bandhigayna oo ku faanayna inaynu nahay qaran madax bannaan oo doonaya dunidu inay ictiraafto oo doonaya dunida inuu u bandhigo wax aynu qabsanay, geeddi socodka dimoqraadiyadda, xurmaynta aynu xurmaynayno sharafta uu qofku leeyahay, madax bannaanida saxaafadda, xorriyatulqawlka, sharciyadda, distoorka, inaynu maanta tallaabooyin caynkaas oo kale ah qaadno waxaan u arkaa inay aad iyo aad ay inoo waxyeelaynayso indhaha caalamka?.
Waxa uu xusay in xadhigga suxufiyiinta Haatuf uu cambaareeyey ururka caalamiga ah ee Amnesty International. Waxa kale oo uu sheegay in Madaxweynihii hore ee Maraykanka, Madaxweyne Jimmy Charter uu u soo diray Somaliland warqad uu ku cambaaraynayo xadhiga suxufiyiinta Haatuf, kuna baaqay in xorriyadooda loo soo celiyo suxufiyiintaas.
?Waxa kale oo ka mid ah arrimaha noocaas oo kale ah, xurmo darrida lagula kacayo dadkan acyaantiisii iyo waxgaradkiisii iyo salaaddiintiisii iyo ummaddiisii intii qiimaha lahayd,?ayuu raaciyey Axmed Siilaanyo. Waxana uu xusay xadhiggii lagula kacay Suldaan Cismaan Suldaan Cali Madar iyo xubno kale oo laga soo xidhay magaalada Burco iyo sidoo kale, markab shidaal ganacsi ah u sidey Shirkadda Alxarbi oo loo diidey inuu ku soo xidho dekedda Berbera.
Waxyaabahaas oo dhami waxay wada muujinayaan dhammaantood dalku maanta halka uu marayo iyo halka aynu higsanayno ee qaranimada aynu ka raadinaynaa in aanay wax isleh ahayn,?. ayuu yidhi
In a similar but stronger tone, Silanyo’s current Interior Minister Dr. Maxamed Cabdi Gaboose, lashed out rightly at the incarceration of Haatuf journalists at the time when he was in the opposition. One may not believe that Dr. Gaboose, today’s strong Interior Minister, is the same man who lectured to Rayale’s government about the vital role of free press which he described as a seeker of truth. A truth which he said carried with it ?bitter and sweet taste.?
In a glowing statement peppered with wisdoms and anecdotes, Dr. Gaboose had even related a hilarious story about a president who complained to his own father about the criticism of the press to him. The father responded by collecting all the newspapers that criticized his son for a number of days, put them in a pile and then called his son, the president, and told him to stand on the pile. Once he stepped down, the father asked him whether he felt taller when he was on top of the newspaper pile than when he stepped down. And when the son replied that he naturally felt taller when he was on top of the pile, his father told him: ?This is how you would feel if you win the newspapers to your side by taking heed of their criticism and correcting your wrongs.? Below is Dr.Gaboose’s words and it will be worth to read the whole statement to the end:
?Xukunka Madaxweyne Rayaale isagoo leh saansaantii Keli-talisnimada ayuu si badheedh ah horay ugu curyaamiyey hay’adihii qaranka ee loogu talagalay inay iskaabaan, isna ilaaliyaan, haddana wuxuu u soo jeestey in la cabudhiyo saxaafadda, iyadoo dhirbaaxada Haatuf looga dhan leeyahay inay inta kale ku quustaan.
?Saxaafadda xorta ah waxa loogu talagalay inay kaalin libaax ka qaadato horumarka dalka, iyadoo dadweynaha u sheegtay RUNTA (Dhaqan, dhaqaale, siyaasad, cilmiyeed) ee ka jirta dalka gudihiisa iyo dibaddiisaba: – Runtu iyadaa ah Macaan iyo Qadhaadh meel ku wada yaalla.?
Reading the good values and the statesmanship that both men had shown in their previous praiseworthy statements which they said long before they took the reins of power, one might not help but remember the words of Herbert Hoover, a former U.S. President, who said: ?It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.?
I know it may not yet be fair to brand them with that title, but one may suffice to say that power corrupts and corrupts absolutely. However, if Mr. Silaanyo and his Interior Minister refuse to free the Editor of Waaheen and Boqor Raabi, and if they continue oppressing and stifling freedom of speech and freedom of the press, then one cannot help but fear that Silaanyo’s government may just be going down the famous path that we all know very well. And this would indeed be a sad trajectory for a government elected on a popular vote and rode to power on the back of the free press.