Will the real “qalbi-dhagax” please stand up?

“الْمُسْلِمُ أَخُو الْمُسْلِمِ، لاَ يَظْلِمُهُ وَلاَ يُسْلِمُهُ”

“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor” 

(Sahih al-Bukhari 2441: Vol. 3, Book 43, Hadith 621)

What we have witnessed in the past week was a tsunami of Somali nationalism ignited by Qalbi-Dhagax’s treacherous maltreatment and the cruel barbarity by which he has been dispensed with. Similar waves of patriotic sentiments, perhaps on the opposite end of emotional scale, were ironically last witnessed after the presidential elections earlier this year – Farmaajo has now achieved to solicit love and loathe in equal measure.

A lot has been said and written about this dreadful event, although in my humble opinion none has satisfactory addressed the real crux of the issue: The direct existential assault on the psyche of Somali nationhood and subsequent insult to its dignity. But before I present my take on the tragedy that has befallen Qalbi-Dhagax and his family, let me first enumerate what this issue is not about in order to provide clarity of focus and discard some of the unnecessary noise being used as distraction.

1) As counterintuitive as it may sound, this is not about Qalbi-Dhagax. The reasoning is simple: He was a soldier who knew the risks, and as a warrier who fought against Ethiopia for many decades with steadfast determination, he was willing to sacrifice his life for a cause he firmly believed in.

2) It is not about the just cause and struggle for liberation of Somalis under colonial occupation – being an inalienable right of Somalis wherever they are which does not require discussion or permission. This is nonnegotiable stance backed by the Somali constitution.

3) This is also not about the ONLF, or any of the prior movements for that matter. They are simply a vehicle for a nation’s desire for liberation which predated them (and will inevitably postdate them), inherited from a long list of predecessors that included the SPLF, WSLF, ULWS and the Dervishes, to name but a few in the last century alone.

4) Lastly, this is not about past actions of warlords and clannish cartels who were never representatives of an internationally recognised state of Somalia, in absence of which, ensued anarchy can be discounted for not being subjected to international conventions or a formal constitution. At no point should the human trade during these chaotic periods of shameful upheavals be equated to, or made to serve as moral and political precedent, by debasing referential standards of a sovereign state to the abysmal degrees of failed state.

Rather, this is about the unadorned rotten cherry firmly placed atop of the rich and defiant history of people whose identity as a society was characteristically forged by many centuries of resistance against unmistakable foes; in short, the soul of Somali Nation. So yes, this is about befouling the legacies of countless martyrs and betraying the heritage we have been entrusted with, not just about Qalbi-Dhagax, but something much bigger we’ll call “qalbi-dhagax” henceforth. That is, every “qalbi-dhagax” who sacrificed his or her life defending the honour of Somali people; every “qalbi-dhagax” who struggled against colonial forces occupying Somali territories; every “qalbi-dhagax” who fought by Axmed Gurey’s side or fought in the 1977 Ogaden War; make no mistake, this is essentially about what Qalbi-Dhagax stood for, the real “qalbi-dhagax.”

Everyone has come to realise by now that the refoulement of Qalbi-Dhagax by individuals within the Somali government constituted a violation of the 1951 United Nations Convention which Somalia has been signatory thereof since 1978. It hasn’t also gone unnoticed that this extrajudicial transfer was conducted in blatant disregard for due process and the constitution of Somalia.

Much less attention has been focused on the fact that same individuals who carried out this forced rendition on Qalbi-Dhagax in violation of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, were themselves in fact beneficiaries of these very same international humanitarian laws when they were granted asylum in places like the United States and Norway!

Whereas on the other hand, their abhorrent contravention of domestic constitution at the same time constitutes the negation of the principles where their whole legitimacy to govern supposedly hinges upon. This government, by means of its own actions, has delegitimized itself as fit and credible custodian for the purposes it was sworn in!

The glaring hypocrisies are so widespread and everywhere, we are barely capable of noticing anymore. For example, on the day of Qalbi-Dhagax’s unlawful detention in Galkacyo, inauguration ceremony was being held for renovated Axmed Gurey landmark under a nationalistic tutelage of the business community and chauvinistic trademark fanfare of current Muqdisho mayor alleged by some to have been deeply involved in the illegal rendition of a man who embodied Axmed Gurey’s cause more than anyone.


Image from XN: Mayor of Muqdisho on the left during the opening ceremony of Axmed Gurey memorial

Another noteworthy parallel hypocrisy was the sight of president Farmaajo, donned in blue national tracksuit and cap with the Somali flag, visiting Liido beach the morning after he committed a national treason by criminally extraditing a veteran who wore the national army uniform and bled for his country. This ‘social media government’ attempted to redefine patriotism to mean superficially empty rhetoric and the symbolism of wearing flag lapel pins. But the Somali people resoundingly and emphatically rejected that.


Image from A. Billow Ali: President Farmaajo leisurely strolling Liido beach with his bodyguards

So, what now?

It is not yet too late to rescue the situation and to prove to the Somali people that this government is not beholden to the dictum of Ethiopian regime. For that to happen, however, the following steps are necessary:

First; the government of Somalia has to officially demand the return of Qalbi-Dhagax whose forced rendition was unconstitutional and contrary to international law.

Second; as a minimum, the ONLF must enjoy the same rights it enjoys elsewhere in the world – places like the EU, US and Somalia’s other traditional donors – which includes freedom of movement, association and permanent political offices or representations.

Third; solemn promise that no Somali national, or any other human being for that matter, will be forced ‘to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened’ by respecting the international laws to which Somalia has acceded.

Fourth; heads must roll. The prime minister’s position is untenable. All the heads of national security services who were indirectly involved in this act of national treason must step down on account of incompetency; and all those who orchestrated the act or have been directly involved must be dismissed and prosecuted.

Fifth; the Ethiopian ambassador and all the senior diplomatic attachés of Ethiopian embassy must be expelled from the country for engaging in clandestine operations in breach of diplomatic protocols. No replacement staff should be allowed entry for a period of minimum 6 months.

Sixth; the Somali government must request forgiveness from its people which they have badly and almost irreparably betrayed their trust.

Any measures short of that will be seen as unacceptable to most. Unacceptable, that is, to the “qalbi-dhagax” in each and every one of us. This government has failed morally, showed lack of humanity, violated international law, disrespected its constitution, disregarded its religious obligations; in short, a good for nothing government. Conversely, it was already bad enough that a government cannot guard its borders, not manage its airspace or territorial waters, not provide security or healthcare or education and so on and so forth; at the very least, do not unlawfully detain your citizens and hand them over on a silver platter to their enemies!

Apparently that is too much to ask.

Contact: liban.farah@barkinka.com