Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Attack on Somali Women’s Leadership

by Cabdiqani Muse
Friday, June 12, 2020

I have watched the video where Abdiwali Gaas, former Prime Minister and head of the Puntland Regional Government, hurled insults at the head of the Somali Electorate Committee, Professor Halimo Ismail and her committee, calling them a "self-serving entity." I chuckled when I heard him say those words—talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

As we know, the country’s leadership is currently in a warped state, with paper tiger governments and tribal regions acting as legitimate parallel governments. The nation’s economy and sovereignty barely exist, due to the fragmented social and political order of the nation. Democratic process is something new to these backward tribal societies.

The first obstacle to rebuilding the nation, as we all know, is tribalism. Mr. Abdiwali Gaas attacked Professor Halimo personally, singling her out by name, and it crossed my mind that this attack happened because Professor Dr. Halimo is from a different tribe. It is hard to prove that, but what is easy to prove is him showing fear about her capacity and confidence. He tried to shroud his fear using comedy, in order to undermine her majestic leadership ability and integrity. He probably assumed that using humor against her, since she is a woman, might be more appropriate than attacking her in a straightforward way.

If I had the chance, I would like to ask Mr. Gaas what other possible alternatives he has for the messy job of organizing elections in this country. I suspect he would have a glib answer at the ready, but I also suspect that he would either recommend himself or someone from his tribe as that answer. I would bet all my scant fortune on that.  Maybe I should; that way I could win back some of the astronomical wealth he has generated while being a public servant.

I’m not referring to former Prime Minister Gaas and his tribal region of Puntland as a "self-serving entity or entities."  Mr. Gaas is better known as leader of the regional government of Puntland, rather than his being a former Prime Minister. While in the official capacity of Prime Minister, he did little or nothing for the nation. Rather, he was busy looting wealth for himself, dismantling national institutions, and reassembling them in his tribal land, in the hope to relocate all national institutions to Puntland, including the capital city. His attempts to make Garawe the capital of the nation is on record.

His record is not the subject here. I can refer you to Google if you want to learn about him and his tenure as an elected official. The subject here is Professor Halimo Ismail, aka Halimo Yarey. The attacks against Dr. Halimo started the very day she took over as the Head of the Electoral Committee. As we all know, the Somali people share in nothing but the capital city and the taxes that are ill-gotten from it. They don't share any other land or resources, whether cultural, economic, or territorial. Clear, dividing lines extend even to the digital world. Websites are like the regional government’s mouthpieces, as each tribal group represents their clan-based perspective. In the case of Professor Halimo, the Puntland-run digital media and even the official Puntland government TV and websites always referred to Dr. Halimo Ismail as Halimo Yarey. I am sure that they are not blind to the fact that Professor Halimo lectured at National University during the Siad Barre era. I am sure they are aware that she holds a Ph.D. from the U.S.A. and other valuable credentials from Europe, especially Italy. Yet they do her the disrespect of dropping the “Dr.” or “Professor” from her name.

Puntland Media never refers to her rightfully earned titles. They call her Halimo Yarey, which is a family nickname from her childhood. The fact that all Puntland associated media learned her childhood nickname but has apparently never learned about her official titles illustrates a clear and organized agenda to undermine her credibility. If they had only referred to her by her nickname once or even alternated between Halimo Yarey and Dr. Halimo Ismail, it would have spared them allegations like these. However, they have never referred to her as Dr. Halimo even once, which proves my point.

I have seen other (non-Puntland) websites refer to her as Dr. Halimo Ismail sometimes, but not consistently. It looks like Puntland media is alone in using only the informal name. I would postulate two reasons for this, in addition to Puntland media’s well-organized campaign. The first reason is the lack of formality in the Somali culture. The second reason is that in the Somali culture, no title is endowed to women except “Marwo,” which combines the titles of “mother” and “housewife.”  Therefore, Somali media’s practice of referring to women in high positions by their nicknames is distasteful and offensive. Most of the other websites make this mistake inconsistently and in innocence. However, the Puntland media refers to Abdiwali Gaas as “Dr.” and Dr. Halimo Ismail as “Halimo Yarey” (which means Halimo the Tiny, by the way) all the time.  In my book, a doctor is a doctor, regardless of race or gender. So why and what is this organized campaign from Puntland about? Tribalism? Sexism? Or both?

To come back to Abdiwali Gaas's laughable attack on Dr. Halimo's confidence regarding being able to achieve elections in a timely fashion, I am going to respond to his impression of her. He said, "If you ask Halimo Yarey, ‘Can you hold or make an election possible in Saudi Arabia?’ she will say, ‘Yes I can.’” My response to him is that she probably could head the election committee of that kingdom if they invited her. By now, she has the experience, the mental stature, and educational capacity to do it. She is overseeing Somalia’s election now; what could be more difficult?  Saudi Arabia? It would be peanuts.

The fact that Mr. Gaas had personally attacked her, ignoring the sensitivity of her gender in the context of the Somali culture and the difficulty of the enormous task which she has so far maneuvered with skill and confidence, proves that Mr. Gaas took no worthy lessons from his experience holding high offices. In my opinion, he could make it as a comedian in Puntland… but only in Puntland.  

Cabdiqani Muse
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