110 graduates finish the University of Burao and prepare for a final ceremony to cap 4 years of toil and satisfaction rounding off a first-degree run of tertiary education.
It is September 6, Thursday.
Same as their peers at the universities of Amoud and Hargeisa, they, understandably, expected His Excellency the President of the Republic of Somaliland, Musa Bihi Abdi, leading a high-level delegation comprising members of his cabinet of ministers, the House of representatives and the Guurti, with a sprinkle of the judiciary to attend.
Neither the President nor any of his ministers appeared. Neither leaders of the three political parties – even their deputies – missed the capitalize on the opportunity.
All 110 new graduates, their parents, Burao luminaries and anyone aware of what was happening was flabbergasted.
Morale hit bottom-rock; disappointment won the day.
Responding to the situation, students expressed what they felt to the media.
“Of the three older public universities of Somaliland, the President participated the graduation ceremonies of Amoud and Hargeisa. We do not know why he did not in that of Burao despite the fact we put him in power; when we had lived seven or more days out of our homes to secure him more electorate during his campaigning days,” one of the more disappointed young graduates cried.
“It makes us heartsore that the President chooses to stay out of our graduation – the first since he assumed office,” another said, adding; “That, to rub salt to the wounds, he chose not to send even a single minister to our graduation is so hurting”.
A vocal, young female graduate pointed out that the President not only ignored their graduation but that he did not visit Togdheer region since he took office.
“This shows us that you no longer have a place in your heart for Burao, let alone participate in a day marking our happiness for a job well done,” she said.
“We are sad,” another said “that we were not honoured by our President as he did at Amoud and Hargeisa, raising the morale of graduates,” another of the graduates said, showing the emotion inherent in his words on his tone and face.
the tone and the words did not vary from one despondent voice to the other. The sentiment was shared by parents and residents of Burao.
Where it should have apologized or at least tried to explain why neither the president nor his ministers participate in so important an event, the Presidency tried to wriggle out of the situation in the worst possible manner.
A press statement released by the Presidency spokesman at near mid-night, 10:32 pm to be exact, stated that the President was “not invited’.
“It is up to universities’ management to invite the president to events,” the statement said, portraying the President as a lowly officer who, without an invitation, could not have been admitted to the venue.
The Presidency spokesperson chose not to explain about why nobody else in President Bihi’ s cabinet of ministers, including those at the Ministry of Education, did not grace the event.
The president is the supreme leader of all of Somaliland and needed no permission from anybody to attend national events, or tour the country.
The statement, moreover, denied that the Director General of the Presidency, Mohamed Ali Bile, did not participate in the event on his official capacity – making the non-participation of the presidency in event the more naked, complete.
Even though the Presidency denied, later, that the Director-General did not represent it at all, he addressed the event, anyway.
“I ask you to seek employment anywhere you can: here, neighbouring countries and out there further afield in the outside world. Staying in only diminishes your personality and morale,” he said, words that clearly encouraged the hopeful young graduates to embark on illegal migration and risk their lives as their predecessors did.
Mr Bile’s words were construed as a revelation of a hidden agenda of the Presidency as they so starkly contrasted President Bihi’s oft-touted job creation plans which have yet to materialize in any form.
Tens of thousands of budding lives had been lost to the sea and the desert seeking, exactly, as the DG said ‘external economic opportunities’. Not less than 70% of those lost to illegal migration were of Somaliland’s eastern regions.
Professor Suleiman Dirir Abdi, University Rector, told Horn Cable TV that, yes, the University did not directly send an invitation to the President but that, as was the correct form and manner, it sent it to the Ministry of Education which should have organized the president’s participation if he so wished.
The Rector criticized the wording of the Presidency statement, too, wondering why the Spokesperson ruled out the official participation of the Director-General, denying the vent of the only link to the presidency.
“I do not see the sense in statement stripping the DG of his official capacity,” he said. “Whether he was on another assignment or not does not divest him of his national responsibility,” he added.
Neither did anyone above the regional level from the three political parties participate in the university’s graduation event.
Waddani Chairman was in Hargeisa and could have scored a resounding victory over the other two parties if he attended. He MISSED the opportunity.
Faisal, UCID leader, was not in the country at the time. He only came back from a protracted sojourn abroad the next day.
But, then, the parties could have sent deputies to the ceremony, which they did not.
Mohamed Hassan Ismail ‘Doob’, the Waddani regional representative, however, grabbed the opportunity to point an accusing finger at the government to divert attention from his Chairman’s absence.
Mr Doob said he sympathized with the views of the young graduates and blamed the presidency for the fiasco.
“The Presidency is to blame, and none other. The president is the Head of the State and no amount of wriggling can absolve him from an unjustifiable oversight,” he said.
“If the Presidency DG is telling you to illegally migrate, we are asking you to stay,” he added.
Whatever the reason or justification for the absence of the presidency registration is, the message beamed out and received by Togdheer and further east was that residents in those parts of Somaliland only served as a collapsible ladder to the throne, and that ladder has since been shelved as it had served its one-time purpose and usefulness.