Hiiraan Online Editorial, [email protected]
Saturday, January 08, 2022
The HOL Editorial Board has unanimously endorsed Barkhad Jamah Batuun as the HOL Person of the Year 2021. Batuun was elected MP during the May 31, 2021, parliamentary and local government elections in Somaliland.
Batuun hails from the Gaboya sub-clan in Somaliland, a marginalized group that has long been discriminated against. Dubbed the ‘Bulldozer Man’ for his electoral campaigns atop a bulldozer, Batuun garnered 20,231 votes - the highest during that election period - to emerge a winner. He ran on the opposition Wadani party ticket.
Our decision to acknowledge Batuun as the HOL Person of the Year 2021 is informed by at least four key factors.
Batuun achieved a historic first for democracy in the region by becoming the first MP elected from the minority Gaboya sub-clan in Somaliland. By breaking this glass ceiling, it is our considered opinion that such a feat should be acknowledged and celebrated.
Secondly, Batuun’s election went beyond an electoral victory for a candidate. His win transcended a stratum of age-old caste system which has endured in Somali communities; a system that classifies Somalis into the categorization of occupational "castes." This system has unfairly marginalized the Gaboye clan by having less access to education and have been typically condemned to a life of undesirable labour.
It is in these circumstances in which Barkhad, a law graduate from the University of Hargeisa, managed to puncture the socioeconomic wall that has forsaken these ‘small clans’ into economic deprivation, social exclusion and vicious subjugation of their quest to aspire and pursue their dreams as fellow countrymen.
By ascending into political office, and notably the heart of the law-making process, Batuun carries with him the weight, dreams, aspirations and demands not only of his community but all other marginalized groups.
His election, therefore, provides a platform to push vigorously and demand the rights of marginalized groups. It provides an avenue through which discriminatory state policies and laws can be challenged to ensure the minority groups are not only represented but also mainstreamed in policy and law-making for economic and social empowerment. Even though this milestone might not be realized in the short term, it sets the pace and foundation for a progressive approach in sharing the national cake.
Batuun’s election is a ray of hope and inspiration for people from marginalized communities, especially the younger generation. It inspires many to dream big and work hard, knowing society will reward and judge them not by their clan orientation but by their hard work and character. It breaks barriers and demonstrates a determination for a more fair, just and equal society.
Finally, Barkhad’s inspirational victory in Somaliland’s direct elections in May, proved that voters, if given the opportunity, can elect strong and qualified candidates to represent them.
It is, therefore, against this backdrop that the HOL Editorial Board finds it fit and rightly so to name Barkhad Jamah Batuun as the HOL Person of the Year 2021.