Outside the University is a Daabshiil Money Exchange. I am continually struck by how this bank is more like an ordinary block house with doors and windows wide open to the busy street in front of the university main gate. I once had to cash a check there and two guys, feet propped up on the counter, were lazily texting. Approaching them, I greeting in Somali language and they gave the obligatory laugh to the foreigner who uses broken and rusty vernacular. Cashing the check was as easy as countersigning it. They pulled open a drawer piled full of currency. Somali Shillings, USD and maybe other currencies from the Middle East and Euros. Having gotten my money, then walking away, I turned and noticed them back in standard repose. I am told that some of the money changers downtown just cover up their stacks of money and go to the mosque to pray when it is time. Security is that lax.
What kind of confidence does this place have that a bank or money changer can be so relaxed about security? Nowhere on earth do I know of another place like this. Could it be guns? There are plenty of old Kalashnikovs around Hargeisa from the days of war in the 80’s. But if it were guns that make for security the US would have NO crime. So it can’t be guns. Could it be prosperity? No it can’t be prosperity. Again, the US would be pretty secure and Somaliland would be the world of Mad Max. I think it has something to do with an intact social fabric that is eloquent and nuanced through an oral tradition. Somalilanders have a long history of clan interaction, recitation of connection through ancestry and an oral tradition as a conflict resolution mechanism.
At this time of stress over racial injustice, political insecurity, international terrorism, domestic shootings in the US, might we take a lesson from Somalilanders? Next time we are tempted to become overwhelmed with all our nation’s problems, ask a simple question of ‘who is my neighbor’ and how are our lives connected and intertwined?” Then respond accordingly as we are so good at doing. We know how to do this people!