The series of “The secret of Somaliland government” part 13 ended with the following
Paragragh, just to remember where we were in the series last week.

“How are you today, honorable councillors?”, Hanad said.
“We are all fine”, replied the Mayor of Hargeisa city, who accompanied the councillors as a team leader.
“I am pleased to meet you, honorable councillors”, said Hanad.
“Thank you”, one councillor returned.

Today’s part of the interview meeting begins with a self introduction of who Hanad is.

“My name is Hanad. I am a sociologist by profession, an expert in social structure, the way a society is organised into expected relationships and its functional aspects.
My current project, as I have already informed you, is to write a story of what the people do, why they do it, how they do it. Working in public or private offices, policing, banking, trading etc are examples of what the people do in most of the time. I do believe that this field falls in areas that you have enough knowledge, and I am sure that your experiences, as municiple councillors, will match the information I sincerly need”, said Hanad.

After this personal introduction, Hanad avoided to ask the councillors about their professional and educational backgrounds because he knew that such questions were sensitive to the municiple council since the original profession of some of them was to bring meat from the slaughter-house to Hargeisa meat market.

“As pauses are part of conversations, turning off mobiles is part of meeting ethics, so please turn off your mobiles”, said Hanad, to ensure that no one is distracted by phone calls.

“‘Mayor, can you please shed a brief description on the areas of governmental duties the local government is responsible for?”, Hanad asked.
“Local government is responsible for a range of vital services for people and business enterprises. Social care, roadways, town planning, waste collection, licensing, land management are among the important services that the local government is responsible to provide with the public”, replied the mayor.
“There are many questions that evolve from how Hargeisa municipality works for the public, that need asking, but before I come to them, let me ask you this question, mayor:Is team building part of your culture and, If not, how would you make it as part of your leadership style?”, said Hanad.

“My culture has nothing to do with team building process, because the members of the council, including me, are elected by the people. So the council has become city councillors through election process”, returned the mayor.
“Mayor, with my due respect, your reply doesn’t reflect the right answer, so let me repeat the question, may be you didn’t get my point”. “What skills you as a mayor should have in order to lead an effective council?”
“Why do you ask me such question?”, the mayor replied to Hanad angerily. “Being the mayor of Hargeisa city doesn’t show you at least that I am a bit like having enough skills to lead the council?”

Agitation without complaints means criticizm without constructive argument. For Hanad, it was hard to see what the mayor meant by saying, for instances, that his culture had nothing to do with team building process, which was so exactly the opposite of what he had been asked. Was it a defensive paradox, intended to puzzle Hanad and provocate tension to undermine the interview?

Whatever, Hanad understood that the mayor replied ambiguosly rather than explicitly. He decided to calm the mayor down, in order to keep the interview to continue in a friendly manner. Hanad questioned the mayor’s mood and felt a nervious trepidation that might trigger confrontation.

“I am sorry, mayor”, Hanad said. “I can understand why that question would make you anxious.”
The mayor noded his head as if Hanad’s reply was an apology or expression of appreciation, somewhat like ‘a higher acknowledgement of merit (accolade)’.
Like most things good and bad, understanding is the difference between what we know and what we don’t. If Hanad didn’t calm the mayor down, the interview would definitely be escalated into kicks to shins and fingers in the eyes.

Out of the mayor’s response, Hanad, as a sociologist, infered that challenges are at the forefront of the council’s regular duties and therefore he decided to create a learning stretch for the council to encourage them to push towards the outer edge of what is possible for them to learn.

After that tension has been normalised, Hanad divided the interview meeting into two intervals. And between the two intervals Hanad planned to hold a short training session in which he would give his interviewees a lecture on professional hard skills which are probably job performance skills that can be trained, like the ability to work collectively to achieve goals, and soft skills that are transferable traits like work ethics, staff engagement, communication, and leadership style.

Hanad then suspended the interview meeting for a while, and allowed the councillors to take a short break, probably five minutes break in which they can really refresh and refocus their attention.

After that short break, Hanad said, “Before I start the second part of the interview, allow me to recommend to you some professional guiding principles that will be of some use to you, gentlemen.” “I personally see that the significance of this interview should not flow from one side. Something must also come from my side. Isn’t it?”.
“That is a kind of you”, returned one councillor.
“Thank you very much.”

“Let me begin by saying to you”, Hanad said, “Don’t put too many irons in the fire; no one knows everything and can alone do everything; don’t pretend someone that you are not; never try to shirk responsibility; don’t put for tommorow what you can do for today; don’t make things go wrong; make things go right; what can kill people, can also kill you; get used to remember what you share people in common; your own personal interest will be protected when the common interests are protected; that is how societies who want success, become successful.”

The councillor’s come back from the break to attend at the second interview was a sign that Hanad’s first intervirw went well. The level of individual engagement was also a significant expression of appreciation for how Hanad conducted the interview. There was even a good chance that other councillors will be interested in attendiing
the interview.

Masking that admiration with a big smile, Hanad said, “There is something I should like very much to say to you. It is a question I wish to ask. I have a kind of interest in the answer.”
The councillors focused their undivided attention on listening to Hanad with enthusiasm, not allowing anything else to distract them, astonishing at how Hanad was stressing the question and wondering what the question could be and whom Hanad would ask.

“Please turn off your mobiles until the interview meeting is over. I need everyone’s best attention and thinking so all of us can utilize this time most effectively”, Hanad said after the interviewees took their seats.

“Here is why I should Iike the question most that I wish to ask you. The reason why I should like it very much and have a kind of interest in the answer is that the answer to the question reveals your leadership style, the methods you use to overcome challenges, the ability to navigate stressful situations and deal with all situations. Listening to others shows the councillor who values others and is willing to learn. So please try your best to give an answer that is upto the point.”

“How would you react to a councillor who challenges your opinions during council meetings, mayor”, Hanad asked.
“Usually no member of my council”, returned the mayor, “has the right to challenge my polices and programs that I usually propose because I am the mayor. Sometimes arguments occur in the meeting of the council, but the decision is always mine and no councillor can overrule it.”

“‘Do you mean to say that the elected councillor does not a have his say in what is being discussed? Or do you mean that your opinions are always better than the opinions all other members suggest?”
“Here the ultimate decion on all things rests with the bosses. I am the head of the local government legislative body and have the authority to lead the local government according to my outlook. That is the way things work in Somaliland”, replied the mayor.

“As a mayor, what responsibilities you are accountable for?”, Hanad asked.
“I am the chief executive officer of Hargeisa municipality council and being chief executive officer of our country’s capital council is not an easy matter. This shows that I am the one who hold all people accountable to me”, replied the mayor, hitting his chest with his right hand.
“Does this mean that you delegate responsibilities in order to hold verybody accountable for what they do and how
they do it?”
“No. That is not the way we work. Delegating duties is not what I could personally rely on. Everything is under my control. No one can do anything without my knowledge.”
“Are you aware or unaware of why delegating responsibility is important, mayor?”
“Neither Ministers nor Mayors nor Managers nor ditectors of all government departments use to delegate reponsibilities. Everyone manages his/her office as they want to. If you look for a job that does not exist, you look like a person digging a dagger in a vacuum. Isn’t it, Mr Hanad?”

“In my own knowledge, as an expert in social structure, delegating responsibility builds trust between you and employees. It helps you plan ahead to achieve goals. It saves time for you because you can’t do everything by yourself. Delegating empowers your team and enables chances of professional development. It helps you learn how to identify who is best suited to tackle tasks or projects”, Hanad said, with the hope that the mayor will admire the importance of jobs delegation.

“Mr Hanad, important or not important is not the point. The point is something else”, said one councillor.
“What did you say, Sir?”
“The councillor declined to reply to Hanad.”

A moment of silence followed, in which thoughts such as these ran through Hanad’s mind: ‘Years of unquestioned corruption take their toll. Imperceptibly, corruption mutates into overconfidence, breeding callousness. Every minister, every mayor, every manager and all government departmental heads mark the calendar with a wishlist, and every wish becomes a command. Institutions created for shared decision-making become a charade played out by nodding heads who are little more than jerky puppets on a string. The strings may be silken, and barely visible, but they hold such a show together. Dissent is dismissed as a passing phenomenon. After all, his election, or selection, as a mayor of Hargeisa was a foregone conclusion. Nothing, then, he has to worry about.’

A sense of social responsibility irritated Hanad and urged him to think straight, remember some knowledge of the past, redesign the vision for the future and remake the skills that can get this nation out of conspiriacy theories.

“Excuse me for not being with you for seconds”, said Hanad, “Developing a vision for the community and deciding what needs to be done to achieve that vision is an important role for council members. How do you develop a plan to achieve that vision, councillor?”

“The municipality council is developmental if they are able to deliver on services like water, sanitation, local roads, water supply, drainage system, waste collection etc”, replied the councillor.

“The most fundamental task for councillors is to achieve a strong sense of shared purpose and commitment. The demands and desires of the community are constantly changing and evolving. Do you plan ahead in order to initiate new policies and activities in response to these changes?”, Hanad inquired.

“Local policies are always made by the council of municipality. Individual councillors do not make policies and plans for a particular area/district from which they represent its people. Practically, municipality policies often centre on service delivery rather than on demands and desires of the communities”, replied the councillor.

“Councillor, the areas that fall in local government’s responsibility include (1) assuring local public health infrastructure, (2) promoting healthy communities and healthy behaviors, (3) preventing the spread of communicable disease, (4) protecting against environmental health hazards, (5) preparing for and responding to emergencies, (6) setting out durable town planning for the city, (7) supplying enough water with public (8) construction and maintanance of roadways, (9) providing security lights, (10) waste collection. If non of these services does not appear in what the local government has been doing in the past years and is doing it now, what are the other services that the local government provides to the public?”
“I leave the answer for this question to my mayor”, replied the councillor.
“Mayor, what is your take on this?”
“I think that you are out of the scope of your story that you want to write. Please stop politicizing the interview as speakers from opposition parties always do, Hanad”, the mayor said angrily.

Preventing the mayor from having an effect, Hanad shot back and said, “Local government is a public body formally established as an agency or organisation that is publicly funded to deliver a public or government service, though not as a ministerial department. So service delivery is a supply from a service provider to clients. I am saying why the local government is unable to provide these services to the public.”

“What are you trying to reach, Mr Hanad?. Local government is my territory, if can you understand that”, said the mayor
“Understand from how you talk that central government cannot even make an intervention in your territory. Is that not what you want to tell me, mayor?”
“Only the mujahids can intervene my territory.”
“Are you a mujahid?”
“He is among those who assist the mujahids”, said a councillor.
“Who are the mujahids?”
“‘Of course those who are in power. How come you don’t know the mujahids, Mr Hanad?”
“Let’s take a break.”

To be continued…

Hargeisa, Somaliland.

As per usual the opinions expressed in this articale are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of