Ahmed Shide Jama, in his late 60s, is the leader of one of Somaliland’s marginalized minority groups, the Gabooyo. He lives in the Daami area of Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, with at least 8,000 other families (48,000 people).
Minority groups such as the Gabooyo experience discrimination, mostly for the work they do, such as shoemaking and iron-smelting. In Somaliland, most of the Gabooyo also work as barbers, a job no other clan will perform. Minority groups such as the Gabooyo are not allowed to marry into the larger Somali community or socially interact with them in any way, despite the fact that they are Somalis and Muslims.
“I am the leader of this community in Daami; there are at least 8,000 families here but no one knows or cares we are here. It is as if they [the majority Somaliland clans] don’t see us or know we even exist.
“If one of our boys is foolish enough and marries a girl of the majority community, I can guarantee you that he will be killed and so will the girl who marries him.
“Imagine, we are all Somalis, Muslims and all God’s children and should be treated equally. When you die your deeds will count, not your clan.
“For this entire community, there is not a single facility for mother-child healthcare. We had women who died in childbirth because we have no access to healthcare. As you can see, we have no money to go to private hospitals.
“It is [presidential] election time here in Somaliland [voting took place on 26 June] and only one party sent someone to lobby us to vote for their candidate. The others don’t care because we are not an important clan.
“We have no representation in the Somaliland government or parliament. If we had representation, we could at least go and complain but who would listen to an old Gabooyo man? When you are not represented anywhere, it means you are not there.
“When the new government comes in, all I want is for it to first acknowledge that we are here and are a part of this country and that we are Somalis and we are Muslims.
“Please give us our rights. I hope whoever gets elected will do better and address our problems. It is a hope but I don’t expect much to change.”