"The Invisible Country," by Tristan McConnell and Narayan Mahon, Virginia Quarterly Review
15 January 2010
As we sped through the dusty heat of rural Somaliland on one of the region’s few paved roads, an armed escort behind us and the hills of Ethiopia ahead, Dr. Adan Abokor told me his story. Abokor is sixty-two years old with thinning, gray hair, and his steady, measured voice can mask his emotions, but his energy is undiminished, and his memories of 1982 are still raw. “I was a member of the Hargeisa Group,” he began. The now-famous organization of professionals started with the simple intent of improving schools and hospitals in the northwest region when the regime of General Mohamad Siyad Barre, then dictator-president of Somalia, showed little interest in developing the area. But as they held public meetings and launched a newspaper called Ufo—meaning “the wind before the storm”—the group became increasingly vocal in its criticism of the government’s neglect. Siyad Barre deemed their opposition seditious and ordered the Hargeisa Group leaders rounded up. Their incarceration was the spark for riots still remembered every February as the Day of Stone Throwing.