By Osman Hassan
17 January 2013
The minister for “foreign” affairs of the one-clan secessionist enclave calling itself Somaliland is reported to have raised unacceptable condition amounting to blackmail for their participation in the forthcoming London talks between the government of Somalia and its northern region (former British Somaliland). According to press reports, the minister was quoted as threatening their boycott of the forthcoming talks in London if representatives of the federal government include anyone hailing from the north (former British Somaliland). He claimed their position on this matter was accepted at the previous London conference in February 2011 and also at a subsequent meeting in Dubai between their leader, Siilaanyo, and the former Somali president, Sheikh Shariif Ahmed. If that is the case, where is the proof and, if he has one, what is the point of his spurious threat? The answer, of course, is that the minister has typically taken liberties with the truth as he has so often done in the past.
Making baseless assertions to serve their propaganda for the enclave has been the minister’s trademark. But even by his usual standards, he has gone over the top this time when he comes up with this bizarre claim and presumably still keeps up a straight face. Doesn’t he know we are not in the dark ages and that the facts in this day and age are common knowledge and incontestable. Either he has short memory when it suits him, or believes others have none. The fact of the matter is that there has been no agreement between the host country (UK) and the principal parties (Somalia government and Somaliland delegates) as to the region or clan composition of their representatives to the conference. Each side was free to select its allotted representatives without any dictation from the other side.
It is for this reason that the federal minister of education, Prof Ahmed Aideed Ibrahim, who hails from the Khatumo State of Somalia (based on the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn), was one of the key representatives of the federal government at the conference, seated close to this very minister without any objection from him, and if anything radiating visible cordial body language. As for the meeting in Dubai, it was nothing more than an improvised informal rendezvous whose purpose was merely to reaffirm the continuation of the talks but otherwise did not engage in anything of substantive or procedural significance contrary to the minister’s characteristic spinning.
What is always predictable about the minister is his irresistible penchant to hector the international community to imbibe their false mantra as fact: that his clan, masquerading as a separate independent country, is the sole representative of all the other four clans in the northern territory of Somalia. Seen through their distorted prism, they will deny, or else count as of no consequence, the fact that these other clans remain vehemently unionists and indomitably opposed to the secession, as witnessed by the armed struggle raging in the Khatumo State of Somalia over the last 3 years. It is their way that counts and nothing else. And when their dictate is challenged on the ground in the unionist regions, their answer is occupation and repression; and when they sense they may not have their way at the international arena, they resort to oral threats and ultimatums in lieu of physical force.
This narcissistic self-righteousness – that their wishes are special and as such should always prevail over the inalienable fundamental rights of others – has been partly fostered by fawning hired lobbyists who unfailingly painted the enclave as the jewel of the Horn, a paragon of democracy, an oasis of peace and stability deserving recognition and not to be held hostage to what they ad nauseam depicted as the “turmoil-ridden” southern Somalia. It is the combination of the work of these lobbyists and the enclave’s own relentless propaganda since their declaration of secession in 1991 that has created worldwide the false impression among the less knowledgeable that the clans of Somalia’s northern regions are all behind the secession. Unfortunately for them, northern unionists have woken up, albeit belatedly, to chip away at their claims, paring it to the bone for all the lies they are.
This patent self-righteousness has also its roots in the colonial era when the clan was the coloniser’s favourite collaborator and rewarded with preferential treatment. That past special relations is being presently resuscitated by some wayward British parliamentarians who are nostalgic about their ex-colony and eager to see it splinter from Somalia and gravitate to the mother country as in the good old days. No wonder most in the enclave perceive Great Britain as having a soft spot for them and count on it to take their side when push comes to shove in their contest with the central government of Somalia. Of course, the British Government is not burdened with sentimental bag and beholden to a bygone era. What counts for it is what serves its interest best, which lies in a united and stable Somalia. By all indications, achieving this objective is the endgame of Britain’s current initiatives for Somalia, unless betrayed by the Somalis themselves
Each time the honourable minister makes one of his absurd statements, it should be seen against the backdrop of the preceding observations. As such, the question that arises now is why he should make this disingenuous baseless claim that the previous London conference agreed on the exclusion of northern unionists from the conference, and threaten their boycott of the conference unless this phantom “agreement” is respected?
One plausible answer could be that they are pessimistic about the outcome of the conference and are using this concocted unacceptable claim as an exit strategy; or more likely they may see the situation to have changed considerably in their favour since the previous London conference, and see the time now as auspicious to make a pitch for the exclusion of northern unionists who, more than southern participants, are bound derail their chances of success at the conference. Their sanguine outlook is based on the support they reckon they can get from the Somali government and the United Nations Special Representative.
Starting with the Somali government, much water has gone under the bridge since the first London conference. This time, there is a new Somali leader, unmistakeably ambivalent about the union and oozing empathy for the secessionists; and, no less important for them is the new foreign minister who hails from their secessionist enclave and who has a history of being diehard separatist. She has not recanted, openly and unreservedly, her allegiance to the secession which is the prerequisite for accepting her true return to the fold more than a fleeting ritualistic swearing by a sympathetic Chief Judge.
Both the president and foreign minister of Somalia are expected to lead their delegation to the conference. Rather than risk Somaliland’s boycott of the conference, they may expediently decide to exclude northern unionists from their delegation, particularly if he/she comes from the Khatumo State of Somalia, something which is an anathema to the secessionists. If they were to do that, such an action is bound to raise credible suspicions that the president and his foreign minister are in collusion with Somaliland in this conspiracy to exclude the unionists so that Somaliland can have its way at the conference. If that was to happen, it would only confirm the persistent doubts about their commitment to the union in the first place. The president, more than Somalia, would be the casualty as he digs his own political grave.
More than anyone else, it is the United Nations’ Special Representative to Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, to whom the secessionists are counting on for support and that is for good reasons: in flagrant disregard of his mandate, he has gone public on a number of times to declare his support for the enclave’s self-determination and recognition; and the more he got away with it, the more audacious he got with his support. Ratcheting up that support should be easier now that there is likely to be a more pro-Somaliland federal government delegation to the conference.
As for the talks themselves, they can be held in one of two ways: one way is for the conference to be between the Somali government and those who claim to belong to “Somaliland”, the latter defined as embodying those clans and regions who claim to have seceded from Somalia. Put this way, the people from the SSC regions and Awdal are not part of Somaliland since they do not subscribe to the secession, and the fact that they have established their own States speaks volumes. As such, they have nothing to do with this “Somaliland” and the talks are purely between the federal government of Somalia and the secessionists. Even so, the northern unionist regions and their clans, as part of federal Somalia, have the same right like other regions in southern Somalia that their members be included in the federal government’s delegation as happened in the first London conference. Somaliland should never be allowed to exercise veto power over this fundamental right irrespective of whatever retaliatory measures it threatens.
On the other hand, if the secessionists are claiming that “Somaliland” is more than one clan-based, and that the other clans and their regions, such as Khatumo, are part of it through the freely expressed will of their people, and not because they are under occupation, then that claim has to be put to the test and the only way it can be done at the London conference is for these regions and clans to send their true representatives. Somaliland can not have its cake and eat it. It can not demand self-determination and deny it to others. Nothing could portray its cynical contempt for this fundamental right than to bring their stooges to the conference, the likes of Xaabsade and Xagle, as the true representatives of the SSC people!
In the final analysis, no binding action on the break-up of Somalia can be taken by the president and his cohorts, at London or anywhere else. Such existential action regarding the dismemberment of Somalia will be null and void unless it has first and foremost the endorsement of the unionist people in northern Somalia; secondly, it is consistent with the constitution; thirdly, it has the approval of the Somali parliament and the cabinet; and in the end is approved by the Somali people through a referendum. It is difficult to see how the secessionists can get over the first hurdle let alone the successive ones. Going through this process is a dead end. A better one for all concerned is for the secessionists to come to their senses and return to the fold