In light of Dubai Talks, will “Somaliland’s” Intransigence Come to an End?
The politicians of the self-proclaimed enclave called “Somaliland” insisted on the best part of the last two decades that they will never, ever sit down with their fellow Somalis to resolve their perceived differences, particularly on the issue of secession. After twenty years of political isolation, not only did they break that longstanding false promise and met the TFG president Sheikh Sharif in Dubai, but they seem to be showing some flexibility and political pragmatism that was a rare commodity in the enclave’s political elites for such a long time. Whether this is a cynical ploy to get something out of the current TFG whose time is running out, or secessionists are genuinely showing a good faith and mean business is to be seen in the near future. In the days of Arta reconciliation conference and the subsequent meetings in Kenya and elsewhere, the secessionists were steadfast on seceding from the rest of Somalia. Now, that stubbornness and political brinkmanship may be coming to a grinding halt.
The issue of secession
“Somaliland” secession stood no legs, even on wobbly ones and the rather ill-conceived project of secession was never going to succeed from the get-go. There were no legal bases for “Somaliland” to seek separation on flimsy bases and expect to gain international recognition at the same time. Since Somalis had no defined boundaries in the past, the concept of British and Italian Somaliland being as separate states had ceased with the departure of colonial governments. One of the reasons for secession often quoted by politicians is the fact that their people (their clan in this case) were bombarded by the last military regime of Somalia, of which they had their representatives at every conceivable level, including vice president and prime minister. See Dr. Ali Bahar’s brilliant article, The “Klan Pen” Witch Hunting in Our Contemporary Somalia, for more details on how the clan pushing for the separation have always had a lion’s share in every Somali government since independence, including the military regime of the late Mohamed Siyad Barre. The people of current-day Puntland have suffered immensely under the last Somali government; and it is no secret that military officers from the secessionist enclave took a lion’s share in that destruction. Residents of Banadir and its immediate environs also suffered at the hands of Ethiopian occupation with the help of the defunct TNG. Furthermore, the people of Awdal, particularly those from Borama and Dilla, have suffered too at the hands of secessionists and their machete-wielding SNM thugs. The list of Somali suffering goes on. No Somali was spared from the suffering and humiliation that characterized Somalia for the past two decades or so. Somalis need reconciliation, not recrimination.
Another ludicrous reason often quoted by the secessionists for separation is the fact that the territory they lay claim to was once called “British Somaliland” during the colonial days, a rather pathetic and self-defeating concept. Well, the British colonialists have long gone and Somalis were living and rejoicing under their very own blue flag for the past 52 years, even if everything was not hunky dory. To glorify the era of colonialism, which heavily contributed to our social and political ills, is indeed pathetic on the part of secessionists; and perhaps this is what precisely “Somaliland’ politicians are craving for and hope to see it back.
Here is another fact the secessionists often ignore to their folly, or perhaps entirely oblivious to: the northwestern region of Somalia is home to four major clans and other smaller but significant ones, of which only one clan is seeking separation from the rest. So, how can one draw a line between those disparate clans with two clearly opposing objectives: Unionism versus separation? In the absence of consensus and mutual agreement between the clans, which never existed in the first place, it is inconceivable to carve up a whole new country from such an impossible situation – a conundrum the secessionists would never be able to solve it. The proponents of the secession were flogging a dead horse since 1991, with no concrete gains to show for their futile and rather hopeless efforts.
In the latest International Contact Group (ICG) communique released in Rome, this is what the group had said about “Somaliland”: “The Group acknowledged the progress made by the regionalAdministrations especially in security and governance, including in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug and territories under the administration of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a. These efforts should continue to be encouraged andSupported.” See “regional administrations” which I underlined for reader’s particular attention. After London and Dubai talks, this is yet another clear indication from the international community that “Somaliland” will always remain an integral part of Somalia, despite the secessionists spreading disinformation and lies about the intentions of the international community on the issue of secession. The issue of secession, if it ever comes to the negotiating table, God forbid, will be decided by all Somalis, and not by the secessionists in Hargeisa, Burao and Berbera as Professor David Shinn recently said in an interview with Hornnewspaper.com.
The Dubai meeting
Following the London meeting, the TFG and separatists from Hargeisa had issued a joint communique consisting of eight points the highlight of which was to keep talking until a solution is reached. Then in Dubai, it was the turn of the two leaders to give a gloss to the eight-point communique in the presence of UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash who clearly emphasized the importance of Somali unity throughout the talks. In Dubai, a further four points were added to the original list the gist of which was, again, to continue talking.
But, as they always do, the secessionists cynically tried to manipulate and highjack the good-natured meeting to their advantage by declaring that the world had finally “recognized” their tribal enclave as a separate entity distinct from Somalia proper. Of course this is no more than outright lies and only the feeble-minded and those who know a little about the intricacies of international relations and the UN charter will take this as an achievement. Let us hope the secessionists have good intentions in the Dubai talks, but my gut feeling is that they only want to create confusion and mistrust between TFG and the other Somali regional administrations, especially Puntland, to derail the road-map and the recent gains in security made by the former so that everything will go back to square one.
One of the key benchmarks of the Road-Map is for the TFG to implement reconciliation with regional entities of Puntland, Galmudug, AWSJ and other civic groups. Although “Somaliland” was not specifically mentioned here, merely because it was not part of the previous reconciliation meetings, it is incumbent on the TFG to initiate talks with any stakeholder including the secessionists in the spirit of Road-Map, Benchmark 3: Political Outreach and Reconciliation. This is what precisely the minister leading the TFG delegation in the London gathering had told the BBC Somali section on Yusuf Garaad’s Friday programme in no uncertain terms. However, the statement made by secessionists’ Dr. Mohamed Abdillahi Omar that “Somaliland” was welcomed in Dubai as an equal partner and a separate government distinct from Somalia is disingenuous and no more than window dressing exercise intended for domestic consumption.
If Dr. Mohamed Abdillahi Omar, the secessionist foreign minister, has to re-do his doctoral thesis on “Somaliland” project, he would fail miserably. One of the key principles of project management is business justification, which is equivalent of international recognition in the case of “Somaliland”. During the life cycle of a project, circumstances can change quickly. If at any point it becomes clear that a return on investment (international recognition in the case of secessionists) is no longer feasible, then the project should be scrapped and no more money wasted. Unless one is in complete denial on the facts of the ground, “Somaliland” project is a classic example of a project failure, with no alternatives plans to fall back. The sad fact is that current and past politicians were pursuing the same failed objectives for more than twenty years in what many political commentators described as an exercise in futility. In psychiatric terms, this is called lunacy. By the same token, “Somaliland” project/patient is clinically dead and only lives on a life-support machine. It is in the best interest of “Somaliland” politicians as well as their isolated people to be part of a new Somali government, as the project they so vigorously followed for all those long years have produced nothing but insolation and misery, at least in political terms.
For the reasons aforementioned and many more, the secessionist enclave called “Somaliland” will never, ever be recognized by the international community as a separate and sovereign entity distinct from Somalia proper. To do so will mean opening a Pandora box for similar clan-based entities to pop up all over the Somali peninsula.
by Mohamed F Yabarag
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