The campaign for recognition has lately been shifted to the Somali internet websites which have been flooded with a barrage of propaganda in support of the SNM, or the independence and/or recognition of Somaliland. Most of them are too emotional and muddled to merit much attention. All the same, there are exceptions and one suchrarity is an article by Mr. Abdi Halim Musa Imam, recently posted in the Awdal News in which he passionately appeals to the international community to do justice to Somaliland and recognize its independence. Mr. Abdi Halim Musa argues, in common with almost all secessionists, that Somaliland deserves recognition, first and foremost because of its peace and stability in contrast with the mayhem and chaos in Somalia; secondly in view of the support it has inside and outside the country; and thirdly because of the OAU/AU Charter which, as wrongly interpreted by Abdi Halim, is supposed to support the inviolability of Somaliland’s former colonial borders- aninterpretation that, if it were correct, would give Somaliland the right to secede from Somalia and revert back to its former status as a separate independent state- This article will respond to these points.
Irrelevant justifications for recognition
1. The inviolability of Somaliland BordersOften, the secessionists are keen to talk of themselves as Somalilanders, having not only a separate country with its borders but also belonging to a people who are distinct from the rest of Somalia. Are there really such people, sharing common values and identity that distinguish them from other Somali clans in the Horn of Africa? The answer of course is NO. It is only by arbitrary British colonial conquest that those clans found themselves in the conquered British area. They could have been part of the French part or the Italian part. But that is how the division of the Somali homeland was arbitrarily settled by European colonial powers. Rather than therefore sharing exclusive ties, some of the clans had closer blood ties with kith and kin outside the boundaries of British Somaliland than they had with those inside the British colony. For example, the Harti clans in British Somalilandbelonged to the wider Harti and Darood clans in neighbouring counties of Italian Somalia, Ethiopia and North East Kenya. The Gadabuursi and Issa clans for their part were part of their clans in Ethiopia and Djibouti. The Isaaqs on the other hand were the only clan who were predominantly based in British Somaliland. Thus, the curving up ofthe Somali homeland in the Horn by the European colonial powers have drawn artificial boundaries in which clans found themselves involuntarily both inside and outside these boundaries. Because some clans found themselves within the artificial boundary of former British Somaliland does not mean that they automatically assume special and closer bonds that are distinguishable from the rest of their fellow Somalis in neighbouring Somali territories.
On the question of boundaries, it is true that Somaliland has inherited its colonial borders from the day it gained its independence. But Mr.Abdi Halim misinterprets the OAU/AU Charter by claiming that it supports Somaliland’s right to its former colonial borders. The relevant provision of the OAU/AU Charter applies to the borders of independent states that are members of the Organization, and not to borders of a breakaway region that is recognized by the international community as part and parcel of Somalia. However, Somaliland’s borders with neighbouring countries would have been inviolable in line with the Charter of the OAU/AU as long as it remained an independent country, a conditions it fulfilled from the day of its independence on 26 June until the first of July 1960 when it joined Italia Somalia. Once the government and parliament (and people) of Somaliland had freely and voluntarily gave up their independence in favour of union with Somalia, and the emerging Somali Republicwas recognized by the UN,OAU and Arab league, the colonial borders of Somaliland with Italian Somalia had irreversibly ceased to exist.
Mr.Abdi Halim Musa disingenuously argues that the decision to unite with Somalia was not “ratified” and therefore the act of union was invalid. Ratified by whom? The elected government of Somaliland took the decision which was approved by the elected parliament. Any one who remembers the day of independence and the union with Somalia would attest to the fact that the union had more support from the government and people of former British Somaliland than the case was with the South.
1. Full Control of the territory and Support from Somalilanders.It is true that when regime changes occur in an undemocratic manner in countries that are impendent, one of the conditions for the recognition of the new regime is whether it is in full control of the whole country and whether it has support from its people throughout the country. A good example was the immediate recognition of the government of Mohamd Siyad Barre after it overthrew its predecessor, having satisfied the international community that it was in full country of the country and that it enjoyed, by all appearances, the overwhelming support of the Somali people. The control of parts of the former British Somaliland is not the same thing as thatof an independent country coming under the control of a new authority.
But for the sake of argument, one has to challenge Mr. Abdi Halm Musa claim that the overwhelming majority of the people of former British Somaliland support the secession and that its so-called government is in full control of the whole area of former British Somaliland. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Harti clans in the North-West Region do not subscribe to the secession and remain an integral part of Somalia. Their regions and areas are under their own control. The need to be seen to be in full control of the whole territory was the main driving force behind the ill-fated attack on Lasanod last year by the Isaaq dominated forces. Indeed, it was the defending Puntland forces, comprising the Harti clans, which were able to thwart this desperate attack on Lasanod.
The Gadabuursi and Issa clans had little choice but to acquiesce to the SNM occupation and the subsequent rule from Hargeisa- at least for the time being. There is no doubt that they are hostages given their precarious geographical situation. But that is likely change as the new government of Somalia is able to progressivelyextend its writ, at least initially to the non-Isaaq areas of the North-West Region. As for the Isaaqs themselves, there is the false assumption that they are monolithic and that they all support secession. That is a sweeping overgeneralization. Large sections of the Isaaq clan do still remain patriotic unionists, notably the Garxajis who had an honourable leading role in the independence struggle for the Somali people everywhere.
Support from outside
Mr Abdi Halim Musa wants us to believe that the case for recognition has solid sympathy and support from certain influential external quarters. In this regard, he cites the support from a lone American journalist, the representative of the International Conflict Group (ICG) in Kenya, an individual well-known for hispro-secessionist bias, and one or two solitary British Parliamentarians still hankering for their former colonial ties with the territory. This pitiful support has to be set against the fact that the British government and the rest of the international community had consistently supported Somalia’s territorial unity at the Security Council. If this is all the support the secessionists can master for all these 14 years of lobbying and denigrating the rest of Somalia, surely the hopelessness of the crusade should have made people question the futility of following a dead-end road that leads no where.
Contrast with the rest of Somalia
In their eagerness to secure recognition, secessionists, and Abdi Hashim is no exception, never stop to brag of their stability and peace in Somaliland in contrast to the chaos in the rest of Somalia, much though true this is. Their hope is that the world will finally wash its hands from the seemingly endless disorder in Mogadishu and that in the end they will reward the one peaceful part, Somaliland, with the recognition it deserves. If there is one common prayer among the secessionists, it is their wish that the chaos and crisis in the South would continue unabated and that the newly established government in Nairobi would never get off the ground just like its predecessor-thanks to the warlords in Mogadishu. Whatever bad news emerges from Somalia is seen as a blessing for the secessionists.
Antipathy towards other Somalis
Since the secession was declared, the antipathy towards the rest of Somalis in Somalia had reached intolerable proportions. Who would have believed until recently that a time will come when Somali nationals living lawfully in Hargeisa, as Somali citizens, or coming as visitors, would be “deported” as illegal aliens while foreigners such as Ethiopians are affectionately welcomed? This distancing from the rest of Somalia is not a new phenomenon related to the secession and recognition goals. It goes back to the early 1950s when some sections of the Isaaq clan in former British Somaliland opposed the raising of the S.Y.L flag at its office in Burco which led to the famous S.Y.L. verse: “Sanduluu ku iman saca faarsa tegey saddex maalintuu qado, sawaxaa ka dhigan safka haatan yidhi Soomaali aan diidno”.
Part of the strategy of the secessionists is that there may come a time when the South will lose patience with their unyielding secession and finally give up on them and say” good riddance!!” After all, who needs who? The Isaaq homeland is indisputably barren and impoverished. Remittances from the Diaspora, relief aid and petty commerce are the main source of livelihood. As people who are otherwise resourceful and enterprising, and who are dependent on trade with the rest of the Somali territories, you would expect them, if they were rational, to support Somali union that would guarantee them open boundaries, where they would have unrestrictedmovements, selling their products wherever they want, making their financial investments at the most profitable locations wherever it might be in Somalia, and making their preferred residence anywhere they choose in Somalia. In a federal Somalia, they will still have their beloved Hargeisa as regional capital and have their own regional assembly. Indeed, you will expect few Southerners to come to Hargeisa for business or pleasure whereas the attractions of the South for Northerners are immense and profitable-given of course peace and stability,.
The choice between secession that leads to isolation and missed opportunities and membership of Somalia is quite obvious. The problem with the secessionists is that there are no leaders with vision, courage and integrity who are prepared to face to the hard facts and the necessary decisions even if they have to risk initialunpopularity. Those who are presently in government or in the opposition parties have come to outdo one another in their eagerness to endear themselves to the uninformed masses that have been daily fed with anti-Somalia hate propaganda. Sooner or later, the secessionists would have to come round to the other famous S.Y.L verse:”Soomaaliyey toosoo, toosoo isku tiirsada ee….”Amin