Similarly, if she is referring to the pre-1991 period and the era of the dictatorship under President Mohamed Siyad Barre, when human rights abuses were committed against all regions and clans (albeit some more than others), and not specifically against the clan behind the secession in the north (i.e Isaaq), then she should know that the dictatorship had been ousted in 1991 and hence its human rights abuses are over. The right to self-determination can not therefore be claimed retrospectively when the dictatorship and its human rights abuses no longer prevail but are something of the past.
The fact of the matter is that the right to self-determination and secession are being sought by the secessionist clan not because they were, are being, oppressed as such but because they want to restore the independence they enjoyed for 4 days in June 1960 which they feel they gave away when the area joined Italian Somaliland on the first of July 1960. This yearning to put the clock back and restore their lost status is purely a political one. One wonders whether Ms. Arbour concurs with this perverted interpretation of self-determination that the secessionists are pursuing.
Ms. Arbour should also know that none of the regional and clan-based insurgents that ousted the regime of Siyad Barre had advocated secession. That goes in particular for the Somali National Movement (SNM) whose members were almost exclusively drawn from the Isaaq clan. Far from entertaining secession, the SNM was at one with the other rebel groups that they form a joint provisional government once President Siyad Barre was toppled, and hold power until such time as a new constitution was adopted and an election held. This is quite clear from a position paper presented to SNM on March 1991 by Mr. Ahmed Mohmed Mohamoud (Silaayno), the current president of Somaliland and the first Chairman of SNM (currently published in the Somali website-Wardheernews ). His position paper was endorsed by the entire SNM leadership.
Despite the hitherto pro-union stance of the SNM leadership, secession was nonetheless unexpectedly declared in May 1991 when a reconciliation conference held in the town of Burco, and attended by participants from all the northern regions (former British Somaliland) was forced by armed SNM extremist supporters to declare the region's secession from Somalia. It should be stressed that the participants from Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC)regions, who were never delegated or mandated in the first place, immediately repudiated this secession declaration on their return on the ground that they were forced to endorse it at gun point. But an additional and more compelling reason for their backtracking was the widespread outrage and backlash their action had generated in these regions. Ms. Arbour should know that the SSC regions, though occupied by the secessionists, remain to the present -day unswervingly committed to Somalia's unity and are vehemently opposed to secession by any part of Somalia let alone be part of another clan's secession.(more of this later).
If Ms Arbour's application of the right to self-determination and secession to what she calls "Somaliland" and " Somalilanders" is deeply flawed as I have argued, her perceptions about the region and its people are also glaringly misinformed. She seems to think, having perhaps imbibed secessionist propaganda, that there is a monolithic people called "Somalilanders" who are distinct from the rest of the people in Somalia or elsewhere in other Somali inhabited territories in the Horn.
Ms Arbout should know that there was never a distinct country or people by the names of "Somaliland" and "Somalilanders" as the secessionists would have her believe. What emerged after the partition of the Somali homeland in the Horn of Africa by colonial European powers and Abysinia (now Ethiopia) was the five "Somalilands",namely British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, French Somaliland, Ethiopian Somaliland (Ogaden) and the Northern Frontier District of Kenya. Clearly, the secessionists have disingeniously appropriated the name "Somaliland" and branded it as if it soley applied to their part and not to any other colonised Somali-inhabited territories.
Ms Arbour should also know that the Somali clans in the Horn straddle the former (or present) artificial colonial borders. The clans who inhabit former British Somaliland, comprising the Dhulbahanta, Warsangeli, Issa, Gadabuursi, and Issak, are a microcosm of the rest of the Somali clans in the Horn of Africa. The only distinguishing common denominator those in British Somaliland share is that they were once under British colonial rule but that is all. Other than that, these clans are bound by no specific bonds that outweigh their ties with their related clans dispersed among the other Somaliland territories.
When it comes to clan loyalties, intra-clan ties are, for better or worse, at the top of the pecking order and trump all other bonds with other clans. In a nutshell, all this talk of "Somaliland" and "Somalilanders" by the secessionists, and echoed by Ms. Arbour, signifies nothing unless it applies to every Somali territory and its people. Once one accepts this home truth - that we are all Somalilanders- one has to concede the futility of secession among people who are the most homogenous in the whole of Africa.
Above all, Ms. Arbour should be aware that the people demanding the right to self-determination and secession in "Somaliland" are the secessionists from one clan who hoodwinked the international community into believing that their desire for secession is shared by all the other four clans in the territory - a baseless propaganda belied by their occupation of the SSC regions which shunned the secession.
It is worth recalling for outsiders' benefit that the SSC clans, like the other clans in former British Somaliland, chose freely in 1960 to unite with Italian Somaliland rather than have their own separate independent State. Ms. Arbour would seem to argue that the claim of one clan for secession overrides the inalienable rights of the other four clans in the region to remain part and parcel of Somalia. It is difficult to believe that this denial of a peoples' right is coming, of all people, from the former High Commissioner of the United Office for Human Rights.
Ms Arbour should also be informed that a low-level armed struggle is already underway in the SSC regions and unless the secessionist occupation ends, it could escalate out of control, drawing in other related clans. Situations of foreign involvement in Somalia's internal affairs always serve as a magnet for the Islamist Jihadists which have strong support in the north (both Puntland and Somaliland) and are waiting to strike at a more propitious time.
For Al Shabab, recognising "Somaliland", and hence dismembering Somalia, would be like a red rag to a bull. The net result of "Somaliland's" recognition is to import to the north the conflagration that has plagued the south for more than two decades. Somalia has enough problems as it is, and one has to ask whether Ms. Arbour is aware of the dangerous ramifications of supporting the secession of one clan masquerading under the name of "Somaliland" ?
Mal governance is synonymous with Africa. The requirement therefore that every country in Africa espouse and practice democracy and good governance, and failing that they would forfeit the right to defend the sanctity of their territorial integrity, as Ms Arbour is pontificating, is a recipe, if accepted, for the end of the nation-state in Africa. Put to the test, very few African countries if any would meet this tall order set for them by the West and their organisations such as ICG.
Ms. Arbour has admonished the African Union (AU) for being myopic in opposing Somaliland's secession- something which is not a matter of choice for the AU but a question of complying with the Charter of the Organisation. She says:
"In the case of Somaliland, insistence by the African Union on the increasingly abstract notion of the unity and territorial integrity of the Somali Republic, with Somalilanders governed again from Mogadishu, is both unrealistic and unsupported by more than twenty years of state practice"
If there are a people suffering " tyranny and oppression " who therefore deserve self-determination and secession in line with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), it is not " Somaliland" as Ms. Arbour would have us, but the Ogaden people who are subject to Ethiopia's barbaric oppression. It is not by accident why one part of Somalia is being supported to secede while another Somali territory under Ethiopian fascist colonial rule- more deserving of self-determination and secession - is denied it. It is part of western agenda aimed at dismembering Somalia in order to abort the quest for Greater Somalia and save pro-western countries in the Horn, primarily Ethiopia and Kenya, what they see as the scourge of Somali irredentism. A secondary outcome of this policy is that each of the dismembered strategic Somali Bantustans would be available as vassal mini states at the disposal of the west for bases and other uses. Witness how Somaliland and Puntland, both Ethiopian client entities, are falling over themselves in order to serve such roles.
What we are ultimately faced with at the end of the day is whether one clan in Somalia, hijacking other clans in the region, be allowed to secede, not because they are oppressed but because they believe they would be better off on their own. Somalis might have a reputation for being unruly or ungovernable, but they are also patriotic and would oppose tooth and nail any conspiracy against their country and its unity. The disasterous USA and Ethiopian interventions in the past should serve as lesson. A united, federal Somalia is in everybody's interest and any attemp to dismember Somalia is self-defeating. All it does is to unite all Somalis and also hand a recruiting bonanza to the Jihadists.
Of the UN Human Rights Office for Palestine
Email: Ohassanomar @yahoo.co.uk
and do not necessarily reflect the views of Terror Free Somalia Foundation
Northern Somali Unionist Movement (NSUM) is a grass roots Somali organization whose members and supporters hail from Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions in the Northern regions of Somalia(formerly British Somaliland) and whose clan in these regions do not identify with the one -clan-driven secession calling themselves” Somaliland”. NSUM stands for the promotion of peace and unity among the long-suffering people of Somali
Shabab Leaders are from Somaliland