This week's revelation that senior officials in Somaliland's intelligence organization were actively involved in aiding Al Shabaab terrorists is reflective of Somaliland's secretive support for terror groups who destabilize southern Somalia (incl. Mogadishu) and more recently, the stable neighboring State of Puntland.
The lies are quickly falling apart – and a make-belief "independent Republi" is finding itself increasingly under the shameful shadow of failure. International delegations, from the UK, Denmark and even Horn of Africa regional power Ethiopia, have visited the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" in recent months declaring what Somaliland' s leaders have always known: international recognition is not coming.
The propaganda reels quickly come to mind: young men and women, wearing bright colors representative of Somaliland's flag, actively engaged in demonstrations or standing in long voting lines. Generations lied to and misled by their politicians, forced to stand under the scorching sun in shameful lines at voting centers or protesting in front of Western embassies around the world, parading their disgraceful but well-constructed lies.
Democracy and voting are positive developments, but what is more positive is seeking peace and stability in the Horn of Africa sub-region and pursuing domestic economic opportunities to benefit the masses who stand in the sun. And so Somaliland's lies have changed every few years, but what has remained absolutely consistent is the politicians' underlying desire to keep the population of Somaliland in the dark.
Before Somaliland's military aggression began in Oct. 2007, when upwards of 50,000 civilians were displaced from their homes according to U.N. estimates, Somaliland's leaders said that if Somaliland "seizes the eastern border" – a mythical border with no international significance – that Somaliland will be recognized. So Somaliland's clan-based constituency – drawn almost exclusively from the Isaaq clan of Dir clan-family that inhabits most of northwest Somalia – supported a war of aggression against Harti communities (of Darod clan-family) that calls home Sool and Sanaag regions of Puntland State of Somalia. With blood spilt, with civilians displaced, recognition did not come. So the newest lie was that Somaliland's presidential election, held on June 26 after two-years of illegal and constitutional delays, will bring recognition.The theme of a lie is consistent, but the mechanics of the lie have shifted somewhat.
Claiming genocide, committing injustice
What is appalling is that Somaliland's Isaaq community, who unilaterally declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, complains consistently about "genocide" and mass displacement of civilians committed by the Barre regime in 1988. Ideally, those who suffered such a fate fully know to respect and to abide by the laws of justice more than those who did not experience such a fate. However, it was different in Somaliland. The Isaaq clans united militarily to attack, occupy and subjugate the Darod communities in northern Somalia on the basis of a mythical border. In the process, Darod communities who survived Somalia's only true genocide in Mogadishu in 1991, when Hawiye-based USC militia targeted, maimed, massacred and uprooted Darod communities from Mogadishu after Barre's violent ouster, were again forced to flee their homes under a Somaliland military assault. What great injustice committed by those who claim to have suffered "genocide" under Barre's dictatorship.
It is Garowe Online's resolute position that the Somali National Army's war and bombardment of Hargeisa and Burao in 1988 was not "genocide" – it is not different than the daily bombardment of Mogadishu by Western-funded African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) fighting an insurgency that threatens to bring down Somalia's weak and chronically corrupt Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu. In 1988, when Isaaq-based SNM militia seized control of Hargeisa and Burao in an anti-government insurgency, the Somali government overreacted with excessive military force to kill or capture clan-based (Isaaq) insurgents who threatened the Somali government and national security. During that time, Somali government troops were not going house-to-house to massacre civilians after asking them, "Are you Isaaq?" Of course, in the Mogadishu of 1991, Hawiye-based USC militia were going house-to-house or stopping civilians randomly on Mogadishu streets to ask the hated question, "Yaa tahay?" (which clan are you?) If you said Darod, you were killed or raped – man, woman, young or old. That is the legal definition of genocide: when people are deliberately and systematically targeted and persecuted purely for their identity, which is far different from a government offensive against insurgents.
In 1988, Somali government forces were defending the nation against all insurgents, whether SSDF, SPM, USC or SNM, which are all clan-based insurgent groups. Today, AMISOM peacekeepers are defending Mogadishu against Al Shabaab insurgents – and so AMISOM's military offensive against insurgents in Mogadishu is sanctioned by world powers and international organizations, such as the United Nations. This is because the following premise always holds true: governments have the justification and the right to defend against all aggressors or insurgents who threaten national security. Sometimes, governments can have a heavy-handed response, as was the case in 1988 conflict in retrospect. But the premise of government defense against insurgents was justified, while the method's brutality can be left for historical analysis.
Somaliland's support for instability and terrorism
This week's revelation that senior officials in Somaliland's intelligence organization were actively involved in aiding Al Shabaab terrorists is reflective of Somaliland's secretive support for terror groups who destabilize southern Somalia (incl. Mogadishu) and more recently, the stable neighboring State of Puntland. With the Grace of Allah, Puntland troops overwhelmed Al Shabaab terrorists in Galgala hills area who were formerly led by Mr. Mohamed Said Atom – a man on U.S. wanted list but who now lives in Burao, a town controlled by Somaliland authorities. READ: Somalia: Al Shabaab rebel Atom 'hiding in Somaliland': Report
Report The revelation was declared by the Puntland Intelligence Agency (PIA) – a covert organization in Puntland trained and supported by U.S. counterterrorism agencies based in Djibouti. According to the PIA, a Somaliland intelligence official was named Said Salah Eynab who was killed in action in the Galgala area by Puntland government troops while "fighting alongside Al Shabaab". Puntland government documents obtained by Garowe Online dating back to 2006 indicate that Somaliland's administration supported Atom's militia in Galgala area as a way to open a war front against Puntland. The idea was quite simple: with Mogadishu at war, it was only the stability of Puntland that threatened to break apart Somaliland's grand lie of saying: "Somaliland is peaceful while Somalia burns". So Somaliland actively supported terrorist groups, even turned a blind eye to the active recruitment by Al Shabaab in Burao town, in order to start a war in Puntland.
But when Puntland government forces began to crush the Al Shabaab insurgents, and Atom ran to the terrorist safe houses in Burao, Somaliland Interior Minister Mohamed Abdi Gabose begun speaking softly towards Puntland for the first time in Somaliland' s militaristic history. Gabose held two separate press conferences – both held as Puntland troops stormed up mountains and hunted down the terrorists (coincidence?). Somaliland knew Puntland was winning the war too fast – and they sought to portray themselves publicly as those seeking peace and "security cooperation" with Puntland.
Somaliland must allow its public to regain self-confidence and lost identity. Blaming all of Somalia's ills on Mogadishu while parading Somaliland as the "angel of East Africa" is simply the politics of amateurs who believe they are smarter than everyone else, only to find an empty house later. Yes, there is much to praise about the Somaliland people's struggle to rebuild bombarded cities in Hargeisa and Burao, but the Somaliland government's covert support for terrorism and allowing Al Shabaab recruitment inside major towns in Somaliland is something with long-term consequence for the people of Somaliland, who should be aware of their own government's activities.
The people of Somaliland must come to realize that the unending pursuit of a dream called recognition comes with a heavy price. Today's Somaliland is not different than any other part of Somalia in terms of economic, development or social indicators. Like all fellow Somalis, Somaliland's elite are exiled in the West and Somaliland youth are paying human smugglers in increasing numbers to reach the Middle East and beyond, due to the extremely desperate conditions on the ground. Somaliland's government should invest in its population, in creating educational and employment opportunties for youth, instead of funding clan wars and military aggression in Sool region or covertly aiding Al Shabaab terrorists to destabilize Mogadishu and Puntland.
It is somewhat understandable that Somaliland's Isaaq clan suffers inferiority complex in the face of a perpetual Hawiye-Darod struggle for dominance in Somalia since the country's independence in 1960, but peace and stability should never be sacrificed for emotional sentiment and historical revisionism.