Pres. Ahmed M. Silanyo
What is going on in a small city in Northern Somalia is testimony to the dark history of Silanyo, the current President of the secessionist enclave calling itself Somaliland. Silanyo used to be the chairman of the clan-based militia, the SNM, which used civilians as human shields when its fighters infiltrated the cities of Hargeisa and Burao and forced the residents of both cities to run for their lives when caught between the rebels and the equally brutal military forces of the Somali government. That hate-filled conflict contributed to the collapse of the Somali government and the loss of Somali Nationalism and Patriotism. It is the base for most of the problems that still besiege Somalia today. It is also the base for all failed efforts to resuscitate the failed State of Somalia.
In disregard to civilian sufferings, Silanyo’s SNM militia remnants are again waging a brutal and relentless war against another population center called Buhodleh, a city that stands for freedom, Somali Unity and Dervish Valor. The thousands of SNM militia assembled in the area get regular enforcements, logistical support and regular monthly salaries, which has been increased twofold recently as an incentive to continue the war against people who are defending their land, honor and freedom. Some of these funds are provided by British Tax Payers in the form of aid. The philosophy behind the onslaught is the ambition of Silanyo to fulfill a long held dream of ethnically cleansing the regions that refused to support the SNM secessionist agenda and supported the Somali government in its war against the rebel movements. It seems that it is pay-back time as is clear from an old letter circulating in the Somali media.
The City of Unity
Buhodleh is a small city along the border between Somalia and Ethiopia. Its residents are the descendants of the Dervish Warriors who resisted against colonial ambitions in the Horn of Africa for 21 years. They fought against the French, Italian, British and Ethiopian hegemony. The leader of the Dervish movement, Sayid Mohamed Abdullah Hassan was born in Sacmadeeqo, 11 km from Buhodleh. Sayid Mohamed grew up to become the Mahdi of Somalia and frustrated the efforts of the colonial powers to establish an effective rule in Somalia. Although he was finally defeated by the combined forces of these powers and their Somali collaborators, he leaves a legacy for Somalis unparalleled in Somalia’s written history. He inherited his poetic prowess from relatives on his mother’s side such as Ali Dhuuh and Ismail Mire, both of whom are bards in their own rights.
Although all Somali pastoralists practice Egalitarian democracy, I.M. Lewis uses the Buhodleh area as a base for his famous book “A Pastoral Democracy”. In my travel to the area, I met a pastoralist in a small town known as Widhwidh who told me that his camel herd includes a number of camels in the name of I.M. Lewis, a gift from his father to Lewis in the 1950s when the latter visited the area.
Buhodleh can be compared to the legendary city of Troy which resisted its enemies for a long time. The comparison stems from the fact that Silanyo and Farole, the respective presidents of Somaliland and Puntland use their own Trojan horses to try and infiltrate the defenses of the city. Although Farole has not used force against Buhodleh, both administrations use some local collaborators to weaken the resolve of the city inhabitants for supporting a local administration known as SSC and their unwavering intention to stand up for Somali Unity regardless of the huge costs involved in terms of lost lives, lost income and lost development. True to their Dervish history, the people of Buhodleh are ready to sacrifice everything dear for the sake of dignity, honor, freedom and the blue Somali flag.
Background to the Conflict
For people who are not familiar with the current conflict in Northern Somalia, a short background history is a must.
Before, and even after the colonialists divided Somalia into 5 different spheres of influence, the Somali people never recognized any borders and grazed their livestock wherever the grass was greener. They used to migrate with their herds wherever it rained. This behavior even led to British intervention to stop their movement south into Kenya. An American Archeologist theorized that the ancient Egyptians were Somali pastoralists who settled in the Nile Delta. The constant migration contributed to the homogeneous nature of the Somali people who speak the same language, and pray to the same God.
In 1960, two of the former colonies, Italian ruled Southern Somalia, and British ruled Northern Somalia united to form the Somali Republic. After enjoying 9 years of civilian rule, the military took over power in Somalia in 1969 after the assassination of the elected president, Abdirashid Sharmarke. The military dictators ruled Somalia for 20 years. In 1991 they were eventually replaced by clan-based militias that collaborated with the Ethiopian regime of the brutal dictator, Mengistu Haile Miriam. One of the rebel movements that destroyed the Somali State and plunged it into the current chaos that fostered pirates, Warlords and Islamic extremists is the Somali National Movement, the SNM. The current president of Somaliland, Silanyo, used to be its chairman.
Just like Gaddafi is trying to use clannish sentiments to derail the unfolding revolution in Libya, the SNM used the clan factor to fight against the Somali government. It also stormed large population centers such as Hargeisa and Burao in the hope that the Somali government would use force to dislodge them out and thus displace thousands of innocent civilians in the process. The tactics worked and thousands ran for their lives to Ethiopian refugee camps that provided the SNM with more recruits filled with hate for the government and their supporters. This is the same hate that is now fueling the current conflict in the Buhodleh area.
After the collapse of the Somali government, the SNM called for a meeting in Burao, known as the Burao conference to which all the traditional leaders of Northern Somalia were invited for ending the clan conflicts that could have destabilized the area. The conference was dominated by the SNM militia that just emerged from a brutal conflict. They forced the participants to declare the unilateral secession of Northern Somalia from the rest of Somalia. Somaliland bases the legality of its secession from the Somali Republic on defunct colonial borders and the declaration of the Burao conference that was based on coercion.
To sell their case to the world, Somaliland hired foreign lobbyists who advised the enclave to show the world an image of stability, democracy and the rule of Law. They held two presidential elections that, although marred by vote rigging, seem to have convinced countries like the former colonial power, Britain, to become sympathetic to their cause. According to Wikileaks, the British seem to be pushing for Somaliland recognition. The British also increased their foreign aid to the enclave.
But democracy can be deceiving. Somaliland is an area that is based on clan structures. Loyalty to the clan takes precedence over loyalty to the state and democratic institutions. The use of force against the clans that are not sympathetic to the secession agenda is not democratic. The ban of political parties that oppose the secession is not democratic. The use of aid money to mobilize thousands of militia to attack cities like Buhodleh to force a secessionist agenda upon its residents is not democratic.
The Somaliland philosophy can be summed up in a few lines:
- It is legal and democratic for Somaliland to unilaterally annul the act of Union with the rest of Somalia without holding any Internationally supervised referendum
- The forced declaration of unilateral secession in the Burao Conference is binding on all clans in Northern Somalia. It is illegal to withdraw from such an agreement although it was obtained under coercion in the first place.
- All clans that resist the secession are terrorists who are allied with the Shabab and international terrorism.
- All the SNM fighters who died in the Somali civil war are martyrs who will to go to heaven while all the clans that sided with the defunct Somali government are traitors who deserve death or incarceration. It is even legal to ethnically cleanse them from Somaliland as long as they oppose the unilateral secession from Somalia.
- It is legal and democratic to teach school kids in Somaliland the history of the SNM martyrs while it is a criminal offense to teach them the history of the Dervish warriors and their leader Sayed Mohamed.
- It is perfectly legal to use all development funds obtained from countries like Britain to mobilize thousands of militia and use heavy artillery to pound cities like Buhodleh to rubble.
- It is democratic to assign 75% of the seats in the Somaliland government to SNM sympathizers although such allocation is not based on reliable demographics.
- It is democratic to earmark all aid from the UN and other countries for developing SNM controlled cities like Hargeisa and Burao while preventing aid from reaching other areas labeling them as disputed areas.
The city of Buhodleh will resist to the last man and woman. In two recent major battles that lasted from dawn to dusk, the SNM militia used all types of military hardware to break the will of the defenders of the city. Even young girls have taken up arms against the SNM militia. The Buhodleh side lost around 50 pastoralists including 2 women and they are ready to sacrifice more to defend themselves against the unjustified aggression of the SNM militia. The weak Somali government understandably remains silent about the massacres being committed against a section of its population since it is under siege as well and hardly controls a few block of Mogadishu. The international community seems to be oblivious to the conflict and continues supporting Somaliland indirectly in its genocidal war against the people of Buhodleh in particular and the other regions that support Somali unity in general.
I call upon the world community to put some effort into understanding the root cause of the conflict and help put an end to the senseless killing and destruction unfolding in this remote area that is far from the spotlight.
Even as I draft this article, the SNM militia has launched another attack against the defenders of Buhodleh and heavy artillery can be heard from the outskirts of the city. Let us pray that the casualties on both sides will remain low.
Ali H Abdulla
A native of Buhodleh
A native of Buhodleh