The fact that the SSC delegates repudiated the secession once they were safely back in their regions is neither here nor there as far as the secessionists are concerned. From their perspective, and in their peculiar self-righteous reasoning, what counts and is binding is the declaration signed in Burco, albeit at gunpoint, and not the true stance of the SSC participants of the conference, or the fact that the overwhelming majority of the SSC people have nothing to do with the secession and are sworn to Somalia's unity and territorial integrity.
Availing themselves of the massive military arsenal left over by the disintegrated Somali national army, the one-clan based secessionists had sought from the outset to bring to heel all the unionist regions and clans in the north (former British Somaliland). Hegemony over others, and the misguided belief that full control of the area would lead to a certain recognition have been the rationale behind the enclave's chauvinistic warmongering. Towards this end, force and terror have been their principal tactics against recalcitrant unionist regions.
The peace-loving people in the Awdal region were the first to fall victim to this later-day incarnation of empire-building modelled on the ways of their former colonial master. After Awadal, it was the turn of the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC), whose unshakeable commitment to the union has kept the secessionists at bay for many years but in the end succumbed to their overwhelming superiority in military hardware. Other than overall control, land grab and ethnic-cleansing have been the secessionists’ main objectives of their SSC invasion and occupation.
The need of the SSC people for an end to the occupation and their suffering by peaceful means was dashed when Ahmed Mohamed (Siilaanyo) took over the "presidency" of "Somaliland". Those in the SSC who were vainly hoping him to have outgrown his bad old days as leader of a terrorist organization and metamorphosed into a visionary statesman in his old age had a rude reckoning before he even had time to settle in his post. As if he was back to his former job in the NSM, Siilaanyo's new marching orders to his militia in the SSC regions was to bring the whole SSC under their control. The realization that Puntland had no wish to defend SSC areas still technically part of it, or to liberate those that are occupied by the separatists have undoubtedly emboldened Somaliland's predatory appetite.
The town of Buuhoodle has acquired a do or die importance for the separatists, seeing its capture as completing their control of the whole SSC. And for this reason, they mobilized not only most of their occupation militia but also their clans as auxiliaries. Land grab, ethnic cleansing, and indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed SSC nomads unconnected with the fighting and the capture of others as "prisoners" are now the order of the day of their on-going campaign around Buuhoodle. Rather than surrender to the enemy's genocidal onslaughts, Buuhoole's SSC civilians are equally determined to defend their territory tooth and nail.
The current struggle between the secessionist invaders and SSC unionists is a replica of the struggles in the early 20th Century between the British colonizers, supported then by the forbearers of the present-day secessionists, and the nationalist Derwish movement from the SSC defending the country against alien occupation and partition. This time once again, the descendents of Britain's collaborators are fighting the offspring of the Darwish, using tactics reminiscent of the worst practices of the British colonial era aimed at dismembering Somalia just at the British played a leading role in the partition of the Somali home land in the Horn.
In the current battles for the soul of Somali unity, the separatists are using body count of the casualties they inflict on the occupied SSC people as an indicator of their military success and prowess. If such a measure could determine the outcome of this struggle, they can certainly consider themselves successful bearing in mind the number of innocent SSC civilians they killed throughout their occupation, not least in the recent clashes in Kalshaale, near Buuhoodle. But they are wrong on this count as they are on others. In reality, the separatist have dismally failed to achieve their primary objective of capturing the town, thanks to the gallant resistance of the civilian defenders who, through their sheer numbers, were able to repulse the invaders and inflict heavy losses on them.
The gulf between the jingoistic bloodthirsty political class beating war drums in Hargeisa and their miserable militia in the SSC could not have been so wide. Often unpaid, and away from their regions and families for long periods, Somaliland's militia have no stomach to perish in what they rightly see as a pointless colonial-like campaign aimed at conquering, suppressing and subjugating other clans who have no wish to be part of their secession and will never embrace it under any circumstances. Given the chance, most of the militia would have returned back to their homes and regions, and indeed many of them are already deserting in increasing numbers.
What is keeping the "Somaliland" militia in the SSC is a blinkered political class chasing the mirage of recognition and unwilling to face the realities. In a joint statement issued few days ago, leaders of the three political parties in the enclave are baying for more SSC blood, as if enough blood has not already been shed to no avail. How many more innocent SSC people do they need to kill to assuage their thirst for blood? What makes their stance incomprehensible is that they represent the very clan which had been orchestrating for the last 20 years the atrocities and injustices that former president Siyad Barre had committed against their people. And yet, they are doing the same thing to their SSC victims for no crime other than that they are condemned for being "agitators" and "rejectionists" (Somaliland diid) - in other words for remaining unionists.
No where else in the world other than Somalia does the international community tolerate, if not condone, an outlaw rebel clan not only to secede but in addition to unleash terror on peace-loving law abiding unionist clans and force them to join its criminal secession, and despite all this reward it as a de facto separate entity almost on equal footing with Somalia. No doubt the stance of the international community would have been different had there been a functioning Somali government. But then, the clan's secession and its "Somaliland" edifice would not have been around for so long if Somalia had such a government in the first place - which shows how much we need it for all sorts of reasons.
The absence of a functioning Somali government is no excuse for the international community to look the other way and ignore the separatists' crimes against humanity committed in the SSC regions. Their political and military leaders deserve to be indicted and tried by the International Criminal Court just as it did others from Kenya, Sudan and Sierra Leone for similar crimes. This is a matter for the SSC people, the TFG and human rights defenders to pursue and take the necessary action when its time comes.
Human rights violations in Somalia generally had become an accepted commonplace occurrence since the collapse of the Somali State. Its worst violators, those notorious warlords, are members of parliament or even held or hold the highest positions of the TFG. The time for impunity is over and a strong message should be sent by the international community that those who commit such crimes, whether in the north or south, would be held accountable for their actions.
Equally, the time for the international community to give serious consideration to the secession issue and in particular what the secessionists are doing to the SSC people and their regions is long overdue. It should do so now, not because human rights abuses are unacceptable but because what is happening in the SSC regions is going to adversely impact on the rest of Somalia and the stability of the wider Horn of Africa. The struggle between the unionist SSC people and their secessionist occupiers (Somaliland) is a theatre where three important issues in Somalia, namely the union, religion and clan solidarity all arise and conflate. Since one or more of these three issues touch the rest of Somalia and even neighboring countries, they are likely to be drawn to the conflict the longer it lasts.
For the benefit of the international community and outsiders, it is essential to grasp the clan dimension of the fighting in the SSC regions and see for what it is: It is purely a fighting between two clans who are both recognized by the international community as part of Somalia, notwithstanding "Somaliland's" self-serving pretensions to be a separate independent country. The first clan, Dhulbahante, hailing from the SSC regions, belong to the wider Darood clan, and want to remain in Somalia. On the other hand, the second clan, the Isaak, from the western and northern regions, claims to have unilaterally seceded from Somalia and is forcing the Dhulbahante and other unionist clans in the region to join the secession. For their part, the Isaak would like the world to believe that the fighting is between a government ("Somaliland") and some of its "dissident" regions (SSC). It rejects as unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of "Somaliland" anytime the TFG exercises its legitimate right to concern itself with the SSC affairs. This preposterous posturing has not won it any converts, not even Somalia's worst enemy.
The SSC is technically part of Puntland, a body whose raison d'etre is to protect its related clan members. Even if no help is forthcoming from the current Puntland administration, its clan members are most likely to come to the defence of the SSC people. Other related Darood clans in the rest of southern Somalia, or even in neighboring countries, could also easily get sucked into fighting in one way or another. As such, the clan dimension is a powder keg that could easily ignite the conflict into a wider conflagration. Proactive action now, requiring Somaliland's immediate withdrawal from the SSC regions, is the best insurance to contain the conflict.
Religion also has an important part to play in the conflict. For al-Shabaab jihadists, secession and the break-up of the Somali nation are cardinal Islamic sins and therefore an open invitation to the jihadists to intervene. Al-Ashabaab has strong followers and sympathizers among the Isaak, so much so that their leader, Ahmad Abdi Godane "Abu Zubayr", and many of his lieutenants are from the Isaak clan. It was al-Shabaab extremists under his orders who were responsible for three suicide bombings in Hargeisa in October 2007 that targeted the presidential palace, the Ethiopian trade office and the regional UN offices in which more than 20 people were killed. What the secessionists are doing in the SSC is not only terrorism but creating a fertile ground for al-Al Shabaab's own terror.
In addition to clan and religion, threats to the union could attract unionists across the clan divide. These three issues, namely religion, union and clan bonds and solidarity, are what bind Somalia and hence are the factors that are most likely to be at play in the conflict in the SSC regions. And it is for these reasons that the international community ought to intervene now before it is too late and address the fundamental problem in the north which is secession and the mother of all the problems in the north and wider Somalia.
The SSC people are not only fighting for their inalienable rights and land but above all to defend Somalia's unity and territorial integrity. It is a cause that calls on all Somalis, irrespective of their region or clan to play their part. Even if no such help materializes, the SSC people, true to their Derwish heritage, are determined to defend the unity of Somalia on their own, knowing that the longer the struggle in the SSC continues, the more Somaliland's position on the ground becomes untenable. There is no doubt that the SSC regions will be the graveyard for secession. Once defeated here in the SSC, it will never rear its ugly head again in Somalia or for that matter anywhere else in the rest of Africa.
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 Somalia.
NSUM Excecutive Committee Web: http://www.n-sum.org/ Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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