Somalia is sinking deeper into the morass of clan hegemony. Clan fiefdoms that ensued the fall of the state remain to be ignoble threats to peace and stability. Twenty years of violence and eccentric religiosity in the south is product of tribalism and clan rivalry on behest of ruthless warlords. Violence that is likely to escalate into ethnic cleansing is imminent in the relatively stable regions in the north due to contentions precipitated by clan power struggle. British colonial demarcation in the 20th century is the centre of the dispute.
Somaliland and Puntland are clan-based quasi administrations instigated by relative serenity in the north. Both administrations brag about dubious democracy. Democracy is just a claim and justice is out of question. Dominant tribes exploit meagre resources, dominate leadership, and dictate the fate of people through corruption, intimidation or violence at times. Administrations are beset by cronyism and nepotism, provide no tangible services, and literally serve to be cash cows for corrupt clan politicians. Security is handled by clan structures on basis of customary laws. These administrations as well as other hatching clan administrations functions as offshoot of Zenawi’s autocratic Ethiopia. With healthy leadership, the serenity in the north could have been utilized as a steppingstone to lasting peace in Somalia, unfortunately that is not feasible now.
Geographically, Somaliland refers to north-western regions colonized by Britain (used to be known as British Somaliland), while Puntland comprises of north-eastern and part of central regions. Politically, the major difference between the two is that Puntland embraces sovereignty of Somalia while Somaliland disowns it in a bid to break away. There is no political fissure between clans in Puntland, while separation is a litigious political issue among Somaliland clans. Somaliland’s secession does not appeal to feasible economic, ideological, or political significance other than being political gambit for clan politicians who play ducks and drakes with illiterate masses. In addition to that, because colonialism and its demarcations were brutal injustice that millions of Somalis are still struggling with, the issue has been a bone of contention in Somaliland and very unpopular in the rest of the country.
As Somalia’s regions are populated by diverse clans, Somaliland is predominantly inhabited by Isaq (dominant in Hargeisa and Togdheer), Gadibursi (in Awdal) and Harti (in Sool and Sanag). Harti is also among the dominant clans in Puntland. Both Gadibursi and Harti are predominantly proponents of unified Somalia and adamantly oppose fragmentation of the country on clan lines. Harti clans in Sool and Sanag were among the founders of Puntland Administration established in 1998; predominantly these clans are politically affiliated to Pundland than they are to Somaliland. Besides security risks, breaking up Somalia on the basis of colonial demarcations raises serious ethical dilemmas. As Jesus (pbuh) said, “no man can serve two masters “, many people in the intellectual and religious circles within Isaq clans are also against the secessionist idea. People see it as a despicable agenda striving to keep Somalia disadvantaged under Ethiop’s domination.
But the pressure from Hargeisa to subjugate clans not in favour of its delusional separation has been problematic. In 2004, Somaliland’s militia marched into the biggest city in Sool, Las’anood. Many people were killed in the attack and hundreds displaced. The takeover left a big rift between Somaliland and Puntland. Subsequently, local resistance (SSC) not affiliated to Puntland, with the intent to prevent Hargeisa’s expansionism has emerged. The SSC is a new clan administration with armed militia to protect its territory. Skirmishes between SSC and Somaliland militias have never stopped since.
In the past, the international community was cognizant of the risks related to supports given to tribal administrations beyond humanitarian limits. But the failure of the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and swelling piracy in the waters of Somalia seem to have stimulated a shift of US policy towards Somalia. Washington started to endorse more support to Somaliland and Putnland. European countries and particularly Britain responded with financial aid to Somaliland. The stipend meant to Hargeisa a full support of its secessionist campaign and a green light to use force in order to have full control of the land it is claiming as ex British Somaliland. Hargeisa immediately mobilized its militias with the intent to torment peaceful inhabitants.
Reliable sources have reported that Hargeisa had used big portion of the European aid to purchase military hardware. The report added that Dahab Shiil (a money transfer business) that Somalis in Diaspora use its services is financing the carnage against civilians, and is collecting donations from Diaspora communities. The mobilization unleashed the recent attacks on Maygaagle and Kalshaale in Sool where civilians were savagely killed, maimed and driven from their homes. The local people were able to fend off the attacks and forced Hargeisa militia to retreat. But the dispute is far from over as long as the shibboleth that a separate state named Somaliland is embellished as a legitimate cause to fight for, and Britain continues to support it in commemoration of its colonial history. If attacks from Hargeisa resume, there is no doubt that the violence will engulf the whole region, and neither Somaliland nor Puntland would claim anymore stability.
Somalis are already devastated by the atrocities in the south and the threat of piracy on its coastal shores. If things continue this way, Somalia will be a history. It is fall from grace to just point fingers to other people while we (Somalis) have not done enough to protect our people and our country from our own sick and mad people. A saving grace of this nation is its strong belief of God, and God does not permit the humiliation of a nation unless they chose the humiliation for themselves. It is time to say no to humiliation and stand up to protect our people and beloved country.
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