For Somaliland, the war in SSC is not only unnecessary and costly but is also counterproductive. This war is also very destructive for the people of SSC. And like the previous wars in Somalia, the end result is predictable: More loss of life, destruction of property, and further political fragmentation of the Somalis.
In the 20 years of claim to independence, Somaliland has achieved very little in development. Any visitor to Hargeisa immediately notices the debilitated conditions of its roads. Public services, such as education and health care, are almost nonexistent. If a school is needed to be built in a certain community, the application is submitted to a foreign aid agency, instead of the Somaliland Education Ministry. Anyone in Somaliland who needs a routine medical diagnosis must travel Addis Ababa, Djibouti or some other foreign city. The Finance Minister of Somaliland and other dignitaries are among those who have recently made such a trip. More than 50% of the workforce in Somaliland is unemployed. The majority of the residents in Hargeisa cannot get running water in their homes, and those who do, have to wait days for their turn. The taxes at the port of Berbera are the highest among the Somali ports. As a result, most of the merchants in Somaliland import goods through the neighbouring port of Bosaso. This is reason that once bustling city of Berbera has become a ghost town. Despite these and many other challenges faced by the population under the Somaliland administration, the politicians are eager to spend Somaliland's meager resources on a war of attrition in the SSC. According to a minister in the current Somaliland administration, close to 70% of Somaliland's budget is allocated for security. Presumably, the larger chunk of the security budget is spent on men and armour to maintain garrisons in SSC. This is pure folly.
The argument put forward to justify this folly is that bringing SSC under the Somaliland administration will strengthen Somaliland's quest for international recognition. Given the recently Somali history, this is madness. The regime of Siad Barre had far more firepower and resources than Somaliland. Yet it failed to put down the insurgency that led to its fall. The error that Siad Barre made was that he tried to solve a political challenge by a military means. Somaliland is today committing a similar mistake.
The people in SSC regions do not share the grievances that are the basis for the secessionist ideology in Somaliland and they are as difficulty to be subjugated into submission as were those in Hargeisa and Burao in the late 1980s. Somalis don't like to be ruled by people and regimes they don't like. Therefore, Somaliland's military campaign in SSC is in effect counterproductive. It will harden the resolve of those who already oppose Somaliland. Furthermore, the longer the conflict drags on the more likely that the minority in SSC who currently support Somaliland will be driven into the opposition camp. As a consequence, the military campaign in SSC will achieve nothing other than destruction.
Resolution of this conflict is good for both Somaliland and SSC. It will allow Somaliland to spend more of its meager resources on such things as digging more wells to supply water for residents of its capital. And it is good for the people of SSC. The SSC regions are among the least developed of the regions of the former Somali Republic. With this conflict over, the people there can start spending their resources on development. A negotiated, peaceful settlement, if pursued, will lead to the best outcome for both parties.
How can a negotiated settlement be reached? There are three possible choices: 1) Somaliland persuades the people of SSC to join it without change of its current orientation; 2) Somaliland and SSC part ways; 3) Somaliland changes course and pursues establishment of inclusive non-secessionist Northern administration. These all seem hard choices given the prevailing mindset of the politicians, but the alternative is more bloodshed, suffering, and hatred between the brotherly peoples. This must not be allowed to go on.
Dr. Mohamed Musa
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