These Somalis have been led astray by their leaders who are driven by narrow clan interests that were magnified by the ugly civil war that destroyed Somalia. The revelers come out in force in many major cities across the world singing, dancing and draping themselves with a strange flag that reminds one of the Ethiopian flag, which as an afterthought got embroidered with the Muslim Tawhid: “There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is the Messenger of Allah”, just to please the more religious elements in the separatist enclave such as Shikh Siro who openly admires the likes of Bin Laden and Ahmadi Najad but at the same time justifies dividing Somalia along clan lines although such rationalization is against the principles of the Islamic religion that calls upon its followers to unite and be one.
The two flags differ in the middle band which is yellow for the Ethiopian flag and white for the flag of the separatists. The leaders of the separatists align themselves closely with Somalia’s erstwhile enemy, Abyssinia, a country that played a critical role in the destruction of Somalia as a State and continues to interfere in its internal affairs with the aim of preventing the restoration of a strong Somali State that can potentially challenge Ethiopia’s oppression of the Somali people living in Western Somalia, an area that was transferred to Abyssinian rule by the same colonial power admired by the separatists. The latest celebration of 18 May in the Diaspora witnessed the open call for the recognition of Somaliland by British members of parliament from Wales of all places. It is inexplicable for a Welsh MP to call for breaking up a Muslim country while being perfectly happy with Wales being part of the British Monarchy although Wales and great Britain have bigger differences than Somaliland and the rest of Somalia.
The Flag of Puntland
The Flag of Puntland
18 May is a slap in the face for all Patriotic Somalis who love their country and dream of reversing the wanton divisions imposed upon them by the European colonialists and Abyssinia. This day has heralded the formation of a multitude of clan enclaves all over Somalia known as the Lands, such as Puntland, GalmudugLand etc. Each enclave has its own flag. Many other Lands are in the works such as Darwishland, Awdal-Land, Makhirland etc. Although most of these enclaves have no desire to follow in the footsteps of the separatists by seeking an independent country status, they pose a serious threat to the restoration of a strong Somali State that can defend its borders against Abyssinia, and frustrate the efforts of this hostile country to gain a foothold along the long coastline of Somalia, being a land-locked giant of 80 million that imports all its needs through the tiny state of Djibouti, the major benefactor from the anarchy in Somalia. The 80 millions of Ethiopia are divided into nine different ethnic groups that share little in terms of language, religion and ethnicity. Such differences dwarf the flimsy justification for dividing Somalis on the basis of old and defunct colonial borders.
The Flag of Awdal State
The Flag of Awdal State
It is important to note that some of the enclaves such as Awdal-land are a direct and justifiable response to the unilateral attempt of Somaliland to divide Somalia. Awdal, Sool, Parts of Sanaag and Ayn are struggling against Somaliland, a separatist enclave that uses force to compel these regions to join the separatist bandwagon. The lack of celebrations in Sool, the counter demonstrations in Awdal and the recent war in Ayn are testimony to the strong rejection by these regions of the separatist agenda. The world has no more appetite for dictatorships and ethnic cleansing and will hopefully take note of the potential conflict looming in these relatively peaceful regions compared to the rest of Somalia.
The call for an independent Somaliland is tantamount to the restoration of the Berlin Wall in Germany that separated the same people from each other for years. Besides being the most homogeneous country in the world, Somalis cherish the custom of marrying outside their own clans, heeding the advice of Prophet Mohamed who encouraged his followers to seek marriage outside the same clan, an advice that is scientifically sound although it predates modern science by more than a thousand years. For example many Somalis may have one parent from the clans celebrating the 18th of May as a day of independence while the other parent may hail from Puntland. If the world recognized Somaliland as an independent state, the two enclaves would be divided by a modern Berlin Wall that separates thousands of relatives from each other. It is hard to imagine struggling with passports and visas to visit relatives across a fictitious border. Even the current President of Puntland, Farole, is married to a lady from Hargeisa, the capital of the separatist enclave. Farole’s sons would require visas to visit their relatives if the separatists are allowed to succeeded in their quest for an independent Somaliland. Somalia is not like Southern Sudan where two ethnic groups that have very little in common, massacred each other for decades. Even intra-clan marriages were restricted in Sudan because of the divergence in religion and ethnicity.
Another factor that would defeat the concept of 18 May is the mobility of the Nomadic clans in Somalia that seek water and fodder for their livestock in times of drought, and defy all kinds of borders and artificial walls. For example, most Northern clans have deep roots in Western Somalia which is part of present day Ethiopia and move freely with their herds across the internationally recognized border between the two countries. Camels in Somalia have no respect for any borders and they are the most unifying force in this poor and underdeveloped country. These camels unite clans through dowries paid in intra-clan weddings, and through ownership transfers as compensation for wrongful killings. Forcing new borders on the Somali people can only hurt these fiercely independent nomadic clans and seriously disrupt their livelihood and social ties.
Business ventures also unite Somalis through the joint ownership of companies such as telecommunication and money transfer establishments operating in many parts of Somalia. Most money transfer companies have branches in every major city and small town in Somalia from Ras Asayr in the North to Ras Kambone in the South. Some may argue that all businesses operate across international borders but Somali business ventures are different in many ways and usually play an important role in indirectly unifying Somali communities through informal partnerships that may be motivated by friendship, family ties and religious considerations. For example, the Jirde Hussein family from Somaliland has sizable business interests in Mogadishu and continues to believe in Somali Unity. The Dahabshiil money transfer entity that employs thousands of Somalis would collapse in a divided Somalia.
Somalis should be suspicious of leaders that seek to trap them in tiny enclaves with limited opportunities and resources. Most of these leaders dread the possibility of becoming redundant in a wider and inclusive democratic process. Such fears do not justify dividing Somalia into mini-states that can never be viable economically. Such fears could be overcome through local governance and Federal Institutions that are properly setup with the help of democratic nations that have similar problems.
Celebrating 18 May is akin to celebrating division and narrow clan identities. Celebrating 26 June and 1st July is a better alternative that creates hope for a resurgent Somalia that can reclaim its people from cold and inhospitable countries where children are lost to alien cultures and older people struggle to adjust.
Instead of celebrating a divisive day, let us focus our energy upon reclaiming our country from the merchants of war and death. Let us also acknowledge the achievements of some of our regions and try to propagate such achievements to all parts of the country. Let us also call upon the world community to help us fight the forces of darkness and build a fair and democratic system of governance.
Ali H Abdulla