True to their distinguishing nickname, the one-clan secessionists in their enclave in north-west Somalia, otherwise calling themselves "Somaliland", have always excelled in salesmanship and self-promotion. The business of salesmanship, as we all know, is often based on the delicate balancing of truth, exaggerated claims, showmanship, persuasion, misinformation and sometimes downright lies meant to be guile the impressionable and uniformed. No more have those skills been effectively put to use than in marketing Somaliland's case to the international community: legitimising their illegal breakaway from Somalia and promoting and justifying their self-righteous claim for recognition.
Some of the big lies that became part of the separatists' folklore that prop up the secession include, inter alia, the claims that the secession is supported by all the clans in the NW region (former British Somaliland); that Somaliland's transitory four-day lasting independence in June 1960 had been recognised by over 50 countries, first and foremost Great Britain; that the defunct borders of British Somaliland that ceased to exist after union are still valid to the present day and recognised by the African Union; that the Act of Union between British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland was never ratified and hence the union had no legal basis; that the Ethiopian trade office in Hargeisa is an embassy implying they had been recognised by that country; that their representatives in selected countries are ambassadors, suggesting that their host countries had recognised Somaliland. And so the list goes on.
Of all the above-mentioned lies, the one claiming the support of all the clans for the secession is the one that will ultimately unravel it once the unionist clans under occupation or duress free themselves from the yoke of their occupiers. All the other lies are merely for domestic public consumption to gratify their collective self-delusion. Successive "foreign ministers" from the enclave since the declaration of secession from Somalia, including the current one, as well as their media, intelligentsia and diaspora, have missed no opportunity to recycle these fibs as matters of fact.
Much as other Somalis might look askance at the futility of these crude baseless fabrications, or question the sanity of any one falling for such patent concoctions, yet one has to understand its context and roots. Ordinary, uninformed people in the enclave have been fed for decades unbridled xenophobia against other Somalis in the Horn, particularly those in southern Somalia. They are therefore susceptible to, and easily swayed by cheap false propaganda when it strikes deep chords in their hearts. Such actions when often repeated can brainwash the masses and in doing so garner, as has happened, unwavering support for the clan's secession, its quest for statehood and recognition.
Slogans of shameless propaganda have become in time sacred tenants in the clan's political faith. Deviating from this faith can be as unforgivable in the enclave as committing apostasy in Saudi Arabia. Dissident unionists from the clan have been subjected to all sorts of punishment, ranging from detention, deportation and banishment. People like Jama Mohamed Ghalib (Jama Yare) and Osman Kalluun, hero-worshipped by the rest of Somalis as patriotic icons, are considered traitors in the enclave for no other reason than their tenacious belief in Somalia's inviolable unity. Neither is allowed to set foot in their places of birth in the north. For good company around the world, only the Israelis do that to exiled Palestinians wishing to return to their God-given homeland. This denial of fundamental inalienable right is only part of rampant human rights abuses.
What is striking about the prevailing governance in the enclave is the gaping gulf between the intolerable indictable realities on the ground and the false positive image portrayed abroad. In the secessionist's heartland, detentions without trial, prohibition of political parties other than those belonging to the ruling clan, abuse of minorities, trading in the abduction of Ogadeni refugees or residents and handing them over to Ethiopia contrary to international law, are all common daily occurrences. While the occupied SSC and Awdal regions share all these abuses in good measure, they are also subjected, in addition, to frequent collective punishment, atrocities, closures and curfews.
Despite the area's appalling human rights record, and the occupation and subjugation of some unionist regions, yet all that has been whitewashed and transformed into a false glittering image thanks to the relentless and concerted campaigns by the enclave, its diaspora and well-paid foreign spin doctors and lobbyists. Skilfully demonising the situation in southern Somalia, and capitalising on phoney elections, a modicum of relative peace, and a semblance of governance, all confined to the ruling clan's territory, the place has been cleverly marketed abroad as an "oasis of peace and democracy" in a region otherwise mired in never-ending turmoil.
Overwhelmed with southern Somalia's endless crisis, the western world chose to turn a blind eye to "Somaliland's" dark side and instead focus on its positive aspects so long as the place was outwardly stable. In this regard, the west cajoled the enclave with aid and praise, while still shying away from recognising them, mindful of its domino effect on other African countries if not inside Somalia itself. Sooner or later, it was inevitable that this strategy will become unstuck as indeed it did.
What has upset the applecart for both parties- the enclave and the west- is the uprising in the SSC regions against the occupation, almost akin to, and coinciding with the revolutions in the Arab word against despots and their tyranny. Having had enough of the occupation and its subjugation, humiliation, land grabbing and ethnic-cleansing, and giving up on a peaceful withdrawal of the invaders, the long-suffering SSC people finally rose up against their tormentors.
wakening to clan wars in the Horn
The uprising of the SSC people was a rude awakening for the international community which finally recognised the fact that the resistance in the area, hitherto presented by the secessionists as one of law and order involving the self-styled "government" and a "dissident" clan, was on the contrary a fighting between two clans: the Dhulbahante and the Isaak clans. They have also come to be concerned that , unless the occupation ends, the conflict could transform into a wider uncontrollable Darood versus Isaak war, spilling into neighbouring territories inhabited by both clans. If that happens, that would be an ideal environment conducive to Al Shabaab's intervention.
The worst possible scenarios that the SSC conflict could lead are not in the west's interest. As such, a new and hardening western stance against Somaliland is emerging, requiring it to respect the inalienable right of the SSC people to be part of Somalia given their adamant and clear-cut rejection of the secession, and to withdraw their militia. What is certain is that Somaliland's withdrawal of its militia is inevitable, whether they do it voluntarily or by force. The realities and common sense dictate that their continued occupation will bring them no benefits but only financial and human cost and it is in every body's interest that they withdraw voluntarily now. The patience of the SSC people have been exhausted.
Kalshaale: the Watershed in the SSC Liberation
Occupiers are prone to miscalculations and the secessionist occupiers of the SSC regions are no exception. Intoxicated with their easy, unexpected capture of Laas Caanood, thanks to Puntland's defending forces turning tail, and misguided by the initial deceptive lull following the occupation of the city, the invaders made the fatal calculation that they are welcome for ever, that the SSC people are after all receptive to the secession, and that they could extend their occupation, land grab and ethnic cleansing to the Buuhoodle region. Their subsequent repeated crushing at Kalshaale at the hands of the Darwish warriors was a watershed, representing the beginning of the end, not only of the occupation but of the secession, and above all a harbinger of the demise of "Somaliland" itself as a breakaway region of Somalia.
Darwiish Land, Makhir Land and Awdal Land versus Isaaq Land
The lie that all the clans in the NW region (former British Somaliland) support the one-clan based secession has come home to roost to haunt its purveyors. Far from supporting the secession, unionist clans in the region, whether under duress or occupation, have either established, or in the process of proclaiming or planning, their own regional States within Somalia. First on the scene was the Makhir Land regional State of Somalia. Then Awdal Land State of Somalia was proclaimed by its diaspora, an initiative enjoying widespread support inside the region, in spite of Somaliland's tight control of the area. But for how log? That is the question.
And finally the formation of Darwiish Land is on the works. When that happens, it will put to rest for good Somaliland and Puntland's contrived "dispute" over the "ownership" of the SSC regions. The SSC regions belong to no one else but to its people. For too long, the international community was hamstrung by this self-serving dispute to deal directly with the SSC people as long as they were claimed by rival administrations. Not for long.
All that will soon be history as Darwish Land comes on the Somali and world stage. Puntland people are bound to bless it, which leaves Somaliland in the cold. It could no longer claim another State enjoying equal status within Somalia and among the international community. What will be left of "Somaliland", shorn of all the unionist clans, will only be "Isaakland" - a situation of one clan land, a Somali Diid, facing another three clan lands, Somali Doon. Its recognition prospects were problematic in the first place. It is now neigh impossible.
What goes up come down
What most Somalis find incomprehensible is for fellow Somali brethren who have everything to gain from being part of Somalia and nothing to lose should still be possessed by anti-Somali xenophobia chasing a mirage of nationhood. Much of that chauvinism has been whipped up by their leaders to justify the secession or for narrow and cynical political gain. No leader had so far the courage to take the bull by the horns and tell their people that their destiny is with Somalia and no where else. In the absence of this, the realities all around will take care of the secession. The countdown to the enclave's irreversible collapse has started. As the adage says: what goes up comes down. When that happens, Lama Huraan waa Somalia. Wellcome home to all Somali Doon.
Osman Hassan is Political Analysis and regular contributor to terror free somalia Email: him at email@example.com
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