Khaatumo State of Somalia
7 February 2012
An Open Letter to:
Hon Henry Bellingham
Minister for Africa
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
King Charles Street,
Subject: The London conference on Somalia
(23 February 2012)
We the Forum for Foreign Relations of the recently established Khaatumo State of Somalia, based on the northern regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions (SSC) in NW Somalia (former British Somaliland) would like from the outset to thank you, and, through you, the British Government for organising this conference. We are already indebted to Great Britain for its unrivalled generosity to the Somali people since the collapse of the Somali State. Today, Britain hosts the largest Somali diaspora anywhere in the world whose remittances are the only source of income for tens of thousands of Somalis who would otherwise have perished. We hope that Britain's initiative to hold this conference, even if belated, may all the same be the one that finally finds a solution for Somalia's long-drawn out political and security problems.
Turning to the London conference, we consider the topics selected for the conference as ones that strike a deep chord with most Somalis who care about their country. While some issues are of particular importance for the outside world, such as those relating to security, terrorism and piracy, others, such as the political process and local stability, are of greater interest to us as Somalis (and no less to the international community) since they are the bedrock on which rests the emergence of a functioning national government or regional authorities that could shoulder their respective responsibilities for security, terrorism, piracy, etc.
As such, unless progress is made on these key areas- the political process and local stability- we believe that the international community is unlikely to find sustainable solutions to the problems of piracy, terrorism, religious extremism and recurring humanitarian crisis. Given the interdependence among these issues, we are pleased that the conference had adopted a holistic approach towards addressing them.
However, progress on the political process in Somalia at the national level would not be achieved unless the prevailing local instabilities at the regional levels involving clan conflicts are first resolved. The only such major clan-related conflict in Somalia at the moment is the one raging in NW Somalia (Somaliland) between the Isaaq clan dominating the secessionist government based in Hargeisa and the unionist Dhulbahante clan hailing from the SSC regions.
The fundamental problem between the secessionist clan and the others is not solely over their irreconcilable differences on Somalia's unity per se. Rather, the all encompassing and paramount principle that divides them, and which the unionist Khaatumo State and others are defending, is their inalienable right to self-determination and specifically their God given right to decide for themselves their destiny. What the secessionist clan has done and continue to do is to flagrantly trample on these regions rights to self-determination, occupy their regions and force them to join their secession. This is unacceptable and it is the cause for the on-going conflict in NW Somalia (Somaliland). Unless resolved, it is bound to escalate into a wider regional conflagration as other clans related to one side or the other take sides. This could scupper any progress made on the other areas of concern to the London Conference.
A brief reminder of the background to the present crisis in the NW region of Somalia (Somaliland) is necessary in order to see the current situation in its right setting. It begins with the collapse of the Somali State in January 1991. All the clans in Somalia except one have remained unwavering all these years in their commitment to the territorial unity of Somalia. The exception is the Isaaq clan who unilaterally declared the secession of the NW region (former British Somaliland) from Somalia, which they named "Somaliland", an act opposed by the other four unionist clans in the territory.
As part of implementing this secession, the mainly Isaaq militia of Somaliland, making full use of the massive arsenal left behind by the disintegrated Somali national army, initially captured the western Awdal region inhabited by the unionist Gadabuursi and Isse clans. Though left alone for a number years, the unionist Dhulbahante and Warsangeli clans in the SSC regions, fearing possible invasion from Somaliland, entered into a defensive alliance with their fellow Harti/Darood clans in the NE Somalia to form the Puntland State of Somalia in August 1998.
This alliance among the Puntland (Harti/Darood) clans has for some years deterred Somaliland but in the end it invaded and occupied Lascanod, the SSC capital, in October 2007, taking advantage of Puntland government's indifference to the defence of this city or the rest of the SSC. Somaliland thereafter claimed it had control over the whole former British Somaliland, though in reality only partially.
Though uprisings in Lascanod against Somaliland's occupation has been intermittent since the city was captured, little of this has filtered to the outside world given the area is landlocked and subject to communication blackouts imposed by the occupiers. Since then, much water has flowed under the bridge and the current situation in the Khaatumo State is one of open warfare between the Isaaq clan (Somaliland) and the SSC people now belonging to the newly established Khaatumo State of Somalia. This is where we are now.
Following in the footsteps of the Gadabuursi and Warsangeli clans, who earlier established their own regional States of Somalia, the Dhulbahante clan in the SSC regions in their turn created their Khaatumo State of Somalia at a clan conference held in the famous fort of Taleex on January 2012. This development more than anything else has sounded the death knell for the aspirations of Somaliland's secession and for good reasons. The Khaatumo State is contiguous with the rest of Somalia and Ethiopia, and, more worryingly for Somaliland, can get moral and material support from the Darood clans in Puntland, the rest of Somalia and also in the Ogaden of Ethiopia. As such, a Khaatumo State that is free from Somaliland's occupation is inevitable, ensuring the continuation of the unity between southern and northern Somalia and ushering the demise of the secession
The new State was welcomed not only by these Darood clans but also the TFG and the rest of the Somali people everywhere other than the Isaaq. Somaliland's response to these unfavourable developments was to launch successive all-out attacks on Buuhoodle, the second largest town in the Khaatumo State, with a view to nipping this nascent regional State in the bud. These attacks were however crushed by the SSC civilian defenders. While there is a lull in the fighting now and then, these are used by Somaliland to regroup and re-supply their forces isolated in the heart of the SSC.
The longer Somaliland continues to use force to maintain its occupation of Lascanod and resorts to futile military operations to bring Buuhoodle under its control, the more likely that other Darood clans get sucked into the conflict. Al Shabaab, who will not hesitate to fish in troubled waters, may also join the fray. The best way to prevent a spiralling conflict and concomitant instability in this region is for Somaliland to accept to live in peace with its neighbours, to renounce the secession and the use of force as its main instrument of hegemony over other clans.
Somaliland (i.e.Isaaq clan) and its leaders have for long deluded themselves that an international community despairing of the endless turmoil in southern Somalia will eventually recognise them as the only viable and functioning area where peace and a modicum of governance prevail. Above all, there is a self-serving make-believe among the clan at every level that Great Britain, which they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as having closer relationship with them than any other clan, will eventually recognise them when the right moment arises. The London conference would be a fitting place where Great Britain should reaffirm to the people of Somalia its commitment to Somalia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. That would dispel the delusions of the clan as well the lingering distrust of other Somalis about Britain's good faith, a legacy of its historical role in the carve-up of the Somali homeland in the Horn.
Turning to the participation of the conference from the Somali side, we notice that only representatives form the TFG and several regional authorities have so far been invited to attend. However, if the participation at the conference is to seen as equitable and representative of Somalia, the minimum requirement is that all the established regional states from southern and northern Somalia are invited on equal footing. In this respect, we urge that the newly established Khaatumo State, representing the three regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn(SSC) of Somalia, be invited.
In the event that the Khaatumo State (and other States from NW Somalia) is not present at the conference, the British government and other participants from governments and international organisations should know that the representatives from Somaliland are only representing and speaking for their own clan and not for other regions and clans. Not only do the four unionist clans have nothing to do with the secession of this renegade entity but the wider international community, as represented at this conference, consider these unionist in NW regions as part and parcel of Somalia. It is incumbent upon the conference, and particularly the host country, to make that position clear to Somaliland.
Please accept, Hon Minister, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Chairman, Foreign Relations Forum
Khaatumo State of Somalia
CC: His Excellency Matt Baugh
British Ambassador to Somalia