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Split loyalties trip up Somaliland recognition dance


British-based Somalilanders wave the flag of the internationally unrecognised self-declared republic of Somaliland as they hold a pro-independence rally outside Downing street in London on February 22, 2012. They called for recognition of Somaliland, currently a region of Somalia in the eyes of the international community, as a sovereign state following the region's unilateral declaration of independence over two decades ago. AFP |



by Abdulkadir Khalif
Friday, May 18, 2012

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Mogadishu, Somalia - On May 18, Somaliland marks the 21st anniversary of its self-declaration of independence from the rest of Somalia. Most of those years have been spent seeking international recognition.

And while events over the last five months have moved its dream ever so slightly to fruition, the reality is that it will remain a long haul flight.

The historic London Conference on Somalia was on February 23 attended by 44 governments and international bodies interested in Somali issues, and also by a motley of Somali groups representing differing interests.

At a glance, the communiqué issued at the end of the conference recognised the need for the international community to support any dialogue that Somaliland and the Somalia Transitional Federal Government or its replacement may agree to hold to clarify their future relations.

Talks push

According to its charter, the TFG represents the totality of Somalia while Somaliland is an authority with Hargeisa, 1500 northeast of Mogadishu, as itscapital.
The latter declared separation from the rest of Somalia on May 18, 1991; four months after the collapse of the dictatorial regime of the late General Mohamed Siad Barre.

The unilateral declaration of independence was mainly backed by Somali National Movement (SNM), a rebel movement dominated by Issaq clansmen, one of the five main clans in the region.

Keeping in mind the weighty remarks by the international community, TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed upon returning to Mogadishu announced his government’s willingness to hold talks with the separatist Somaliland.

Sheikh Ahmed said that his government would spare no effort in clearing up rancorous differences between the two sides: "We maintain our unity and brotherhood."

He added: "We are ready to iron out our differences including acknowledging past mistakes," he added while at Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport

President of Somalia Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. FILE
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Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo. FILE
Just a few days later, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud alias Silanyo told the media upon returning to Hargeisa from London that his authority would hold talks with the TFG that would clearly be based on, among others, the independence of Somaliland and the relationship between the two sides.

A Somali intellectual, Mohamud M. Uluso, was among those who immediately criticised the planned meeting. In an article published on largely Somali news website Hiiraan Online on February 28 (click here to read the article), he stated his opinion that such talks would undermine the unity and integrity of Somalia.

"Confirmation that Somaliland is not part of Somalia or of TFG came on February 23, 2012 [when] Somalia ended to exist internationally,” wrote Dr Uluso.

"Over the next three years, Somaliland will receive directly from UK about £105 million for promoting prosperity, tackling poverty and consolidating progress on stability and democracy,” he added.

Quick to support

But not everybody was as critical. In Mogadishu, traditional clan elders were quick to express support for the talks.

"We are pleased that Somalis [will] engage in reconciliatory talks," said Mr Mohamed Hassan Haad, an elder from the Hawiye Elders’ Association in Mogadishu.

In Hargeisa, the initial public mood was optimistic. Mr Ibrahim Jama Samatar, a community elder in Somaliland labelled the London Conference as one that had brought progress, and praised Somaliland's President Mohamoud.

"In the past, we experienced one step forward with two steps backward,” said Elder Samatar. “We are now witnessing just steps taken forward."

A warning note came from an important player in Somalia’s politics. The President of the semiautonomous state of Puntland in north eastern Somalia, Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, who warned against the division of Somalia.

The federalist Puntland does not advocate for separation from Somalia.

Must not divide

A few days after the London conference, Mr Farole told members from the Somali community in UK that the promoters of the increasing number of states being formed must not lead to division of the country.

"We must be aware that the country belongs to all of us,” said President Farole, adding that splitting the country would harm the process of moving Somalia from its transitional stage to a permanent government.

After nearly six weeks, Somaliland President Silanyo broke his silence. On April 7 he nominated a committee of ministers to hold talks with the TFG at a venue in London. The breakaway republic’s foreign minister, Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, would lead the team.

But no date was announced. TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed named his team a week later, appointing seven officials to the planned talks with Somaliland. The TFG team would be led by Interior Affairs and Security minister Abdisamad Moalim Mohamoud.
"The TFG team will hold talks with a counterpart delegation from Somaliland in London, UK,” said a Somalia presidential decree issued on April 14.

On April 19 however, Somaliland officials rejected the talks, protesting the inclusion in the TFG team of two politicians hailing from Puntland, which has a long-term dispute with Somaliland over three regions separating the two authorities.

Tried to justify

Foreign minister Dr Omar sought to justify the refusal: "He (TFG President Ahmed) included (in the team) two extra men who hail from Somaliland," adding that people hailing from the territories of the former British Somaliland Protectorate cannot participate on behalf of the TFG.

"The talks must be solely between the former British Somaliland and the former Italian colony,” stressed Minister Omar.

The question is how many officials from the former British Somaliland hold positions in the TFG or even in Puntland. The head of the Judiciary, the TFG’s third branch, Mr Aideed Abdullahi Ilkahaf, deputy speaker of the Parliament in Mogadishu, Mr Ahmed Dhimbil Roble Asowe, two deputy PMs, a galaxy of ministers and a multitude of legislators are from the northwestern regions officially claimed by the Somaliland authority.

In the last TFG cabinet reshuffle in April, one minister was sacked and another, Mr Mohamoud Jirdeh Hussein, appointed to the Labour, Youth and Sports docket. Both men hail from the northwestern regions or Somaliland.

On April 10, deputy parliament speaker Asowe angrily reacted to the envisaged talks between Somaliland and TFG. He said any bilateral talks would be illegal if not scrutinised by the legislative.

Different natures

The nature and the establishments of Somaliland authority and the TFG are entirely different.

While, Somaliland is based on politicians supporting the cessation from the rest of Somalia, the TFG is a central government that is based on four Somali clans (Dir, Darood, Hawiye and Digil Mififle) and a coalition of smaller clans that stand as half of one of the major clans in what is widely known as The 4.5 Power-sharing Formula.

Therefore, the TFG has had the most inclusive participation of clansmen.

Politicians from Somaliland’s five sub-clans, i.e. Isaaq, Issa, Gadabursi, Warsangeli and Dhulbahante all hold positions in the TFG.

Therefore, whenever the TFG wants to negotiate with other parties or sides, be the international community or representatives from authorities within Somalia, including Somaliland, the TFG representatives are more likely to be diverse, reflecting its 4.5 power sharing.

When Somaliland’s Dr Omar sensed that politicians hailing from the jurisdiction claimed by Somaliland were in the TFG line-up, he ruled out all negotiations.

Pandora box

His objection actually raised more questions than answers and may have opened a Pandora’s Box.

Col Abdirizak Bakayle Haji, a prominent official of Khatumo State of Somalia, an authority set up in January 2012 and claiming the jurisdiction of most of the eastern territories of Somaliland, especially Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (the so-called SSC) regions, on April 20 said that Hargeisa did not represent the "whole of what is called Somaliland".

Col Bakayle wanted the TFG and the international community to realise that apart from Somaliland there were other authorities in northern Somalia that represented the interests of their peoples (clans).

"The assumption that the Somaliland authority has the legitimate right to represent the people in Northern Somalia (former British Somaliland Protectorate) is wrong,” said Col Bakayle.

"Those claiming to be in Somaliland authority are only part of whole issue of Northern Somalia,” he added.

The colonel insisted that Khatumo State of Somalia is for a unified Somalia, but based on legitimate co-existence. “I guess they (Somaliland) are part of the overall issues."

While Khatumo State of Somalia claims to represent most of the peoples in the eastern Somaliland, observers confirm that unannounced authorities are also embraced by clansmen dominating the western regions of Somaliland.

Many challenges

These include Awdal State of Somalia, whose promoters are mainly from Issa and Gadabursi clans. Though Khatumo and Awdal States of Somalia are known to be pro-Somalia unity, the Somaliland authority has no shortage of other challenges.

On April 21, Puntland minister for Planning and International relations Da’ud Mohamed Omar held a press conference in his office in the Puntland capital Garowe town, 1000 km north of Mogadishu.

He was equally bitter about Somaliland’s reaction to two of the appointed delegates by the TFG’s President Ahmed.

"Puntland is part and parcel of the TFG and no party (including Somaliland) has right to reject our officials to join negotiations,” stated Minister Omar.

The parties disputing the legality of Somaliland authority to speak on behalf of the northwestern regions of Somalia (former British Somaliland Protectorate) are myriad and represent various interests.

First and foremost are the authorities like Khatumo State of Somalia and Awdal State of Somalia, two ardent unionists (striving for the unity of Somalia).

Claims jurisdiction

Puntland, a neighbouring but powerful authority claims that parts of northwestern regions of Somalia, namely Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) are part of its jurisdiction because the Wargangeli and Dhulbahante clans that dominate the three regions have closer clan linkages with its own people.

The TFG in Mogadishu technically represents the entire constituents of Somalia. Therefore, its ranks are politicians and decision makers form every clan that also formed the breakaway Republic of Somaliland.

Even the late Abdurahman Ahmed Ali alias Abdurahman Tour, the rebel leader who found the Republic of Somaliland renounced the cessation bid, came to Mogadishu to become the deputy leader of the late General Mohamed Farah Aideed, a rebel leader in Southern Somalia who attempted to form Dowladdii Salbalaar (the broad based government).
Mr Abdurahman Tour died still advocating for the unity of Somalia against the Somaliland authority he helped to be installed on May 18, 1991.

It looks that there are numerous shards of glasses littering the road that is supposed to free Hargeisa from Mogadishu.

Convince elders

According to observers, a good way around this would be to convince the clan leaders of Dhulbahante, Warsangeli, Gadabursi and Issa to join the Issaq clansmen to accept and support the cessation.

If past experiences and recent event have anything to teach, President Ahmed Silanyo of Somaliland has an elephantine task to convince that all the people in the northwestern regions of Somalia that they will be better off under his authority.

While earning the trust and confidence of rival clansmen is hard to achieve in Somalia, ignoring them would have worse consequences.

On Saturday May 12, Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo visited Dilla town, a settlement between Hargeisa and Borama to open a repaired 10-kilometre road section between Dilla and Borama.

An elder in the area showered praises on President Silalnyo for visiting the area but visibly embarrassed the head of the authority by assuring the loyalty of the people in Awdal region to Somaliland.

Hidden sentiments

“I can guarantee you that these people are not loyal to Awdal State (of Somalia),” said the elder, pointing a finger at the gathered crowd.

Such spontaneous statements comparing the Somaliland Republic and Awdal State was enough to justify the old Somali saying, "Wax uur ku jira afkaa dafo" (an inner feeling is made public by the tongue).

It also illustrates that significant clansmen in Somaliland are harbouring loyalties to other institutions like Khatumo and Awdal states and even to the TFG, certifying that split loyalties remains a bone of contention unless addressed on the ground as well as on the negotiating table.

"Unintentional, but such remarks are like salt being rubbed into the wounds of Somaliland president (Silanyo),” said a radio listener who contacted the media in Mogadishu. He added that it would be extremely difficult for Somaliland loyalists to easily break from the rest of Somalia.

Source: Africa Review


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