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By Adan H Iman


At the end of May 2006, the International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report urging the African Union (AU) in particular and the international community in general to recognize Somaliland. Ahmed I Samatar and Abdi I Samatar, the two like-minded brothers, wrote a joint response dated July 20, 2006, featured at Hiriaan.com, in an attempt to discredit the report. Their response has glaring weaknesses and the following essay highlights its deviations from commonly agreed upon facts as well as common sense:


  • Ahmed Samatar and Abdi Samatar attacked the integrity of the authors of the ICG report, in effect accusing them of ethical and professional misconduct. They allege one of the authors to have been once on SNM payroll. Many people have their own opinion of Ahmed & Abdi, but it is unwise for any one to use  subjective impressions as a foundation for refuting the positions they take.  More and more foreign scholars are emerging to support Somaliland independence. One of the latest is Ali Mazrui, the most leading authority on African culture, politics and governments who openly called for Somaliland recognition.  The tactic of going after those who support the Somaliland case will not work but only embolden them to even redouble their support for the Somaliland cause.
  • They have the inclination to frame historical events to fit their personal crusade to undermine Somaliland.  They deemphasize the colonial experience of the country and claim the 1961 constitutional referendum binds Somaliland to remain in the union forever. There are historical precedents where states in Africa and the Arab world gained their independence from colonial powers, and afterward, driven by nationalistic forces, united with others, only to revert to their previous status. In neither case has the international community determined their acts of union negated or precluded them from rolling back to their previous condition. The Somaliland case is no different.
  • While the ICG report correctly cautions that forceful reintegration of Somaliland into the union will spur war, the two professors reject this as “alarmist prognosis” that will never materialize. History is not static. Writing on Giambattista Vico’s seminal ideas on the progress of human societies, British philosopher Isaiah Berlin notes about Vico’s view of history as a “succession of culturesevery society had its own vision of reality, of the world in which it lived, and of itself and of its relations to its own past… These visions differ with each successive social whole… each must be understood in its own terms-understood, not necessarily evaluated”. For the Somali speaking people, the values of the 1950s was dominated by the consciousness of Somali nationalism- a force that galvanized them into believing that coming under one state and one flag will remedy their ills and lead them to the Promised Land.  Instead in a short period of time it led them to hell on earth. There is a different consciousness in Somaliland now, one enriched by the failure of the earlier culture, which is to reclaim the independence granted to them by the British on June 26, 1960. There will be bloodshed should Somalilanders of today are taken back to different era in the past. The two professors think of people as a compliant sheep that could be herded into a shed. A social scientist is expected to be endowed with empathy to able to understand the consciousness of the people and to feel their pain and joy. It is obvious they got the wrong reading on this.
  • They suggest that recognizing Somaliland will open a Pandora’s Box encouraging nationalities in multi-ethnic Ethiopia to fall apart. Eritrea’s secession has had no palpable effect on the cohesion of the remaining nationalities. The fate of a state depends on its internal dynamics. The failure of the Somali state can not be blamed on another state. Somaliland’s recognition will not cause the disintegration of Ethiopia. On the contrary, while the failed Somali state, during its existence, was hostile to Ethiopia, Somaliland, by offering the use of its port of Berbera as gateway, is proving to be of critical help to the economic well-being of the huge land locked country.
  • They maintain that “some groups consider the idea of “Somaliland” as theirs; others feel disenfranchised”.  I disagree with this contention. To borrow from Antonio Gramsci, “the circle of humanity” in Somaliland extends beyond the central part of the country to the north western town of Lowyada at the Djibouti border. The residents of Awdal see themselves at the top of the state, in parliament  and at all levels of the state bureaucracy. Residents of Awdal are at the center, not at the periphery or feel disenfranchised. Awdal sentiment towards Somaliland is strong and this is evident from the way they participate in the political process and go to the polls on election days. The AU fact finding mission in 2005 noted this strong sentiment and as a result recommended to the AU heads of State to recognize Somaliland. Ideas originate with one person and if the idea is useful it is embraced by many. Columbus, an Italian, was the first to visit North America. Hundreds of millions followed suit. No body cared whether he was Italian or not. In retrospect in the aftermath of the collapse of the Somali state, the idea of Somaliland  was a good one. It served the people of Awdal very well. The accomplishments they have made are due to the stable political environment of Somaliland. They will not walk away from it simply because it was initiated by the Isaq people.

 In conclusion, the Somali unionist camp is going through major crisis and in disarray.  They were divided by the election of Colonel Abdillhi Yousuf in Nairobi two years ago. And now they are despaired and confused by the emergence of the Sheikh Aweys fundamentalist regime in Mogadishu. It seems they have resorted to vent their frustration by bashing Somaliland. But the fact is their attacks will not change one single mind. It is better for them to refocus their attention to Mogadishu where half of the population is reduced to serfdom and where any body who dare criticize the Sheikh Aweys regime is likely to have his limbs chopped off.



Adan H Iman, Los Angeles

Email: [email protected]


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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