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The ICG Report and its negative implications for Somali Unity

In its report No.110 titled Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership1, the International Crisis Group (ICG) urges the AU to take the initiative in helping “Somaliland” achieve its quest for secession from the rest of Somalia by granting it an observer status as a prelude to eventual full recognition. This report contradicts the principles of the organization that stands for the objective analysis and prevention of conflicts. It also raises disturbing questions as to its timing. The report was published on the 23rd of May 2006; 5 days after some regions of “Somaliland” celebrated the anniversary of their unilateral secession from the rest of Somalia after the chaos that engulfed the whole country when the central government collapsed.



The 32-page ICG report is full of irrelevant legal arguments and precedents for the dismemberment of a homogeneous country of Somalia.  The report unfairly compares Somalia to States that have disparate ethnic groups and irreconcilable historical animosities. The ICG argues, “Since the end of the Cold War, new states have emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia, and Asia has witnessed the birth of East Timor. In Africa, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia, and the African Union has agreed in principle that southern Sudan may also become a state if its people so decide in 2011”. The report ignores the homogeneous nature of Somalia and the nomadic character of its population who defy artificial borders in their search of green pastures for their livestock. The report brushes aside the potential disintegration of the Somali State into multiple tribal enclaves including “Somaliland” itself, which has a delicate tribal balance. The report also ignores the tight economic integration among the different Somali regions as clearly outlined in the article Icons of Somali Unity2: Invisible to foreigners like Professor Jhazbhay”.


It seems that the ICG has unwittingly allowed itself to be dragged into the murky politics of Somalia and has been partial in this sensitive issue that can by far create more anguish in Somalia if not handled with care and wisdom. This essay attempts to alert the world to the ICG’s unprecedented interference in the affairs of a sovereign State that is trying to nurse itself back to health.  It is counterproductive for the international community to spend millions of dollars on reconciliation conferences in rebuilding Somalia while allowing a small group such as the ICG to dismantle the Somali State. This is a prelude to upcoming report that will undoubtedly unravel the irrelevant legal arguments and inapplicable precedents used in the ICG report in favor of “Somaliland” recognition.    


Most observers believe that Mr. Matt Bryden, the ICG Horn of Africa Project Director, who is a well-known sympathizer of “Somaliland” recognition, has influenced the contents of the report. It is public knowledge that Mr. Bryden is biased and cannot be relied upon for an objective analysis of the Somali crisis. For example, he regularly attends functions that support the recognition of “Somaliland” such as the conference held by the Somaliland Policy & Reconstruction Institute, SOPRI3 in Los Angeles in June of 2005.  Many observers also believe that he played a decisive role in leaking the contents of the current report to organizations and individuals working for the dismemberment of Somalia. This bias and questionable conduct is clearly illustrated by a ‘roundtable’ style meeting held on Thursday 9th March 2006 at the House of Commons, and organized by Somaliland Focus (UK). Dr Steve Kibble, a member of Progressio, a Christian charity that is active in “Somaliland”, chaired the meeting.  The minutes4 of the meeting states, “ICG is increasingly interested in Somaliland. Report due this month, which will recommend action in the direction of recognition”. This statement evidently confirms that the ICG deliberately collaborates with other organizations in their efforts to partition the Somali State.


Before joining the ICG, Mr. Bryden used to decry foreign meddling in Somalia’s affairs. The following is an excerpt from one of his briefings titled “New Hope for Somalia? Building Block Approach”, that was published in the March 1999 issue of the journal “Review of African Political Economy - Vol. 26 No. 795”.


Somalis may be forgiven if they have become wary of foreign help in putting their shattered country back together. Since the absurd colonial dismemberment of the Somali nation between five sovereign states, external involvement in Somalia has ranged from the mediocre to the disastrous. The anemic preparations by the British and Italian governments for Somali independence and statehood, the enthusiastic support of both cold war blocs in the training and armament of the small country's security services and armed forces, and the United Nation's ruinous attempts at nation-building are notable benchmarks in a long history of foreign meddlers - some of them sinister, some benign, others simply incompetent - but all of them ultimately unsuccessful.”


Mr. Bryden unwittingly portrayed himself and the ill conceived efforts of the ICG accurately in the above paragraph. They are foreigners lobbying the AU to contradict its own rules, and dismember one of its own members, Somalia. They are behind a mediocre report that undermines the unity of the African Union in general and the Somali Unity and Sovereignty in particular. Hence, in Mr. Bryden’s own words, their efforts will ultimately be unsuccessful.


Nevertheless, Mr. Bryden is right on one regard, that the Somalis do not trust foreigners when it comes to critical issues that affect the unity, integrity and sovereignty of their country. Somalis, regardless of their regional affiliations have been wary of the ICG since it published its first report on Somalia in 2003.  The current report reveals the ICG as an advocacy group that dedicated its work in Balkanizing Somalia, rather than as an impartial analytic group that generates reports on potential international conflicts. 


It is a well-known fact that Africa has suffered and still suffers the pains of the colonial intrusions in its affairs. In the post colonial era, hired mercenaries helped stage bloody coups in many African countries and caused untold suffering to the African people. These foreigners are unfortunately nothing short of modern day mercenaries who employ subtle tactics to divide and rule Africa. Most Africans can interpret the efforts of the ICG to divide Somalia as a long-term agenda to dismantle the Sudan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other Sub-Saharan countries.


The ICG report references a recent article6 by Dr. J. Peter Pham, "Strategic Interests: Facing Reality in Somalia", World Defense Review, in which the author recommends that the US recognize “Somaliland” as part of its strategy to fight global terror. The ICG report argues “A vocal minority of Somalilanders, including some communities along the troubled border with neighboring Puntland (North East Somalia) and a violent network of Jihadi Islamists favor unity”. This reckless statement supports the arguments detailed in Dr. Pham's article.  Unfortunately, some naive Somalis are unsuspecting participants in this ugly campaign to dismember their country as part of the global war that many Muslims believe is being waged against Muslims all over the world. The on-going bloodshed in Mogadishu seems to be part of that strategy. One of the warlords of the so called coalition against terror in Mogadishu, backed and funded by the US, is unwitting participant in this strategy as he recently called for the recognition of “Somaliland” using coarse language and depicting it as a parasite.


It also seems that the ICG is very selective in its calls for the dismemberment of sovereign states. The search for ICG reports on the violent struggles of the Basque and the Northern Ireland people to secede from Spain and Britain respectively, two thorny issues that affect Europe, surprisingly produced no results. Similar searches for crisis reports on the Oromo and Western Somalia (Ogaden) armed struggles for self-determination unfortunately also failed to produce tangible results.  This indicates that the ICG regards the “Somaliland” issue as a threat to world peace and stability even though there are more dangerous secession based conflicts that rage in this world and deserve the attention and resources of the ICG.


It is ironic that the only report about Somalia by the ICG in 2006 calls for the dismemberment of the country instead of tackling the serious conflicts raging in Mogadishu and the problems posed by the continuing lack of a strong government. The world has acknowledged that the lack of strong central government in Somalia poses more serious threats to world peace and stability. Pirates roaming lawless Somali coasts continue to threaten international shipping lanes. However, the ICG chose to ignore these critical issues and devotes its resources to an issue that can be resolved peacefully by Somalis themselves when they emerge from the chaos engulfing many parts of their country. The ill-advised calls of the ICG to divide Somalia can only worsen the situation on the ground and escalate tensions in areas that have so far escaped the mayhem raging in Mogadishu.


The most disturbing element in the ICG report is its attempt to drag the AU into playing a role in the dismemberment of its member state. The report cites a classified report by an AU mission to the North and quotes liberally from that classified report of the mission that supposedly recommends AU membership for “Somaliland”. However, they consistently fail to tell the world that mission has violated the territorial integrity of Somalia by embarking on such undertaking without the consent and the clearance of the Transitional Federal Government, the TFG, which has been recognized as the only legitimate government in Somalia by the UN, the EU, the Arab League and the AU.  The alleged mission confined its visits to areas whose inhabitants include those that are sympathetic to the secession. Northern Somalia is not limited to Hargeisa, Burao, Berbera, Sheikh and Borama.  There are many cities whose inhabitants do not support the secession and the mission failed to dignify those cities with a simple visit.  The deliberate failure of the mission to include these regions in its itinerary raises disturbing questions that need to be answered by the AU itself.  However, the most disturbing fact is the ability of ICG and other “Somaliland” sympathizers like Professor iqbal Jhazbhay to get hold of the classified report while the TFG is completely in the dark as to its contents. We leave it to the AU to explain this deliberate manipulation of its resources in order to destroy a member state in contravention of the core mission of the AU itself.


It is counterproductive for an international organization that boasts on its Board of trustees’ illustrious names like Wesley Clark and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and purportedly works on the prevention of conflicts, to call for break up of homogeneous people whose problems can be solved through peaceful conflict resolution efforts, diplomacy and targeted development aid as rewards for democratic achievements.  It would be more appropriate for such an organization to work on stopping the bloodshed in Mogadishu and to call for the support of the fledgling TFG, which declared many times that the issue of the North, will be solved through negotiation and dialogue. A peaceful solution can be reached once the TFG manages to bring peace and stability to the South. The ICG report clearly smacks of bias on the issue of “Somaliland” and its attitude can only lead to the further aggravation of the catastrophe on the ground.  Mr. Bryden’s proposal that is embraced by the ICG could very well lead to a serious crisis and a dire strife that could drag the peaceful North into the quagmire of South.


We therefore call upon IGAD, the AU, the UN and the well-meaning sponsors of the ICG to intervene and help the Somali people put an end to these counterproductive reports that are being spewed by the ICG on Somalia and to ask the organization to discipline those responsible for such divisive reports that can aggravate the Somali impasse. These kinds of reports only add insult to the injury and promote further hate among the Somali people.


Omar Ali Haji
Nura K. Ali
Qarshe & Tima-Ade
International Center

Email: [email protected]




1.      ICG, “Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership”, 23 May 2006 at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=4131

2.      Qarshe-Tima-Ade International Center, “Icons of Somali Unity: Invisible to foreigners like Professor Jhazbhay” , 3 May 2006 at http://www.awdalnews.com/wmview.php?ArtID=7193

3.      SOPRI, “2005 Somaliland Convention in Los Angeles”, June 2005 at http://www.sopri.org/gallery_0009.aspx

4.      Somaliland Focus (UK), “Round table meeting”, 9 March 2006 obtained by the center

5.      Matt Bryden, “New Hope for Somalia? Building Block Approach”, March 1999 at http://www.roape.org/cgi-bin/roape/show/7911.html

6.      J. Peter Pham, "Strategic Interests: Facing Reality in Somalia", World Defense Review, 11 May 2006, available at www.reportingwar.com/pham051106.shtml.


Qarshe Tima-Ade International Center for Unity is an independent organization based in the United States and Canada. It lobbies for the unification of all Somali speaking people through peaceful and non-violent means and the prevention of conflict in the Horn of Africa 

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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