By Dahir A. Jama
The new developments in Somalia, in particular, the demise of the weak TFG and the rapid rise of the UIC present Somaliland with both political opportunities, which are advantageous to its cause, and security risks threats that can impact on its stability. Yet the Somaliland administration has been very slow to react and formulate a policy. In fact in the very short period since June 2006 when the UIC captured Mogadishu and ousted the US backed warlords, the administration has adopted several conflicting and confusing positions in relation to the developments in Somalia and, in particular, the UIC. In the months that followed the capture of Mogadishu by the UIC its official stand was one of indifference, namely that the developments in Somalia did not concern Somaliland, since neither the TFG nor the UIC respected nor recognised the sovereignty of Somaliland;
In recent days, however, there appears to have been a change in policy and the Somaliland administration has declared the UIC as state enemy number one. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, in response to hostile comments made by a prominent UIC leader against Somaliland, announced that Somaliland viewed the comments as a declaration of war by the UIC on Somaliland. President Rayale for his part in a Press Release called for national unity ‘in the face of the threat from the UIC’ and proposed the formation of a committee to address the long standing conflict between the executive and legislature branch of government. And, just yesterday, 15.10.06 President Rayale’s official spokes person, Abdi Idris Duale, handed to the Media a ‘secret letter’ allegedly written by the head of UIC’s Shura Council outlining operations to assassinate Somaliland President and other leading politicians.
Not surprisingly, Somaliland’s own perky and energetic media was not to be left behind in this venture. In the later parts of the month of September and the month of October, it has been running stories pertaining to UIC plots to destabilise Somaliland from within. One such report by a well known Somaliland daily newspaper concluded that there was a UIC plan in place to destabilise and destroy Somaliland from within; a proxy UIC operation involving well known Somaliland Clerics and Sheikhs taking up arms against, and overthrowing the Somaliland government. In other words, Somaliland Clerics who sympathise with or are supporters of the UIC taking up arms against the government and implementing Sharia in Somaliland, without the UIC ever setting foot in Somaliland. Very interesting stuff, indeed. This is/was Somaliland’s own ‘war on terror’, it appeared.
Once again, it appears that Somaliland government, whether deliberate or ill advised, is misleading its citizens and failing in its duties to protect and preserve the sovereignty of the country. The focus on the UIC as the single biggest threat to Somaliland on the part of the government is, must be said, misleading and false. It is nothing but a callous and calculated attempt and campaign to divert attention from the real issues and threats facing the country, today. Unfortunately, the Somaliland media, or at least some sections of it, appear to be aiding the propagation of the government’s dangerous and disingenuous propaganda; unwittingly.
The UIC has yet to take full control of Southern Somalia and consolidate its power and rule their. Even after it has done so in Somalia, it would still need to address the Puntland authority, which is very hostile to its agenda, before it can present a threat to Somaliland. And by most experts’ analysis, it is not going to be very easy challenge to address the Puntland authority and get to Somaliland any time soon. In fact, the UIC may never get opportunity to head north towards Somaliland if the predicted show down between the UIC and the TFG materialises, which will engulf Somalia in a deadly and a prolonged civil war, involving, probably, regional powers.
In terms of the theory/report of the long hand of the UIC reaching Somaliland in the form of a proxy war via Somaliland Clerics taking up arms against the government. Admittedly there is a strong and organised religious movement in Somaliland. However, the above suggests the existence of terrorist-like training camps inside Somaliland territory (presumably Burco) where a well-armed group(s) of Somaliland Clerics are preparing a militia capable of fighting and defeating the might and power of the Somaliland army, which is not only ludicrous but extremely unlikely. If that was the case, anyway, one might ask, what is/was the government doing or has been doing while such military threat was being organised and formed inside its territory?
In reality, the only threat the UIC presents to Somaliland at this moment in time is an ‘Oral threat’ - talking and threatening on the Media. This not to say, however, that it does not and will not present a threat to Somaliland in the future. It will and can but at this moment in time, it does not. In the short term, there are other more imminent and pressing threats that face Somaliland, which, if not addressed can seriously impact on its statehood and sovereignty.
The first of such threat facing Somaliland today is the incompetent and farcical rule of the Rayale administration that is turning Somaliland slowly but surely into a lawless and chaotic one party state dictatorship. The constitutional crisis that is currently engulfing the country; the extension of the term of the Guurti which President Rayale unilaterally sanctioned in a decree, contrary to the constitution, which gives the power to extend the Guurti term the House of Representatives under article 19 is a case in point. This single act has brought the democratisation process of the country to a halt and set the two houses of legislature, Guurti and Wakiilo, against each other with the Wakiilo objecting to Rayale’s blatant violation of the law and the Guurti grateful to Rayale for their extension. The impact of this on Somaliland has been enormous., with the ability of the legislating branches to function and legislate severely undermined and damaged.
The house of Parliament, the main legislating branch, whose members have been directly elected by the people, has seen its efforts at legislating undermined and sabotaged, by either Rayale or the un-elected guurti members, by overruling every bill they produce with the encouragement and tacit support of an ominous administration that has no respect for the rule of the law. As a result all-important national issues, such as health, defence and education matters remain undressed and the constitutional crisis continues to impact on the stability and functioning of the state.
This second biggest threat facing Somaliland, today, is the threat presented by the Puntland militia which is occupying large parts of Somaliland territory. Although its been more than three years now since these territories were occupied by a militia loyal to Puntland; the government has not done anything tangible to address the issue. It has on two different occasions announced the formation of a Committee consisting of Parliamentarians, opposition parties and traditional leaders to advise the government on how best to resolve the issue. However, this has never materialised and the government to-date does not show any will or resolve to address the border issue; while the militia controlling the occupied territories, in the meantime, has consolidated its power and established national and local institutions in the Sool region started tax collection.
The occupation of these territories does not only present a military threat to Somaliland, in the form of the occupation; but it also presents the single biggest hurdle to Somaliland recognition. For long, Anti-Somaliland campaigners have argued that any decision to recognise Somaliland will ignite the flames of a deadly civil war in the region. They state Somaliland, if granted recognition, will use force to coerce the people of Sool to be part of Somaliland and secure its borders, which it was unable to do thus far. As a result, it will lead to a bloody and lengthy civil war, which will destabilize the entire region. Naturally, some countries buy into this argument and cite the border issue as the single most important issue standing in the way of recognition for Somaliland.
The Ethiopian government which Somaliland accepted and viewed as an ally appears to be one of the main contributors to the current stalemate on the border issue, according to some. Ethiopia, which has close relations with both Puntland and Somaliland is pressurising Somaliland not to go to war with Puntland over the issue its alleged. At the same time, Ethiopia is not forthcoming or presenting a diplomatic alternative, it is said. The end result of the impasse: a country that does not exercise full control over its borders and thus unable to claim to have clearly demarcated and recognised borders.
Whatever the reason, be it Ethiopian pressure or Rayale incompetence or ulterior motives, as some argue, the issue does not only have detrimental effects on Somaliland’s ability to attain diplomatic recognition, but also on its security and stability, as afore-mentioned. Therefore, it’s amazing and beyond my understanding how Rayale and his administration, if they have the interests of the nation at heart, can prioritise the UIC threat, which is non-existent over the Puntland threat, which is real and present. This policy and Mr Rayale appear to be serving the national interests of Ethiopia and Abdullahi Yusuf more then its serving the national interests of Somaliland. The gains for President Rayale in this are said to be personal.
Be it as it may, its important that the media and legislature do not buy into the propaganda by Rayale and aid its propagation of the false enemy. Instead, let us urge Rayale and Co to lead us address the border issue instead of calling the citizens to arms against an enemy 10.000 miles away in Kismayo. Let us urge Rayale and his administration to get its act together and create a conducive and suitable environment for national dialogue, before we can challenge on multiple fronts. And, finally, let us, as citizens and a nation, get our priorities right and not allow Rayale and his incompetent servants to dismantle what little that is left of the country. At the present time, President Rayale and Puntland present the biggest threat to Somaliland; Not the UIC.
Dahir A. Jama
|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"|