By Guled Ismail
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
If there is one issue that unites Somalia’s famously quarrelsome politicians, elites and ordinary clansmen it is the issue of Somaliland’s secession: They oppose it to a man, child and warlord.
Members of the ineffectual but secular Transitional Federal Government (TFG) oppose Somaliland’s secession as vehemently as the most fanatical of its Islamist enemies.
What drives this determination to keep Somaliland into Somalia’s death embrace remains unclear. It cannot be patriotism for surely if Somalia’s leaders, elites and clansmen had any of the stuff left they would have spared the Somali people the biblical suffering they have been so cruelly inflicting on them over the last 17 years through their selfish greed and primeval political machinations.
Neither is it driven by obvious economic interests because Somaliland and Somalia were never economically interlinked even during the 30 year-Union and have no economic links today whatsoever.
It cannot be some kind of brotherly goodwill they hold for the people of Somaliland because they harbour indeed venerate war criminals who participated in the pogroms and massacres against Somalilanders in the 1980s. Witness how both the TFG and their nemesis the Islamist Courts welcomed General Mohamed Omar Hirsi Morgan known as the `Butcher of Hargeisa’ throughout Somaliland for his genocidal activities in the late 80s when he was Siyad Barre’s chosen Milatary ruler of Somaliland. The TFG even recently chose him as a member of a high powered delegation to Kuwait.
The Somalia diaspora rallied around another suspected war criminal General Mohamed Ali Samatr who Siyad Barre’s Defense Minister in the 80s after Somaliland refugees in the US tried to have him arrested for War Crimes. This man who is alleged to have ordered the carpet bombing of Hargeisa by Rhodesian mercenaries hired by the Somali Airforce, all of a sudden became a focal point for all Somalis in the US, Canada and beyond. They lobbied and fundraised and held meetings and formed support groups and all to avoid this man investigated by a court of law. These and many other examples amply demonstrate that the elites of Somalia may not have the best interests of Somalilanders at heart.
Yet remarkably Somalia’s venal political classes, discredited elites and mostly disingenuous intelligentsia abroad succeeded in convincing the world that the recognition of Somaliland will somehow `harm’ Somalia itself. The world did not bother questioning this ludicrous assertion because frankly, no one is interested in Somalia, Somaliland or Somalis in general. As far as the international community is concerned, the place(s) and the people are among those the less one hears about the better. Nothing ever comes out of there except wars and refugees and the occasional would-be terrorist.
In other words the world seems to have adopted an `Ignore and Avoid’ policy on the Somaliland vs Somali issue. They are happy to repeat the mantra: We don’t want to recognize Somaliland because it will further complicate the situation in Somalia’.
This is not only morally and ethically dubious; it has no plausible basis in any assessable, measurable reality.
It is like being told to remain tied to your neighbour who is burning his down because if you untie yourself from the inferno the neighbour may get even madder and burn his house down with even more gusto!”.
Surprisingly this `logic’ is not used in Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovakia, Monte-Negro or any of the 20-odd new States who emerged (or about to emerge in the case of Kosovo) in Europe over the last 16 years.
Ironically that is the same number of years Somaliland was one of only two nations in Africa, the other is Southern Sudan, seeking the same freedoms and human dignity given to their European counterparts.
But the idea that Somaliland’s recognition will make things worse for Somalia is equally untenable on factual pragmatic grounds too.
For starters it is hard to foresee how things could get any worse in Somalia. This may sound a little cruel but under the circumstances, it is an apt and valid one to raise and examine.
Secondly, Somaliland and Somalia have been two de facto separate states for the last 17 years. Somaliland was not party to the events and issues that shaped Somalia after the collapse of Siyad Barre regime in 1991.
On its part Somalia occasionally tried to meddle in Somaliland’s affairs, usually in the shape of brotherly attempts to undermine the place or better still, destroy it altogether. But its’ ever bickering politicians soon lost interest in the affairs of distant `Qaldanland’ (The land of he always wrong) as they sometimes call it and concentrated on the important business of creating mayhem and mismanagement at local level.
So a recognition of Somaliland will be an acceptance of an existing reality on the ground and not creating a new one. This means that even in a worse case scenario, a recognition of Somaliland will have a neutral impact on the situation in Somalia.
Indeed it could have a far more positive impact than many people think. It may just make the political groups in Somalia realise that the world rewards those who bring about peace and stability through compromise, the upholding of the rule of law and the establishment of functioning secular democratic systems. The message a recognition will send to Somalia’s political classes is that the world is fed-up with your antics and lack of vision and may indeed `Ignore and avoid’ you from now on and shift its focus and resources to those who better deserve it.
It just might nudge them into taking some action to save their political careers and in the process save their people from further misery.
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