H.E. Harriet Mathews, British Ambassador to Somalia
H.E. USA Ambassador to Somalia
H.E Michele Cervvone d'Urso, EU Special Envoy to Somalia
H.E. Mohamed Abdi Afey, IGAD Special Envoy to Somalia
Thursday, March 24, 2016
As you may be aware, Khatumo's Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions (SSC) have been once again, during the last weeks, the target of renewed and coordinated attacks from Somaliland's occupying militia. One has to ask how, a barren resource-less one-clan enclave critically dependent on handouts from the international community could be able to sustain its occupation of the SSC regions since 2007 and be able now to launch these major attacks, the scale of which matches those AMISOM undertake in southern Somalia?
The simple answer to this paradox is that Somaliland systematically diverts aid given to it by the international community specifically for humanitarian and development purposes to finance its occupation. It would be able to sustain the occupation so long the international community continue to be acquiescent as to how it is aid is used which by implication is tantamount to supporting the occupation much as this is contrary to their official stand. But there are factors to explain the timing, scale and breadth of these latest attacks which have extended to all the regions of the SSC.
First, Somaliland is perturbed that despite its years of occupation and repression in most parts of the SSC regions, their indomitable resistance to the occupation and their desire to take their rightful place as a member State of Federal Somalia remain unshakeable. Whether it is the traditional leaders, the diaspora, the people at home at every level, what unites them all is their spirit of Churchillian defiance never to surrender to the secessionists and defend their inalienable right to be free and remain part and parcel of Somalia. Rather than face these realities and give up an unwinnable occupation, the secessionists delude themselves that continued and ratcheted force, as they had been mounting lately, will ultimately break up the back of the resistance. They see it as a goal in sight. We in the SSC see it as chasing a mirage.
Secondly, their urge to resort to more aggressions became overwhelming as the life of the current federal government draws closer. There is a commonly held perception in Hargeisa that the current Federal Government and its leaders have been the most accommodating to their secession and their occupation of the SSC regions. There is growing fear among the ruling elite of the enclave that the current hand-off approach to Somaliland by the current federal leaders could change if they are replaced in the forthcoming elections by others less tolerant of the secession and strongly opposed to the occupation.
What worries Somaliland further is that, if dreaded possibility should happen, it would have a rippling effect world-wide, not least among key actors of the international community dealing with Somalia who would take their cue from a more hostile federal leaders if and when they emerge. There is thus race against time in Hargeisa to capture Buhoodle and extend the occupation to most if not all SSC and confront the new leaders with fait accompli and facts on the ground.
Thirdly, Somaliland is disturbed that the free SSC towns, notably Buhoodle, Boocame and others, remain vibrant and still able to make much social, economic and development progress by their own bootstraps without any help from the Somali government and international community. Such freedom, self-reliance and progress serve as a beacon of hope for the residents of occupied Lascanod, the SSC regional capital, and other occupied areas and stiffens their morale not to succumb to the occupation. That is why the capture of Buhoodle and other free towns and the need to snuff out their inspiration to the resistance is compelling.
A fourth factor triggering Somaliland's current aggressions is the on-going endeavours to establish a united regional administration for Khatumo and its sister, Makhir State. Not surprisingly, this development has sent the alarm bells ringing in Hargeisa, partly prompting these desperate military initiatives to thwart it. Nothing could foreclose its hopes for recognition more than the proposed union of the Dhulbahante and Warsangeli clans of the SSC regions (belonging to the wider Darood clan), whose combined territory and population constitute roughly 50%and 40% respectively of the north (former British Somaliland), and became one State of Federal Somalia.
For the above reason, Somaliland's occupying militia in the SSC have been flexing their muscles and exercising their fire power, rampaging through these regions and occupying more villages, among them Balcad, Widhwidh and Ceegaag (not that far from Buhoodle), have been overrun. As usual, civilians have been displaced, and defenceless vulnerable groups - women, children and the aged not able to escape the aggressors - have been worst hit. Human rights abuses, including looting and raping, often used as a weapon of repression, have been reported from several places. None of these barbaric heinous actions had sadly prompted any action from the federal Somali Government as usual, the international community or even human rights organisations. When all these parties are united in silence, Somaliland can only draw the obvious conclusions.
Somaliland's actions are tantamount to terror aimed at forcing the people of free Buhoodle town to surrender or flee while they still have time as the occupiers attempt to close on it from several directions. Their calculation is that the capture of Buhoodle, or the threat and terror they generate, may seal the end of the Khatumo administration, now provisionally based in the town. It is pure wishful thinking. They would be proved wrong as they had been some years ago in their disastrous assault on the town and Kalshaale areas. Their colonial-like actions and territorial aggrandisement, far from breaking the will of the occupied SSC people will only strengthen their resistance and inevitably deepen the gulf between the SSC people and those of the secessionist enclave. In the end, they would have e nothing to gain from this and much to lose.
Finally, the United Nations SRSG and the international community share much of the blame for what Somaliland is doing in the SSC regions. What has encouraged it to commit its egregious crimes in the SSC regions is the silence of the United Nations and the wider international community it represents. It is indefensible for the current SRSG (like his predecessor) whose main mandate is to defend the human rights of all the regions and clans of Somalia, to be selective and preoccupied with realpolitik in southern Somalia, expediently unconcerned with the crimes the secessionists are committing in his former colonial territory (the north) as if they have his blessing.
Just like the stance of the SRSG, that of the wider international community is even worse. Somaliland has rightly construed their silence over the occupation of the SSC regions, and worse over its misuse and diversion of their humanitarian and development aid for its war efforts and occupation (some of it earmarked for landlocked Khatumo and its SSC regions but never reach them), as a green light to continue with the occupation, land grab, ethnic cleansing, and widespread human rights violations. They are in this regard, willingly or unwittingly, accomplices to the crimes they are being committed with their resources.
Peace and stability in all Somalia are indivisible. Somalia will have no lasting peace and stability unless it is created in all regions of Somalia. Insecurity respects no geographical bounds in Somalia. In an era when the central government is impotent or unwilling to undertake its national obligations, clan solidarity has filled that void in which clans come to the aid of their kindred sub-clans when aggressed, irrespective of their location. That is why the conflict in the north cannot be conveniently pigeonholed as a faraway localised conflict. On the contrary and typical of the Somali clan conflict, it would draw in other clans, not to mention Jihadists like al Shabaab who miss no opportunity to fish in troubled waters.
What Somaliland is doing in the SSC regions and its consequences should be a wake-up call to the international community.. The International has immense leverage over the one-clan secessionist enclave. Without its aid, Somaliland would not be able to stand on its feet not alone continue occupying the SSC regions. It is time for action and not silence. The stakes for all are very high.
Fadumo Osman Ahmed
Khatumo Forum for Somali Peace, Development and Unity