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Wearisome Time For The Emerging Nation Of Somaliland
By Abdirahim Ali Xarbi, Toronto, Canada
This is truly a difficult period for the Republic of Somaliland. Although not yet recognized by the world body as such, it is a young nation that is trying to materialize in a region filled with political instability, undemocratic regimes, and prolonged civil discontent and struggles. In the midst of these calamities the people of Somaliland have taken profound steps forward in opting for stability over war and decided in their own terms to march towards a path that leads to more stable democracy. They have successfully established working governmental and civil institutions that would, with little help from the international community impel this nation into becoming more a mature democracy.
Threats to Somaliland’s existence are multifaceted and had been well documented before in many publications, and they all present significant but varying degrees of danger to Somaliland’s continuation as viable and secure democratic nation. Although we can not address them all in one segment, we will deal with them as separate issues in subsequent pieces. The most urgent threats confronting Somaliland today range from the enormous danger the HIV virus could present if something isn’t done to confront it, to those that relate to issues of recognition and economics. The lack of recognition is the first that will be dealt with in this segment, followed by the other two in next segments.
The quest for recognition is a key not only to the stability of Somaliland, but also to that of Africa and Global security as whole, an assertion which is immediately obvious to those familiar with the region’s ongoing situations. Before such discussion is made let’s examine what is driving Somaliland’s quest for recognition and desire to stand alone, or at least until Somalia’s housekeeping issues are in order. I say this with great deal of pessimism considering the continuation of Siyad Barre’s legacies by the current leadership of the South (divide and rule, enrich yourself while you can, divorce the people from their cultural and religious roots and deny their most basic rights), with no change in sight. No country on earth has been seriously undermined by one man’s legacies and policies more so than Somalia in just few decades. Sorry to say Somalia today officially lacks religion, strong Somali Culture and a Custom and sincere leadership all of which would have prevented further blood shed, some things which greatly saved Somaliland today.
Somaliland ’s union with its Southern neighbor was not forced and has proven disastrous following its short lived independence from June 26-July 1, 1960. Somaliland would have faired much better democratically, economically and politically, if indeed it maintained its independence for sometime and negotiated a genuine arrangement with its Southern neighbor, a condition that could have laid the ground for more stable democratic and strong Somalia. At the time, union with the South seemed reasonable to most Somalilanders, because they assumed their aspirations for united, strong, and Greater Somalia outweighed any difficulties that may arise from a hasty union with the South, outcomes they never really openly discussed or fully contemplated long enough. It did not take Somalilanders long to realize that they had been seriously mistaken. Somalilanders in a short time have not only lost their share of development, political representation, but also became increasingly marginalized and oppressed. Under Siyad’s tyrannical rule, corruption, nepotism, destruction of democratic values intrinsic to the Somali Culture and institutions built during British Rule, as well as the exploitations of tribal differences between the people in the region had become the norm.
Somaliland has recovered immensely since then. It had reestablished its independence in May 1991, rebuilt back much of the demolished democratic institutions, reconciled between its populations, carried out multileveled elections, and allowed free press and free market system to take root and flourish. In addition Somaliland issues its own passport, and has army and police forces with strong that obey a democratically elected civilian government.
What are distinctive about Somaliland today, however; are not only its democratic achievements, but the unique way its people overwhelmingly speak in one voice in support of their country to stand alone, independent of the South. The reason is because they fear what has happened to them in the past is bound to repeat itself. And this is not something very unlikely, especially considering the intentions and existence of a questionable leadership in the South. Somalilanders have a very good reason to be fearful of the South’s inability to bring about stability to the rest of the country under its control, reconcile political differences among its populations, and pioneer a democratic system not based on the old, failed divisive schemes of the past, but something equitable that ensures fair share of power among its populaces. Somalilanders, in addition are aware of utterances that usually reverberate from all transient forms of government in the South (Transitional Federal Government or UIC) which exhibit the kinds of hostilities that may suggest a planned forced reunification with the South. This is something any Somalilander opposes wholeheartedly for they have come long way to re-secure their safety, freedom and independence.
This is indeed a serious aspiration which rules out any decision by the South to contemplate some sort of referendum outside of Somaliland to decide the future of Somalilanders. Somalilanders would hope no less than the rights the Canadian people and government bestowed on to the province of Quebec in addressing sovereignty issues by referendum only held in Quebec where Quebecers had choice to make to stay or leave. So it may not be difficult to foresee the potency of the situation that would transpire when unified government dismissive of Somaliland’s aspiration forms in the South, dictating rather than negotiating or taking unilateral actions that threaten or Somaliland perceives as threat to its security, it would plunge the country in another long drawn civil war of greater magnitude.
The likely scenario is basically this, one that contributes immensely to the insecurities of an already tumultuous and tense region in Africa. The continent is already plagued with problems such as that existing in Congo which is already termed an “Africa’s World War” amid various nations including Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, the conditions in Chad, Sudan’s Darfur region, Kenya’s immerging troubles, and the tensing situation developing between Ethiopia and Eritrea along their borders. It would definitely add to the troubles in the region increasing the risk of terrorism further complicating an already dire situation. Just imagine for short while how the existing conditions in the South alone already affect the people of the region and the rest of the world, not only creating lawlessness but also increasing the risks of piracy and terrorisms affecting world commerce. The hazards are enormous and include human as well as child trafficking at unprecedented scale. It is not secret that there is an exodus of desperate people leaving the horn herded into unsafe boats like cattle with little regard for human rights and human life where thousands are plucked dead from the Gulf of Aden and Yemeni Coasts like worthless rubbish. Also imagine the other atrocities taking place right under our nose such as luring and abduction of innocent Somali children taken into the neighboring Arab nations where they are abused in unimaginable ways. Hence it is obvious how the stability of the region is detrimental to the fight against terrorism, piracy, lawlessness and child/human trafficking; as such the world should be greatly concerned.
It is clear with today’s leadership in the South that such scenario is not very unlikely, because we had seen them demonstrate in interviews with the BBC Somali and other media outlets, their clear intentions on how to deal with Somaliland. Consider the recent interview with Abdillahi Yusuf for example, showing clear hostility towards already stable nation engaging in a dispute about borders that were clearly recognized by the world as part of Somaliland before Somaliland/Southern Somalia unification. There is no doubt in anyone mind, when it comes to the issue of Somaliland that this type of leadership will find a clever scheme to confront and engage Somaliland into a deeper regional conflict fought over its borders with Puntland, putting innocent lives on both sides of the border at risk. However; if Somaliland is recognized, it will no doubt accelerate its progress in institution building and the advancement of its young democracy, prevent terrorism getting foothold in this country and eliminate the risk of piracy as well. And therefore, it can be said with confidence that when the time comes, Somaliland will address the reunification question taking into account the readiness of the South and its ability to engage Somaliland more constructively in more equitable terms. A condition which may in the future results in the formation of Democratic Somalia provided all parties are willing participants to the deal with no stones left unturned and no issue left unaddressed, so that what has been instigated in the past is not bound to repeat itself again.
At the moment the world has unique responsibility to engage Somaliland constructively in advancing its democracy; capacity building and offering help to develop the country’s infrastructure and economy. Hence, economically strong and democratically stable Somaliland would serve as an example, demonstrating to the rest of Somalia its potential in improving security and adopting democratic values. No doubt, it will also act as a strong deterrent for the South to pick the war choice as the only option in dealing with Somaliland, a condition which could open the door for more civilized negotiation and formal dealings with regard to the question of reunification. This is some thing I am sure Somalilanders will not take lightly if they know the South brings about stability and democratic values to its citizens and is serious about distributing the country’s wealth and political powers equally.
It is obvious that the world has failed Somaliland, UN, AU, EU and US included, in the past 17 years, but lately all have shown interest in the plight of the people of Somaliland and are eager to improve it. They are to be commanded for that, but more needs to be done. We should not forget, also Somaliland government’s role in this, in redoubling their effort for seeking recognition from the AU and the rest of the World. It has responsibility to its people to strengthen democracy, the rule of law, secure its borders and extend the countries resources equally to its citizens. We can understand that fully recognized Somaliland would add to the security they have worked hard to achieve preventing the South from taking any unilateral action to invade in an effort to reunify Somalia under another tyrannical ruler and leaders who don’t respect democratic values. So it makes sense to at least provide Somaliland with this basic right. If however the world is bound by international laws which rules our extending to Somaliland the recognition and independence it deserves, which they are not since Somaliland was already a nation recognized by the World before unification, then at least give them the economic support they deserve to further their young democracy, provide security and prevent all the hazards mention previously on above.
Abdirahim Ali Xarbi, Toronto, Canada