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Somaliland: Why Somali Unity Case Won’t Fly?
For almost two decades a debate between supporters and opponents of Somaliland independence raged over its recognition. But lately, Somali unionists’ unity assertion is waning away while Somalilanders appear determined to win their country’s sovereignty. And although the debate has taken many turns and twists, it may hit rock bottom soon.
The following paragraphs summarize points made by both the proponents and opponents of Somaliland independence.
Con: If Somaliland is recognized, the population
in parts of Sool and in Eastern Sanag regions of Somaliland would rebel
against independence—a civil war would erupt.
Also, rest assured Somaliland government won’t be dumb enough to impose its authority forcefully on those regions after it’s recognized. Indeed, as the record shows, Somaliland policy towards those regions has been very diligent. Hargeysa—Somaliland capital—proved clearly that it can handle any crisis in the country effectively and peacefully. Repeatedly, its effective strategy to pacify the country has been demonstrated by the authority's willingness to negotiate with local tribes. And once Somaliland gets its recognition, if anything, the government will be more cautious towards those regions rather than provoke them. It is far more logical for the people in those regions to join and participate in all aspects of Somaliland society than to wage a war against the government, especially, when no one is shoving Somaliland down their throats and they are in full control of their land and its resources. So the feeble assertion—the population will revolt against Somaliland independence has no merit and reached a deadened.
Even if they are allowed to join Somalia, and Somaliland becomes independence, for sure you will have some Dhulbahante and Warsangeli tribes from the regions in question who would say, “We are part of Somaliland historically, geographically and culturally. Our bloodlines run deep in the rest of Somaliland people, and we want to be part of our society”. A case in point: my brother-in-low who hails from Dhulbahante tribes of Sool region and in fact members of his tribe don’t want to have anything to do with Majerten tribes of Puntland much less join Southern Somalia. So in essence, while we try to please some tribes in Sool and Eastern Sanag by allowing them to join Somalia as they wish, we strip others of their inalienable rights to remain within Somaliland. So what now? Even if Somaliland abandons Sool and Eastern Sanag that doesn’t mean finally those regions will reach a lasting peace.
Con: Recognizing Somaliland will destabilize Somalia.
Pro: What there is left to destabilize, in the first place? Could Somalia be worse than it is now? Of course not! After all, with the exception of trade, Somalia and Somaliland have not been interconnected politically and militarily for the past 18 years, so the notion that Somaliland recognition will make Somalia more chaotic than it is now is absurd, if not ludicrous. Why?
The preceding unionists’ argument is equivalent of saying: once recognition is granted, much needed International funding would pour into Somaliland; it would be able to borrow money to rebuild its roads and institutions; its economy would grow; its people would have jobs, education, access to clean water and health care system; it would rebuild its navy to protect its marine resources—no longer would it lose millions of dollars every year to illegal fishing; it would rebuild the environment and fight against deforestation; it would collect small weapons from the public to further pacify the country; it would remove thousands of landmines buried in the country, which are still killing people after 18 years—and such progresses would destabilize Somalia. Patently, that is a backward mentality.
To the contrary, Somaliland recognition would be a blessing in disguise for Somalia, if not for the whole region. Somaliland is the only country that can honestly mediate the Somali warring factions—and they too know that fact. So without a doubt, recognizing Somaliland would mean the end of chaos and anarchy in Somalia.
Similarly, Somaliland could mediate Ethiopia and Ogaden Liberation Front ONLF rebels who have been fighting for their self-determination in the Eastern region of Ethiopia known as Ogadenia.
Con: Somaliland cannot stand on its own economically.
Pro: Yet it has been on its own for the past 18 years without tangible foreign aid or recognition. And despite the Arab countries’ embargo imposed on Somaliland livestock and their efforts to isolate Hargeysa politically and economically, and despite that the Western countries pay fake lip services to boosting Somaliland economy, and despite Africa’s indifference to Somaliland’s economic and political limbo—against all odds, Somaliland stands strong in the Horn of Africa. Shouldn’t Somalilanders have starved to death by now? Isn’t miracle why Hargeysa hasn’t disappeared from the radar system yet?
Con: Somaliland is too small to be a country.
Pro: Yet as Mrs. Edna Adan Ismail—the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland—explains in her paper entitled, “The case of Unitary Government in Africa”, Somaliland: is bigger than 80 countries including England and Wales combined, and Somaliland has a larger population than 83 countries are full members of the United Nations.” http://tinyurl.com/2g64wy Case closed! There isn’t much to argue about this notion. Again, the assertion that Somaliland is too small collapses all by itself just as stars collapse into a black hole.
Con: Somaliland doesn’t fully control its borders.
Pro: Neither do many other countries control their borders. Not even powerful nations armed with nuclear weapons do fully control their borders. The U.S. struggles with hundreds of illegal Mexican immigrants crossing its borders every day. Similarly, Pakistan exerts little control over some of its big provinces. Russia is another case. It does not control all its territory either. Also, most of the African nations don’t fully manage their borders. So how is Somaliland different?
With exception of small remote towns and villages in Eastern Sanag and parts of Sool, Somaliland is in charge of all its six provinces including their provincial capitals.
Con: Recognizing Somaliland would open the door for Africa’s disintegration—it would open a can of worms.
Pro: First, Somaliland does not violate the African Union A.U. charter about changes to borders. The A.U. charter states that pre-independent borders cannot be changed. Remember, Somaliland got its independence before Somalia; and Somaliland joined Somalia voluntarily. Second unlike Somaliland, Eritrea—which wasn’t even an independent country when the colonials departed—didn’t open a can of worms after it succeeded from Ethiopia. And as a new republic, Southern Sudan is about to be cantoned from the rest Sudan. Additionally, as Mrs. Edna states, “…the dissolved marriage between Senegal and Mali in 1960, Egypt and Syria in 1961, Rwanda and Burundi in 1962, Senegal and Gambia in 1968, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau in 1975…” did not open a can of worms. http://tinyurl.com/2g64wy So why would Somaliland be an exception? Clearly, there isn’t a shred of evidence that indicates recognizing Somaliland would further dismantle Africa into smaller states.
Con: We don’t believe the colonial borders; they were drawn by the “white man”.
Pro: Tell me one single border in the world that the “white man” didn’t draw? Besides, if you don’t believe the colonial borders, how come no one is making a big fuss about Djibouti borders? Shouldn't it part of greater Somalia too? (Blame selective amnesia!)
Con: Somaliland and Somalia belong to a homogenous society. We are the same ethnic with the same culture, religion and language, so we should not break up.
Pro: Inarguably, Somalis belong to one family. However, the majority of Arabs too have the same culture, religion and language, yet they have their own separate countries. Americans, Canadians, Australians, Brits, and New Zealanders belong to the same people, with the exception of their diverse minority communities. Yet they have their own separate countries. So while we are undeniably the same ethnic, we have different interests and strategies. And there is no doctrine craved into stone that binds us together forever.
Con: Ethiopia is our enemy and it is bent to destroy Somalia.
Pro: Ethiopia is our natural adversary. Surely, Ethiopia would seize every opportunity to achieve its goal to neutralize its rival. However, it wasn’t Ethiopia that compelled Somaliland to separate from Somalia. Just revisit our dark history.
Con: The world is becoming a smaller place. Even the Europeans are uniting to form a common front against their adversaries and have an economic cooperation, so there is no point for us to disintegrate.
Pro: (Monkey see monkey do!) For one thing, the nascent European unity has a lot to learn from our failed unity. That is, 49 years ago we established unity and failed three decades later. Way before globalization or European unity surfaced, in June 26, 1960 we came together; thirty one years later the union between Somaliland and Somalia ended in bitterness. Somaliland declared its independence in May 18, 1991. So why should we join Somalia again and possibly experience another free fall into abbeys? Better safe now than sorry later!
For another, the European unity allows each country to stand as a separate nation with its own flag, army, borders, and all the other characteristics of a state, so if Somalia is really ready to form the European style of unity with Somaliland—we’re all ears.
Con: A referendum should be conducted among all Somalis to ask whether Somaliland should break away.
Pro: How naďve do you think we are on a scale of one to ten? Remember, in 1961 when a group of Northern (Somaliland) disgruntle army colonels staged a coup against the Mogadishu regime, because they were very unhappy that the fact Somaliland got nothing in power sharing, instead of addressing their grievances, the Somali regime conducted a nationwide referendum about whether Somaliland should remain within the union or break away; and of course, as it was easily predicted, overwhelmingly the Somali population said no to Somaliland’s quest to withdraw from the union. So for us, to let Somalis decide our fate again would be stupid. No thanks! We would pass this time.
Besides, when we joined Somalia in 1960, it was not the Somalis who decided whether Somaliland should join Somalia. It was the Somaliland people who out of love for their Southern fellow Somalis joined the union without any preconditions. So once again, only Somaliland people can have a say about their future.
Furthermore, every society in the world decided its fate. A case in point: the population in Quebec province of Canada, a French speaking society, goes to the polls once every few years to vote whether they should remain as part of Canada, or stand as a separate entity. In other words, the rest of Canada does not decide the fate of Quebecers.
By the same token, Somalis won’t decide the fate of Somaliland people. Period! See the beautiful pictures of Somaliland people demanding their independence. http://tinyurl.com/3bw6r4 or http://tinyurl.com/2l6zkg Looking at the pictures of these flag-waving patriotic Somaliland crowd, it is unimaginable to see them joining Somalia again.
Con: In 2001 referendum on Somaliland independence was not fair because the population in parts of Sool and Eastern Sanag regions didn’t participate in it.
Pro: Truly, not all the population in those regions voted. First, it was their God-given right not to vote, if they didn’t want, which was the case. Second, in democracy if you don’t vote someone else would vote for you—someone else would decide your fate. Also 97.1% of those who voted agreed to stand as a separate country. So if someone didn’t vote, that is his/her loss as well as right. And despite the unionists’ baseless claims that the referendum was not fair, the facts state otherwise. According to the International observers the referendum was: "Openly, fairly, honestly, and largely in accordance with internationally recognized election procedures." http://www.somalilandtimes.net/Archive/44/4407.htm
Allowing minority unionist groups (perhaps from every region in Somaliland) hijack the wishes of majority is not only undemocratic but also poses far more threats to Somaliland than earthquakes do. Remember, Somalia collapsed in the 90s because small minority dictated the majority. We must not reinvent the wheel.
Also, don’t forget half of the Somaliland populations have been born the last 20 years. This means the only nation they know as theirs is Somaliland and its flag. Similarly thousands of young Somaliland Diasporas can only relate to Somaliland because for almost two decades they haven’t missed the Somaliland celebration day, May 18.
It is important to note: many older Somaliland generations argue because of the marginalization of Somaliland people during Gen. Siade Barre’s regime and the horrific atrocity committed against them in late 80’s, they won’t have anything do with Somalia any more.
Others, especially the younger generation, it is not so much of what happened in the past that triggers them to chauvinistically advocate for independence, they just don’t see the benefit of unity. Also, they may not relate to the atrocities of the 80’s, however; the relentless attacks towards Somaliland from unionists, the failed Somali regimes’ repeated claims of having jurisdictions over Somaliland—when they barely control few blocks in Mogadishu—and showcasing a handful of pro-unity Somaliland individuals in Somali government to obfuscate the reality on the ground, just to name few blunders, have compelled younger Somalilander to pursue independence.
Con: Somaliland is dominated by one tribe.
Pro: So are the majority of the African and Middle Eastern countries. For example, former Somalia was dominated by one tribe. Actually, the former regime was referred to as the MOD (Marehan, Ogaden, Dhulbahante) government.
http://www.forcedmigration.org/guides/fmo016/fmo016-2.htm Similarly, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti are controlled by Trigray, Kukuya and Issa tribes. Hence, Somaliland is not immune to this plague of tribal domination, but unlike many countries, Somaliland’s dominant tribe—Isaq—is at least willing to share power with the other tribes. And in fact, the current democratically elected president of Somaliland, Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin hails from none-Isaq tribes namely, Gudabiirsay.
Also, no offence to anyone but both Majertenia and Ogadenia are known regions found in the map. They both associate with tribal names. But have you ever heard Isaqenia or Hawiyenia? (Isaq and Hawiye: dominant tribes in Somaliland and Southern Somalia, respectively.)
For Somaliland opponents, neither making tireless
efforts to disintegrate Somaliland along tribal lines, nor protesting
against Somaliland independence and launching a smear campaign against
Somaliland and its leaders would let you win the hearts and minds of
Somaliland people. If anything, the strategy for achieving unity has so
far backfired. See these links for more nonsensical rants towards
Con: Somaliland is occupying Sool and Eastern Sanag, and it is forcing the population who wish not to be part of Somaliland to join it.
Pro: first, if the preceding argument holds water, why isn’t the population fighting back? Second, it was the population in those regions that evicted Puntland militias from Sool province. http://www.somalilandtimes.net/sl/2007/301/9.shtml
Pro: the population in parts of Sool and Eastren
Sanag share tribal lineages with that of Puntland people. Therefore,
these regions should remain part of Puntland.
Col. Abdillahi Yusuf, a former warlord from Puntland region and president of the recent collapsed Somali regime, annexed Las Anod, the provincial capital of Sool region, in 2003. He argued since Lasnnoders have tribal affiliations with Puntlanders, the city should be part of his tribal fiefdom. Similarly, he claimed Eastern Sanag region and the border village of Buhodle in Togdheer province of Somaliland.
Now here is something to dwell on: the border between Somaliland and Ethiopia cuts Buhodle village into half. Puntland leaders resolutely oppose the Somaliland section to remain part of the country because the villagers share tribal lineages with Puntland people not with Somaliland’s. That is, Villagers are part of the Harti tribes: Majerten, Warsangeli and Dhulbahante. However, these leaders have no objection—at all—to the second half of the village to remain within Ethiopia. Let me get this right! So then a mind-boggling question is: are the residents of Buhodle ethnically closer to Tigrians (Ethiopians) than to Somaliland people? Of course not! This is the problem with Puntland leaders and some unionists. Time and time again, where logic and common sense prevail, they fail.
Con: people in Sool and Eastern Sanag should join
Somalia as they wish.
In fact, out of frustration, the unionists in many occasions cause more harm than good to Somali unity—a counterproductive strategy. Too often when they fail to put their point across, they resort to maliciously attacking Somaliland and its people, the very same country that they want to bring back to Somalia. Paradoxically, unity is often hacked to death by the same people who pretend to promote it. Ignoring their emotional keen-jerk, the unionists fail miserably to convince the world the benefits of Somali unity versus separation.
Also, many unionists don’t believe the international observed and approved Somaliland referendum on independence held in 2001; they also don’t accept Somaliland borders because they were drawn by the British. Yet they have no problems with Djibouti borders. They also have no problem with ripping Somaliland apart as to create feuding tribes and establishing tribal borders.
Doubtlessly, under the pretext of advocating for the self-determination of Sool and Eastern Sanag people and campaigning for Somali unity, the so-called Somali unionists have been wrecking havoc in Somaliland and dividing its people along tribal lines—while these unionists have their houses burning in Somalia.
Furthermore, unionists call anyone from Sool or Eastern Sanag that supports Somaliland—a “traitor”. Well, for that matter the rest of Somaliland people who support independence are also traitors by default. Then the question is: why would unionists want to unite with Somaliland—a country filled with “traitors”? You see the problem is: unionists speak out of both sides of their mouth.
And above all, unionists want to make sure the
Somaliland section of Buhodle village remains part of Puntland, but they
have no objection to the second half to be part of Ethiopia.
As for Somaliland, the people in parts of Sool, Eastern Sanag as well as other regions have the right to exercise their freedom and voice out their opposition to Somaliland independence peacefully. But since Somaliland is a democratic state, it will be heading whatever direction the majority chooses without marginalizing sections of our society. The majority spoke loud and clear: 97.1% voted for independence in 2001.
Evidently, day after day as Hargeysa disappears into a thick fog, panic attacks increase among the unionists. But they should know better not to worry. Just as easily we joined Somalia in 1960 so too we can simply withdraw from the union.
Somalilanders have been rebuilding their country for almost the past 20 years, so why should we hand a working administration with its flag, army, police force and currency to Somalia again, as we did in 1960? Are we supposed to gamble with our lives every few decades, just to start from scratch again?