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Issue 427 -- April 03-09, 2010
Was It Only Bashir Goth Who Supported Somali Unity In Early 90s?
By Dalmar Kahin
Of course not! Be it the Somali National Movement (SNM) which bitterly fought against the former Somali dictator Gen. Mohammed Siyad Barre’s brutal regime in late 80s, SNM supporters or its proponents, chauvinistically and overwhelmingly Northern Somalis supported Somali unity before 1991. But today a different picture emerges in the North—Somaliland. What went wrong? Or what went right?
Before the fall of Somalia’s junta regime in 1990, SNM and its counterpart: the United Somali Congress (USC) of Southern Somalia agreed to establish a unity government as soon as Gen. Barre’s regime collapses.
But no sooner did Gen. Barre flee the country than USC formed its own government where Ali Mahdi took the presidential seat. Just like the 1960, Southern leaders divided leadership roles among themselves, as if the North didn’t exist. Soon a rift between Ali Mahdi and Gen. Mohammed Farah Aided, the commander of the USC, brewed. What ensued was a savage, tribal war between Southern Somalis.
To the North, SNM predicted that it would take decades—in fact it may take centuries—before Southern Somalis settle their differences, so it convened a conference in Bura’o, the second largest city in Somaliland. After the conference, Somaliland’s independence was announced in May 18, 1991.
Although SNM proponents signed Bura’o reconciliation conference and agreed to independence, they may have done so to avert more bloodshed. But the Borama city’s, in Awdal region of Somaliland, conference in 1996 was one of the most important meetings which led to a lasting peace in Somaliland.
Despite the independence announcement in 1991, just like Bashir Goth—a professional Somaliland journalist—undoubtedly the majority of Somaliland people including myself supported Somali unity. Today overwhelmingly Somalilanders, however, support Somaliland’s sovereignty. What has caused the change of heart?
The factors that led Somalilanders to pursue independence tirelessly:
· After the barbaric war between Ali Mahdi and Gen. Aided, a savage killing which lasted over a decade, many Northerners detested Southern leaders’ mindless feuds and abandoned Somalia to resurrect itself.
· The fourteen consecutive failed Somali regimes parachuted into Mogadishu, was indeed the second reason that many Somalilanders pushed for independence. Also, all fourteen regimes—despite managing to control only few blocks of Mogadishu neighborhoods—not only remained hostile towards Somaliland and claimed an imaginary authority over its territory, but they also undertook a diplomatic crusade against Somaliland’s recognition.
· Hundreds of malignant, deceptive, nefarious literature published against Somaliland by none other than the so-called pro-unity Somali groups has indeed forced many Somalilanders to ask themselves: were these the same people we shared a country with from 1960 to 1991? These pro-unity groups made every possible effort to disintegrate Somaliland along tribal enclaves. For instance, they refuse to accept colonial borders, but they want to draw tribal boundaries. Their hatemongering as well as warmongering tactics masqueraded as a pro-unity campaign remains the paradox that Somali unity lost steam. More than ever before, thousands of determined and unwavering Somalilanders joined the efforts to achieve independence. Read the article entitled, “Somaliland: Why Somali Unity Case Won’t Fly?” http://www.qarannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4096&Itemid=65
Additionally, the repeated terrorist attacks against Somaliland in which dozens of innocent citizens as well as foreign nationals lost their lives not only shocked peace-loving Somaliland people but also compelled them to refuse to touch Somalia with a ten-foot pole much less join it. Read more about how some Somalis left no stones unturned to wipe Somaliland off the map. http://www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/4458
It was not just the terrorist attacks that alienated Somalilanders but also the hostile attitudes of many Somalis towards Somaliland delivered the final blows to Somali unity. Let me share with you a true story: in 2003 a dozen friends of mine and I departed from Ottawa to Toronto to participate the Somali week events held in Toronto.
During the festival, among other events, spectacular soccer tournaments were held. In the final match, a team from Scarborough area—a Toronto neighborhood where most Somaliland-Canadians settle—and another one whose members were Somali-Canadians competed. Somali flags were everywhere, but no sings of Somaliland flag appeared. As the Somali-Canadian team scored its first goal against its opponents, Somali flag-waving citizens were jubilant. You could see hundreds if not thousands of people waving Somalia’s blue flag. We were all happy to see the flag and hoped that Somalia will be revived soon. Nostalgia and reminisces of good old days—spectacular soccer matches in Mogadishu’s stadium crept into the ecstatic flag-waving fans’ minds.
But once the Somaliland-Canadian team scored an equalizing goal: it was as if the lights went out. A young player took the Somaliland flag and sprinted from one corner of the stadium to the other. And then the unexpected happened: as soon as the Somaliland flag appeared, the crowd not only booed but also got violent.
I remember a man at his early fifties carrying a box of Tim Horton’s timbits for his children. As he walked towards his kids, he noticed the Somaliland flag. He swung the box so furiously at 360 degrees—ooh lord have mercy on us, there goes another Mooryaan—timbits were scattered all over the crowd. Hissing and huffing with anger, “Curse upon you and your flag.” he stated. (Mooryan: anarchist.)
Shortly after, two events that followed the hateful reaction towards the Somaliland flag imprinted an ever-lasting impression in my mind. First, a good friend of mine who hails from Sool region of Somaliland but resolutely opposed its independence was so upset that he told the crowd: “If a gay flag was waved, none of you would dare to say anything against it, but once a flag that represents an entire section of Somali society—a flag that has the name of God and our prophet’s (pbuh) —is waved you spit out curses.” “This is what makes me a Somalilander as of this second.” he added.
But more important, a little girl, about six years old, whose parents also hail from Somaliland, asked her mother, “Mom why do they hate us.” Her mother, holding the Somaliland flag with one hand and the other one with her daughter, responded, “They hate us for the same reasons that they hate one another and can’t get their act together in Somalia.” The mother and her daughter stormed out of the stadium and so did hundreds of Somaliland-Canadians. These deep animosities, yet no one fully grasps where they emanate from, pushed Somalilanders farther.
· The economic embargo against Somaliland—Arab regimes banned to import Somaliland’s livestock as to force Hargeysa—Somaliland capital—to recommit to another gunshot marriage with Mogadishu but they looted Somaliland’s rich marine resources unabatedly—was yet another factor. The embargo, an economic holocaust, was not only a counter-productive strategy but—if any thing—it also expedited Somalilanders’ quest for independence.
· Over fifty percent of Somaliland population cannot relate to Somalia. They have been born after 1991 and never seen a war, with the exception of the brief inter-clan war in 1995. The only country they have been known is Somaliland. These young generations remain clueless about Somalia. They neither feel nostalgic for, nor reminisce Somalia’s glorious days.
· Above all, the brutality of the Somali regime against Somaliland people in the 80s when all major cities were pulverized to dust and over 60, 000 civilians were slaughtered still lingers in the minds of many citizens. And just as there is no assurance that similar atrocities will be averted in the near future, so too there is no guarantee that Somaliland will join Somalia in the next thousand years. Or put it differently: just as hastily we joined Somalia in 1960, so too simply we divorced Mogadishu in 1991. Plain and simple!
It was the preceding deep animosities towards the people of Somaliland which pushed them to the point of no return. Today, evidently those who resolutely opposed Somaliland’s independence in the 90s are now chauvinistically supporting it. Why? The reason is: Somaliland is the only hope. Also, it dawned on many Somalilanders that not only did they get the shaft in power sharing in 1960, but also their country remained underdeveloped and their people were used as the bulwark against each other. For instance, only 3% of Aid reached Somaliland. But two-thirds of Somali National Army was stationed in Somaliland (how generous) to suppress the population. Somaliland possessed far more army ammunition depots than food distribution centers—where there was a shortage of food, there were a plenty of bullets for Somalilanders to murder one another. Without a doubt, the preceding factors and other reasons compelled Mr. Goth and I, as well as other citizens to change our views towards Somaliland.
Now, Mr. Goth’s recent article infuriates Somalis and Somalilanders alike. His article entitled, “Somaliland: America’s underestimated friend” offends some Somalis because he either implies or states the obvious: Somalia—an anarchic land where piracy and human trafficking are unabated, where its war-ravaged and bullet-riddled capital Mogadishu (or Muuqdisho) is under vicious warlords and savage terrorists’ thumb, where Somalia’s seabed is used as the dumping ground for nuclear waste, where its rich marine resources are pillaged by European and Asian invading fishing fleets—the vicious and voracious vultures of the “civilized” world—who also hypocritically under false pretext of curbing piracy deploy their mighty navies—NATO and other trespassers—into Somalia’s waters to protect their lucrative multi-million dollar illicit fishing industry as well as their inexpensive waste disposal programs. So much for the hollow mantra of protecting humanity and curbing piracy! Dear NATO nations and Asian sea-food fanatics keep raping and looting Somalia as much as you can. But spare inundating us with your four-letter word: “humanity”. (See the article: “Somalia: Piracy vs. Blind Western Justice” http://www.awdalnews.com/wmview.php?ArtID=11445 ) (Muuqdisho: horrible place to look at.)
Equally, Mr. Goth’s article irks Somalilanders because he compares Somaliland with a country that sank ten feet into the ground, into a state of disgrace. That is: Somalia. Why not equate Somaliland’s progress with that of Djibouti, Ethiopia, or other nations, I ask you, Mr. Goth? (I too would be furious if I was compared with the lowest scum on earth.)
In response to his article, a reader named Mohamud Ahmed wrote a piece entitled, “Hypocritical praise: Response to Mr. Goth's comments on Somaliland”. Although Mr. Goth was just used as a smokescreen, Mr. Ahmed’s frustration stems from Somaliland’s presence in Sool region—no need to read between the lines at all. But I will only shed a light on some quotes from a book written by Mr. Goth perhaps in early 90s, when we overwhelmingly supported Somali unity and were apprehensive about what the dozen rebel groups—some without any agendas, others aiming the presidential seat—waging wars against Gen. Siad Barre’s rogue regime might bring to Somalia. Back then, for some citizens the future looked bleak; for others, they felt liberated.
Take as an example, Mr. Goth, as a proponent of SNM, was understandably apprehensive about what SNM could bring to a war-ravaged and impoverished Somaliland, with of course revengeful feuding tribes. He perhaps perceived SNM as the typical African machete-wielding rebel group which would slaughter its opponents by the thousands. I, on the other hand, as a supporter of SNM enthusiastically welcomed the rebel forces and considered them as Mujahedeen. However, neither Mr. Goth nor I was wrong or correct. The views we held were based on our perceptions and how the events unfolded back then.
Mr. Goth and I were at different extremes in the 90s but shared one thing in common: we supported Somali unity. Today, we are on the same page and have something else in common: we advocate for Somaliland’s recognition.
Now coming back to the drawing board, Mr. Ahmed uses quotes from Mr. Goth’s book which clearly explain Mr. Goth’s support for Somali unity in the days of the civil war and uncertainty.
As Mr. Ahmed details in his article quotes from the book: “The unity of Somalia is one which is based on people having one culture, one language, one religion and one national integrity. And no single clan however powerful they assume themselves to be will never be able to nudge let alone move the mountain of Somali Nationalism," writes Mr. Goth in his book— “Awdal Phenomenon”
Of course, in the 90s Mr. Goth thought that the “sacred” Somali unity (or the holy cow) was untouchable; similarly, countless Somalilanders supported Somali unity in the 80s and 90s. The concept of “greater Somalia” (Somaliwayn or Silicwayn) was in the minds of many citizens.
Mr. Ahmed takes more quotes from the book: "Today, the civil war ragging on in the North of Somalia is an Issaq monitored war aimed at annihilating all the other Somali clans existing in the area, so that the Issaq cherished dream of creating an Issaq Independent State, could be achieved. I am sure, many foreign people who were misled by the false propaganda published by the SNM would reconsider their positions towards the SNM."
In the 90s if I were Mr. Goth, I too would not trust SNM or its supporters. Understandably, it would have been foolish for Mr. Goth to fall for the agendas of those he perceived as a threat to his region of Awdal. In fact, in early 90s Somaliland existed only in the regions controlled by Issaq tribes, so of course, it resembled a tribal entity. That is, Mr. Goth feared SNM; SNM feared Mr. Goth.
Mr. Goth adds, "As Somalis strived towards the idea of nationhood, it has been the Issaq clan that stood alone in resisting the unity of the Somali people. Like ...who throws a tantrum when he does not get his own way, the Issaq clan has repeatedly displayed the selfish shortsightedness and violence of such ...outbursts but with dire consequences."
The preceding statement is based on personal opinion, not on scientific facts. And Mr. Goth is entitled to his opinion. In all fairness to Mr. Goth, however, SNM supporters equally called the people of Awdal offensive and derogatory terms such as, “Faqash”; however, Mr. Goth’s statement has little to do with offending Issaq tribes but has something to do with his frustration towards how haplessly events unfolded during the civil war. In the 80s and 90s, the term “Faqash” was abused and misused so much that even a random bird dropping was characterized as the work of “Faqash”. (Faqash has only one meaning: it used towards any one suspected working for or collaborating with Gen. Barre’s regime.)
Mr. Ahmed continues to take quotes from Mr. Goth’s book: "When the Northern part of Somalia won independence on 26 June, 1960, the United Somali Party (USP) which had the Gadabursi and the Dhulbahante clans behind it called for an immediate reunion with the South which was under the Italian rule. Again it was the Issaq of the SNL who with instructions from the British government severely fought the idea of unification. And against their will the two Somali parts united to form a single state on 1st of July 1960." In 2010 Mr. Goth tells us the opposite: "... Somaliland, a country that gained its independence from Britain in 1960 and has become a full member of the United Nations before it joined the Italian colonized South in a union that brought them only destruction and misery." Mr. Goth writes.
Again, the preceding Mr. Goth’s statement is based on personal views. Understandably, Gadabursi and the Dhulbahante clans had every good reason to rush into establishing a Somali unity, if that was the case. After all, if Somaliland remained an independent nation after 1960, both clans had concerns about Issaq tribes dominating the leadership. The notion of unbreakable, tribal bond was stronger than super glue in the 60s than it is today. On the other hand, Gadabursi and Dhulbahante clans could not have joined Somalia without Issaq tribes’ support.
Additionally, Mr. Ahmed accuses of Mr. Goth for supporting Somaliland because the President Mr. Dahir Rayale Kahin hails from the same clan as Mr. Goth’s. Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Goth indeed remains an outspoken critic of Mr. Kahin’s government. In an article entitled, “An open letter to Mr. Dahir Rayale Kahin, President of Somaliland”, Mr. Goth urges the president to step down gracefully. Unambiguously, Mr. Goth states, “My cousin, Mr. President, let go with dignity “.
Other articles lashing out Mr. Goth for his “unholy” conduct: advocating for peace, democracy, and sovereignty in Somaliland are decorated on many websites. Some “writers” label him as a man who deploys a poisonous pen. See the personal attack entitled, “Mr. Goth’s Article Represents an Old Disease“. And for reasons that baffle the average sane person, some Somalis mistake any writer who defends Somalia for someone who promotes Somali unity. In that case, Mr. Goth and I are the biggest unionists because we speak against raping the hapless creature—Somalia. But when things are tough, hysteria does some wonders, doesn’t it?
Similarly, just like Mr. Goth, countless other citizens who initially opposed Somaliland’s independence, for instance Somalia’s last Foreign Minister, Ahmed Mohamed Aden (Qaybe), eventually either joined Somaliland’s top leadership ranks or supported its quest for independence. Mr. Aden once warned the world against the recognition of Somaliland. But years later, he became the speaker of Somaliland’s parliament. Read the article entitled, “Somalia's Last Foreign Minister Warns Somaliland on Secession”.
Also, the former SNM fighters, their proponents, and Gen. Siyad Barre’s officials are not only found in Somaliland’s ruling party UDUB but they are also in the opposition groups, KULMIYE and UCID. Somaliland has come along way.
To sum up, Mr. Goth—a prominent Somaliland journalist—is perhaps the most outspoken writer against Somaliland’s isolation. He vigorously campaigns for Somaliland’s independence because just like many of its citizens it dawned on him that the hasty union between Somaliland and Somalia in 1960 was the biggest blunder. From 1960 to present, fifty years of setback, thousands of lives perished, and billions of dollars lost—never again will Somaliland recommit itself to another gunshot marriage with Somalia. We must press ahead.
The quotes from his book reflect on how the events unfolded in the 80s and 90s. Just like him, we all shared uncertainty about other fellow citizens because that was how Gen. Barre’s regime programmed our society: putting our people against each other so he could govern our land and its people with an iron-fist rule.
Somaliland people were victimized twice: first, nothing was developed in any of the six Somaliland provinces. Only 3% of Aid reached Somaliland; 97%, Southern Somalia. Second, Somaliland people were divided between Hutus and Tutsis where they remained at each other’s throat during Gen. Barre’s regime. Divided and conquered they were. As hopeless as a flock of sheep waiting to be slaughtered, Somalilanders watched as their country was razed to the ground where the survivors fled in droves. It is this dark history and what ensued that reshaped our thinking.
As for Mr. Goth, perhaps he is one of the few brave writers who express his thoughts without fear of retribution. As a writer, he supposed to be daring and provocative. What about other citizens who hold a malignant, tribal dogma towards other fellow Somalilanders because of their tribal lineages? Sadly, some of them could be at the helm of our nation. Also, should we encourage our citizens to share their views on current events just to lynch them few decades later for speaking their minds?
Also, some people are baffled why Mr. Goth abandoned his unity conviction. They accuse him of flip flopping. Well, just as many people adore, respect, and admire their spouses but scorn, abhor, and vilify them after bitter divorces, so too Somalilanders, like Mr. Goth, changed their hearts and minds and no longer view Somalia: as their soul mate. (So long babygirl; you been dropped like a bad habit.)
It would be foolish for the upcoming Somaliland government, if it doesn’t nominate Mr. Goth for the Minister of Information’s post. His powerful and persuasive literature—indeed—put Somaliland on the map. Bravo, my countryman.