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Issue 527/ 3rd - 9th Mar 2012
Somaliland: Post The Somalia London Conference And Beyond
By Mokhtar Abshir
I. Pre-Conference Unease:
Much gloom has been predicted about Somaliland’s participation in the Somalia conference on the 23/02/2012. It was opposed by many who were genuinely concerned about the political ramification of participating in the messy affairs of Somalia. Few might have also been forgiven to fear for the safety of their president knowing that a favourite pastime of our brethrens in Somalia is to batter each other into political submission with chairs, walking aides and any hard objects they can lay their hand on.
Some of these more serious concerns were well founded and this participation was seen as an undue gamble with the people’s aspiration for what many suspected to be the sitting president’s ulterior motives of reviving what was formerly known as the Somali Republic, alas, much to the disappointment of many he has proven his skeptics wrong. The president took the political mantle by ushering in a second phase of our nascent democracy; while all the more injecting a much needed vigor into our quest for what many thought and still think is mission impossible.
In the days leading up to this conference, as most were kept in the dark regarding its objectives, the anxiety of the populace was evident for all to see; not only in Somaliland but also in Somalia. All had their own reservation about this meeting which they were expected to attend, yet whose agenda was laid down by others to fulfill interests that they hoped will somehow miraculously align, even if partly, with those of Somalia. Nonetheless, people held to the belief that rather something good will come out of it. It was a sign of the sad state in which the Somali people in general find themselves in, when one has no choice but to accept the diktat of others to prescribe to him their wishes as the only remedy, certainly one is in a dire situation.
II. Outcomes of the conference
There were no nasty surprises; an early draft of the communiqué was already doing the rounds in various Somali blogs a day before it was supposed to have been released.
For Somaliland, the main outcome of the conference was the unprecedented distinction between Somalia and Somaliland. For the first time in Somali reconciliation gatherings it was clearly acknowledged that Somaliland is not part of the Somalia quandary that was to be solved. Item 6 of the communiqué outlines clearly that any future relationship is something to be discussed between the two under the stewardship of the international community.
6. The Conference recognised the need for the international community to support any dialogue that Somaliland and the TFG or its replacement may agree to establish in order to clarify their future relations.
Moreover, the British foreign and commonwealth office acknowledged the attendance of Somaliland separately from that of Somalia and expressed their appreciation of the expertise they brought along in attempting to straighten the Somalia issue. It’s indeed a political coup de grâce on the part of Somaliland, many of us thought that the most we would do was to be an observer member. Instead we left this gathering with a more upbeat political stance.
The Somaliland government unlike their counterparts from Somalia was not required to sign the agreements reached at this conference. This in itself is another acknowledgement in how different Somaliland and Somalia are. Similarly, we were not concerned to the various outcomes of the conference be they political or economical in particular the Joint financial Management Board (JFMB) that will administer Somalia’s Financial affairs, both internal revenues and external aid.
Our success in this conference should not mean to willy-nilly participate in all future meetings regarding our brethrens to the south but we should rather choose carefully. It is only through clever political maneuvering and hard lobbying of the international community can we assert our right to a seat at the table where it matters most, in international organizations.
The anti-Somaliland so-called pro-union elements were probably the biggest losers, but like most others they remain oblivious to the bigger picture of what was cooked for the Somalis.
The TFG government was told in no uncertain terms that there time in office will not be extended beyond the 21st of August. International concerns ranging from piracy to terrorism and the nepotism that have become the whole mark of successive Somalia administrations have all been addressed. For Somalia the future will remain clouded, the Joint Financial Management Board (JFMB) seems a bad omen for grimmer things to come. This was in effect surrendering the financial independence of an entire nation to a board of trustees representing other nations. Coupled with the continuous political and territorial violations from all sides it increasingly looks like the country’s destiny will completely end up in foreign hands for the first time since the colonial era. Hillary Clinton’s harsh tone and not very concealed threats, of a newer administration for Somalia in August when the mandate of the TFG ends, felt as if though they were meant o distract the TFG‘s attention from this damaging clause which they signed later in that day.
III. Somaliland’s Political Brinkmanship is paying off
The current government has many shortcomings. It has already seen more than its fair share of scandals and ugly machinations, much like its predecessor this government is not perfect and much like Reyale before him, Sillanyo is certainly no saint. But credit must also be given where it’s due, the government has managed to maintain peace and stability in the face of unrelenting attempts masterminded by some whose sole aim is the total disintegration of Somaliland as a political entity in order to win company in their endless wandering of the political wilderness which has lasted for almost a quarter of a century now. The resolve of the nation was put to test by the cold blooded and callous killings of the four innocent Somalilanders in Seemaal while they lay sleep amongst people they thought where their kith and kin. This was committed by a group of men from Gabiley and its’ surroundings and it’s highly likely, even though it yet remains unproven, that this was designed to sow discord and enmity between the wider clans who inhibit the western parts of Somaliland. For most of us, the ill will of our detractors became as clear cut as the glaring day sun when the head of the army, the chairman of Kulmiye Political Party and a famous entrepreneur who just happens to share an abtirsmo with the other two were falsely and publicly accused of masterminding the killings. While riding on an overwhelming wave of public outrage, the government acted strongly and swiftly. It was certainly high time the ugly face of tribalism which even the wisest amongst us are so often accustomed to embrace was struck a shameful blow. Elders of Gabiley who were part to previous agreements of hostility cessations were rounded up and sent to the dungeons in their own city. When the president relieved the sitting head of the army and imprisoned one of his advisors it became clear that this nation will not tolerate any aggression in its midst against their own people. The accused fugitives have been identified and are on the run; the long arm of justice will catch up with all of them sooner or later. As I write this peace their leader Cawar Xareed is reported to have been captured in the outskirts of Gabiley. What an excellent and timely development!
The second most serious incident was instigated by a group of men spearheaded by elements from the diasporas. They convened a gathering to declare a state within the boundaries of Somaliland while claiming to represent segments of Somaliland’s eastern tribes. Unfortunately, this culminated in skirmishes with the national army in the outskirts of Buhoodle. Dealing with these hostilities was certainly a delicate business but the government and the Somaliland media and the public at large have managed to put up a peaceful and dignified response denying the naysayers their wish for vengeance and prolonged bloodshed. In this latter episode it was refreshing to see the extraordinary manner in which the vice president, while visiting the wounded from the national army and those from the ill-advised militias in Burco’s hospital, handed both parties money to help them better recover from their wounds. This gesture by the vice-president was a genuine attempt to heal the nation and those young men who were duped into taking arms to further the interests of an Elite who are always the first to take flight to a safe abode in foreign lands when the goings get tough.
Our government’s imperfections have afforded the public a valuable lesson in realizing that managing any nation much less one that was ravaged by war, bitter experiences since its independence from Britain in 1960 and is still beset by underdevelopment, is indeed a no black and white matter. A coherent opposition is missing from the Somaliland political equation; this task can’t be left to several websites who are hell bent to undermine the government even at the risk of aiding our adversaries. The sorry state of the opposition is indeed a timely and an important topic on its own right that needs to be thrust into the political arena now more than ever. I’ll not be able to give such an important topic enough justice here but suffice to say that there is a need for an opposition and a more effective parliament that can hold the government accountable in a more sensible manner.
IV. The Misplaced Antagonism towards Maandeeq
It was the American president Bush the senior who coined the term “failed state” for Somalia, the responsibility of this failure squarely lies with the political elite and not the masses of Somalia. This group is one of shockingly small ambitions that thrive in perpetual chaos. Somaliland has become a threat to these ambitions and as they say “misery loves company” hence the strong resentment they harbour towards Somaliland. They long to a return to their heydays of “glory” under Jaalle Siyad, otherwise a bitter memory for most of the Somali People. All this is under the guise of unity; and as Somaliland takes strides towards its ultimate goal they are akin to a failed university graduate who always taunts his younger sibling at school leaving ceremonies proclaiming to him that he will never make it to graduating from university. It’s not lost on most that these tactics are intended to break the resolve of the people; and make them lose faith in their political aspirations, namely, attaining de-jure political status. However, it also masks, the immense insecurity of the fake pro-union camp regarding an increasingly clouded and uncertain future in which Somalia’s affairs are no longer decided by them but is dictated to them by external actors who they often find lacking real interest in both their shallow personal ambitions as well as in the predicament of the common man in Somalia.
In contrast, Somaliland’s interests often find friendlier reception in some parts of Somalia, albeit the most unstable parts. These southern regions are set to benefit most on the short term from the outcomes of this conference if all goes according to plan, though, beyond weakening of the monstrous Alshabab group and a return to some kind of normalcy their future remains sketchy. General Mohamed Farah Aided was a man of immense foresight, his links with Somaliland from the time of his people’s struggle against Siyad Barre is well known and his sympathy with the Somaliland people is no secret. Somaliland’s interests will be well served if it carries on strengthening its relations with the people of that part of Somalia. The brotherly and humanitarian assistance which Somaliland’s public and government extended to their brethrens while in the grips of the recently widely reported famine is another testament that the current government is on the right track to have some influence in Somalia.
Time will only tell how the future will pan out for Somalia but this slowly evolving strategy adopted by Somaliland regarding its engagement with Somalia can only push our case to the forefront of the political discourse.