As Somalia tries to resume its rightful place on the world stage and sworn in new lawmakers in Mogadishu for the upcoming presidential election, the one-clan dominated administration based in northern Somalia calling itself Somaliland has desperately been trying to break away from the rest of the country since our nation descended into political instability and social anarchy in 1991.
This deeply flawed logic of breaking away from Somalia is solely pushed by one specific clan within the five major clans inhabiting the former British Protectorate in northern Somalia with no regard to the desires of the other four unionist clans. The top political echelon of this deluded secessionist entity continue to base their unjustifiable separatist view on a fictitious narrative that, there was “an independent country” called Somaliland in 1960 that had voluntarily united with Italian Somaliland four days after the supposed “independent” British Somaliland gained its independence from Britain.
Contrary to their historically distorted assertion of being recognized as an independent nation, what the protectorate received was congratulatory notes from other African countries as was the norm at the time. The belligerent secessionist leaders in cahoots with some unscrupulous British PMs consumed by their outdated neo-colonial continuity imagination have lately been hard at work to tear Somalia apart with potentially destructive ramifications for Somalia and indeed, the entire African continent which is already brimming with many separatist movements.
Four of the five major clans in Somaliland are manifestly diehard unionists with no intention whatsoever, of being forcefully separated from their brethren in the south as irrationally dreamt by another secessionist clan. The Issa and Gudubuursi in Awdal region in the west and Dhulbahante and Warsangali in SSC regions of north-east occupy more than 68% of Somaliland territory with uncompromisingly rock-solid communal support for Somali’s unity, territorial integrity and political independence.
Last month, the secessionist’s leader Muse Bihi Abdi visited the United States having been invited by Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC where he gave an enormously misleading keynote speech to a carefully selected audience in order to court American legislators and sell the call for entity’s recognition.
Contrary to his hyped-expectation from the Biden administration, the American ambassador to Somalia, Larry E. Andre, reassured that his country’s position on Somalias’ unity remains unchanged while the department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs tweeted, “welcomed the opportunity to meet Muse Bihi today and discuss strengthening U.S. engagement with Somaliland within the framework of our single Somalia policy.”
This was a painful slap in the face for the secessionist leaders who have been spoon-feeding lies to their supporters for the last 30 years. With African separatist movements rising in our continent, any foreign-driven attempt to cannibalize Somalia into smaller subordinate fiefdoms will most certainly have a ripple effect on East Africa as well as the wider African continent in general.
Potential negative consequences for recognizing Somaliland
Since the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991, the country has not had a unifying government with functional state institutions that control the entire territory. The country adopted federalism in 2004 to bring the warring parties and already existing semi-autonomous regions including both Somaliland and Puntland together for the greater good of Somali unity. Another four federal member states were constituted in the south of the country to expand this experimental federal system which was initially viewed, as the only viable governmental model that can prevent any future disintegration of the country.
Therefore, any misguided attempt to recognize Somaliland as an independent country will surely cut the umbilical cord that keeps Somalia’s territorial unity together and would open the gate for other semi-autonomous entities within this experimental federal structure to demand their own independence.
It will also encourage other separatist regions in Ethiopia where the battle-hardened Oromo Liberation Front renewed their national aspiration to secede from the rest of Ethiopia and establish their own “Oromia” country or that of Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon whereby secessionists from the former British ruled regions of Cameroon want to break away from Cameroon and create the newest African country called “Ambazonia.” From east to west, and from south to north, Africa is brimming with armed tribal-based separatists and recognizing Somaliland as a sovereign nation will undoubtedly open a Pandora’s box in Africa with protracted military conflicts and endless intra-communal violence ensuing.
Upon returning home from his United States visit, Muse Bihi, the product of a ruthless guerrilla movement himself told his welcoming supporters that his delegation met high-ranking officials from both houses of Congress alone with lower-ranking functionaries from the Biden administration to secure deeper U.S. support for the enclave’s search for independence.
While Muse Bihi termed his U.S. visit as a ‘historic success’ for his secessionist enclave, Cameron Hudson, a former U.S. diplomat and an expert on East Africa with the Atlantic Council was quoted by Foreign policy magazine as saying “they’re doing an end run around the African Union and around their own region trying to get Washington to give them what they can’t get locally, that would be sort of like the African Union recognizing Puerto Rico as the 51st U.S state before the U.S does.”
It’s abundantly clear from this quote that their assertion of the visit being a ‘historic success’ is nothing more than a firehose of a false narrative intended for domestic consumption and that, the secessionist leaders have finally scraped the bottom of the barrel for their unilateral Isaaq decision to secede from Somalia.
The genesis of SSC-Somaliland Crisis
The unionist Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions within what was British Somaliland before the European imperialist powers left are forcefully occupied by Somaliland against their desire to be part and parcel of a united Somalia. Since the enclaves’ regular forces captured these regions back in 2007, there have been major human rights violations sponsored by the enclave’s leaders, numerous carefully crafted assassinations, and systematically designed displacement measures by successive Somaliland leaders were rented upon the SSC population for their refusal.
Somaliland is a lot of things to a lot of people and while some consider it as a legitimate entity representing their political desire, other communities including those from SSC see it as a purely concentrated evil of disproportionate scale for its great contempt for their aspirations and the sanctity of human rights.
Those of us who tirelessly document and expose the heinous crimes committed by Somaliland security forces in SSC regions face the backlash from a pernicious nest of snakes and attacking dogs locally known as recruited traitors or ‘horgallo’ who although SSC natives themselves, nonetheless, decided to collaborate with the enclave’s ruling class after they have been palm-greased with ministerial portfolios with no significance. It’s self-evidently clear from the horgallos’ unconvincing political rhetoric that they immensely enjoy seeing their Daraawiish history being burn down so they can stand on the smoldering ancestral ashes for dishonorable rewards.
Another critical issue of enormous geopolitical concern is the fact that the federal government based in Mogadishu continues to turn a blind eye to what is happening in SSC regions and Mogadishu’s utter reluctance to allow these regions to be productive members of the federal structure equal to other federal member states. There’s no doubt that the federal government is doing this unjustifiable medieval tactic on the pretext of not alienating Somaliland’s political circles and to avoid further damaging the stalled Somalia-Somaliland talks at the expense of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions. This is an appalling lack of vision on Somali federal leaders who were supposed to shield the unionist regions in the north from the cannibalization and evils unleashed by the secessionist enclave in Hargeisa.
The unjust state policy of appeasement towards Somaliland by the federal government of Somalia [FGS] to the detriment of the unionist regions severely violates their constitutional rights for self-rule and creates an unnecessary trust deficit between Mogadishu and the local communities in these long-neglected regions.
Turning a deaf ear to the political quandary in SSC regions has long been the hallmark of successive federal leaders, who failed to show any semblance of concern for the continued occupation of Somaliland forces while at the same time, channeling funds and military assistance to other federal member states in order to prop them up. The secessionist junta in Hargeisa led by a ruthless demagogue have recently doubled down their brute repression of the civilian population to arm-twist them into submission to their separatist fantasy. It’s easier, however, for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the SSC community to change their strongly held unionist conviction over suppression.
Editor’s note: Muhammad Suldaan Sa’id read Sociology and History at Kingston University in London and his Master’s degree in Social Anthropology titled “Oromo social structures with specific reference to Gadaa system as a classical institution” at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London, UK. The views expressed in this commentory are the author’s.