The Argument against Somaliland’s recognition. By,Khatumo Forum for Peace, unity and Development.
11 February 2013
H.E. JOHNNIE CARSON
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
US. State Department
Washington, DC. USA
Subject: The Argument against Somaliland’s recognition.
We, the Khaatumo Forum for Peace, Unity and Development, hailing from the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) in northern Somalia (former British Somaliland), would like to first express our deep appreciation for your untiring contribution towards bringing peace stability to our country. Much of the credit for the recent decision of your Government to recognize the government of Somalia is largely due to you, an action which is likely to trigger positive multiplier effects at home and among the international community.
Our letter, aptly titled “The arguments against Recognition of Somaliland” is prompted by another one sent to you by the Washington- based Somaliland Advocacy Group, entitled “The argument for Recognition of Somaliland” (posted in Qarannews website on 24 January (http://www.qarannews.com/2013/01/the-arument-for-recognition-of-somaliland-republic).
A. Countering the arguments for recognition
The gist of the letter from Somaliland’s Advocacy Group, as its title signals, is a plea for recognition on the basis of flawed reasoning, historical distortions and bogus legal groundings aimed at hoodwinking the international community. Its Achilles heel is the unspoken fact that only one chauvinist clan is clamouring for the secession while all the other four clans in the territory they are claiming as their “Somaliland” are adamantly opposed to a secession being imposed on them by force.
The refusal of the unionist clans, above all those in the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (now Khatumo State of Somalia), to embrace the secession from the day of its declaration has morphed into bloody armed struggle over the last three years between the resisting Khatumo people on one hand and the occupying militia from the secessionist administration on the other. This is the reality on the ground which the Somaliland Advocacy Group is understandably loath to admit. It is for these reasons, among others, that this renegade one-clan based enclave has failed to win recognition from the international community during the 22 years despite their single-minded determination to knock on every door.
This response to the letter of the Somaliland Advocacy Group will expose the fallacy of their claims, warn of the consequential calamity that could follow their recognition and point out to a win-win solution for Somalia, the secessionist entity and the international community.
1. Denying clan relationships
One of the justification sought for secession by the Somaliland Advocacy Group and their secessionist followers is that they share little or nothing with southern Somalia (former Italian Somaliland), above all patrilineal kinship which in their eye is the most important binding bond among people in a country. And to make their point, they state that “Somali society is comprised of various clans such as Digil, Rahanweyn, Dir , Isaaq, Hawiye, and Darood”.
Apart from the Isaaq, it is true that all the other four unrelated clans are found in southern Somalia. The underlying message inherent in their statement is that their Isaaq clan is foreign in southern Somalia and therefore has nothing to do with these southern clans. What they have disingenuously concealed is that their clan is part of the wider Dir clan which, like the Darood clan, is found in northern Somalia (former British Somaliland) and in southern Somalia (former Italian Somaliland) as well as in all the other Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn of Africa. The Isaaq clan therefore belongs clan-wise to southern Somalia to the extent that they are a subset of the wider Dir clan, just as other sub-clans in the northern Somalia are related to their fellow Darood sub-clans in southern Somalia .These patrlineal links between related clans in both territories, together with their other common language, religion, and culture, were the driving forces behind the union of Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland.
The glaring and untenable inconsistency inherent in the argument of the Somaliland Advocacy Group, which negates the rationale underpinning their case for a separate country (Somaliland), is that while they can countenance a multi-clan “Somaliland” inhabited by both Dir and Darood sub-clans (and minority ones) as perforce necessitated by their need for recognition and statehood, they reject to co-exist with the same clans within the wider Somalia. Selecting Somali clans à la carte to suit their secessionist whims is unacceptable to the rest of Somalis as it is to the international community given its consistent support for Somalia’s sovereignty and unity.
2. Factitious Claim of pre-colonial independence and sovereignty
The most preposterous claim by the Somaliland Advocacy Group is that former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland were before colonisation “two independent countries with no links between them [and] no unifying force from within”. This status, they argue, was preserved in the treaties that the British signed in 1884 with the clans in its area whose aim, they assert, was the “maintenance of the independence of the Somali clans” and a ” large measure of Sovereignty”. The purpose of making these concocted claims is t justify “Somaliland’s” secession on the ground that it used to be a separate “independent” and “sovereign” territory before, during and four days in June 1960.
It is a convoluted logic conjured up for lack of sound and convincing arguments for the secession. Contrary to the contention of the Somaliland Advocacy Group, no such independent separate two countries ever existed before colonial times. What did exist on the other hand was a collection of Somali clans spread over the Horn of Africa, each independent of the other to manage its own affairs. And it is for this very reason why the British (just like the Italians and the French) made separate treaties with each of the disparate Somali clans in its territory (except one which refused) rather than one common treaty which would have been the case if the British were dealing with a pre-existing sovereign territory.
On the issue of clan relationships and territorial links (already addressed in the introduction), it goes without saying that, contrary to the assertion of the Somaliland Advocacy Group, the Somali clans, whether those in Somalia or throughout the Horn, had links throughout their history, within and across colonial borders, and continue to the present day. These bonds first derive from inter clan patrilineal kinships. But even where clans are not related, neighbouring ones, whether within one territory, or across former colonial borders, are linked through, apart from shared common Somali heritages, widespread intermarriages and the share of scarce resources such as water and grazing. Whatever their type, these links are common among the Somali clans throughout the Horn. In this regard, those links between the clans in the former British part are not exclusive to them but are representative of that wider nexus of similar relations among Somali clans in the Horn.
As for the fallacious claim that the clans in “Somaliland” enjoyed sovereignty prior to and during colonisation, suffice to say that this is nothing more than a blatant fabrication which the secessionist vanguard normally feed their uniformed masses but is otherwise downright presumptuous when it is presented to any foreign governments. Clearly, clans that had no polity and organised governance, or relations with the outside world, could not have claimed sovereignty, individually or collectively. Needless to say, sovereignty and independence came only with Somalia’s independence
After all, it was the absence of such sovereignty which facilitated the carve-up of the Somali homeland in the Horn, leading to the arbitrariness of the colonial borders and its adverse consequences for most of the clans whom found themselves in two or more colonised Somali territories. There is nothing special about the British area and it could have been included in any one of the other neighbouring colonised Somali territories. Faced with their respective nameless enclaves, the colonisers could only adopt the generic name “Somaliland”, which stands for the “land” of the Somalis in the Horn as it was known to the outside world. It is for this reason that each of their territory (except the Northern Frontier District in Kenya, the fifth part of the Somali homeland) came to be called “Somaliland”, only distinguished by the pre-fix of the colonial name (British Somaliland, French Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopian Somaliland.). That puts to rest the fallacy of the secessionists that the former British territory existed as a separate country from the others before their colonisation
It was not only the Somalis who decried the division of their homeland. Britain to its credit was the only coloniser to recognise the futility and harm inherent in maintaining the artificial division of the Somali people. Taking advantage of a time after World War Two, when four of the five Somali-inhabited countries (other than French Somaliland) were for a while under its administration following the defeat of Italy and the occupation of Abyssinia, Britain called for the unification of the Somali territories (“Greater Somalia”) under its administration at the Security Council of the United Nations. Unfortunately for the Somalis, the request was opposed by some permanent members of the Council.
If such a “British Greater Somalia” was then established after Second War Two, leading to an independent “Greater Somalia” in 1960 or thereabouts, one has to wonder whether the secessionists would have been happy and stayed with it today, or would they still insist on secession and for a separate country based on the first ” British Somaliland?. Most likely the latter, for the quest for a separate “Somaliland” is driven today not so much to avoid the repetition of past wrongs meted out to them, which are no longer possible in present- day decentralised federal Somalia, but by chauvinist clannish yearning for separateness.
3. Betraying the Union
While pan-Somali nationalism and unity was pervasive in all Somali territories in the Horn, the decisive initiatives for the union came from the clans of British Somaliland who urged the British to accelerate the date of their independence (26 June 1960) in time for the independence of the Italian part (1July 1960). Given the overwhelming allegiance to the union, Somalia’s constitutions since independence, including the current draft one, do not provide for secession by any region or clan. If that has to change, it would require an amendment to the constitution which has to come first from the government, then approved by parliament and finally put to a referendum. There is no chance that such an amendment will go through any of these insurmountable hurdles
4 Secession spawned by terror and maintained by terror
What the Somaliland Advocacy Group did not spell out for good reason is the terrorist origin of the birth of their “Somaliland” baby. This happened in May 1991when a meeting of northern clans in the town of Burco, aimed at clan reconciliation, and was stormed by a group of armed secessionists zealots who forced the delegates at gunpoint to declare the secession of the north (former British Somaliland) from the rest of Somalia. As happened, the unionist delegates at the meeting, hailing from the non-Isaaq clans, above all those from the Darood clans 000000000repudiated this illegitimate Declaration once they were back safe in their regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC).
5. Bogus Referendum for legitimatizing the secession
To cast off the terrorist and illegitimacy stigma attached to its inception, Somaliland organised a sham referendum in June 2001 in which, as the Somaliland Advocacy Group always trumpet, close to 97% are claimed to have supported the secession. What is remarkable about this figure is not so much its whopping size. Rather, it is the inherent false legitimacy being given to it as a poll that was conducted throughout the north (former British Somaliland) and overwhelmingly endorsed by the voters when in reality it was only confined to the clan’s secessionist heartland, an area amounting to a third of the territory, and in which only secessionists voted.
The unionist regions, above all the SSC regions, refused to have anything to do with what they rightly saw as a treacherous exercise. Once these factors are taken into account, and the fact that the authority encouraged multiple voting and intimidated unionists from its own clan to vote, a 100% pro secession outcome was more like the result one would have expected under these circumstances. This farcical show might have won hearts and minds among their supporters but otherwise had been seen by the international community for the sham they were.
Far from shedding its terrorist and illegitimate origins, the one-clan secessionist enclave has adopted terror and oppression as its chosen policy instruments in order to force the secession on the other four unionist clans in the territory. In the process, widespread human rights abuses and crimes against humanity are routinely committed. The longer Somaliland fails to overcome the resistance to its occupation and oppression, the more it ratchets its punitive measures. This cycle of violence and counter action is now transforming itself into a bloody armed struggle. Needless to say, this is the kind of situation which al Shabab finds inviting and by all accounts they are now shifting their attention to the north.
6. Spurious claim to self-determination
In support of their secession, the Somaliland Advocacy Group makes recourse to the right to self-determination, which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and in each of the two main international human rights instruments: the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both covenants state that:
“All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
This right was meant for the emancipation of peoples who were not free under colonial rule and not for others, like Somaliland’s secessionists, who are already exercising these rights in an independent country. After all, no one is today denying the people in the secessionist enclave (Somaliland) to “pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. It is they who are denying others to freely exercise these same very rights.
Furthermore, the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also has something to say on the right to self determination and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Thus, it asserts as follows:
“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights be protected by the rule of law”,
As the preamble clearly states, the right to self-determination does not apply willy-nilly to any group who demand it when their human rights is protected by the rule of law. It applies only to those who face “tyranny and oppression” or face existential threats like the Tutsi did in Rwanda but who despite this threat rejected the option of secession, in contrast to Somaliland’s secessionists, seeking security instead in conflict resolution and in a united country
There was a time when the Isaaq clan clamouring for the secession could have claimed they were facing tyranny and oppression (though not exclusively) and that was under the former military regime. But that era is over and bygone wrongs against them cannot be used as a licence to commit new wrongs against others. Unlike the past, regions and clans in today’s federal Somalia have their autonomy. Far from facing now tyranny and oppression from any government since the fall of the military regime to justify their secession, it is they themselves who are doing the very same oppression and occupation to the unionist clans in the north who refuse to submit to their secession.
B. the consequences of recognising Somaliland
The deleterious consequences of possible recognition of the one-clan separatist enclave (Somaliland) are manifold. Its immediate adverse repercussions will first impact Somalia. But its no less detrimental ripple effects are likely to be transmitted to the wider African region. In the case of Somalia, it is bound to fan the flames of the ongoing armed struggle in the north between the secessionists and the unionists, a development which will suck in al Shabbab and other clans related to one side or the other in the struggle.
While the rest of Somalia, north and south, would ultimately be losers, the only sure winner of a recognition granted to Somaliland will be al Shabab who will see it as a godsend boon, giving it a badly needed shot in the arm at a time when its stocks in southern Somalia had been inexorably tumbling. As it is, the terrorist organisation has been lately establishing increasing presence in the separatist enclave with its tentacles now reaching every level of society and, as has now transpired, even the top echelons of regional government in Hargeisa. Al Shabab is therefore bound to jump at any recognition given to Somaliland as a holly call to fight what they would present as a treacherous conspiracy against Somalia, casting themselves once again as the defenders of Somalia and its unity, reaping all the popularity dividends this will engender. Recognition of Somaliland would therefore import into northern Somalia the turmoil in which southern Somalia had been mired for decades. Ending the secession is indispensable if al Shabaab is to be denied much of its raison d’etre to be in the north
But the damage to Somalia could go much deeper and wider as Somaliland’s recognition opens a Pandora box in which other regional administrations take the same route. Puntland’s president has been courting Somaliland lately about possible alliance and if need be eventual coordinated secession from Somalia. A domino effect could follow and there is no knowing where secessions will end once the genie has been let out of the bottle.
Outside Somalia, Somaliland’s recognition if granted will also open Pandora boxes in other fragile African countries susceptible to externally generated ripple effects. This is no more so than Somalia’s neighbouring countries. But beyond the Horn of Africa, the unity and stability of many other countries, such as Mali, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Congo, Angola among others, would be vulnerable to outside generated secessionist shocks. Seeing secession as the sword of Damocles threatening the existence of all newly independent African countries, it is for this reason that the former Organisation of African Unity (the predecessor of the AU) had enshrined in its charter that the colonial borders of member countries remain inviolate.
The one-clan based secessionist enclave has justified the secession it declared in May 1991 as a response to the oppression they had suffered under the previous military regime in which they played a leading role in its toppling and the concomitant collapse of the Somali State. That raison d’étre for the secession no longer holds. Ironically, it is the secessionist clan of “Somaliland” who, of all people, are meting out the same oppression it suffered under the military regime to the northern unionist regions.
The reason for the secession, therefore, is no longer a fear of a return of the dreaded past but the pursuit of an aspiration to have their own “Somaliland”, where they could be the top dog and impose their will on other clans. This yearning is simply a mirage which is unattainable. The sooner the international community manages to get that message through to the separatists, the sooner the new federal Somalia can take off, and the sooner they could be reintegrated into it for their own good. Short of having their State where they are king, the new federal Somalia provides autonomy to all its regions rendering the return of the nefarious dictatorship and clan domination something of the past. And they are better than all others to make the most of Somalia’s promising prospects, entailing a wider market, a booming economy, and employment and business opportunities.
A united, stable Somalia is not only in the interest of Somalia, but also that of the region and the international community. Conversely, the recognition of Somaliland is the antithesis of peace and stability. For all the reasons mentioned, It would be difficult to believe that the international community that has put in so much investment to nurture and prop up the “New” Somalia would throw away all this painstaking achievement in favour of a pointless self-defeating gesture whose only consequence is to plunge Somalia into a new conflagration from which no one would benefit, least of all Somaliland; or that it would countenance an action that is bound to have disastrous impact on other African countries. We would like to believe that the USA government, far from recognising Somaliland’s secession would steer it to take its place in the new Somalia. That would be a win-win outcome for all concerned, including Somaliland’s long term interest.
Khatumo Forum for Peace, unity and Development
H.E Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia
H.E. Mohamed A.Jawari, Speaker, Federal Parliament of Somalia
H.E Abdi Farah Shirdoon, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia,
Amb. James Swan, USA Special Representative for Somalia
H.E. Mark Simmonds, UK minister for Africa
H.E Matt Baugh, UK Ambassador for Somalia
H.E. Dr Nkosaazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission
Amb. Augustine Mahiga, UN Special Representative for Somalia
Short URL: http://horufadhi.com/?p=24187