From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Sep 06 2011 - 08:24:34 EDT
Time to Reconstruct Somali Politics
By Mohamed Heebaan
Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
"The folly consists not in pursuit of a goal in ignorance of the obstacles,
but in persistence in the pursuit despite accumulating evidence that the
goal was unattainable."
The March of Folly by American historian Barbra Tuchman
After the demise of the Somali government, the two regions of the country
followed two divergent paths:
-The North seceded and sought world recognition.
-The South sought to rebuild and move on.
Twenty years later, both regions not only failed to achieve their
objectives, but the situation got worse in the past few years. Though the
north has been peaceful for quite long time, in the last few years, there is
a noticeable crack in the unity and the cohesiveness of Somaliland, as we
can see from the conflict in SSC and from the floated idea of the Awdal
statehood. As for the South, aside from the brief period of the Islamic
Courts, the region has been going from bad to worse, year in and year out.
For the sake of clarity, let us deal with the two regions one at the time
and highlight the reasons behind the failure of each.
The failure of the South:
Despite the ineptitude of Mogadishu warlords, the group responsible for the
mayhem in the south more than anyone else, the south, nevertheless, has been
trying to rebuild one-half of the Somali-house in an unstable, chaotic
neighbourhood. But given the shaky foundation, not to mention winds and
storms, the half-built Somali house kept falling apart the moment of its
After 20 years of failed reconciliation and failed rebuilding, southern
Somalia has, in the end, fallen into the grip of blood-sucking mafia of
Addis Ababa and Kampala club that see the perpetuation of the Somali mayhem
as the best way for them to optimize their benefits!
In other words, if southern Somalia becomes stable and manages to establish
a functioning government, those who benefit from the chaos and instability
namely IGAD-warlords Males Zenawi and Yoweri Museveni see themselves as the
biggest losers. That IGAD warlords benefit from the misery of the Somali
people there is no question about it. Few weeks ago, Mr. Museveni was
handed $45 million dollars by the US for keeping his mercenary forces in
Mogadishu, and Zenawi have received over hundreds of millions of dollars for
taking charge of Somali affairs. Neither of the IGAD-Warlords would get or
would have gotten one penny of those millions that are regularly poured into
their coffers should peace and real stability are restored in southern
The Failure of the Secession:
Somaliland has been relatively peaceful and far more prosperous than the
chaotic South. Yet it failed in attaining its most prized goal: World
The secession of Somaliland failed not for lack of effort, determination, or
lack of resources, human or otherwise. If tenacity, commitment, and
diligence would deliver a goal, Somaliland would have been recognized long
It is no pandering to state the facts. And the facts are Somalilanders are
known for being tenacious, and generous to their causes. They are masters
at marketing. Public Relations is their thing!
Back in the days when Somali opposition groups were fighting against the
Somali government, SNM was both the most powerful militarily, and the most
resourceful politically. In terms of military strength, which other group
had the means and the nerve to attack sprawling city like Burco and the
Hargeisa metropolitan in a broad daylight, and come within inches of driving
the government forces out?!
Despite its huge initial successes, SNM in the end, could not hold on to
its gains, and was eventually driven out. However, the battle of Hargeisa
marked not only the turning point, but also the beginning of the end for Mr.
Barre's government. Having lost the bulk of its forces, and the best of its
equipment in the fight against the SNM, within just two years, the centre
could not hold. And Mr. Barre couldn't even defend Mogadishu against the
hastily trained, poorly equipped militias. And the rest, as the say, is
SNM was also the most powerful group politically. While other Somali
opposition groups hardly had any traction in international circles, SNM
cadres and supporters knocked on all and every Western and international
door; enlisted the services of every lobbyist they could find; and not only
cut the US aid from the government, but also completely drained the regime's
political capital, and turned Mr. Barre, the one time friend and ally of the
US, into an international pariah!
I highlight all of this to underline that Somaliland's failure to win
recognition is not for lack of skill, or lack of effort. But simply this is
an un-winnable issue!
The Difficulty of Winning Recognition:
Unless there is a mutual agreement between concerned parties to dissolve
their union as was the case of India and Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore,
the Checks and Slovaks, and the states of the former Soviet Union, and other
similar examples, gaining recognition for a secessionist territory is one of
the most difficult goals to attain.
The difficulty of attaining world recognition for a secessionist region has
to do with the near unanimous antipathy of major powers against secessionist
causes in part because either those powers had had a very bad experience
with secession in the past or they are still struggling against secessionist
forces in their own countries. For instance, America fought a civil war
against the secession of the south, Britain has for decades fought against
the IRA in Northern Ireland, France has the Basque, Spain has fought against
ETA, Turkey has been fighting against Kurdistan, Russia against Chechnya,
China against Muslim Uighers, India against the Kashmiris, and so forth.
Thus, aside from the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and
Yugoslavia, which both were supported by the west, in recent decades, only
four territories, East Timor, Eritrea, Kosovo and South Sudan seceded and
gained world recognition. But these four territories share two important
characteristic: Their secession was/is wholeheartedly supported, if not
actually engineered, by Western and world Powers. But even more
importantly, aside from Kosovo, the secession of all other three territories
was blessed by their mother countries: Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Sudan,
If a territory secedes without the acquiescence of mother country, or clear
support from world powers, its ambition seldom gets off the ground.
Instead, overtime, that territory and its goals and ambitions tend to
disappear into oblivion, as is the case of the Republic of Turkish Cypriots
that seceded from Cyprus more than 30 years ago, and is recognized by
Turkey, but no one else. If you have never heard of this republic, well,
you are not alone!
Another example is Western Sahara. When Spain gave up on its former colony,
the Spanish Sahara, Morocco laid claim to the territory. However, Polisario
the movement that fought for the liberation of this territory refused to
join Morocco and declared its own independence. World powers sided with
Morocco and regarded Western Sahara as secessionist territory, and as a
result, it disappeared into oblivion.
Losing the Bigger Picture:
Sometimes governments and nations become so preoccupied and obsessed with
the attainment of a certain goal that they end up losing the bigger picture.
After its humiliating defeat at the hands of the Israelis in the six day war
of 1967, Egyptian government of the day and its propagandists exaggerated
the power of the Israelis by many folds. Mohamed Hassanein Heikal the
editor of Al-Ahram newspaper, and a noted Jamal Abdel-Nasir propagandist
claimed, for instance, that Egypt would need a nuclear bomb in order to
cross the Bar-Lev line of defence on the Suez Canal!
Therefore, crossing the Bar Lev line became one of the highest priorities
for the Egyptian government and its military strategists. When the war of
1973 broke out, Egyptian forces, to the astonishment of everyone, crossed
the Bar Lev line of defence, and poured into the Sinai Peninsula with
remarkable speed! Unfortunately, either because the Egyptians lacked the
means to extend the range of their air defences, or little preparation was
made what do after the crossing, the Egyptian forces became sitting ducks
on the other side of the Suez Canal, because the Egyptian air defences
couldn't go much further than that. (According to General Saad-Edin Shazly,
the chief of staff of Egyptian armed forces during the war, and who
reportedly quarrelled with president Anwar Sadat on war strategies, if the
forces that crossed the Suez Canal attempted to move deep into Israel
without proper air defences, Israeli air force would have literally
slaughtered them. And hence, the hunkering down of the Egyptian forces on
the other side of Suez Canal. And that not only prevented the Egyptian
forces from going deep into Israel, but also enabled the Israelis to launch
a relatively successful counter-offensive that took the wind out of the
enormous success the Egyptian forces achieved in the early days of the war.)
Nowadays, so much effort is made by Somaliland leaders and their supporters
in order to gain recognition from Ethiopia, the only country with vested
interests in the dismemberment of Somalia. However, because attaining
recognition, at any cost, has become an obsession for Somaliland leaders,
little in the form of debate is engaged to ascertain what effect recognition
from Ethiopia would have on the secession. Would it help or hinder the
Contrary to the rosy picture entertained by hard-line secessionists,
recognition by Ethiopia would sink the secessionist project into a deeper
failure than it already is!
For one thing, Ethiopia's recognition for the secession will attract no
other country to follow Ethiopia's footsteps. Does anyone in his or her
right mind really think that the US and Britain and other world powers would
reject the secession of Somaliland for 20 years, as their refusal to grant
recognition clearly underlines, and then make U-turn and start supporting
the secession because the Ethiopia's Zenawi regime has opened the door for
them? No sane person would entertain such fantasy.
If anything, Ethiopia's recognition would sink the secession beyond any
hope. Since Ethiopia is known as the historic enemy of Somalia, no country
that hasn't recognized Somaliland already (and none has) would want to look
so foolish as to unnecessarily take sides on enmity between two African
countries, and support a secession that is clearly pushed and supported by
That means, if Ethiopia doesn't recognize the secession, no one else would.
If Ethiopia recognizes the secession, no one else would. In either case,
the secession is dead and hopeless!
Stating the facts is no animosity.
And the facts are World powers have unanimously rejected the secession of
Somaliland, as their refusal to recognize the territory clearly indicates.
Therefore, if world powers are not pushing and supporting the secession as
was the case of East Timor, Kosovo, and South Sudan, the secession is dead.
Somaliland leaders and their foreign supporters sometimes mislead
themselves, and mislead their electorate when they compare Somaliland's case
with that of Eritrea and South Sudan. True, there is a similarity between
Somaliland and Eritrea and South Sudan, because all three regions seceded
from three countries they used to be part of. But that is where the
The critical difference that Somaliland leaders and their foreign supporters
are forgetting or deliberately overlooking is that the independence of both
Eritrea and South Sudan were granted by mother countries, Ethiopia and
Sudan, respectively! President Omar Al-Bashir attended the inauguration of
South Sudan's independence, and so did Meles Zenawi, for the Eritrean
independence. And so, if we go by the favoured comparison of equating
Somaliland to the South Sudan and Eritrea, it becomes clear that
Somaliland's recognition by the world rests with Mogadishu! That is, if
Mogadishu recognizes Somaliland's secession, the rest of the world will
quickly follow suit. If not, the secession would remain dead on its track.
However, as the most ardent secessionists know, expecting Mogadishu to grant
recognition to Somaliland's secession is simply wishful thinking that goes
on border of insanity. Thus pursuing this secessionist endeavour whose roads
are all blocked is nothing but an exercise in futility!
So the begging question becomes:
-Would Somaliland leaders continue the March of Folly that is going nowhere?
-Or will they redirect their energy and tenacity in order to benefit their
region and their people, and yes to benefit all Somalis? Twenty years is
sufficient for one to see the writing on the wall that the secession has
Somalia's problems are getting more complex as days go by. In the days when
the conflict was between Somalis, and Somalis alone could determine the
outcome are now gone, for Mogadishu has now fallen into the grip of
IGAD-warlords who benefit from the perpetuation of misery and chaos. We
need to bring forth new ideas that are powerful enough to untangle and the
south from the grip of the IGAD mafia. The time has also come to find a
solution for the secession of the north, which in my view is the key for
finding a lasting solution for the misery of the Somali people.
What caused the secession of Somaliland?
Naturally, Somalilanders did not secede because they hate the rest of
Somalis. In fact, despite everything, Somaliness runs as deep there as it
does in any other region of the country. In the struggle for independence
and for the unity of the Somali people, they have done their fair share, if
not more. Of the stars that illuminate the sky of Somali patriotism,
Somalilanders from Farax Omaar to Sheikh Bashir, from Haji Adan Afqallooc to
Tima Cadde, from Barkhad Cas to Hadraawi, are among the most prominent!
The root cause of the secession was marginalization. And the resistance to
marginalization led to victimization. There is a debate among Somalis about
the depth of the marginalization, but there is no debate about the gravity
of the victimization. Dealing with the marginalization of the north in a
practical manner, will in my view go a long way in healing the wounds, and
restoring the bond and the brotherhood between Somali nation's two regions,
the north and the south.
Hargeisa as the New Capital, a way out of the abyss:
The decision to secede was Somalilanders'. The decision to reconcile will
be theirs as well. And it goes without saying that no one can force
Somalilanders for something they do not want. However Somaliland leaders,
its people and intellectuals are rational beings who can and do evaluate
issues on their merit. And in light of the 20 years of non-recognition, a
case can be made for Somalilanders to reconsider their decision to secede
which to this day has gone nowhere.
In 1960, when the two regions of Somali Republic were unified, it was
understood and agreed upon that it was in the best interest of Somali people
to make Mogadishu the capital of the new nation. Fifty years after the
independence and after more than 20 years of hell and misery, the roles of
the two regions and two cities are in stark contrast: Whereas Hargeisa is
peaceful and prosperous; Mogadishu has become synonymous with misery,
slaughter of the innocent, and chaos. It is not Mogadishu's fault, of
course, or the fault of its inhabitants, but it is the misfortune of the
Somali people. Thus, if the Somali people are to be rescued, we have to
establish a functioning government in a peaceful place where the efforts can
bear some fruit. We have been trying to establish a functioning government
in Mogadishu for over 20 years, but hasn't work, not even once! The closest
was during the Islamic Courts, but it wasn't meant to be. The time has come
to look else where for the sake of the Somali people. In politics as in
where to locate any nation's capital, nothing is written in stone.
Crowning Hargeisa as the new capital of the Somali nation will be simply
rewriting the Somali history, and will solve some of the most difficult
issues that paralyzed country:
Marginalization of the North: The root cause for the secession of
Somaliland was the marginalization. And Hargeisa having become the Seat of
the Somali government, and the centre of the Somali politics, the
marginalization and the need for the secession will go out of the window.
When world ambassadors start arriving, and their embassies become scattered
throughout Hargeisa and its suburbs, the new capital will become the seat of
power and the centre of Somali universe. As a result, the secession would
become obsolete word that even the most ardent secessionists wouldn't dare
uttering it, lest they become ridiculous and loonies.
SSC: The conflict in SSC will come to an abrupt end. When Hargeisa becomes
the capital of the nation, it will have no need to maintain occupying forces
in Laas Caanood.
AMISOM: The mere relocation of the nation's capital to Hargeisa will make
the African Mercenaries in Mogadishu irrelevant! As government ministers
and leaders move to the peaceful city of Hargeisa, the mercenaries will have
no one around to claim of protecting. The cash-cow that Somalia has become
for the mercenaries, and for the IGAD-warlords will immediately dry up.
Uganda's warlord Museveni will have no other choice but evacuate his forces,
while crying all the way to Kampala!
Al-Shabab: After the establishment of credible Somali government in
Hargeisa, Al-Shabab will lay down their arms, willingly or otherwise.
Mogadishu: After the departure of the mercenaries, peace and stability will
be restored in Mogadishu once again. And within short period of time,
Somalia's biggest city will reassert herself as the nation's commerce and
financial capital much like Toronto and Sydney of Australia.
One single Somali reconciliation conference held in Hargeisa will be far
more valuable and far more constructive, and far more productive than all
the Somali conferences held in the past 20 years.
In an interview he gave one of the Somaliland papers few years back, the
esteemed Hadraawi said, "The unity of the Somali people is inevitable. But
it will come when that unity is for the benefit of all Somali groups(clans),
and at the expense of none!"
One day, in the near future, the reconstruction of the Somali nation will
start in earnest. In my view Hargeisa is the most suitable place to start
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