When we take a panorama view over the Horn of Africa’s new politics, it is tough to portend precisely what it has for the region and the continent at large, but the crystal clear image is that the region’s policies have no longer be a monochrome but a typical Kaleidoscope which Somaliland needs to put on the correct lenses to see it, read it, understand it and act it accordingly, writes Khadar Hanan.
Since the collapse of the Somali central government for nearly three decades ago, the aftermath history would simply hopscotch us through a gloomy era that wouldn’t please the Somali people in common but those in the South in particular. It was a history boldly marked in the news headlines across the globe with shocking waves of one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the 20th century. As the civil wars raged the deflagration has reached almost every corner, the entire country was absolutely balkanized into what has eventually been culminated the tribal enclaves with the unique names and flags of today.
Somaliland’s cause was however, too different from those tribal states aforementioned. The Somali National Movement “SNM” was among the first armed opposition forces to fight against the powerful dictatorship government of Somalia. To topple General Mohamed Siad Barre was not an easy job for SNM alone after fighting roughly a decade, but to form an informal alliance with United Somali Congress “USC” of the iron fist General, Mohamed Farrah Aidid was a golden opportunity for SNM. General Aidid’s invasion to the capital has removed 21 years old dictatorship regime of president Barre in 1991.
SNM forces of mainly today’s Somaliland have had no inclinations to secede Somaliland from the other part of the country, but when any attempt to form a Somali government failed in a very fragile period, on May 18, 1991 a tribal spontaneous resolution was achieved on the full reclamations of what they call it as a lost independence into their brethren of the South in 1960s.
The outcome of those resolutions primarily constitutes what binds together the people of Somaliland today, although; their long anticipated mission has yet to be obtained a positive nod from the international community. In other terms, this was a survival strategy for the people of Somaliland, as they had relatively been enjoyed in peaceful environment of some law and order when compared to their Southern counterpart.
What is interesting was that the chairman of SNM, the first president of Somaliland, Abdilrahman Ahmed Ali “Tuur” who led the liberation of the people of Somaliland from the grim suppressions of the Siyad Barre has had a hidden agenda in collaboration with General Aided to keep Somalia as one, but transform the system to a power-sharing federal system of governance which was in fact directly corresponding to the SNM charter, and as soon as he conceded the power to his successor president Mohamed Hagi Ibrahim Egal; he left for Mogadishu to join with General Aidid and together accomplish what they have envisioned. General Aidid died on August 1996 from a serious wound in the ensuing fight on executing one of his far most determinations to retake the capital from the tribal warlords. Abdirahman Ahmed Ali “Tuur” exiled to UK for years after suffered from the loss of his colleague, but peacefully died at home on February 10, 2003.
Somaliland: A necromancy Vs democracy
President Mohamed Hagi Ibrahim Egal “the first prime minister of the Somali Republic”, and a well renowned politician was elected as the Abdulrahman’s successor in 1993. At this particular point in time, the country’s heavily armed tribal militias represented the national army, but were an Incendiary bomb for the entire people. Mr. Egal knowing how dangerous this could be has benefited for his hidden political agenda too. To consolidate the power__ he has to disarm these militias peacefully or otherwise. By its all ferocity, this has triggered an unfortunate civil war between the country’s largest tribe which “the first Somaliland president and two of the three chairmen of the current national political parties UCID and WADANI”, hails from and the other tribes in Somaliland. A false label that this major tribe was against the secession was made to justify for atrocities. Many people were killed and displaced as a result of those wars, and the Egal’s anticipation to rule a unified country was checked in the balance. Notwithstanding, president Egal realized that bad cards were played, he thus employed a totally different policies to stop the bloodshed among the brotherly people. Hilariously, he named the whole epoch as an impotent project which has failed to fruition in every front and hence set out a disarmament through peaceful terms. Oddly, the current president of Somaliland Musa Bihi Abdi and his interior minister Mohamed Kahin Ahmed were both a part in that black era.
Somaliland was long hailed as a beautiful democracy in a region overshadowed by gruesome history of instability. They’ve successfully held several presidential elections, though the two houses, namely elders’ and representatives’ ceded to be like a stagnant club of motion mongers as they were not replaced since there inaugurations. The recent presidential elections in Somaliland was also said to have been the worst in the country’s history as it has deeply polarized the people by ugly rhetoric. Kulmiye party of the current president has campaigned that WADANI, “its strongest contender” has a secretive ties with the government of Mogadishu, a typical label of that used by president Egal, which many would argue that the political roadmap created by Mr. Egal are still the underlying principles of today’s Somaliland which is no longer be working in this new age.
Democracy is a misnomer in Somaliland and would never get you placed in the country’s political system, but it’s something traded with the world in a glamorous package, a package that has now been suffered of erosion due to the reality on the ground. Tribalism in the form of political party concentrations and tribal affiliations vis-à-vis business deals of rogue business individuals who flourish millions in king making can simply buy you the power. Atypically, the heads of the executive, defense and judiciary of Somaliland hails from one tribe (the president’s tribe) which is quite weird and indigestible to the true democracy.
The new regional geopolitics and its impact on Somaliland
Shifting political balances in the Middle East coupled with the power and resources race among several other big nations are affecting the Somali status quo in general and that of Somaliland in particular too. UAE’s expansionistic maritime strategy to conquer many ports in the strategic red sea corridor and India Ocean was mainly seen as an apparent threat by many, owing to the experiences taken from Djibouti and the Yemen governments, as both have turned down their contracts with the DP world due to the company’s in ability to deliver what was stipulated in their contractual concessions as well as ownership and stake review disagreements.
UAE has further reinforced their business plans into Somalia with more vague agendas and installed secretive military basis in Mogadishu and Bosaso (a coastal town of the semiautonomous region of Puntland). Barbara port of Somaliland has also been awarded to the UAE in a similar concessional package included the proposed military base in the same port city. It was a deal passed by parliamentarians with their palms greased from both the houses of Somaliland without being constitutionally debated, legally advised and potentially weighted.
A shadowy deal pushed and brokered by individuals included the very first family members of the former president. This deal has unfortunately strained the close ties between Somaliland and her brotherly small nation of Djibouti, as President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti seen it as support for the UAE’s plans, but for Somaliland, as per their interpretations, ‘a chance to pacify its long conundrum in getting a recognition as long as it can ink deals internationally’, which was absolutely misleading.
Ironically, the former president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Sillanyo” and his oligarchy who have drained and sold out much of the nation’s wealth are happily living in luxury mansions in the UAE today. The incumbent president of Somaliland; a former air force colonel and a war veteran Muse Bihi Abdi, who won highly contested elections with some irregularities as being claimed by his only formidable contender ‘WADANI party of Somaliland in November 2017’, portrayed himself as a timely reformist during his campaign trail but untimely got stuck in to political quagmires engineered by his predecessor. The president-elect Muse Bihi Abdi has immediately formed a government contained of a new team, without many highly expected players of the former government who were characterized by incompetency, corruption and flattery.
The new government has inherited numerous domestic issues included inflations, border and tribal conflicts__ the solution(s) of which are yet to be fully achieved. The foreign affairs and diplomatic missions have also seen shortfalls not yet been rectified. Moreover, the president’s maiden overseas trip to the Emirates right after his inauguration turned him inside-out, as he has arbitrarily jumped on a bandwagon orchestrated by the blockading quartet against the state of Qatar, canonized his people in the UAE but demonized their counterparts in Qatar.
His remarks have raised the eye brows of the thousands of people in Qatar from Somaliland, who play an integral role in their country’s balance of payments in terms of foreign currency. It was an incident that has revealed the president’s naivety on geopolitics and ignorance towards his people in the gulf and perhaps elsewhere in the diaspora. The president’s comments-cum-unsubstantiated criticism on the state of Qatar was utterly paradoxical, undiplomatic and impromptu or presumably ready to read text presented to him by the host country.
When Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have gunged up against the small oil-rich nation of Qatar on June last year, they simultaneously kick started a multifaceted political and diplomatic maneuver by just lobbying in the West and introduced a carrot-and-stick approach policies enticing many other African and Middle East nations to conform into their whims and increase the pressure on Qatar. Kudos to President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” of Somalia among others, who has sensibly refuted to take sides in what was called as a dispute, but seen by many a clear aggression against the state of Qatar, he demonstrated not only his principal centrism but that his dignity is by the Somali people, and that money can’t even buy it.
He learned the whole world a lesson totally different from what many of his predecessors in Somalia were characterized. As we all know, UAE’s enigmatic mission in Mogadishu has culminated with a 10 million US dollars cash package delivery to an unknown yet suspicious mission by a private jet intercepted in Mogadishu International Airport in April this year. Their base in Mogadishu named as a training facility was overtaken by the Somali national troops and UAE has closed their humanitarian funded hospital in reciprocating to Mogadishu’s move which led to a wider criticism by the international community.
President of Somaliland has so far made many trials to have an official meeting with the new prime minister of Ethiopia, but Abiy Ahmed didn’t answer all the knocks on those doors
Reforms in Ethiopia not a Serendipity
Unlike its neighboring countries in the horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a country rich in a deep history, colorful in diversity and power as the continent’s second largest population. All the aforementioned beauties in array were deep down in a long shadow of suppression, authoritarianism and marginalization mainly against the largest ethnicity in the country, the Oromo people. In the recent years, the country has witnessed a row of unabated violent strikes mainly by the Oromo among others. Thousands of people were incarcerated not crimes they have committed but simply by exercising their rights to free thinking and freedom of expression.
According to the Amnesty International, Ethiopia has one of the worst records in terms of Human Rights. It was not long ago, when I have received a short video clip not more than 20 minutes by a friend of mine through WhatsApp. It was the current Premier of Ethiopia Mr. Abiy Ahmed analytically responding to several questions asked by a reporter on the issues that matters not only his country but the region as well viz. socially, economically and politically.
In his analysis on the above issues from both national perspective vis-à-vis geopolitics__ he exhibited not only a potential leadership charisma but an in-depth pragmatism. He emphatically shed a brighter light on how the countries in the horn are made busy with domestic and regional issue, how expensive it is and how this holds them back to prosper as strong neighbors. Surprisingly, the same guy was up in the queue to replace his predecessor Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn who was the right-hand man of the late Meles Zenawi. The very first steps he has taken to resolving the long standing hostility between his country and Eretria which took the lives of nearly hundred thousand people was not only crucial for their security but mended the broken hearts of their nations too.
Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” of Somalia seems to be not interested any longer to pursue the negotiations between Somalia and Somaliland
The subsequently exchanged state visits by the two leaders revitalized the almost dried eyes of their people and an atmosphere of joyful tears and nostalgia enveloped their peoples’ sentiment in the early weeks of their reintegration. As this change was not by chance but by daring, the prime minister has taken swift steps to overhaul his administration and purged key military long standing figures along with federal states presidents who were not only corruptive but committed crimes against humanity as well. His new cabinet was widely praised as he has cut short the number of cabinet positions and appointed females for several top positions not seen before in the country’s history. It has categorically changed perceptions on the country’s long standing image on portfolios with no equality and gender balances.
Abiy Ahmed’s audacious reforms have further crossed into the neighboring countries as he has harnessed shuttle-diplomatic trips between countries not turned faces for many years, Djibouti, Somalia and Eretria. Djibouti had a border dispute with Eretria, where Somalia’s Al-shabaab were said to had been getting support from Eretria, a claim which Eretria never acknowledged. Furthermore, the Federal Government of Somalia seems to be relieving from the headaches by the Somali State Governments as they are ostensibly ignored by the Ethiopian government. The policies on damage limitations employed by the former Ethiopian administrations seem to be no more within the new administration in Addis Ababa.
The recent African Union submit in Addis Ababa further cemented the continents’ adherence to keeping the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia. Analysts say this is the reason president Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” of Somalia seems to be not interested any longer to pursue the negotiations between Somalia and Somaliland which could be a dire mistake in one way or the other. President Bihi of Somaliland has so far made many trials to have an official meeting with the new prime minister of Ethiopia, but sources say Abiy Ahmed didn’t answer all the knocks on those doors. This is surely a big challenge for Somaliland’s polity.
Ethiopia is a landlocked country with neighbors of immense treasures of both resourceful lands and enormous blue economy (the sea); Somalia is one of the luckiest in terms of these massive resources having the longest shores of more than 3000km in both mainland Africa and the Middle East. Ethiopia strategically sees Somalia as one of its bling and sacred orb to appease sustainably the needs of her growing economy and population. Mr. Abiy Ahmed’s architect to form regional integration framework on areas of security and economy among other issues seem to be admirable due to its rationality rather than plausibility.
Finally, when we take a panorama view over the horn of Africa’s new politics, it is tough to portend precisely what it has for the region and the continent at large, but the crystal clear image is that the region’s policies have no longer be a monochrome but a typical Kaleidoscope which Somaliland needs to put on the correct lenses to see it, read it, understand it and act it accordingly.
Somaliland has pretty much international homework than her domestically clannish assignments.
E mail: Khadarhanan@yahoo.com
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