The conflict in Las Anod is primarily about tribal borders and minority rule, setting the stage for other tribes within Somalia and Somaliland to establish their own minority rule, thereby diminishing the power of central government, including Villa Somalia, and limiting its control over locations beyond Mogadishu.
By Sagal Mohamed Ashour
I will start by addressing biased views in articles, as this is important to allow the reader to understand what is being written, and the perspectives of the person writing it. For most of the articles published during the conflict in Las Anod, no explanation or transparency was given by the writer by declaring their biases towards the issue, and neither did some state they were receiving funds and capital interest to write the article.
Currently, in the UK, there is a public issue that has come up to the surface, whereby newspapers are using ghost-writers, meaning they are using black people and their names disguised as the person who has written the articles, when in fact it’s written by far-right commentators with far-right agenda, opinions, and views.
I’m a Somalilander, which means I identify as being from Somaliland. I support this beautiful country in the Horn of Africa, which has been pioneering African-made democracy, law, and order.
I also have close and warm ties to my family in Mogadishu and the people from Las Anod. I have family members who represent all those areas I have mentioned, and I love them all. I also believe Somaliland and Somalia should have peaceful talks to resolve a ‘Cold War’ period of no fruitful discussions but disappointments on both sides. I have experience of engaging with the Federal Government of Somalia, and in my experience, I can share this.
Somalilanders who genuinely support their country but want to have a dialogue with Somalia are seen and treated with suspicion. Unless they come out and disown Somaliland publicly, with something like ‘I believe in Somaliwayn’ or ‘Somaliland doesn’t exist’ and never speak of Somaliland again, those who don’t, are no longer welcome into the room.
In this article, I deliberately chose not to focus on everything that has happened during this conflict. This will take me a very long time, and enough reports have been written about it, although most of them are biased against Somaliland.
Let me start with that Dhulbahante are Somalilanders. An example case is my family, which is made up of Dhulbahante, mixed families of different tribes, and so are hundreds of thousands of families who reside in Las Anod, surrounding regions, all over Somaliland, and in the diaspora. The notion that somehow these tribes hate each other, doesn’t make sense when there are hundreds of thousands of inter-clan families.
People have the right to and will exercise their political allegiance, and many people in Las Anod have done so, However, the actual make-up of the people who reside in these regions are mixed families, and the hateful tribalistic narrative being presented, does not match the situation on the ground. These inter-clan families are not on social media with the assistance of thousands of bots and troll accounts spewing hatred. Their voices have been ignored, and not included in any conversation about this conflict.
The millions of dollars invested in fueling this war, on the ground and online, by various bad actors, including people from Europe, such as Germany, who are leading the charge, is also another issue I won’t dwell into, but worthy of Ph.D. level of research, and serious national and international investigations. If Somaliland becomes destabilized, many European and American citizens may be held accountable for being an actor in this conflict, and for playing a significant role in the attempts to destabilize a peaceful region, of the otherwise troubled corner of the world.
This conflict is far less about the waving of a blue flag or unity of Somalia, but much more about tribal borders and minority rule, setting the precedence for all other tribes existing within Somalia and Somaliland to have their own minority rule. In other words, Tribal mini-states. This will consequently diminish the power any central governance has anywhere, including Villa Somalia, turning it into an administration that will never yield any authority or control over any location besides Mogadishu. The alternative to this is to address any grievances felt by any tribes within existing borders.
I want to address the main overarching issue and the elephant in the room. The topic of Somaliland and the Federal Government of Somalia talking things out, in a peaceful manner, could eventually lead to a political mutual understanding. President Sillanyo, President Shiekh Sharif, and President Hassan Shiekh all tried to have talks with each other in a peaceful and non-violent approach.
Meeting HSM in his first term, he seemed genuinely to want to talk with Somaliland to begin, address any grievances they felt, and bring it to the table. However, people in his camp kept sabotaging any process or progress made. The conflict between Somaliland and SSC has not only seriously damaged, and changed the trajectory of any fruitful talks between Somaliland and Somalia, but it’s continuing to cement a point of no return.
The rest of Somalia does not see themselves as part of this conflict. Still, they have been dragged into it politically from the beginning, with Federal MPs whose constituents are left to their demise, and unaware their MPs have been outright supporting a war in Somaliland, including providing financial and military assistance, visiting conflict zones, and making statements addressed at Somaliland, without the president of Somalia himself having any role, whether he approved those statements or not, they have sabotaged diplomacy and created a very hostile environment.
Somalia is also dragged into this war on social media, on Twitter, Facebook, TiK Tok, and WhatsApp, which has created open space and platforms to spew tribalistic hatred and hatred towards tribes that reside in Somaliland and to ensure this hatred continues to flourish and plant seeds in people’s minds and hearts. This is happening as I write this article.
People who have made a career for themselves allegedly ‘promoting anti-tribalism’ ‘Somali waa walaalo’ and ‘Somalism’ have been on the frontline, directly playing a role in fueling this hatred and polarization between Somaliland and the rest of Somalia.
I recently returned from a trip to Mogadishu to visit the city where I was born. Speaking to people from all walks of life, it was clear to me that the people of Mogadishu don’t see themselves as a party to this conflict, and see it as ‘two brothers fighting’. If you ask them, please do. They will tell you, ‘We advise them to stop the conflict, make peace, and stick together.’ the people of Mogadishu fear two possible outcomes: new tribal states that will not only undermine every progress made but also shift the political power dynamics in detriment and at a disadvantage to them.
The second fear is Somalia’s previous President Farmajo co-orchestrated this conflict, to carve out a way to get back into power. One thing is for sure: they don’t feel this conflict will produce unity for Somalia. The polarization and tribal hatred it ignited, and is fueling is a clear and fair assessment considering where things are heading.
They worry this conflict has the potential to reach them if it becomes an all-out war. That’s why, at the end of every comment, they will remind you that the people of Somaliland and Las Anod are one family fighting, and the conflict must stop.
This conflict has removed the scab from a 32-year-old wound and re-introduced pain to a whole new generation of Somalilanders. These are people whose parents have experienced genocide and were specifically targeted due to their tribal ethnicity. After taking back their independence, they created a democracy with a functioning governance system, supported by traditional mechanisms. They believe their representatives are democratically elected, so if things go wrong in government, it’s the job of the opposition and newspapers to bring it to light and challenge it.
Ordinary citizens would never consider lifting arms and starting a coup, something Africa is famously known for and currently experiencing much of. Imagine an African country where lifting arms is not expected when you feel disgruntled and unsatisfied with the government. However, they feel the whole nation is taking the fall for the bad decisions made by an elected leader, which can and should only be removed democratically and by constitutional order.
If it were up to the ordinary citizens of Somaliland, they would have made much more decisive decisions and actions taken very early on. Firstly, they would have never allowed militias to enter Las Anod City, they would have strengthened strong diplomatic and traditional methods of peace-keeping. President Bihi failed Somaliland in all aspects, including security and diplomacy.
Still, we support the institutions he represents, and we are damn proud of the governance systems and structure of institutions that are the cornerstones we have created in Somaliland. I guarantee that ordinary Somalilanders will consider lifting arms if those governance institutions and pillars that protect democracy and that keep lawlessness away, are threatened. Their forefathers died to ensure they had a home called Somaliland, and the world may have denied them, but they knew their rightful place in the world.
So, where do we go from here?
I predict this is the beginning of the end of federalism as we know it, it is a new tribal state infringing on Somaliland sovereignty created with the support of Somalia. This will be a point of no return for Somaliland and Somalia talks. We are at a critical junction, where if a serious attempt at peace talks doesn’t happen, and Las Anod leaders are not held accountable for not coming to the table, for uprooting traditional Somali peace mechanism and refusing to see Somaliland-based traditional elders, for refusing to sit at the table with Somaliland Government, but claim to want peace and dialogue.
What the international community needs to understand, and be reminded of often is Somaliland, and its millions of citizens are not going anywhere. They are more resolute in their sentiments than ever before. They are also watching every step of the Federal government of Somalia, and whether Hassan Sheikh is too busy fighting Al-Shabaab or not, what is happening will significantly impact his term.
It also means the depletion of means or avenues to address the issue of Somaliland and Somalia in the future, as the little existing incentives have all evaporated away by this conflict and the narratives it produces. Somalilanders survived a genocide and strived without recognition, nothing will deter them from continuing to go their own way.
By: Sagal Mohamed Ashour
Public Health Professional
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- Somaliland Is A Beacon Of Democracy In An Unstable Region