Saturday July 7, 2018
By Liban Ahmad
The stand-off between Somaliland and
Puntland forces near Tukaraq in Sool reminds many Somalis of early 1990s.
It was the time Somali political leaders' failed to spare Somali citizens horrors
of a civil war. What makes Puntland-Somaliland stand-off different is
that Somaliland has taken a leaf from Somalia's 1960s book but modified it: Its
irredentist claims are not made against a neighbouring country; it is made
against a country Somaliland is a part of. The UN Secretary General urged
Somaliland President to talk to Mogadishu about secession. Talks will not bear
any fruits if Somaliland's starting point is that it is a sovereign state and
its border with Somalia was demarcated in 1894. President Muse Bihi
of Somaliland does not seem to have put a lot of thought into implications of
this argument for people in ex-British Somaliland. Colonial borders
principle was invoked against Somalia in favour of Kenya and Ethiopia in line
with the AU ( then OAU) charter. The same principle will not be invoked against
Somalia when Somaliland is questioning the sovereignty of Somalia.
Somaliland Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Dr Saad Ali Shire, emphasises in his statements Somaliland' history as a
Protectorate he forgets that, in the declaration
of independence on June 26 1960, The British Colonial Office made
reference to "tribes" it provided protection on the
basis of agreement the British Empire signed with elders of Somali “tribes” .
In reports from the British Colonial Office, the British colonial
administration referred to those clans as
"our tribes". The late Ali Garad Jama accompanied the
delegation from the ex-British Somaliland who went to London to witness
the independence declaration. He did not belong to a "tribe" that Britain
granted independence after termination of the “protection” agreement.
What identity did Ali Garad Jama have under the British rule in the
ex-British Somaliland? His identity was similar to that of people in
territories the British Empire designated as enemy territories: Ex-Italian
Somaliland under British Military Administration, and Ethiopia after the
defeat of Mussolini in the Horn of Africa.
Somaliland accuses Puntland of claiming territories
on grounds of shared clan affiliation. By making reference to agreements some
clans signed with the British empire almost 150 years ago it is laying claim on disputed territories on the
basis of similar reasoning . Somaliland's reference to
Protectorate agreement excludes clans that have not signed agreement with the
British. This reference to colonial history put northerners at
a disadvantage when it comes with negotiating with southerners. Northerners did
not have political leaders who prepared them for independence.
Traditional leaders wielded influence under the British indirect rule in the
North. Northerners had to embrace the Somali political identity created
by Somali Youth Leagued (SYL). Somali political identity was conceived
without any reference to clan identity. SYL leaders knew that citizenship, not
kinship, must be the foundation of the nation state they aspired to build.
SYL spurned clan identity in state-building
Agitation for independence was a crime in the
ex-British Somaliland but in the South under the British Military Adminstration,
SYL emerged and as a result created the Somali political identity. In his biography on Adam Abdulle Osman, the first President of Somalia
and his second Prime Minister, Abdirizak Haji Hussein Professor Abdi
Ismail Samatar quotes the late Mohamed Salah Deer ‘Ladane’ who, along with Axmed Aloore, arranged a lodging for Michael
Mariano and Lewis Clement Salool, both of them lawyers. “Mariano and
Salool wrote all the [SYL] party petitions” writes Professor Abdi Samatar. The North
did not have a nationalist party similar in stature to SYL. That is why SYL
became the ruling party of Somalia during Somalia's experiment
with parliamentary democracy.
Somaliland government is not only at loggerheads
with Mogadishu over sovereignty. It is against the dispensation endorsed by the
UNSOM. As the map below shows Somaliland is represented within the Federal
Parliament of Somalia by MPs. Puntland federally represents people
in territories currently designated as disputed territories.
There is another dimension to the identity question
raised by Somaliland argument. Why does Somaliland seek to saddle with a
unionist from North Somalia with the commitment
to deny a Somali from South Somalia – Mogadishu, Baydhaba, Garowe, for example,
— citizenship rights he/she enjoys in any part of North Somalia? Signing up to
Somaliland political identity entails violation of citizenship rights of compatriots
from South Somalia.
have its argument for secession enhanced had it showed respect for international norms.
Solution to the territorial dispute between Somaliland and Puntland
administration lies in the adoption of a new approach to diffusing the
tension. The disputed territories could be
run by a third party as a Special Administered Territory (SAT). Somaliland government
should bear in mind that it is people in disputed territories who are paying a
price as a result of its demand for secession.