by Osman Hassan
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Appeasement has become a dirty word in the lexicon of the English language and all because of its historical connotations. On 30 September 1938, a former British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, went to the German town of Munich to confer with Adolf Hitler. His mission was to avert war with Germany at any cost. The price he has to pay to appease an insatiable warmonger was to sign the Munich Agreement, conceding a large region of Czechoslovakia’s territory to Germany over its head. He returned to Britain claiming to have had secured "peace for [our] time" albeit at the cost of a weaker country whose sovereignty and territorial rights were deemed not to matter. As it turned out, his action merely heralded the Second World War and all its horrors. Appeasement since then has come to be synonymous with ignominious betrayal.
In our own life time and in our part of the world, we have the President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, repeating that sordid appeasement history. On 14 June 2020, he went to Djibouti with a high-powered delegation to meet colonel Muse Bihi, the leader of the breakaway one-clan enclave calling itself Somaliland, a man who made history in the inter-clan civil war in the nineties as a blood-thirsty butcher whose motto is my way or the highway. To appease him, President Farmaajo decided ahead of the talks to throw the SSC regions as fodder to the wolves under the delusion that these would placate the intransigent colonel and the demagogic cabal around him and thereby create conditions conducive to productive talks
In more precise terms, President Farmaajo has meekly gave away pre-conference one-sided concessions in favour of the secessionists that seriously compromises the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia: first, he endorsed the talks to be basically between the South (ex. Italian Somaliland), in the name of the federal government, and the North, in the name of Somaliland, when it should have been limited to the one clan that chose to secede as northern unionist regions urged Mogadishu to do all along. Secondly, he has de facto recognized the one-clan secessionist enclave to be sole authority for all the northern regions (aka Somaliland) and hence their sole representative at the talks, irrespective of whether they are secessionists or unionists. Put it more bluntly, Hargeisa has been given free hand to dictate who attends the conference. That is the case when it is free to choose its delegates as it pleases, but restricts federal government delegates to hail solely from southern clans of Somalia. For all practical purposes, this is tantamount to two separate countries meeting, a concession only one notch below full recognition
This is stark appeasement whose logic begets more demands. And that is what happened and in the end brought the collapse of the conference. This would be a meeting, like that of Munich in 1938, in which Farmaajo like Neville Chamberlain would be remembered for his abject appeasement, the abysmal failure of his initiative to deal with the secession, his gross betrayal of the fundamental human rights of unionist SSC regions (and Awdal) to self-determination and the right for representation at the talks where their fate was being decided.
Farmaajo’s untold message to the SSC people is clear: that they were wrong all these 30 years since the collapse of the Somali State and the declaration of secession by SNM to resist them in order to defend the union; that all their sacrifices at Kalshaale, Hudun, Maygaagle, Sool Joogto and elsewhere, in which they lost over a thousand people, and suffered untold economic and humanitarian deprivations under occupation, were misguided and all for nothing; that he and colonel Muse Bihi know better what is good for them, and that is rule from Hargeisa.
For the SSC people, this is the second time in their history that their land has been given away by a power presumed to be their protector. First, it was the British government which in 1954 gave away the Haud and Reserved Areas to Ethiopia over the head of its owners on the basis of an unlawful agreement between them. And this time, it is the federal Somali government headed by Farmaajo which gave away their land and the only gainers are the Somali Diid (secessionists) and the losers are the unionists and Farmaajo himself reeling from his self-inflected wounds.
The bottom in this saga is that the independence of British Somaliland and its union with Italian Somaliland were first and foremost the result of individual clans/ regions choices and only secondly collective clans choices sharing the same aspirations at the time. As such, no one clan forced others on 1st of July 1960 to join the union just as no one should give itself the exclusive authority to force others against their will to secede from the union let alone occupy them. And yet that is precisely what the one-clan secessionist enclave has done and what Farmaajo and the Djibouti conference endorsed. It seems the northern unionists have two adversaries in maintaining their rights to be free from occupation and remain part of Somalia: the rebels based in Hargeisa and ironically the federal government, the very one entity which was supposed to defend us and the union.
The disaster in Djibouti has its silver lining, both from the perspectives of the SSC regions and unionists at large. It has become a blessing in disguise to the extent it united them at home and abroad as nothing else has done since the collapse of the Somali State. That born-again spirit of freedom and union seekers should propel them to victory to free their land from occupation and save the union that Farmaajo has sacrificed to its enemy. All they ask Farmaajo in return is to remember next time that their land is not his to appease Somali Diid (aka secessionists).