By Dr Hussein Nur
In any search for resolution of a conflict an active communication between partners in negotiation is an essential pre-requisite for successful ending. The motives, themes the differing of ideologies and agendas should be effectively consummated collectively in the negotiation process. A conceptual framework and perspective with the use of an appropriate model and an appropriate method of conflict resolution makes the operation effective. In the case of Somaliland-Somalia talks a show of empathetic feelings and an acknowledgement of the historical perspectives and facts on both sides are additional ingredients in the negotiations.
Post-September 11th global political schema oversaw bringing failed states such as Somalia back on the geo-political agenda. The purpose was solely how to contain and manage uncontrolled out of hand territories associated with fundamentalism, piracy and trafficking of people and the security of the West. But Somalia until presently still harbours network of terrorism. The pretended predatory state of Somalia today is weak and in the hands of foreign troops for its security. In contrast Somaliland has a high degree stability and security.
Dynamics of the talks
For a considerable number of years after Somaliland’s withdrawal from its union with Somalia in 1991 there have been no talks between Somaliland and Somalia. It was Somaliland’s longstanding foreign policy not to enter talks with Somalia with non-elected government formed artificially inseminated from outside of Somalia. There was no need to engage with Somalia’s governments (TNG or TFG) with no legitimacy. At the outset after liberating its country, Somaliland was fully indulged with rehabilitation, reconstruction and institutional development processes. No time for talks with Somalia enmeshed with political crisis and chaos. A while later the Egal administration was prepared to involve in a constructive dialogue with Somalia only when it is suitably appropriate so that Somaliland would participate in the peace and reconciliation process in the region. In his own words, “ .. Once a proper and appropriate formula acceptable to us is worked out with any sponsors of talks (UN, OAU or otherwise)”.
Finally the stalemate was broken by President Rayale’s successive administration of president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo. The deadlock came four months after a conference hosted by UK and held for Somalia in London in 2012. That was an effort by the international community to stabilize Somalia. Dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia was held in London on 23 February 2012 at Lancaster House after Britain convinced the rest of the European Union countries and Norway which provided support and attended the conference. Somaliland started talks with the TFG government of Somalia under Sheikh Sharif presidency. The talks was an offshoot of the previous conference and resulted from the undeniable expression of the reclamation of independence and democratisation progress of Somaliland. President Silanyo, clearly articulated the position of Somaliland and that Somaliland’s quest for international recognition was grounded more on legality and that Somaliland, as an independent entity, and merits recognition through its efforts and achievements if peace, security and stability and democratic processes. The president also affirmed the good will intention of Somaliland for Somalia and pledging cooperation and contribution to building Somalia’s future but as two independent neighbouring independent Somali countries. In fact, the conference was meant to play a key role in achieving the primary objective of bringing a lasting peace and security in Somalia and end to piracy and fundamentalist groups openly operating in Somalia. Implicitly the secondary objective was to establish the possibility of addressing the political issue of Somaliland exploring the adoption of a two-state policy or approach or otherwise. The conference was observed and attended by the fifty five countries from the international community and twenty one international organisations witnessing the conclusions of the talks. A communique was produced after the conference. An important point of the Memorandum of the Agreement was point number 6 which stated that the conference recognised the need for the International Community to support a dialogue between Somaliland and the TFG government and any government that replaces it to clarify the future relations of the two entities (Somaliland and Somalia). Somaliland’s opportunity was that it exhibited its sincerity, willingness and openness for cooperation and seeking to forge intimate relationship with Somalia. Nevertheless, the communique also focussed on the underlying causes of instability, piracy and terrorism and as a consequence an injection from the international community came which was to strengthen AMISOM to assist Somalia develop own security forces and build stability. The conference also sought clarifications for future relations between Somaliland and Somalia. The political deterioration, religious extremism, terrorism and humanitarian crisis was one of the main reasons why a ‘Road Map’ was signed 2011 which was externally developed for Somalia’s inept TFG political leadership to step to federalism for in an attempt to resolve its future uncertainties. In addition to that humanitarian crisis dominated. The Road Map ended in August 2012 with a plan to establish a responsible government for Somalia when 135 hand-picked elders, with exchange of money, were chosen on the basis of a controversial 4.5 tribal code as the unitary formula to appoint 825 person constituent National Assembly. The Assembly was to endorse a draft constitution which, according to the Road map, adopted a new parliament. The parliament elected a speaker and two deputies. The TFG political leadership in Somalia ended on August of 2012.
Persistent breaches of agreements
After the London conference a series of meetings and conferences in total of seven were held in Dubai, Turkey (Istanbul and Ankara) and Djibouti. As yet, there still are no credibly tangible, meaningful and fruitful results. The issue of the fate of the union has never been raised. At Istanbul conference the theme again was simply focussed on ‘preparing Somalia’s Future’ and showed no interest in the negotiation aspect that Somaliland wanted.
The talks never had a common groundwork leaving the negotiating partners poles apart. A fifth round of the talks was scheduled to take place in Istanbul (Turkey) on 11 March 2015 but aborted when the Somaliland delegation refused to participate since Somalia breached the terms of previous agreements of dialogue in Djibouti in December 2014 whence both sides agreed that at the next round of talk in Istanbul Somalia should not include officials of Somaliland origin. This was meant to render the talks smooth. The Somaliland delegation protested the inclusion of five out of the seven members in the Somalia delegation by them being of Somaliland origin, a clear breach of an agreement. In the process of negotiations and talks between partners simple issues like this endangers talks. Somaliland wrote protest letters well beforehand both to the host country, Turkey, and to Somalia that such actions would jeopardise future talks. That was not heeded at all despite Somaliland’s protests and Somalia arrogantly insisted to proceed with the inclusion of the officials of Somaliland origin in its delegation. The Somaliland team (at Istanbul) had no option but to pull out and abandon the talks.
Somalia persistently breaches terms and agreements one after the other like a cascading domino. For instance, the flagrant breach of the Air Space management and Control (a main point of the discussions) was another. Somalia made a breach on a jointly agreed decision on air space management and control reached in December 2014 Djibouti talks. The decision was to return air traffic management form the UN into the hands of Somalis and the agreement was the Headquarter to be Hargeisa, Somaliland and revenues to be shared and divided between Somalia and Somaliland. The same was earlier discussed at Ankara meeting (2013) in search of a solution of the problem. In fact, the communique of the talks issued which was issued on 9th July 2013 showed that Somalia and Somaliland made a mutual agreement to return air traffic control and management from the UN and bring it back in the hands of Somalia. Point vii of the communique read “….. agreed to the return of the air traffic management from the UN and decided to establish a joint control body that is based in Hargeisa”. The return of the air traffic management from the UN and ICAO was a decision. Somalia has recently made the breach at a time when Somaliland was busy in its democratic rounds of elections, the 2017 presidential election. Without notice Somalia selfishly and arrogantly claimed return of the air traffic management to Mogadishu from the Civil Aviation Caretaker Authority Services (CACAS) established in 1996 by ICAO. Mogadishu posed the takeover of the control of the Somali air space control and management on 28 December 2017 while claiming to have established Somali Civil Aviation and Management Authority (SCAMA). Mogadishu’s celebration was orchestrated in a grand mockery gesture.
President Formajo of Somalia, since he took office, is engaged in conspiracies against the Republic of Somaliland expressed in different forms including diplomatic meddle and finally waging a full scale war on Somaliland territories and entered inside Somaliland’s Sool region at Tukaraq though chased away by Somaliland forces (Al-Mutairi, 2017).
Again at Djibouti talks (December 2014) the then presidents of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, and Ahmed Mohamoud Silanyo of Somaliland agreed not to politicise the developments and investments in each other’s territories and agreed to refrain from anything that would undermine and avoid contamination of the talks. But Somalia frequently breeches agreements and makes infringements of gentleman’s agreements reached in talks.
On 15 June 2015 Somalia’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources met with the Chinese Embassy in Mogadishu and made accusations of a Chinese Mining Company (ARC) operating in Somaliland (Awdal) and made misleading accounts of the security in Somaliland. The tactics the minister was playing were to create tension and divert attraction of the international community from Somaliland by reinforcing the then case of ‘Suldan Wabar’ incident. That was also clear infringement of the Somaliland progress and security. Again during the 2017 Somaliland presidential elections, Somalia made an in infringement to the borders of Somaliland when a cabinet member (Minister of planning) entered Somaliland at Hudun, Sanaag region, in an implicit claim that he was in Somalia and not Somaliland. The traitor Minister traitor (he was of Somaliland origin) incited the public and encouraged them to take arms against Somaliland.
In other occasions Somalia politicians constantly breach terms and do not refrain from using inflammatory language against Somaliland as agreed causing threats to the continuation of the dialogues’. Continual delays from part of Somalia in the scheduled talks; use of inflammatory words and derogatory statements about the status of Somaliland (the main issue in contest), consistent claims on Somaliland as a region of Somalia; reneging agreements, show of lack of desire, honesty and lack of adequate determination about the talks and their promotion while Somaliland exhibits sincerity and commitment and acts in good faith to honour the spirit of the talks are all infringements called upon by Somalia..
Turkey: A facilitator or a conspirator
More than half (Four out of the total of seven) official meetings between Somalia and Somaliland took place in Turkey, Ankara and Istanbul. Turkey’s interest has an economic clout and interest in trade and involves in expanding commerce and business in Africa. However, initially Turkey made itself available for its humanitarian crisis and altruistic charitable intervention in Somalia providing health care, building hospitals, water, education and other basic necessities. On the other hand Somalia became a relevant entry point for Turkey in the guise of past history and shared factors, i.e., the ancient Ottoman empire in the past in Somali territories and Muslim identity.
Turkey currently openly displays a dominant political, economic and diplomatic show of presence in Mogadishu. Turkey as host for the Somaliland and Somalia talks claims neutrality but actually meddled them. It clearly presented biased attitude towards Somalia. Turkey strongly believes in the union of Somalia and Somaliland. Turkey’s Ambassador, Olgan Bekar, to Mogadishu undoubtedly expressed his country’s position in the union matter (the crux of the conflict between the two partners of the negotiations). Mr Beckar stated exactly what the previous president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, was articulating at the time. In a nutshell that shows a clear-cut political cooperation Mogadishu and Ankara. The Ambassador voiced his country’s position in TV interview and that Turkey is working to renew the union and bring Somaliland back to it.
Turkey put itself forward to take over the British in facilitating the meetings. At the outset embarked on diplomatic presence by building its largest Embassy complex in Africa in Mogadishu and its largest military base in Somalia, the biggest outside its country. The political interest of Ankara in Somalia is therefore self-explanatory.
Turkey has recently been exposed undermining the independence of Somaliland. Through its ‘Office of integration in Mogadishu’ Turkey avails generous financial assistance to the Federal government of Somalia aiming to isolate Somaliland side-lining Somaliland’s development leaving it with no substantial investments. The office operates through its Consular office in Hargeisa, mandated by the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu, providing gesture trivial supports to Somali artists, poets, and media reporters (Somaliland Sun, Tuesday 11 July 2017). The major objective has been the integration of the Somali people and the strengthening of the union between Somaliland and Somalia. It is interesting to mention that Turkey has its own problems with the Kurdish and Armenian minority populations in Turkey. Despite it acting as facilitator in the dialogues, no shadow of doubt that Turkey is against separation of Somaliland from Somalia.
Turkey took advantage of the weak governments of Somalia and generously took on board of assistance and aid first through humanitarian interventions as good will gesture and eventually promoted itself to inject investments and expansion of trade and business interests in the region without reluctance. During the period of Turkey’s facilitation in the talks, there was an absence of clearly mandated facilitating protocol. Instead, it provided room for complicating the conflict and the future of the talks through display of impartiality. Turkey’s strong interest in Africa was the hidden agenda and an opportunistic reason to step forward in facilitating the meetings. Today Turkey has its hands well into the affairs of Somalia in every aspect.
Turkey plays double standard tactics to the detriment of Somaliland so much so that the sacrosanctity of its role supposed to be devoted as an honest broker was muddled by Turkey. The environment of the talks Turley created jeopardised the amicable resolution Somaliland always expected and, instead, led for Somalia choose to have the free ride taking advantage of biased of environment and daring to breach terms of agreements as they wish and when feel like. Flagrant breaches of agreements became routine for them..
To rub salt to the wound, Turkey also employs all sorts of tactics and methods to lay its hands on Somaliland’s internal affairs and sovereignty just as does in Somalia. A Turkish company (FAVORI LLC) that manages Mogadishu Airport, was reported to want to negotiate with the last administration of Somaliland to also take over and manage Hargeisa Egal International Airport. This was merely an attempt to bring the management of the Somali (of Somaliland and Somalia) air space under one management on behalf of Mogadishu.
Future Prospects of the talks
Somaliland currently suspended the talks with Somalia after Somalia made interference in the internal affairs of Somaliland by claiming Somaliland part of Somalia subsequent to the Tripartite agreement between DP World, Somaliland government and Ethiopia on the investment of Berbera port. Somalia openly breached terms of agreement made in December 2014. One of the agreements plainly indicated not to politicise the development of Somalia and Somaliland. The two presidents, Silanyo and Hassan Sheikh agreed not to disturb development projects and investments of their territories. In other words, that Somaliland has the right to enter into agreements with investors.
The resumption of the talks particularly came from the Formajo of Somalia after his election as president and Somaliland’s recent (2017) presidential election. The resumption of the talks was planned a week ago (19th March) preceded by an earlier encounter between the two foreign ministers who also had side-line fringe meetings at the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa and the environment to resuming the talks after a long spell of hold-up was favourable but insensibly polluted by Somalia politicians. In fact, the resumption of negotiation this time was in the hoped of being hosted by genuine neutral countries, Switzerland was the first location of choice and there are other European countries which has shown interest to facilitate and host the Somaliland-Somalia dialogue to contribute towards the resolution of the conflict. But nonetheless, Turkey and Djibouti that hosted the talks are not neutral. They both have conflicts of interest. Djibouti is biased towards Somalia as it has a major stake in Somalia. It has own contingent troops as part of AMISOM and has, therefore, its political clout and own interest in Somalia although there are more interests of economic and social nature with Somaliland.
Somalia has recently unequivocally without no human face declared aggression towards Somaliland’s sovereignty by declaring that Somaliland territories are part of Somalia and opposed to DP world’s investment in Berbera port. President Formajo’s of Somalia and his prime minister both made a blatant objection against Berbera port investment under the tripartite between Somaliland, DP World and Ethiopia. This is a naked aggression and determined interference in the in the internal affairs of Somaliland territories as Somalia claimed Somaliland as part of Somalia let alone Berbera port. That renders the talks expected to happen in Djibouti between the two presidents and the follow up official meeting in Switzerland null and void. President Bihi responded sensibly by cancelling the meeting. After all that is evidence of the sterility of the talks always from the part of Somalia. Somalia is still adamant to the concept of Greater Somalia ‘Somalilweyn’, an out of date notion that is not more than a great daydream today. This was a pre-independence and the 1960s idea that brought the first independent Somali-inhabited areas together as a first step towards that goal but completely abandoned (for detailed account of the demise of the ‘Somaliweyn’ and Somali unity concept, see author’s forthcoming book ‘Rebirth of Somaliland’ and a brief extract piece soon by Somaliland Press).
Muqadas Vs Muqadas
For Somalia the union between Somalia and Somaliland is sacred (Muqadas) according to its constitution whilst for Somaliland independence and withdrawal from the union is also a sacrosanct (according to its constitution). It is inviolable and a consecrated untouchable cause (Muqadas). In conflict resolutions there is no room of win-win situation for both partners but that is obvious for Somaliland. The Somaliland (an independent state) is rather based on strong legal grounds and historical perspectives. That constitutes also a win situation for Somalia by having a neighbouring independent Somali state for political, economic, social co-operations.
The negotiation style that Somalia chose in the talks is such that it took the option of ‘conflict avoidance’ as Somalia denies and dodges the main issue, the reality on the ground and the principal statement of the negotiation. That allowed the problem to fester longer and doom the talks to failure. In contrast, however, Somaliland utilises the option of ‘yielding conflict style’ of negotiation as it utilises a way of paving the road to the crux of the matter or main issue (Somaliland’s recognition). Somaliland made a sacrifice to side-line issues before the main one though perhaps this was a wrong approach.
The political crisis of Somalia formed groundwork of the balkanisation of Somalia into a number of clan fiefdoms and states each with its ceremonial president and cabinet. In my opinion Somaliland has wasted a precious time and resources on fruitless negotiations. Somaliland has lost a golden opportunity. Somaliland campaigns and lobbying for recognition were not as fierce they were meant to be. In fact, Both of the Egal and Rayale administrations took a relatively correct decision in not opening the Pandora of negotiations with Somalia so long as it was weak without appropriate leadership and without the show of unwilling to sympathise with Somaliland’s past experiences with Somalia. The Federal government of Somalia is not yet fit to enter discussions with Somaliland. Despite its recognition by the international community, the Mogadishu government is still not a legitimate government since it has not been democratically elected. It is a selected government by few handpicked clan based representatives representing their political and daily book keeping.
The talks between Somalia and Somaliland failed and reflect as part of the legacy of the failed union. Turkey’s bias towards Somalia is quite categorically undeniable by its involvement in huge investments, development projects and political and military building including the building the biggest military base without ratification. Turkey is involved in internal affairs of Somalia and collaboration with ruling clique without consideration to the large population. The port of Mogadishu and Aden Abdulle airport are in the hands of private Turkish companies.
In consensus the talks were failed and ended unsuccessful and sterile for a number of reasons:
There are both internal and external factors in failing the negotiations. The internal factors include: Mismanagement, dishonesty and lack of vision of the meetings and the meetings had no prior set agreed agendas; lack of permanency of the delegation members; there were no fixed delegation members as each meeting had new faces; no follow up and plans for future meetings and the mechanisms and modalities of the meetings; follow up meetings were set incoherently; there was Lack of complete implementation of agreement decisions; the meetings had no secretariat for the meetings in the coordination of issues raised; and the terms of meetings were open to violations often by one side. Because of these Somalia has acted on double standard basis and show not loyal to the talks.
Should the business is to unlock the deadlock again there must be a logical common ground and starting point which is to go back to the historical contexts before the union and what happened afterwards. I retain that no talks is possible with Somalia and to continue the dialogue, Somaliland should ensure development of a clear strategy by setting a sound framework for the dialogues and ensuring that the environment is conducive for talks with the presence of real mediator(s) or facilitator(s).
For any future talks Somaliland should put forward pre-conditions. The pre-conditions before any resumption of talks with Somalia: Firstly, Somalia should acknowledge that Somaliland was an independent state before it united with Somalia voluntarily on Somalia’s Independence Day (1 July 1960) and, thus, formed the Somali Republic. Therefore, that Somaliland is not (and never been) a region of Somalia before union. Secondly, Somalia should acknowledge the crimes against humanity and genocide of Somaliland people, and the destruction of Somaliland regions during 1980s by the previous Somali government. Thirdly, any Somalia delegate should bring forth facts, figures and reasons why Somalia politicians stick only to Somaliland and not to other Somali-inhabited lands in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti as they talk about sanctity of Somali unity of Somalis and how they define Somali unity. And finally, Somaliland negotiating delegate members should be of a consistent and almost fixed numbers avoiding new faces in every meeting. The members need to be professionals with a wide range of expertise and skills to articulate the case. If talks resume and fail or otherwise prove difficult, the legal process for Somaliland’s self-determination and internationally observed referendum from the population in Somaliland is plausibly inevitable.