Somaliland: A Unified State of Somalia Debated at Chatham House

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Jan 31, 2014 | By

As one of the rare opportunities, eighteen days before the International Conference on Somalia held in London on May 7, 2013, Chatham House, a British Think Tank on International Affairs, invited Somali intellectuals for consultation on building Somalia’s unified state necessary for constructive engagement with the international community. At the conclusion of the consultation, Chatham House issued a summary report titled, “Somalia’s future: Building a unified regional state.”

The three topics addressed in the consultation were: (1) defining the Somali state and mechanism for power sharing; (2) the role of stakeholders; (3) and the nature of the international engagement. Among the sub topics included federalism, strong judiciary, clanism, definition of who are the stakeholders, the role of media, Somali ownership, bringing Somaliland back in, and the role of the international community. These same topics have been again addressed in three conferences held in Mogadishu: (1) National Dialogue on Justice Reform Conference  of April 1-5 2013, (2)  Vision 2016 Conference of September 2-6, 2013, (3) National Conference on Tackling Extremism in Somalia of September 7-11, 2013.

Generally, the consultation brought out the disagreements and contradictions of ideas and positions among Somalis on the fundamental concepts of peace-building, state-building, and nationhood. These divergent ideas and positions still persist. The knowledge that 70 per cent of the Somali youth aged between 18 and 30 are unemployed and 80 per cent of the Somali people lack access to water and sanitation should compel the Somali elite to immediately come together and establish an “effective and accountable” national government. Below is a recap of the salient points made by the participants.

Constitution

The participants have concluded that the “Somali constitution was an ill-conceived project” because it failed to set out the fundamental guidelines for state building, for example,  how the outrageous cost of the duplication of governance levels in a federal government will be paid. To ensure Somali ownership of shared polity, the participants proposed the principle of “constitutional patriotism,” a political attachment to shared values and norms rather than to an ethnic origin and by which citizens are united by their loyalty to the constitution and their patriotic feelings. All stakeholders must have the opportunity to participate fully the constitution making process from the beginning to the end.

It has been raised the essential prerequisite to determine the relation between Somalia and Somaliland in a new Somali constitution; otherwise it will be difficult if not impossible the national integration including Somaliland once a new constitution is re-written, approved, and adopted. This determination is consistent with the fact that Somalia’s federal government represents the people of Somalia and Somaliland.

Federalism V. Justice

After the general consensus about the need of some form of devolution of power (power delegation) within a decentralized unitary state, participants disagreed on the form of government. As expected, two views emerged during the consultation. The problem lies in the misconception of associating “Somali federalism” with unity, justice, equality, fairness, security, and socio-economic development.

One group sustained the view that, in reference to the past experience of governance, transfer of political and economic decision making power to regional states is necessary and inevitable. This view is shaped more by the scars of 1991 civil war in the South, particularly in Mogadishu rather than by the dictatorial regime that have affected almost all Somalis.  The unfortunate implication of this view is the institutionalization of clan antagonism, division, and distrust.

Advocates of this view reject past reconciliations that formalized the social contract (constitution) legitimizing the federal government and they hold on distrust as a rationale for objecting central government seated in Mogadishu. They also oppose the negotiation with Somaliland as a political entity which represents North West, Sol, Sanag, Awdal, and Togdher regions of Somalia.

The second group argued that “Somalia needs a strong and capable central authority that is able to consolidate the state, harmonize its institutions, and unify its population.” The group maintains that federalism is “very likely to exacerbate the social and regional fragmentation of the Somali state, largely along clan lines,” This view is in line with the participants’ consensus that clan is an instrument of fragmentation and an obstacle to building peace and security, so that it cannot be taken as the building block for the reconstitution of Somalia. Federalism constructed on clan identity, territory, and spirit, hampers Somalia’s unity and economic and social transformation and recovery. Ordinary citizens have been recognized as the primary Somali stakeholders.

The participants agreed that building a strong independent judiciary system and legal institutions is the necessary precondition for the establishment of any kind of sustainable decentralized governance structure in Somalia. This means that the rule of law is the essence of building a state instead of federalism.

The role of the Media

The participants warned against the monopolistic use of government media-National TV and Radio- by the power holders for their own ends. They suggested that the media should serve as a platform for broad based debates on national issues, for example, federalism. On the other hand, since the media has an important role to play in the Somali society, the participants proposed legal and regulatory framework that promotes a code of conduct, ethics and professionalism.

Somalia and Somaliland

For inclusivity and lasting peace in Somalia, some participants suggested a focus on the relation between Somalia and Somaliland so that “Somaliland could present a list of minimum conditions that it wanted to see fulfilled for reunification.” Two reasons have been put forward for Somaliland inclusion in the building of the Somali state efforts.  First, Somaliland’s quest for independence could have detrimental effects for the broader Somali state making project. Second, Somaliland could facilitate the revival of Somalia by rejoining the union.

Others considered Somaliland to be related but distinct and felt that the relationship between Somalia and Somaliland should not be the starting point for the reconstruction of the Somali state and the focus should remain on existing and potential regional entities in the south. The assumption here is that Somaliland represents one dominant clan.

International Engagement  

The participants complained that some members of the international community have had too much influence on the constitutional process of Somalia. Therefore, they demanded that Kenya and Ethiopia are exempted from being involved in the constitution making process of Somalia. The unfettered foreign influence has had deleterious repercussions on national cohesion and Somali State.

My comment

It is anyone’s guess what British Officials learned from the consultation and which suggestions/arguments prevailed. However, participants laid out essential points for further examination among Somalis even though the parliament’s ineffectiveness, Puntland’s separate status, and the Addis Ababa agreement between Ahmed Madobe and Federal government have made worthless the debate over constitutional review and federalism for building a unified state.

One apparent contradiction concerns the capacity of the federal government. On one hand, the participants described the federal parliament mandated to exercise people’s will as “deeply flawed, ineffective, and little more than a free market for personal gain.” They also repeatedly argued that that the country lacked a political leader with national vision. On the other hand, the participants have recommended a list of tasks to be fulfilled by the above despoiled federal institutions and leaders.

The lack of acceptance of past reconciliations mediated by international actors since 2000 is serious setback for the efforts of Somalia’s conflict resolution, building trust, and moving forward. The post conflict federal government which is inherently problematic cannot reconcile clans competing over constitutional legitimacy and form of political association

Mr. Uluso is a senior Somali political analyst. He was a former minister and governor of the Central Bank of Somalia. He is an author who writes extensively on Somali politics.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Culusow sounds to be living in a cuckoo land as he can not differentiate between consultations and implementations. The people who gave these ideas were same as Culusow who thought that some one will be feeding them with silver spoons but they did not understand the big picture that was behind the Somali conference in London together with all other countries which hosted Somali conferences. Mr Culusow does not understand that each of these hosting countries had a specific interests. The current international policy towards Somalia is that Somaliland should be recognised as an independent state in due course and whether you like it or not. One more thing is that the current Somali president is a metaphor and he can only do what he is told to do by IGAD and the international world . In one year or possibly less than a year, he will be replaced by another president since he has only been able to complete one task for which he was chosen to do and he failed to deliver the rest of the tasks. The task he has done is that allowed the Somoil to have half of Southern oil fields which is one of the preconditions of which he had to agree upon should the western countries elected him as a president of Somalia.

  2. If according to the author that Somaliland represents a dominant clan, then what about Somalia? Aren't
    the Hawiye the dominant clan there. What about Puntland, and it's Darod dominant clan?. Same old tired argument. How about Djibouti, and the Dutch, the Czech, or Slovaks, or for that matter the whole of the former Yoguslavia. Give me a break.

  3. The Southernerners strengthened Somaliland immeasurably when tehy creadted the 'Dir Woqoyi' tag in a bid to dilute Isaq power so that they could not share power with them. Their venality meant Samaroon created somaliland and as these two remain united SL will remain

  4. Culuso is a delusional person. He is obsessed with so-unified Somalia. The man writes nonsensical copy and paste articles. He is sitting some where may milking welfare checks. he spends so much time to put together a page of English. First of all let me tell he should not worry about the Republic of Somaliland, who left the corruption, incompetence and the endless Walaweyn bickering. His whole motivation a so-called Somalia with ghost town-Muuqdisho at its capital dominated those who destroyed it and the former Somalia-Hawiye at its helm. His motivation is impossible, delusional and bordering with fiction. I advice the Culsaw to have life and life the computer screen where he is coping and pasting all day, and all night. Reality on the ground is the Republic of Somaliland is a powerful country, and its train of advancement, independence and democracy his in a very advanced stage and turn back. I advice to put his house in order.

  5. Culuso is welcome to his own opinions and personally i don't take him and his whole people very seriously.

    Since the initiation of the failed 1960-Union between Somalia-Italia and Somaliland the people of Somalia-Italia or lately Somalia-Amisom have held a single goal to deprive Somaliland and it's people their RIGHT to SELF determination. As early as 1961 Somaliland Majority rejected the unratified Union and regretted the whole concept. The act of of Invading Ethiopia in 1977 and the 10-15years of strategic buildup towards that invasion was a TACTIC to prevent Somaliland leaving the Fake Union.

    I ask what will the UNION cost Somalia-Amisom???

    – Somaliland-Republic wanted to dissolve the Union in 1961 with an overwhelming majority vote in excess of 75%. This right was ignored and ever since then the PLAN was dismantlement of the union one way or the other.

    Today we can draw similar parallels with the choice of 1961 to DISSOLVE the fruitless UNiON of 1960.

    Let us assume Somaliland's Legal rights are ignored and some how the international community and Somali stakeholders FORCE Somalilanders back into any form of UNION… will it last 1-year, 5-years, 10years, 21-years???

    It has been 54years since a fruitless UNION was initiated between TWO equal states:

    – It has been 53years since Somaliland rejected the UNION.
    – It has been 37years since Djibouti rejected to join that UNION.
    – It has been 36 years since Somali-Ethiopian colony war was lost.
    – it has been 27years since Somalia-Italia formally accepted Ethiopian ownership of Hawd-reserve.
    – It has been 23years since the UNION was dissolved unilaterally.

    In 54-years the biggest looser in the region is Somalia-Amisom considering how much more developed it was compared to most other African countries.

    What has Somalia-Amisom got out of the UNION?

    What will it benefit clinging on to a fruitless UNION?

    1960-UNION has been a curse to Somalia-Amisom and will forever remain a curse, Somalia-Amisom will cease to exist as a consequence of failing to ADOPT a STATE-IDENTITY upon which it can solidify it's "nationhood", "Sovereignty" and "Culture".

    Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and other African countries with no Sea access should make more effort to ensure the Amisom mission lasts the next 1000years and Buuqdisho should be come Africa's Saigon a place filled with strip clubs, off duty service men and hairy turks… Perhaps in future the offsprings of the whore houses will have some dignity and self respect to want to build a nation at peace with itself and it's neighbors???

    • I don't know how old you are ina ader but I can promise you the country would be a better place with you as the foreign minister

  6. By Suggesting that unless Somaliland joins the So-Called SomaliA (Union) there wont be Somalia???
    they truly expect Somaliland to fight their dirty power strugle warz and fix things for them. UNBELIEVEABLE!!!!!!!!

  7. With respect to Somaliland reuniting with Somalia, the author of this article is either day dreaming and is ignorant about the history of Somaliland.

    Evidently, Somalia lacks not only the vision to unite its divide regions but the wisdom to engage the independent democratic republic of Somaliland to work out regional issues the affect both countries.

    As for Somali unity, many Somalis and the International community are making a grave mistake, thinking Somali unity is in the hands of the so-called Federal Government of Somalia.

    As history attest, it was Somaliland, not Somalia, that united former Somalia in 1960.

    And again, it was Somaliland, not Somalia, that unofficially rejected the union in 1961 and officially annulled in 1991.

    Not to mention that the Somali union act was NEVER ratified. As such, it has no legal or moral binding.

    Dalmar Kahin

  8. This guy, Mr Culusow, is either delusional or he is clueless about the subject matter. To him Somaliland is like Puntland and is a region in Somalia. In actual fact, Somaliland and Somalia were two separate countries when they "decided" to form a union, which never really materialized in the strict legalistic sense as both Buxiye and Dalmar Kahin pointed out .

    Needless to say, a high school boy in Somaliland can literally short-circuit Culusow's arguments regarding Somaliland…….

  9. Dream on Mr. Culusow. Somalia will never settle or become stable. It has become a bargaining pawn for Hawiye and some Darood brokers. Somalia is a pivot that revolves around Mogadishu. The West must accept that Mogadishu is a project unlike no other where it is controlled by an invisible hand. That invisible hand is sustained by an economy based on profiting from misery and status quo. Controllers of Mogadishu consisting of business men and politicians will not benefit from peaceful and safe Mogadishu. Right now they are engaged in producing a new project to make Mogadishu unsafe. They have convinced the government soldiers and police to demand an equal pay same as that earned by AMISOM soldiers and if not they will have to strike or abandon working for the government. AMISOM soldiers earn $1000/month.

    It is this ruthless cycle of violence that sustains the controllers of Mogadishu and as a result Mogadhishu will never become stable. It is the death knell of peace.

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