Somaliland-Djibouti Relationship

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-Gelle: The Tireless Crusader Against Somaliland

By Ahmed I. Hassan

 

The editors of SomalilandPress.com chose to republish this article at a time when the relations between the two countries at a high time low and considering the fact the Djiboutian leader is now more than ever campaigning for AMISOM troops to be posted on the border between the two countries with an intent to damage the overall Somaliland good image as being unstable and unsecure.

A section in a book titled “Somaliland: The Legacies of Non-Recognition”, which is still in the works, deals with Somaliland’s relationships with its neighbors, other relevant key countries and multilateral political organizations, such as the AU, the UN, the AL and the EU . The following is the chapter in that section that examines the Somaliland-Djibouti Relationship[i].

 

P

erhaps it is more appropriate to characterize Djibouti’s policies and attitudes towards Somaliland as a manifestation of its president Ismail Omer Gelle’s personal mind-set rather than a reflection of the Djiboutians’ popularly held wishes and sentiments. However, it is always a dictatorship’s tendency to take positions that are in contradiction with its citizenry’s real beliefs and opinions. At any rate, when president Gelle thought he could manipulate the affairs of Somaliland and Somalia, he failed to look at himself in the mirror and draw obvious conclusions.

 

Lets us start with a few facts about Djibouti. With a population of about three quarters of a million and an area of just 23,200 sq km, Djibouti is the tiniest state in the Horn of Africa. Its climate is desert; hot, torrid and dry. It has no known natural resources; no arable land; no forests and grassland.

 

The economy, which is almost exclusively based on service activities, has been repeatedly beset by recession, civil war, a high population growth rate and fiscal mismanagement. It has serious employment, education, and health problems. Due to pervasive corruption, cronyism and lack of transparency, foreign aid donors have on occasions been reluctant to continue with their largesse.

 

In adversity, if all men who are fit to bear arms are drafted into military service, Djibouti will be hard pressed to muster more than 65,000 men. In case, God forbid, any of its neighboring countries so much as sneezes in its direction, Djibouti will be swept off its feet and the landing would likely be hard.
Above all, Djibouti is plagued by that most destructive of world curses: the all encompassing, omnipresent and demonic tyrant who is at the helm and in the thick of all affairs of state no matter big or small.
By any measure, Djibouti’s circumstances are unenviable. Admittedly, this condition is not exclusive to that country. Many nations around the world share the same fate or worse. However, its predicament is aggravated by a geographical ill fortune of being in a rough neighborhood and by Gelle’s ill-advised tendency of foolishly putting his middle finger in the said neighborhood’s problematic pies.

 

Given its physical and economic statuses, it would have been most logical and prudent for Djibouti’s leaders to follow the paths of countries like Switzerland, Singapore, and Costa Rica. These countries long found out that because of their tiny sizes, neutrality in the political affairs of the regions in which they are respectively located is a virtue. They maintain cordial relations with all their neighbors and stay away from their disputes.

 

This policy should not be construed as lack of ambitions on their part. Rather it is attributable to pragmatic and sober realization that any meddling by them in disputes would not, at the end of the day, make much difference in the outcomes thereof. One the other hand, interference could potentially prove detrimental to their interests.

 

Quiet development and minding their own business became their preferred preoccupations. Today they are beacons of prosperity and stability.

 

Djibouti or rather Gelle, however, has chosen a different and ominous tack. He has a finger in every regional contentious pie. In the Ethiopian-Eritrean war of the nineties, he was very vocal in his opinions. Nonetheless, neither country was pleased with his noises. Immediately after that conflict cooled off, Djibouti itself went to war with Eritrea that is yet to be resolved. Eretria allegedly still occupies some Djiboutian territory.

 

For too many times, Djibouti plunged to neck deep into the muddy political water of the erstwhile Somali Republic. The danger also here is that Djibouti’s head may go under water and risk suffering consequences that are as awful as they have been preventable.

 

But the most baffling and absurd of Gelle’s behavior is his irrational almost paranoiac hostility towards Somaliland. Paradoxically, Djibouti is one quarter from which Somalilanders least expected disfavor of any kind and magnitude, let alone hostility.

 

Djiboutians and Somalilanders have common ancestral linage and overlapping geographical habitation. For Djiboutians, Hargeisa and other Somaliland cities were always and continue to be literally their second hometowns. They could and still can stay in the country indefinitely; own property and even obtain Somaliland citizenship—all without let or hindrance. Djiboutian nomads cross into Somaliland for any purpose without second thoughts. Somalilanders as a matter of fact never bothered to make any distinction between themselves and Djiboutians.

 

In their struggle for independence, Djiboutians could count on Somalilanders’ unreserved support. At the time, Somaliland had been in the midst of its dark union with Somalia. The erstwhile Somali Republic, ostensibly true to the Pan-Somalism creed, had admittedly also been helpful to the freedom cause. However, Somalilanders’ succor, unlike other Somalis’, was much more than a mere expression of national policy. It was more emotional, more personal, more dedicated, more material, more practical and more effective.

 

Many Djiboutian freedom fighters used the Somaliland regions of the erstwhile Republic as their base of operations, or took refuge there after carrying them out, without the then governments’ express involvement or even knowledge. This was partly because many of these fighters had also been members of families in Somaliland.

 

 

Y

et when Djibouti became independent, and Somalilanders’ efforts to free themselves from the Union’s yoke started in earnest, Djiboutian governments conferred them neither sympathy nor assistance nor refuge. Worse still, to the Somalilanders’ utter chagrin, Djibouti authorities played willing and active roles in the oppressor’s brutal countermeasures aimed at quelling Somalilanders’ just aspirations. In Djibouti, any Somalilander, who had fell under suspicion of being the Somali National Movement (SNM) member or sympathizer was unceremoniously detained and promptly handed over to Siad Barre’s security services at border.

 

No one who had suffered that misfortune was ever seen again.

 

In 1988, when millions of Somalilanders, in order to evade the ongoing genocide, had to flee their country under unrelenting bombardments, both rear and aerial, nearly all went to Ethiopia. Djibouti simply had closed its border at their face.

 

After Somalilanders, despite daunting odds and Djibouti’s unexpectedly hostile attitude, prevailed and regained their country and independence nonetheless, they bore no hard feelings towards Djiboutians. They knew Djiboutians, as people, had never shared their leaders’ untoward polices. Somalilanders had learned the hard way that dictators never give a damn about their subjects’ sentiments or viewpoints.

 

Still, Gelle’s guile against Somaliland did not end there. He proceeded with an intensive and persistent campaign to negate Somaliland’s restored independence.

 

He sponsored countless so-called Somali Reconciliation Conferences with the primary objective of reestablishing the erstwhile Somali Republic of which Somaliland would, of course, be part and parcel. Ignoring the true wishes of most Somalilanders and their legitimate leaders, he used all means at his disposal, foul or fair, to entice Somalilanders to participate in these conferences so that he could claim that these meetings and whatever ultimate outcomes thereof had the requisite appearances of inclusiveness and broad representation and therefore all the hallmarks of legitimacy and acceptance.

 

The current superficial government in Somalia, under the ‘presidency’ of Sheikh Sharef Sheikh Ahmed; before that, the one formed in Arta in 2002 under Abdiqasim Salad and at least one prior to both all laid comical claims as being the legitimate government of what used to be the Somali Republic, including (of course again), Somaliland. They all had been formed mainly through Gelle’s efforts.

 

Admittedly, the misguided, though some of them well meaning, policies of some countries towards Somalia and Somaliland; the maliciously self-interest driven intentions of others and the total indifference of the rest of the world were all helpful to Gelle’s tragicomic theatrics. Yet if a Gold Medal were in contention for hosting Somali Reconciliation Conferences and other gatherings where one of their central agendas and objectives had been snuffing the last breath out of Somaliland, Gelle would have been won it hands down.

 

Gelle’s professed motivation in repeatedly and selflessly going into these troubles was nothing more than his altruistic love for his fellow ethnic Somalis. He, on every such occasion, was beside himself with grief at the unfortunate suffering that had become the sorry lot of his Somali brethren since the fall of their last great government. His sense of brotherhood alone made it his divine duty to be the first and foremost to spare no effort in reinstating their unity, the rule of law and order and a strong central government that could exercise effective control over all its territories and affairs. (Kudos, right again, if you assumed that Somaliland is included herein)

 

 

I

t might not be proper to dismiss out of hand Gelle’s proclaimed and apparently benevolent intentions. However, it is not out place to go beyond the surface and examine two aspects of his modus opparandi and the outcomes thereof.

 

First, none of his stated lofty objectives materialized despite his amazing doggedness in striving to achieve them. Neither reconciliation nor unity; neither rule of law nor effective government was realized in Somalia at any time since Gelle had embarked on his seemingly charitable odyssey. This would have normally convinced such enterprise’s primary sponsor that either the ends or the means used to achieve them had been faulty and that changes in either one or the other were in order. However, how such an obvious conclusion could have escaped Mr. Gelle or, if indeed it has not, what motivation he could have had ignoring it, is anybody’s guess.

 

The second pertains to Mr. Gelle’s consistently uncontrollable rejection of—nay, his gritty resolve in reversing—Somaliland’s right of self-determination. Again, his oft-professed purpose in suffering this obsession have been nothing but preserving Somali unity and saving the flame of Pan-Somalism candle from total extinguishment.

 

Somaliland had long determined that it was in its best interest not to be a party in whatever role, form or degree in Somalia’s intricate problems. Its legitimate leaders are duty bound to tow their electorate’s popular sentiments and cannot be seen engaging in policies and actions that do not enjoy grassroots support; much less in policies and actions that could remotely be looked upon as constitutionally circumvent and therefore be liable to charges of treason.

 

Somaliland and its leaders’ position on Somalia and its never-ending reconciliation and state-building conferences is straightforward: Somaliland need not reconcile with Somalia or, for that matter, any country with which it has no dispute. Somaliland has no intractable issues of contention with Somalia. It has no objection and every desire to engage in and establish mutually beneficial relationships with Somalia or, for that matter, with any country—especially with a neighboring one—that is at peace with itself and with others as long as both parties follow universal conventions of mutual respect and noninterference.

 

Beyond that, Somalia can count on Somaliland’s best wishes and prayers that the former’s efforts to overcome its problems as well as endeavors of the International Community (IC) in rendering honest and disinterested assistance towards this noble objective would bear the desired fruit. Moreover, Somaliland would be willing even to lend a helping hand towards this enterprise if so requested; or if Somaliland offered such assistance without solicitation, it would not construed as Somaliland’s readiness to entertain second thoughts about its core commitment to its full-fledged nationhood.

 

Faced with this insurmountable fortitude on Somaliland’s part, which obviously has been exasperatingly at odds with his scheme of things, Mr. Gelle has resorted to a course of action that has been as simple as it has been counterproductive. Until recently, he basically has been ignoring Somaliland, its right to self-determination, its legitimate leaders, its everything. He has been simply pretending that there has been no such thing as Somaliland, period![ii]

 

To this end, he apparently suffered from no shortage of imagination in bestowing the required appearances of inclusiveness and broad representations to the charades which he recurrently presents as genuine Somali Reconciliation Conferences.

 

Offers of high office and/or instant financial reward have routinely been made to Somalilanders on the condition that they would be willing to play ball Mr. Gelle’s way. Even when such enticements could not succeed, Gelle have been known coming up with other more under-hand ideas. Only a fool would underestimate Gelle’s creatively deceitful intellect[iii].

 

Playing ball Gelle’s way would entail that the Somalilanders who succumb to greed or are principles-deficient or are honestly misguided would pronounce themselves as the true representatives of the Somalis of northern Somalia (note that, in these conferences, any mention of the name “Somaliland” is forbutten; please spare The Honorable Gelle a heart attack!). They would categorically reiterate that northern Somalis, like their southern brethren, truly wanted to preserve unity; it was only a few armed secessionists controlling Hargeisa who have been espousing this self-independence nonsense etc.

 

As in any other nation-people, a few greedy or unprincipled or honestly misguided Somalilanders could always be located—only a score or so of them need serve Mr. Gelle’s purpose if the price was right; sometimes for a pittance or at other times for nothing.

 

 

M

r. Gelle did not fare any better in stopping Somaliland’s statehood than in achieving peace and stability in Somalia. He has good company in others of IC, such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt, in licking the wounds of repeated failures. Let us touch on some possible causes of these debacles while we are still in the Djiboutian context.

 

 

Bottoms Up Or Top Down?

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he number of times Somali Reconciliation Conferences was held is in the scores (if no one knows the exact number, one is excusable). The venues, too, defy precise memories. At any rate, all failed because they were held in the wrong places; attended by the wrong participants; sponsored by the wrong patrons; followed the wrong agendas; sought the wrong objectives and reached the wrong resolutions.

 

Learning lessons from experiences in conducting all these conferences, in their trials and errors, as humans are wont to exercise, seems to have been strangely inapplicable or have been as strangely overlooked as matter of course. The most glaring harbingers of their persistently preordained disappointments stem from the habitual use of foreign venues; their customary sponsorships by foreigners with vested interests; the consistent lack of base support and representation credentials of their participating so-called Somali leaders; and above all, the stubbornly unrealistic, unattainable and utopian purpose that these conferences have been routinely said to be serving i.e. the resurrection of a united and unitary Somali republic.

 

It is understandable that the IC in general and certain key nations in particular, prefer to deal with a single controlling authority in Somalia. As Bernard Helander of Uppsala University, Sweden, (See: Will There Be Peace In Somalia Now? By Bernard Helander-American Diplomacy)pointed out in a critique following one of Djibouti’s earlier expeditions into the Somali quagmires, “If it comes to a point where the UN, the EU, and other organizations have to make a choice between working for something that purportedly could lead to a reunification of Somalia, or to go on working with increasingly minuscule local administrations, the choice will be rather easy.”

 

However, as the Professor went on to emphasize, immediately after Gelle and the UN had formed the so-called Transitional National Government (TNG) in Djibouti in 2002—just like the similarly instituted Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Nairobi in 2006 and Somali National Reconciliation Government (SNRG), again in Djibouti in 2008—such arrangements were doomed to failure and even made matters worse. He argued that Somalia had no longer been a “uniform structure merely lacking some key persons whose appointment would end the conflicts and mend the Somali state.”

 

The horrific events as well as the facts on the ground that respectively had led to and followed the collapse of the Somali Republic; the complicating foreign meddling in Somali affairs all along; and the undesirable characters and appalling incompetence of those who routinely ended up as the ‘presidents’ and cohorts imposed on Somalia all together have conspired to activate, rather instantly and invariably, ordinary Somalis’ outright and unflinching rejection of these projects.

 

Instead of imposing on Somalis foreign-formed and -serving governments like the TNG (and subsequently the TFG and the SNRG), Professor Helander and many other scholars of Somalia believe that the “The Building Bloc” approach is the only way that stability and effective governance can be returned to Somalia. The building of blocs themselves, they feel, should best be left to Somalis themselves without foreign interference.

 

They think that the IC should assist with institutions building and developmental programs to those regions that managed to establish peace and effective administrations on their own. There is no better incentive than this to other slacking regions to follow suit.

 

Later, these blocs could come together willingly to form a genuinely representative, acceptable and shared government in a process all dimensions of which is entirely owned by Somalis alone.

 

Fully and insightfully aware that the IC in general and Djibouti’s Gelle in particular had been beating about the bush, Professor Helander answered his own question. “The short answer to the peace question,” he rather emphatically said, “is no.” Amazingly, he also raised fears that only a sage could foresee about the future problems that such misguided or shortsighted endeavors could create. “Unfortunately, the more serious issue that observers all over the world now confront” he lamented, “is how to limit the damage done in Djibouti. Will the effects of this latest disastrous move simply go away as the name of the new ‘president’ is forgotten in the coming months?”

 

The name of the ‘president’ appointed with Gelle’s and IC’s help in Arta in 2002 certainly challenges one’s recollection. He was the ‘president’ who had been the object of the Professor’s concern. As if to provide further vindication to the scholar, the name of the IC-imposed ‘president’ in Embagathi in 2006 could also easily fail one’s faculty of reminiscence. At Arta’s time, this Embagathi ‘president’ had been in no one’s long view except perhaps the sage. How long the current ‘president’ Sharif’s name will be remembered remains to be seen though most observers would advise you not to bet your boots on its endurance.

 

It certainly is a heart breaking turn of events, but witness how “the damage[s] done in Djibouti” that the Professor had been bemoaning actually came true. In 2002, when he had raised these fears, no Al Shabab and other like-minded extremists existed. Suicide bombings and gross terrorist acts against soft targets were still alien to the Somali conflict culture. The Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2008 was unthinkable. The Somalis now categorized as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) or languishing in the neighboring countries’ refugee camps are over three million, not the still unfortunate but fraction of that number classified as such in 2002. At that time, the piracy pestilence that gave all Somalis such a bad name, the world’s maritime trade such a bedeviling headache and desolate places like Eyl on the Puntland coast such notoriously a global name recognition had been nonexistent.

 

Like history, Professor Helander’s prophecy in 2002 and its conversions to realties could repeat itself at enormous costs to both Somalis and other nations alike as long as the IC and leaders like Gelle continue simply not getting it.

 

 

Paying Lip Service To Pan-Somalism When Convenient

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r. Gelle’s fondness to shed tears for Pan-Somalism and for the restoration of the unity (nay, as he refuses to accept its already undeniable demise, for him the preservation of the unity) between Somaliland and Somalia would shame a crocodile to hold on its own. This self-styled passion is Gelle’s both first and last line of defense in the conduct of his fanatical anti-Somaliland policies. But is not one supposed to practice what one preaches?

 

The five-pointed star of the flag of the erstwhile Somali Republic denoted the five regions in East Africa in which ethnic Somalis made the sole or vast majority of the population. They were the British Somaliland; the Italian Somaliland; the French Somaliland; Ethiopia-ruled The Haud and Reserved Area and Ogaden; and the Kenya-administered Northern Frontier District.

 

There undoubtedly was a time when Somalis everywhere aspired to form a country encompassing all the above mentioned regions under the white starred blue flag.

 

Historians will long debate who, what, how and when this idealistic Pan-Somalism dream turned into a nightmare. At any rate, the amazing irony is that Somalilanders, who had been more any other ethnic Somalis the most ardent advocates and promoters of Pan-Somalism; who sacrificed so selflessly for its realization; and who paid most in ultimate prices when its partial realization had been attempted are nowadays being demonized as anti-nationalists or as secessionists or as rejectionists.

 

On the other hand and as equally amazing those, Gelle prominent amongst them, who could not claim making any tangible contribution towards the cause or those whose actions and behavior caused its ignoble demise, are posing as its tireless champions.
It was in June 1960 when the newly independent Somaliland threw common sense and prudence, nay sanity, to the wind and, without conditions, reservations and assurances, took its freedom, assets and soul to Mogadishu in pursuit of Pan-Somalism. So shocking a folly was it that one London newspaper ran a crying headline, “The Colony That Rejected Freedom[iv]

 

The Somalians[v] would not condescend to display the least magnanimity in waiting for a least minimum of a grace period before they abundantly demonstrated their brazen contempt and disrespect for Somalilanders’ amazing altruism.

 

In forming the first government of the Union Republic, the Somalians had the insolence of taking all the top positions of government: the presidency; the prime ministership; the ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs; the commands of the army and police and every other important post of the levers of power. It was as if the Northerners were a vanquished people and the Somalian victors were sharing the spoils of victory amongst themselves.

 

What followed this blatant greed and arrogance in those first days of the Union until Somaliland managed to regain its independence in 1991 need not be described here anew. It would suffice to say that for Somalilanders, the price paid for this cardinal blunder in “Reject[ing] Freedom” in 1960 for the sake of Pan-Somalism is nothing short of catastrophic.

 

Thankless though it turned out to be, it had been partly on account of Somalilanders’ timely and selfless counsel, citing their grave experiences, that Djibouti avoided plunging into the same pitfall. In early 60’s, a remorseful Somalilander crooned:
Adoo guri barwaaqo ah;                              Geel dhalay ku haysta;
Geedi lama lalaba oo;                                   Abaar looma guureey;


Anigay isku geystoo;                                     Galabsaday xumaantee;
Wixii ila garaadow;                                       Gobonimo ha tuurina.

While in a plentiful land;                                 You possess newly nursing camels[vi];
Do not embark on a journey;                          And depart to drought stricken place;

 

This is all self-inflicted;                                    I caused these woes on myself;
So he who shares my wisdom;                        Throw away not your freedom.

Later, another Somalilander’s song was more explicit in cautioning Djibouti on the dangers of the rudderless Pan-Somalism fervency of the time:
Naa hooy! ka joog;                                        Naa hooy Jabuutay, ka joog;
Anagaa jabney;                                             ka joog;
Ka joog Jabuutay;                                        ka joog.

 

O!, avoid it:                                                     O Djibouti, avoid it [Joining Pan-Somalism];
Look how broken we are;                               Avoid it;
Do not do it, Djibouti;                                     Avoid it.

 

Djibouti quite sensibly took those warnings to heart but without so minimum a gratitude towards those who had so unselfishly rendered such great kindness. When it gained independence in 1977, Djibouti even erased any reference to “Somali” from its country’s name, hitherto known as French Somaliland. Today, it would consider any suggestion to be part of the Pan-Somalism concept such so preposterous a proposition.

 

Now put aside gratitude. Forget that they, themselves, unceremoniously spurned Pan-Somalism. Never mind their complacency in—and arguably their compliancy with—the miscarriage of the creed’s first attempt at realization. But for the Djibouti ‘president’ to call on others to remain devoted to Pan-Somalism is nothing less than the height of hypocrisy.

 

Somalilanders would be the least to find fault with Djiboutians in exercising self-determination on any issue under the sun that concerns them, including on Pan-Somalism. Thus, what justification could Djibouti evoke in denying Somalilanders the exercise of the same self-determination?

 

Yet Djibouti’s Gelle has left no stone unturned to nip Somaliland’s right to self-determination and independence in the bud—exactly the same right he and his predecessors had exerted to its fullest extent without any fear or expectation of reproach and, in the opinion of most Somalilanders, rightfully so.

 

To mind comes a Somali saying: “There is he whose shoes you are mending while he is mending your death body cloth” (Nin aad kabahiisa toleeso ayaa kafantaada[vii] toleeya.) It seems that, as strangely as it might sound, Somaliland and Djibouti have been playing these roles, one benevolent and the other malevolent, respectively on each other.

 

In every contentious issue that cropped up between Somaliland and Somalia, Djibouti’s leaders have sided with the Southerners.
Another Somali adage pertinent here as well: “Neighborliness is closer to one than kinship” (Owdi ab ka dow). It is incomprehensible to most Somalilanders why Djibouti leaders have always been and still is more favorably disposed to the Southerners with whom they share neither neighborhood nor kinship than to the Northerners with whom they boast both common ancestry and land.

 

 

T

here is no shortage of theories of the real motives behind Gelle’s callous antagonism towards Somaliland. Like all theories, some would seem rather farfetched. Others are more plausible. A select spectrum of these hypotheses, fluidly classifiable either way, might be worthwhile to be mentioned here.
Berbera: A Maddening Thorn In Gelle’s Side

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ike a jealousy stricken lady who, though he is devotedly faithful to her, can’t stand the mere sight of another woman within six miles of her husband, Djibouti wishes to possess the only functioning Seaport between the Suez and Mombasa. Berbera, the only fairly operational seaport in Somaliland, particularly invokes in Djibouti’s psyche a maddening fit of hysteria.

 

To them, Berbera is a direct threat to their vital economic interests. Djibouti fears that not only would Somalilanders cease using its port’s facilities but also that Berbera would compete with Djibouti in the transit trade of landlocked Ethiopia.

 

Loss of monopoly is always painful to the self-centered and the envious. It was only yesterday, during the Siad Barre regime’s era, that Berbera was used only to import weapons and other government supplies. And northern businessmen were forced to use Mogadishu or Djibouti ports and pay through the nose for the favor.
But again such fears are based on false foundations. If those who call the shots in Djibouti can read maps, they will see that all successful seaports in the world—Rotterdam, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Yokohoma, New York etc—lie within the vicinity of other major ports. The UAE, for such a small country, boosts at least 10 bustling ports; the lights of one can be visible from the neighboring ports.

 

These ports do not shirk competition. Rather they embrace it. Competition stimulates focus and progress while monopoly breeds complacency and decay. These ports are successful because their operators strive in offering better services and more business friendly environment than neighboring ports in order to attract and retain business.

 

Businessmen, ever mindful of the bottom line, happily engage them. It should not escape notice that some Somaliland traders use Puntland’s Bassaso port, though there seems to be no love lost between Somaliland and Puntland. In their reckoning, distance and politics aside, it is more profitable for them to use Bossaso than Berbera. I do not blame them. Somaliland is notorious for mismanaging its infrastructures, meager and dilapidated as they are. And Berbera has little to offer these businessmen except shorter distance.

 

Besides, let us for a minute assume ourselves in Ethiopian leaders’ shoes. Were Berbera port not where it is, the Ethiopian leaders would have prayed to Heavens that one is placed in exactly the same spot. This is because it is not only plain idiocy but also an unforgivable dereliction of national duty on its leaders’ part for any landlocked country to depend on only one foreign port provided other alternatives are also viably available.

 

The Ethiopians are certainly not foolish in this matter. They have been using Berbera port to the extent that its underdeveloped, ill-maintained and mismanaged facilities have allowed them. If and when talked-about improvements to the port and related infrastructure materialize, the level of the Ethiopian engagement is bound to increase. It is eminently doubtful that the Ethiopians will seek Djiboutians’ opinions or guidance in the matter.

 

Berbera is not the only other port on the Ethiopians’ sights. They have also been looking to as far as Kenya’s Mombasa port in order to avail themselves to as many sea outlet options as possible. If tomorrow the Ethiopian-Eritrean relationship turned for the better, Moussawa and Asab ports in Eritrea would doubtlessly also figure in the Ethiopia’s options mix.

 

Thus the monopoly Gelle wishes for Djibouti port is an affliction that resides solely with him and his Djiboutian likeminded. On the other hand, it is a burden which everyone else in the region, especially the Ethiopians, would make every effort to mitigate as best they possibly can.
For Djiboutians, the best logical and pragmatic course open to them is positioning their port services as the most cost effective, comprehensive, convenient and efficient which are available in the region. Businessmen will flock to it and many of them will be Somalilanders Berbera or no Berbera. That is more easily doable rather than wishing for the disappearance of a geographical fixture. For, Berbera will be there till the end of the world and its port would be used as much as its operators’ professionalism and competence would permit.

 

 

A Syndrome Not Unique To Egypt

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or the last two decades, Egypt has been one of the sternest opponents of Somaliland’s reclamation of its independence. To the Egyptian leadership, the mere mention of the Somaliland name has been as much an anathema as it has been to Mr. Gelle. Accordingly, Egypt exerted extraordinary efforts that sought the restoration of the erstwhile unitary Somali Republic and an all authoritative government ruling it.

 

Like Gelle’s, the Egyptian intense dislike of Somalilanders’ just aspirations should not be mistaken for genuine concern or disinterested support for Somalis’ Unity—though, of course, that is the façade they publicly present their intentions. As far as the Egyptians are concerned, the unadvertised motives behind their Somali policies could be summed up in just two words: The Nile.

 

About 90% of that river’s water is utilized by Egypt while Ethiopia, from where a great deal of the water originates, uses meaningfully none of it. It is a situation which Egypt is adamant to see it continued—so much so that it has on many occasions overtly threatened to go to war with any country that disrupts the current Nile Waters’ utilization status quo.

 

Things have not yet fortunately come to war. Nonetheless, Egypt has been employing every other trick in the book in order to keep Ethiopia on edge and thus its focus off the Nile Waters. That is where, in the Egyptian scheme of things, a united and strong Somali Republic with a highly central government that can easily be manipulated would be immensely useful just as it had been before this Somaliland phenomenon turned things irritably upside down.

 

From its inception in 1960 until it crumpled in 1991 following Somaliland’s withdrawal from it, the erstwhile Somali Union had been effectively useful as a most gullible proxy for Egypt’s struggles with Ethiopia over the Nile Waters. The spectacle of Somalia and Ethiopia on perpetual war footing against each other to the exclusion of sense and their peoples’ interests and well-being had been serving Egyptian purposes quite nicely, thank you.

 

To the Egyptians’ utter delight, the ever present and credible Somali menace had been consuming much of Ethiopia’s national priorities, public policy concentration and state resources. It was a situation that left Ethiopia with little leeway and wherewithal to focus on any other national undertaking of monumental scale. Such as the huge effort and treasure that would inevitably be required to develop its Nile River resources.

 

Clearly, both the Ethiopian and Somali nations were making equally crippling sacrifices in lives, limbs, wealth, lost opportunities and misplaced national priorities for the mutually hostile fixations at each other. Whether the Somalis’ doggedly nationalistic pursuit of Greater Somalia and the Ethiopians’ uncompromising persistence in holding on to dubiously acquired and colonialism-assisted hegemony over a large part of Somali populace and land justified either nation’s respective sacrifices was and still is hotly debatable. As is either nation’s failure or reluctance to consider more peaceful means in resolving its problems with the other.

 

For the Egyptians part, any debate on the wisdom, root causes, rationalizations and conduct of the Somali-Ethiopian conflict was neither here nor there. The quarrel’s only important and desirable aspects were its intractability and propagation—a situation that conveniently facilitated Egyptian desired consequential effect of keeping the Nile Water off the Ethiopian radar.

 

Paradoxically, it took certain unfortunate, internal inter-Somali events, policies and misbehavior to change the very dynamics of the Somali-Ethiopian relationship. The national strength of Somalia and consequently its stamina against Ethiopia had been contingent on its unity and national cohesion. However, not only had the advent of the unity in 1960 been so inequitably haphazard, but also subsequently, successive governments’ misrule in general and selective injustices in particular had been steadily eroding both the national unity and cohesion. The events that had culminated in attempted genocide, communal cleansing and mass displacement of the Northern Somalis (read Somalilanders) served as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

 

Finally, 1991 ushered the demise of the Union of the Somali Republic and the rebirth of an independent Somaliland. And with that development, one side of the Somali-Ethiopian dispute’s equation suddenly disappeared—to the dismay of some stakeholders, not least of whom the Egyptians. It is this loss of the unquestioning Somali proxy that the Egyptians cannot come to terms with; that they are striving to restore it to its pre-1991 status; and that is driving their intense hostility towards Somaliland.

 

Djibouti is also somewhat apprehensive about an Ethiopia without a belligerent counterbalancing power in the region. Like a kitten that has to sleep beside an elephant prone to tossing in slumber, it is enough for tiny Djibouti to feel uncomfortable being a neighbor to the Horn of Africa’s most populous and powerful country. It could hypothetically get worse than mere discomfort since that country is in dire need of Djibouti’s greatest asset i.e. its seaport.

 

Traditionally, it was the Erstwhile Somali Republic that had filled the role of posing the only credible challenge against overpowering Ethiopian hegemony in the region. That certainly was fine with Djibouti. That Somalis and Djiboutians shared common ethnicity was reassuringly a bonus.

 

Thus, though the causes may differ, both Egypt and Djibouti are beset by this same mental syndrome. It is a syndrome that requires a Somali Republic in the manner of prior to 1991 and an Ethiopia that are at loggerheads to infinity.

 

However, there always is one dimension of this phenomenon which everyone has been conferring no due consideration. Has anyone ever bothered to ask the question: “What do the Somalis themselves—whether in a Union à la the erstwhile Somali Republic or as separate states as now they are—really think about the whole damn thing?”

 

Are they willing to fight proxy wars for anyone, especially for two countries which can offer them close to nothing in any sphere? Especially for one i.e. Egypt that has been continually showing its utter disdain for their intelligence by taking them for granted. Have the Egyptians ever condescended to ask themselves the question “What remotely do Somalis have to do with the Nile Waters, for Heaven’s sake?”

 

And, indeed, have the Somalis ever asked themselves the same question.

 

As for Djibouti, their expectations of assistance from the Somalis against a potential foreign threat smacks like eating the cake and wishing to have it at the same. The surest way Djibouti could have counted on Somalis’ defense in adversity was by joining the Union formed in 1960, in due course, as pan-Somalism had presumed. Now that it has chosen not to, well, tough luck!

 

One thing both countries are paradoxically missing is that now, fortunately, the Somalis seem to have come of age in as far as their relationships with Ethiopia are concerned. Naivety, ignorance, amateurism, irrationality, dogmatism, stereotyping and myths are no longer as seminal factors as they used to be in forming their perceptions towards that country. Besides since, in retrospect, there is nothing to be proud of the 1960 Union formed by two Somali regions and given that a third, Djibouti, in time went its own way, it would seem eminently pointless to tread the war path in order to liberate the fourth and the fifth.

 

Whatever shape and form such relationships may take, there is now a somber realization by well informed Somalis anywhere and of any political persuasion that they should be based on considerations of purely national interests and pragmatism.

 

Whether or not Egypt and Djibouti are aware of these subtle changes in the Somali political acuities are entirely different and uncertain matters. But who cares?

 

 

One Man’s Meat; Another’s Poison

I

t has been now over two decades since Somalia has been reeling under relentless turmoil and Somaliland languishing in the punishing non-recognition wilderness. The political, economic and social losses which both nations have consequentially been sustaining are nothing short of devastating. Consequently also but inversely, the Somalis’ bust have been proving to be an economic and political boon for quite a few countries—Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda amongst others.

 

Djibouti, Kenya’s Nairobi or Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa invariably host the all too numerous Somali Reconciliation Conferences, frequent high level multinational meetings on Somali related issues and thousands other Somali-specific events, gatherings, seminars, workshops, briefings, policy announcements, training sessions, research study release forums and other mind-boggling occasions.

 

They, too, are the coronation capitals where Somalian ‘governments’ are instituted and their ‘leaders’ assembled before transplanting them in Mogadishu. The ‘leaders’ are required to shuttle to and fro these cities so that their foreign minders could dispense with policy guidance, issue orders and designate assignments; could debrief them when desirable and as incentive or reward for good behavior treat them to an occasional well-earned rest and recreation. Another recurrent occasion for the “leaders’” summons is when their characteristic squabbles typically get out of hand and their sponsors have to reinstall sanity to their heads or, failing that, dump them and simply appoint replacements.

 

Naturally, the costs of holding these endless conferences and of ‘government’ formation endeavors are pretty high. While the hosts willingly host, they are never as generous with their purse strings where financing them is concerned. Accordingly, it is the UN and the donor countries that carry the financial burdens. The hosts, though, manage the funds. Great news for them and their cities’ economies especially the hotels, convention centers and other services providers—the regular infusion of such funds, that is.

 

As a more important result of the above situation, these countries cast a long shadow of pervasive political influence in Somalia and to, a not an inconsiderable extent, in Somaliland. They are literally the electors and appointers of the internationally recognized Somali ‘governments’ and ‘leaders’. They can invade and occupy Somalian territory at the snap of the thump and the middle finger as Ethiopia and Kenya habitually, repeatedly and, indeed, at the time of writing, presently do. It is no secret that the Ethiopian security services can cross over into Somaliland at their pleasure to carry out operations of dubious nature without consideration of how that might fare with Somalilanders and with international law.

 

Not only do these countries enjoy a free hand in having their way with the Somalis, they also serve as convenient proxies for other countries’ dirty work in Somalia. The US and most Western nations have serious and credible security concerns which have arisen from the Somali disorder. Yet, with “Black Hawk Down” images still unforgotten or perhaps stubbornly unforgettable, most are reluctant to show their own footprints in Somali territory.

 

Thus, when apprehensions, investigations, interrogations, ‘renditions’, eliminations etc of Somali terrorism suspects are required, the tasks are outsourced to the neighboring countries’ security services. When a certain Somali group or a faction is deemed to be posing a threat, real or imagined, the job of neutralizing them—inside Somalia, mind you—is contracted out to the military forces of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. While for the involvement Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, a cover of legitimacy is provided as AU-mandated and UN-endorsed AMISOM peacekeepers, Ethiopia and Kenya need not be bothered with such nuisances.

 

Needless to say, these services come at a cost and the contractor-country’s leaders milk it for all it is worth. There is certainly more to AMISOM than African fraternity. There is also a great deal of money in play. Of which the poor Ugandan, Burundian and Djibouti foot soldiers dodging Al Shabab’s pullets and suicide bombers in Somalia are said to be the least beneficiaries. Though not the source, the presidents of the soldiers’ countries are the dispensers of AMISOM’s substantial operational expenditure. As usual, if a president of a country, especially an African country, is unaccountable to his country’s laws or citizenry (Usually here the president, in effect, is the law and citizenry all in one) as Uganda’s Musaveni and Djibouti’s Gelle can arguably be qualified to be, the president must take his cut before any dispensing to the soldiers dodging the ….can take place. The cut, except on some occasions, is usually all of the funds.

 

At any rate, now that they are its reliable and ready allies, the West can only, in the spirit of give and take, be expected to be amenable to a few reasonable reciprocities in the leaders’ favor. It would not be entirely improper if one of the leaders presented his requests as simply and as straightforwardly as in the following terms:

 

No disrespect here, but please look the other way or at least mute your criticisms if—in your opinion, which anyway always differs from ours—we misgovern our own countries or commit human rights abuses or our activities in Somalia go astray or disproportionate.

 

Foot the all the bills of our expeditions in Somalia; after all, it is our boys who are in harm’s way and between you and another “Black Hawk Down” incident as well as between you and all those Somali terrorists who are determined to wreck havoc in your countries.

 

We should not as well be any weaker on account of our Somali preoccupations, having also other internal and external problems. So please be more literal with your military aid both quantitatively and qualitatively[viii].

 

And as befits loyal allies of meager means, we can only expect your substantially increased and generous economic assistance. Thank You.                

 

It seems that the West, likewise, deems the foregoing requests generally quite reasonable under the circumstances.

 

 

T

hough, of course, Somalia exercises no jurisdiction over it, Nairobi, to all intents and purposes, is the Capital extraordinaire of Somalia. It is the seat of the real government of Somalia, even if disguised as the United Nations Political Office on Somalia (UNPOS) and of its head and, in point of fact, Somalia’s President extraordinaire, Mr. Augustine Mihiga, otherwise answering to the deceptively formal title of the UN Secretary General Special Representative to Somalia (UNSGSRS).

 

President extraordinaire Mihiga is ably supported by full-fledged ministries and departments, from defense to foreign affairs; from interior to finance; from education to health; from development to relief… Only in this particular case, these ministries are outwardly known by such acronyms as UNDP, UNISEF, WFP, WHO, UNHCR… The President extraordinaire, his ministries and departments additionally maintain offices and/or staff in Djibouti, Addis Ababa, Kampala… Don’t chuckle if they are whisperingly referred to as embassies because that is what they effectively are. In all, he presides over a pool of civil servants and security personnel—superficially designated as UN staff—knowledgeably estimated to be higher than ten thousand.

 

The President extraordinaire’s government keep only token presences in Somalia and Somaliland—the countries which he, in point of fact, lords over to various degrees and he is supposed to serve in equal measure. Nonetheless, this needs cause anyone neither incredulity nor dismay nor disgust. President extraordinaire Mahiga and his subordinates have at their deposal and command a fleet of executive jets to whisk them from Nairobi or Djibouti to Mogadishu, Garowe or Hargeisa as and when duty calls and security permits. And, after a few hours’ tedious toil in these hellholes, whisk them back to base—mission accomplished and all in one piece safe, thank heavens!

 

Besides the above-sampled multitude of the UN’s familiar agencies, though presently engaged in uniquely unconventional roles as Somalia’s government extraordinaire, Nairobi and Djibouti are homes to a myriad of International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs). Some are household names, some hitherto unheard of; some of good repute and accomplishments, some of infamy and no track record; some somewhat active, some just a name on a door. Their exact number is not reliably determinable. So is the number of people they employ, though thousands are cited.

 

The INGOs, like their kindred UN counterparts, assert to be rendering essential humanitarian aid and developmental programs to the unfortunate Somalis. Reinforcing this fellowship further is the serious questions that have been raised with regards to the INGOs’ operations, modus operandi, finances, objectives, effectiveness…indeed, their very value to the Somalis.

 

It is nearly impossible to tell how much money the IC has spent on Somalia and Somaliland since 1991. This is because those who can do the telling are determined to keep it that way. What is known beyond doubt, however, is that every cent that was earmarked for the Somalis has been channeled through the abovementioned UN agencies and INGOs. If there is any endeavor in which IC has been remarkably successful in Somalia and Somaliland, it is in seeing to it that no Somalis or their administrations, good or bad, get any role whatsoever in the management of the aid funds.

 

Anyway, the “How much money?” question cannot be easily dismissed and it is not only Somalis who are wondering aloud about it. However, in the absence—or perhaps in the light of the premeditated suppression—of the transparency that could have provided definitively convincing facts, one can be excused to scour around for informed guesses and use them in arguments. Thus, excluding appropriations for special circumstances such as last year’s famine in Somalia, estimates of allocations ranging one to two billion Dollars annually are repeatedly mentioned.

 

If we took the lower figure, that would add up to $20 billion plus since 1991. No pocket money, this. But, if anything, the “How much money?” question breeds yet more vexing questions: How has all this money been spent? What can we—rather what can this treasure trove’s distributors, namely the UN agencies aka Somali government extraordinaire and INGOs—show for it? Has it been wisely and appropriately spent? Come to think of it, has it been spent at all? And if so, on Somalis? And if not on Somalis, then on whom?

 

As in the mystery that shrouds the fund’s size, there is no readily available public records that would enlighten us on the questions posed above. This writer cannot pretend to be of help to the reader in citing any improvements in people’s wellbeing that have been an outcome of the IC aid in Somalia provided they, in deed, existed. But he can point to one or two observations and facts in Somaliland that could serve as food for thought.

 

In 1991, Somaliland was a thoroughly broken country. Its cities, towns and villages were total ruins. Its infrastructures, schools, hospitals and public utilities were in utterly derelict condition.

 

The Somalis’ UN government extraordinaire claims that 30% of the aid funds for Somalia are allocated to Somaliland. If so and sticking with the $20 billion figure, it would mean that over $6 billion have been available since 1991 to improve matters in Somaliland.

 

Admittedly, some improvements have been achieved and with outside help. Regular vaccination campaigns against communicable and disabling diseases have been conducted and have been extensive as much as they have been largely successful. Some demining INGOs especially from Denmark and Britain have done highly commendable work in making Somaliland, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, a safer place. But that is pretty much the only tangible and meaningful benefits that the $6 billion have visibly conferred Somalilanders.

 

Unless, that is, if one is counting the odd well dug in an odd village or the old water pump installed in an existing well; the odd toilet or classroom or clinic built somewhere or added to an existing facility; the odd one-room shelter usually made of corrugated aluminum sheets built for a IDP family or tarpaulins provided to others or the runaway capacity building seminars and workshops conducted in Hargeisa’s premier hotel with amazing frequency and zest.

 

At any rate, one needs not be a CPA to fail easily concluding that there is unmistakably a glaring disconnect between substantial funds ostensibly available and the value of the beneficial programs actually implemented.

 

Six billion Dollars can do wonders. Yet, no intercity new road has been built or an existing one renovated. No full-fledged hospital or school or communal public utility for a city or town has been constructed. The only two public hospitals still serving Hargeisans, now 1.2 million strong, are British colonial vintage, when only some 50,000 people called it home. The city’s water distribution system is the same built with Chinese assistance in early seventies when Hargeisa had a population of some 120,000 residents. Government planners reckon that as little as $50 million is required to enable the system cover the city’s entire water needs; that is merely 0.83% of the supposedly utilizable $6 billion war chest.

 

One final question: Where has all this money gone? Well, ask the UN government extraordinaire and its kindred INGOs. But certainly a great deal of it has been spent in Djibouti, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and other locations which should have as little to do with Somalia and Somaliland as possible. Great news, again, for these fortunate cities’ economies; for the UN government extraordinaire and its kindred INGOs and their staff.

 

 

T

he IC activities with pertinence to Somalia and Somaliland that are executed from Djibouti, Nairobi and Addis Ababa do not end there. Many nations’ embassies in these capitals additionally serve as non-resident embassies to Somalia or house diplomats on Somaliland assignments. Not to forget that these cities are the end destinations of high level world leaders, say, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, when they venture closest to Somalia on business pertaining to that country.

 

Furthermore, in the fight against piracy and in its wider War On Terror, the United States maintains a sizable military base in Djibouti—the only one of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. The navies of scores of other countries similarly contribute to the antipiracy efforts and their warships make regular port calls to Djibouti.

 

As a result, Gelle have been reaping attractive political and economic dividends. Politically, the American and Western appreciation tends to have outweighed whatever misgivings they might have of Gelle dictatorial antics. They have watered down or done away with any rebukes they would have normally thrown his way.

 

Economically, the Americans and others have substantially increased their direct aid to the Djiboutian government. The local economy as well hugely benefits from the free spending US military personnel and from catering to some of the supplies required to sustain them as well as from other countries’ naval port calls.

It is widely believed that before these windfalls miraculously rescued its economy, Djibouti had been in real danger of economic meltdown with all its dire social and political consequences. It is also suspected that because of these consequential political and economic benefits, Djibouti is not entirely adverse to see the Somali mayhem prolonged.

 

Pursuant to this scenario, it might make some sense that Gelle is in the habit of convening the numerous Somali conferences whose outcomes invariably tend to make matters worse for the Somalis; thus keeping Somalia in perpetual chaos and Somaliland in eternal political non-recognition limbo.

Still Hankering For Siad’s Unbelievable Giveaways

I

n the dying days of his regime when he was being consumed by preoccupations of self-preservation and in defeating the Somalilanders’ freedom struggle at any cost, Siad Barre certainly had committed some unbelievably strange things. He had capitulated to both Kenya and Ethiopia by officially foregoing Pan-Somalism. In the National Archives of Kenya and Ethiopia are kept the respective treaties he had signed with these nations in which he had formally disavowed any Somali territorial claims against them.

 

In the case of Ethiopia, his only condition had been the expulsion of the SNM freedom fighters from their bases in Ethiopia so that he could subsequently annihilate them. Given the longstanding bad blood between them and the Somalis, it was a condition to which the Ethiopians actually could only happily accede. The spectacle of Somalis slaughtering each other should not have particularly dismayed the Ethiopians, should it?

 

Some say that Djibouti had been yet another beneficiary of Siad Barre’s disproportional giveaways to foreigners. In return for agreeing to hand over any real or imagined opponent of his regime who had sought refuge in its country, Siad Barre was said to have been overly generous in offering Djibouti attractive incentives.

 

Amongst this concessional largesse, Siad Barre reassured Gelle that no competition with Djibouti’s port would come from that dreaded Berbera port. In fact, Somalia would be a significant user of the Djibouti port. The oil that had been expected to be found in the Zeila area, just across the border would, in due course, be piped through Djibouti for export. Actually, come to think of it, why not take full ownership of three or four oil wells and their productions outright? Gratis with compliments from Siad Barre, that is. Gelle, my buddy, be my guest!

 

Not only had Siad Barre been amazingly liberal with his giveaways, he had also been meticulously formal in rendering them. So Gelle is said to be in possession of an official document with all the dotted lines duly signed by Siad Barre no less and, for good measure, the presidential stamp neatly affixed in its proper place in the paper.

 

Though Siad Barre had been long gone without achieving the purpose for his exceptional donations to his country’s neighbors, Gelle wouldn’t obviously contemplate parting with the said important document. The only grounds for this keen possessiveness could only be that Gelle believes it would come on handy at some point in the future.

 

Admittedly this, on the face of it, seems to be ridiculously outlandish. However, when you consider the central characters associated with this scenario i.e. Siad Barre and Gelle, let us not be so sure.

 

Anyway, whatever thoughts Mr. Gelle has been entertaining in the matter, he must have realized that such an eventuality could materialize only over Somaliland’s dead body, so to speak. And there lies one of the reasons Mr. Gelle would be more than happy to see Somaliland simply dead—so to speak again.

 

Dictators Hate Democracy

G

elle’s most compelling fear of Somaliland stems, more than anything else, from any dictator’s natural loathing of anything remotely democratic. Witness one of Gelle’s recurrent nightmares:

 

Somaliland is a democracy. It is the only truly democratic country in the Horn of Africa. It is a neighbor. It is also Djiboutians’ second country where many of them live in during a part of the year.

 

Djiboutians could get some funny ideas from Somalilanders. They may get an inspiration from Somaliland—inspiration of the democratic kind. They may demand political reforms right here in my realm. My God, they may demand DEMOCRACY.

 

I know most Djiboutians do not like what I do inside or out. Though I have succeeded in amending the constitution in order to get myself a third term as president and seem to have gotten away with it for the moment, what, with this Somaliland omnipresent infection and Arab Spring and suchlike, is in store for me? And what shall I be? Will I still continue to be president of Djibouti for as long as I desire?

 

And, God, certainly I do desire to be president for as long as possible. And the day that desire wanes or is cut short by, say, old age or disabling illness, or God forbid untimely natural death or God doubly forbid too not so natural a death, I would certainly love to see my son or some other close relative succeed me. Just like I inherited the presidency from my own uncle, Hassan Gulaid Aptidon, bless his soul. That how I would certainly love things to proceed. It is my natural God-given right, isn’t it?

 

This Somaliland democracy is bad news, no doubt about that. Djibouti might catch that dreadful infection from them. Then they might decide to throw me out or worse! Therefore, I must stop Somaliland! I must! I MUST! I MUST!

 

 

T

here are times when exercises in futility turn to blessings in disguise. Somaliland is nothing the worse for Gelle, in spite of as well as perhaps because of his spite. Somalilanders have learned to expect no favors from anyone. Besides, since those, like Gelle and clique who are close to them in kinship, history and habitation can, as chronicled above, harbor undue malice towards them, their vigilance and on-guard instincts against enemies of all sorts and from wherever quarter can only be sharpened.

 

Djibouti governments’ current and past misdeeds notwithstanding, Somalilanders and Djiboutians sensibly remain the closest of peoples. Like brothers or sisters, goodwill, love and care for each other will endure. These are mutual sentiments that will certainly outlive Gelle and anyone else who might choose to follow his soiled footsteps by sowing discord between the two fraternal nations.

 

 

Ahmed I. Hassan

ahmedihass@hotmail.com

 

 

Notes

 

[i] For a look at Somaliland’s relationship with another country in the neighborhood, Google recently published “Somaliland-Ethiopia Relationship” or ahmedihass@hotmail.com for the writer’s earlier contributions.

[ii] In 2010, Somaliland held its second presidential election. As the world watched in wonderment, power was constitutionally and peacefully transferred for a third time. Going with the wind, Gelle invited Somaliland newly elected President Silanyo to Djibouti and accorded him full state visit reception, including leading the welcoming party at the airport. Any agony he might have felt on account of eating his own “No Somaliland” words was something he must have cleverly kept to his conscience alone. He was all smiles as if that is how he all along felt about Somaliland. This man is, no doubt, an expert in keeping straight faces under all circumstances.

[iii] At some stages during the 2002 Arta Conference, Gelle and his cohorts were faced with the unsightly spectacle of many so empty chairs in the section of the venue allotted to the Northern Somalis delegation. No problem. Gelle’s bullies raided Djibouti’s watering holes and forcefully drafted their known northern regulars (some alcoholics) to fill in the chairs. Confronted with unpalatable alternatives, the poor guys who had only meant to quench their habitual thirsts had to accept offers which neither had any relation with their normal preoccupations nor they could refuse.

[iv] The newspaper was the Daily Herald Newspaper of London. The article appeared on 29th June 1960. Some copies of that issue may be available for the public in the British Library.

[v] In the book and in deference to facts and clarity, a citizen of Somalia is referred to as Somalian; one from Somaliland is a Somalilander. Somali is a common ethnic attributive and also denotes one from Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

[vi] In the Somali lore, plentiful, lush land and nursing camels are the optimum of nomadic life. A Somali nomad’s idea of paradise on earth is “Nabad iyo Caano” meaning Peace and Milk. The preferred milk is the camel’s.

[vii] Kafan is the Somali Language name of the stretch of plain white cloth which Muslims wrap on a fellow Muslim’s dead body before it is buried.

[viii] It is no secret that not only was the 2008-09 Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia bankrolled by the West, but also Western military and economic aid to that country has been on the rise. The AMISON mission is financed by the IC. Kenya is the only African country to which the hi-tech American drones are being sold or perhaps donated. The US has even deployed some of its military personnel to help Uganda’s president Musaveni defeat rebels operating in certain areas of his country. It is the appreciation of these countries’ activities in Somalia that have made West’s such unusual generosities possible.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Djibouti is looking after its national interest. It knows that a recognised Somaliland will suimply overshadow Djibouti leaving it in its wake economically, strategically and politically. There is also the Gadabursi Issa tussle which of course the Western nations jumping all over the horn these days like Jack rabbits on the rut simply do not understand. Djiboutis Issas see independent Somaliland as the single most empowering incident of their traditional gadabursi foes since the days of Adal Empire.
    I am not so worried about AMISOM coming to the border between Somalia and Somaliland. If it forcefully deploys inside Somaliland territory that will be a declaration of war and I dont think Djibouti could convince the Ugandans, Kenyans and Burundis to open a second front when they could be barely handle Al-Shebab. They will not be taking on 3.5 Millions Somalilanders lightly. However the Silanyo govt must seek alternatives to Ethiopia for arms and make links betweenm its current Western frenemies. I think it should send feelers to North Korea, Abkhazia, Albania, Donetsk Republic, Transybvania and any other potentail source of arms given that West clrarly decided to pour arms and money into the hands of our former genocidaires and keeps the embargo on us as watertight as ever. Silanyo will be committing an act of national negligence if he at least does not seek arms at all costs and from any side possible, the devil included.

    • @ dheeg

      When you say

      “Djibouti is looking after its national interest. It knows that a recognised Somaliland will suimply overshadow Djibouti leaving it in its wake economically, strategically and politically”

      Do you think the only way Somaliland can prosper is through recognition?

      I also make the assumption, by the above you imply that Djibouti would not see a Somaliland that is part of Somalia as threat Why?!!

      • Somaliland can prosper without recognition but it will be much slower process. Major foreign investors are unlikely to take a risk with a country that officially does not exist. That is why even seasoned frontier investors like Genel who works in Kurdistan and Bollore who runs ports in the most unstable of African countries are still hesitant about Somaliland.
        Djibouti has no fear of united Somalia because Somaliland will be sidelined in such an arrangement(as it was for the 30 years of union) with power shifting to the distant capital. More crucially to Issa elites, their traditional foes the Gadabursi will yield no power at all in a united Somalia while in Somaliland they will be the single most influential clan( The Isaq clans will act as single poltical entities not as Isaqs and Gadabursi will be more powerful than any single of the Habro clans). In fact a United somalia run from Mogadshu by southerners may even cede Zeila to Djibouti. we know Issa elders have been dsicussing this with Hawiye elders and powerbrokers including the former head of Al-Barakat. Zeila, a town of no real economic significance has a nonetheless a totemic appeal to both Issas and gadabursis( think Kosovo to the Serbs and Kosovars). Even wise old Silanyo underestimated just how explosive the Zeila issue is when he appointed an Issa councillor in the town last year. Borame erupted in seconds with thousandas of gadabursis chanting “Seylac Ya Leh..Samroon ba Leh” and thretaening to bring down Somaliland altogether. Shocked Silanyo climbed down.

        • @ dheeg

          Your argument that the Gadabursi will have their interests better served in an independent Somaliland is interesting.

          Let me ask then, do you think this a position widely understood amongst the Gadabursi? or do they have ambivalence towards the Somaliland project?

          Also… what is your take on the eastern clans (Dhulbahante and Warsengeli) what drives their position on Somaliland?

          • Most ordinary Gadabursis cant really see the larger clan strategic picture. But many of the elites do. Those who didnt got a clear indication of what their standing will be in a united Somalia when Professor Samater got one vote in the presidential ‘elections’ in Mogadishu few years ago.
            United Somalial power games will equally sideline Somaliland Darods of the far east. A hawiye-led Mogadshu based governent will feel under no pressure to share any power with distant Darod ‘qaldan’ clans in the far north. The only Darods that will matter to them will be their southern neighbours like Marehan and Majerteins. We already see the emergence of that theme in the numerous western-backed ‘governments’ inlcuding the current one. All were Hawiye/Marehan/Majertein/Rahanwein in the top three posts. The only exception was the Arta created governement where Professor Galaydh was given the premiership by Djibouti as part of its strategy to undermine Somaliland. It worked temporarily till the Hawiyes got fed up with his loud ‘nationalist’ pronouncements and kicked him out of Mog. . This as it maybe there will still always be a hardcore Darodist group of subclans in the far east who will be hostile to any ‘Iidoor’ run state from Hargeisa and Burao. Worse still for Somaliland the thin layer of Darod elites who grew up and in Hargeisa ad Burao and studied in the same top schools that produced Somaliland’s upper crust of leadership are dying out. They formed of bedrock of pro-Somaliland Darods and pulled huge strings to keep their kinsmen on side in the SL project. Hence I foresee more anti SL hostility from the far east despite Silanyo’s highly succesful compromises and hearts and minds strategy which led to SL writ reaching the furthest to the wilds of far east than ever before.
            The upshot for Somaliland is that in reality, the far east matters only in terms of sentiment and self-perception as multi-clan or ‘unclan’ nation than it does economically or strategically. Many in the powerful commercial classes of Hargeisa would like to see the back-off such backwaters as Taleh and Buhotle. Silanyo doesnt. He has an affinity with these wild, martial clans and of course blood relations too. It will be a wrench for him if they leave somaliland. But I fear they will eventually go, hopefull peacefully.

    • Silanyo, to send feelers to what??? Are you crazy? Who do you think silanyo is? Don’t you know? Yaa khii this old man has long lost his memory!

  2. That’s actually a lie, many Isaaq fled to Lowya cade and Djibouti City, the Cisse in Dire Dawa fed the Isaaq who were nearly wiped out from Siad Bares bombings out of Dirnimo, Cisse SAVED Isaaq frome extinction, they would have ended up like the midgaan or yibir if it wasn’t for djibouti

    Djibouti supported the SNM as well, why lie about history in this article because you are jealous of Cisse and their country? War Idoor imagine if cisse never helped you then siad barre would have killed all the isaaqs in the world we saved you

    Djibouti is the best country on earth amiin. We make more money then sland and we will buy up the entire somaliland and evict them from their own houses. sax foqol sax you ungrateful SNM bastards.

  3. Djibouti will Annex Awdal , and unite the Samaroon with their Samaroon family in Djibouti, Samaroon+cisse is a better unity then issaaq and samaroon, wake up idoors samaroon will ditch you for djibouti when the time comes, they will have access to education,healthcare and other great things djibouti offers.

    • Liban Bro this is not about the people. Issa Warabe and iidoor Wagashe are brothers and will always be. And you are right our Djib bros and Sis welcomed us to their homes when we were fleeing the genocide of siyad Barre. we are forever grateful to you for that. But Liban is there any doubt that Pres Gelle has been actively undermining Somaliland at every turn and meeting?
      As I said it is all about politics. Not the people.
      But he does need to be craeful because Somaliland can undermine Djib too. Seriously and existentially. We can ally ourselves with the Afars and give them training bases and logistical support. We can give Ethiopia a port in somaliland territory and swap it for some of their territory and this will be curtains for Djib port and then Djib itself. Silanyo wont do it because he is a friend of Gelle and too much of a gentleman. But if he loses next elections and a radical like Bihi wins he may well go all the way and undermine Djib fundmaentally and existentially. Guled needs to be warned

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