Somaliland:Isolated in the ocean of Ignorance
By Ahmed Ibrahim Farah (Doodi)
It is a quarter of century since Somaliland seceded away from Somalia, after 3 decades of union. Going through different stages, Somaliland erected somewhat concrete foundation from self-reconciliation to state building procedures to secure its internal issues, eventually providing the platform in which societal needs can be run, security, rules and regulations, access to education, free trade – though with many constraints – are the examples of that unrecognized struggle.
The most important thing that Somaliland has been looking for since that time is the recognition from the rest of the world. So how many routes does she take to obtain that goal? In fact Somaliland is a de facto state that maintained the principal definition which is expected to be fulfilled by any given nation, for example defined territory, population, serving government, etc. but this is the angle in which we, Somalilanders, are observing from the multilateral entities in the ground.
There is a huge gap which needs to be constructed to sustain the existence of Somaliland in the first place as a State, and to get recognition from the international community in the second place. So, where Somaliland locates? And what cultural influences are blocking the way ahead?
Somaliland locates in a region which is inflicted with historical enmities and with newly emerged conflicts that shaped the current situation in the horn of Africa. The geopolitical issues in this part of East Africa has many actors at regional and international levels starting from post-colonial era , for instance before democratic republic of Somalia distorted in 1991, the Arab nationalism dominated the political framework of Somalia.
This inherited Somalis somewhat unilateral admiration to Arabs.
And after the collapse, many hands were put in the region to obtain the highest rank in control, so the disintegrated society were divided among few people with different backgrounds, for example Arab supporting factions that distribute some bread costing price to the needy people and other NGO groups funded by foreign organizations take their role in some extent.
It is widely believed by the people of Somaliland that Somalis have strong relations with Arabs, this believe is one of the primary obstacle that blocked our way ahead. Yes Somaliland people like other Somalis may have something in common with Arabs like religion. But such believe alone is not operating on the other side of Arabian Peninsula, because as a nation we need to develop strong relations based on interest with the Arabs and other countries in the world that is framed by the knowledge of politics and diplomacy in its wide scope of strategies, not merely by bread costing price.
Livestock exportation to the Middle East is another rope around our neck that holds us back to deal with other nations in the region. Yes that trade generates a huge income but we should keep in mind that potential markets exist around the world that are ready to meet the high demand of Arabs for meat rich diet. But livestock is for us and the money is for them. We don’t keep the animal for the Arabs. We need money, they need meat. This is commerce. Both sides benefit from the deal.
We also know that Saudi Arabian government removed an eleven year ban on livestock imports from Somaliland and Somalia after claiming the livestock had been infected by the Rift Valley Fever, the ban terminated in 2009. This means, Saudi Arabia has different other markets in which she can import livestock from.
For instance, Australia exports about two million sheep a year to the Middle East. On the other hand, do not forget the deep understanding of Australian government regarding this market, because Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource economics and Science underlined that increasing competition in export of livestock to the Middle East from other sources in Africa and East European countries can undermine Australian livestock industry.
Somaliland and Somalia in general cannot race with other nations to sustain the livestock exportation due to many reasons, such as lack of ports expansion that can keep pace with the modern serving ports in competition, and the worst of all the trade can be jeopardized by the fragile system in the region. This means interests of nations are not static by nature, so it is possible that Somali sheep, cattle and camel will one day have no price in the Middle East markets. Remember the ban I mentioned above.
There are many African countries like Ethiopia (currently Ethiopian livestock are exported to the Middle East t via Barbara port or elsewhere in the region) that can export millions of livestock to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries through either Somali ports or possibly through Eritrean ports if the course of the river changes. Dynamics of interest and changes of conditions from war to peace are marked in the books of human history. The market is booming. So our livestock won’t serve alone. Developing new plans and strategies are necessary to achieve what we need. And the commerce of livestock is driven by small portion of the people that serves their gain in the large sum.
Having many cultural inheritances, people of Somaliland became hostages of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region, because in the country, people cannot open their minds to visualize even dealing with Israel or Iran at this current time. I understand that Israel and Iran could not be put in one example, but people are preached that no tie will be made with countries that have differences or conflicts with Arabs particularly Saudi Arabia.
It is widely believed that Tehran and Riyadh are competing politically and militarily to dominate the Middle East politics, apart from the differences in Sunni and Shia sects. It is knownthat diplomatic relationship between the two countries terminated in 2016 when the Saudi diplomatic mission in Tehran was attacked after the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (Saudi Arabian Shiite scholar) in Saudi Arabia.
Exporting livestock to Saudi Arabia is like locking people to a corner side that has no way out.
In fact, on the other hand, some Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan have diplomatic ties with Israel after long conflicts that routed in the Middle East, as known, it was in 1979 when peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed that ended the 30 years’ war between them. That treaty reduced the tension, and as a result of that,President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel jointly shared a Nobel peace prize. And in 1994, peace treaty in which King Hussein of Jordan and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was agreed to end the state of war between the two countries.
Currently Israel announced its intention to open an official diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Though there is no tension between the state of Somaliland and Israel but such examples are shedding light on an untold story to the vast majority of Somaliland people.Who on the far side believe that there is no hidden game played between Israel and Arabs. Knowing not that there is diplomatic mission exchanged between Iran and Arabs.Why not Somaliland if possible?
I have raised two things that silenced the Somaliland people, which is the livestock export and sharing Arabs with their differences against other countries in the region (Middle East) such as Israel and Iran. It could be wise enough to categorize events. And no need to be part of illusion-based phenomena which has no scientific bases, this is because we can deal with any nation creating an environment of mutual understanding based on gain-gain strategies.
Since colonial period, people were circulating that specific group of nations can change people’s beliefs and religion if cooperation is made with them. Why are people preached to be so weak in changing beliefs and doctrine if the state cooperates with other countries?
Coming back to the horn of African region, in which its neighboring countries share many things in common, like regional security as the core element, then Somaliland should stand up and take its role.
For instance, Somaliland can develop stronger tie with neighboring Ethiopia in reassessing the bilateral agreements that was signed in 2000 which focused on trade and communication between the two countries. Barbara port can serve large portion of Ethiopian population that could generate benefits for both sides.
In this year Ethiopia agreed with Somaliland to use Barbara port. This is because Djibouti port becomes very congested. Ethiopian government planned to import 30 per cent of its trade though Barbara port. The economies gained throughout this service can increase the Somaliland capacity to development. Importing fish and other goods to neighboring countries could be relied upon in addition with livestock export to the Middle East.
Understanding the potential issues that can lead regional violence and instability is one of the most important business in which the Somaliland government should do. Somaliland should avoid any unwanted engagement with Egypt, since Nile water conflict arose between the upstream countries and downstream countries, particularly between Ethiopia and Egypt. Egyptian self-interest based on benefiting Nile water should not create tension in the region, where Somaliland directly or indirectly exploited.
President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo received delegates from Egypt which led by senior Egyptian diplomats and other senior political, economic and security officials. The two sides agreed on improving bilateral relationship. This attempt can be utilized positively if the government of Somaliland has used high capacity filter. Though, the Egyptian delegates demeaned Somaliland sovereignty when returned back home.
This particular time, Egyptian involvement in the outreach of Somali people in the region under their agenda within the scope of territorial integrity of so called Somalia has nothing to do with supporting Somaliland right to international recognition. This point needs further observation rather than admiring educational scholarships to Egypt. What you gain what you lose. Somaliland sovereignty and regional stability are indispensable.
Where Somaliland problem originated? As known Somaliland declared independence from Somalia, but aftermath of Somali civil war affected both Somaliland and Somalia, because the internationally recognized state of Somalia is one of the leading failed states in the world. This is because south and central Somalia have been inflicted with instability and wars without intention. Tribe based regions emerged that claims self-determination.
The worst of all happened when federalism is introduced into the nomadic, tribal based Somali system. The outcome is the many so-called Lands in Somalia. This failed state and Somaliland has no line to differentiate since the right of Somaliland is under the collapsed walls of that failed state. The political talks between Somaliland and Somalia have nothing to do with the realities, because there is no central entity that frames the Italian Somaliland (pre-colonial name of the southern part of Somalia). To the worst of all, federal government of Somalia is not ready to take responsibility of mutual understanding regarding the future of the two sides. And I strongly believe that such political dialogues are premature.
To sum up, the internal politics should be reassessed to narrow the gap in every aspect of political interactions to secure the territorial integrity of this state. Which in turn will reflect good image of Somaliland in the foreign policy.