Somaliland/Somalia – The Looming War: From the Boardroom to the Battlefield
In the past 25 years Somaliland has proven its commitment to peace, development, national security and most importantly taking an active role in stabilizing the region. Starting in 2012 Somaliland officially entered into talks with Somalia with hopes of solidifying its place in the international community as an independent state.
Up until today, Somaliland is the only honest party in continuing the talks with Somalia hosted by the Turkish Government. Even when Somalia violated all the agreements reached in previous meetings, Somaliland hoped their presence will convince other side to respect their “brother’s” position and honor those agreements.
In 2015, the scheduled meeting between Somaliland and Somalia in Turkey ended abruptly by Somaliland as a direct result of Somalia sending native Somaliland politicians to represent Somalia. Once again, Somalia has not only refused to implement several agreements, but violated the fundamental principle of not including native Somalilanders in their delegate representing Somalia’s interest. This has always been the single most important condition that made Somaliland to participate in the meetings from the beginning.
The stalling tactics has given Mogadishu sometime to formulate another trick to trap Somaliland into this perpetual no good get together. That strategy hinged on buying time until when Somalia is strong enough to muscle Hargeisa. Its working because Somaliland has recently somehow agreed to meet with the Mogadishu Team in Turkey without precondition, and hoping Somalia will reciprocate if shown a good faith. In the meanwhile Mogadishu is using all diplomatic channels to stop Somaliland develop its economic infrastructure.
Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has recently sent a letter to IGAD members asking them not to cooperate directly with Somaliland. As a consequence, the Berbera Corridor project has been placed on hold and the European Union suspended fund raising activities intended to finance that project. The Washington Post reported.
“Sometimes the Mogadishu government tries to create problems when it comes to aid and development for Somaliland, even though in the last meeting in Djibouti they agreed to keep development out of politics,” Somaliland’s foreign minister, Saad Ali Shire, said in an interview with the Post.
Simultaneously, with the Turkey’s help, Somalia is building strong institutions such as large intelligence network and robust armed forces including air forces that may be used for the next conflict with Somaliland.
Somalia has now abandoned the previously accepted crucial recommendation from the international community on accommodating Somaliland as an equal partner to find a lasting solution to resolve the current status quo.
By linking Somaliland with their made up regional governments such as Puntland, and Jubaland, Mogadishu is alienating Somaliland. This is a contradiction to their commitment; to avoid provocation and to have an open and genuine dialogue that calls for compromise in order to interpret the failed union of 1960 to anything else that make sense based on today’s realities on the ground.
The Somaliland Interior Minister, Ali Mohamed Warancadde has recently declared Somalia to be the “biggest threat” Somaliland is presently facing, while testifying in front of the Permanent Committee of Parliamentary Businesses and Operations. He stated to the committee that Somalia’s strategy of double talk and interference in Somaliland internal affairs created an environment of hostility.
According to analysts in Hargeisa, involving the Parliament, Warancadde’s declaration is precursor for nation’s security apparatus to prepare the members of parliament for a future looming war and to allow more spending in the army from the government’s discretionary budget on top of the estimated $150 million allocated annually for the defense.
Unfortunately, weak institutions and unstable political state caused by power struggle and infighting are making difficult for Mogadishu to adopt the full brunt of this deceitful strategy the Minister has mentioned.
Somalia leaders surely understand, and certainly acknowledge in private their inability to apply pressure on Somaliland and force it to accept their wishes. If they could, the most critical hawkish politicians in Mogadishu leadership circle would have undoubtedly preferred to act on their daily empty threats in the media. Fortunately for now, they were forced to opt to delay tactics while they regroup.
Instead, the only open venue for Somalia to use now is their seat in international organizations such as the UN, AU, IGAD and the Arab League. Somalia has recently stepped up to use the benefit of these memberships in attempt to viciously affect Somaliland’s development and humanitarian activities.
Rather than adjust their policy to fit priorities and realities, same misguided Somalia leaders insisted that Somaliland needs to be part of their dream ‘federal’ country.
This phantom idea of federal system has further fractured Somalia proper into more clan fiefdoms. It’s not working for them because it has no agreed formula for current member regions that are from the Italian Somalia. Let alone for Somaliland which is a separate country that has willingly united with Somalia in 1960 and now functions independently.
Somaliland has never been part of the fabrication of the new “Federal Constitution” and has nothing to do with the numerous failed ‘road maps’ that their so called government is currently based on. In fact, that draft constitution blindly claims Somaliland territories and its people as part of “Somalia”. Strikingly, this “Federal Constitution” denies the existence of Somaliland while it has specifically acknowledged Puntland as the “…preexisting (and the founding) state member” of the not yet defined future “Federal Republic of Somalia”.
In contrast, in 2001 Somaliland’s reclaim of its independence in a new constitution was endorsed by a referendum overwhelmingly approved by 97% of its own citizens.
“Although no nation officially recognizes it, Somaliland has its own police, army, flag and currency, and for the past 24 years has held regular elections for parliament and a president”, Wrote Washington Post in its latest article about Somaliland.
It’s for above reasons why Somaliland continues to question Somalia’s authenticity regarding any future talks. Somaliland Government previously stated that “…it is important to include additional mediators from the international community”, as Turkey appears to be more sympathetic to Somalia’s plan to conquer Somaliland.
It is obvious that Turkey has taken sides and can’t continue to be an impartial arbitrator in Somalia/Somaliland talks. The lack of empathy for Somaliland historical injustices and pursuing aggressive geopolitical agenda have damaged Turkey’s credibility and has made this powerful Muslim nation unfit to be an honest broker.
To add insult to the injury, Turkey’s Hargeisa Consulate Office has tried to circumvent the legitimately elected Somaliland Government as the legal representative of the people by reaching out to some clan leaders to make them involve in the dialogue with Somalia.
That is why most international observers agree with Somaliland to change the venue and bring other nations to the talks. It is only fair than to ask Great Britain to re-join the talks. It has the ability, with the help of such other neutral European countries of Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, to return the negotiations to the correct path.
After all, it’s the Great Britain that has initially started this derailed talks in 2012 and stressed Somaliland to come to the table, before Somaliland naively agreed Turkey to take over the mediation seat. Therefore, Britain owes to the people of Somaliland to level the plain field.
In the end, if/when neutral actors are found and the negotiations restart, Somaliland must have concrete forward choices: outline clear strategy. This strategy must start with an equal partnership, a transparent agenda, a realistic timeline as agreed upon by all involved parties, which clearly mandates that any failure to comply by either side is tantamount to declaring a war. And continue to pursue all legal channels to force Somalia to comply with its commitments. While at the same time preparing for the inevitable war because as Somalia strength grows so as the bold rhetoric from its politicians.
In 25 years, Somaliland has never expected a reasonable politician to emerge from Somalia’s crowded pool of competing interests, actors and egotistic individuals. Judging the behaviour of the selfish politicians now leading Somalia’s chaotic agenda, it is very clear that they will not be satisfied with solving issues in the boardrooms but will rather settle the “Union Matter” in the battlefields. Now more than ever, Somaliland politicians need to get ready for the impending aggression and implement deterrent policies.
By Magan Ibrahim, Ohio, USA
(Roda Daud: A Somaliland Security Analyst based in Alberta, Canada, contributed to the article)