The Umbilical Cord Has Been Chewed Away A lot can happen in the world in a week, but I am sure many Somalis have observed these last two weeks that Somalia (the nation) was again on the spotlight for being a failed state. Including the Olympics! Of course, it was humiliating to see how Somalia fared in this the world display of talent and mighty; youth from different nations reaching for afforded opportunities provided by their individual nation, exerting and thrusting forward; testing the limits of their “can-do” attitudes to achieve their potential in the Olympics—proudly singing on the stage to their beloved flags at the end. And Somalia, once again, was the joke of the week. That was heartbreaking! I thought about how many would-be Somali Olympians have been killed, drawn in unknown world waters, or just disappeared under the ruble and ashes. The Press Release by Somaliland Elders in Mogadishu As sad as the results of the Olympics were for Somalia, what has struck me this week even more was another observation of significant equivalency to the Somali failed state. The realization that the hope for a possible reemergence of a Somali nation might have died abruptly, though expected to happen sooner or later, yet shook the airways as an earthquake. To the dismay of many unionists, the umbilical cord that connects Somaliland to Somalia might have been chewed away enough over the years, suffered enough damage, and maybe just falling off. In a recent press release and the other supportive comments that reinforced their unanimous stance, the unionists and the elders from Somaliland in Mogadishu vowed to walk away, abandon their parliamentary seats, and go back to Somaliland for good; wishing their brothers in the south to deal with their tribal endeavor alone, as they wish, and that Somaliland will reorganize itself. In a net shell, they stated that the marriage is over and the dream for a Somali nation came to an end. In this press release, this time, the unionists’ statements spoke in volumes, not only of the men in power today in Mogadishu and Puntland as the spoilers, but the statement talks about the seat of the power for the last 25 years, where Somali nationalism has been reduced to the practice of trivial tribal demands from their brothers in the south. This has paralyzed the whole country, they argue, and has become one of the major obstacles towards progress, Achilles’ heel. The Umbilical Cord Analog For the last 25 five years, when most Somalis abandoned and even scorned the mention of Somali nationalism, many Somalilanders (I named them the umbilical cord) had become the single covalent bond holding the south to the north. Just as the placenta holds the child and mother for close embrace and nourishment, the unionists from the north kept the narrative of Somali unity alive, providing the dream of unity a special bonding period in a close embrace, without separation. So long this bonding between the south and north existed, many felt strongly that it was important the dream for the revival of Somali unity should endure, be nourished and sustained. That was the hope! Needless to say, however, today for many unionists such a compelling narrative presented by the representatives in Mogadishu this time, and the unanimous position they have taken, cannot be ignored. And if the current events could redesign the path to the future for Somalis, at least for those who have long dreamed of keeping the Somali nationalism alive, that hope is fading away quickly, eroded by the continuous failure repeatedly demonstrated by Mogadishu and Puntland administrations, the powers to be in this tribal games in the south. To their credit, the unionists from the north, more than anyone else, have sacrificed their time and energy to help sustain the existence of Somalia unity unapologetically, though facing hostility, debasement and attack on their own belief on daily routine, where they have to defend why they believe in Somali unity. They have faced humiliation, slapping on the face, spat at and are ridiculed during many heated debates both in Mogadishu and in Hargeisa, or even beyond. In fact, they faced isolation and imprisonment if traveled back to Somaliland to visit their families. That has never been a secret, but they chose their path in spite of. Many other nationalists from the north simply gave up when they finally realized that their brothers in the South are not even sympathetic to the predicament that the unionists from the north are facing every day. In spite of their sacrifices, the northerners are treated as minority and always remained in a negotiated surrender, a weaker compromising position; and their voices only count when it’s for sale—election time. Their loyalty to a nation they always have imagined and their commitment to nationalism have become questionable. They have become a target for attacks, both from south and north, including members of their own family at times. Tell me any southern who is facing such humiliation just for believing unity. Realizing a False Narrative The Somalilanders in Mogadishu parliament and to be selected new house of elders, as they stated in Unisom in their press release this time, realized that the old narrative is not convenient for them anymore. The perception that Mogadishu is working on bringing back a unified Somalia has proven to be wrong, and that realization finally hit the unionists from Somaliland with a smack on the face. Wake up, fool! Their narrative is simple, that maintenance of a nation and building a democratic civil society demands justice residing on the sovereignty of a nation; not driven by bunch of regional/tribal enterprises that do not represent the people. For the unionists, this is a call for a pause, a respite to step aside and evaluate things carefully. The unionists realized that their radical experiment for unity and vision for the union have been ignored or unrecorded. This, in face value, means there are social implications hard to be ignored. That their interpretation of the union, their long commitment, and their personal lost and hard work have all been violated. And above all, their deeper objective political meaning has been excluded from any analysis of political significance, in their endeavor for Somali unity.
They feel left out as non-participant in this tribal political process, an alternative notion of politics operating under a false premises of nation building. The elders from Somaliland who want to oversee the selection process for regional representation in the Mogadishu government have today presented a compelling argument, a new narrative that has become evident to them. They expressed their deep exasperation and frustration with a system designed to fool the international donors to continue their support without producing any tangible change… nothing more than lip serves. Puntland and Mogadishu: Power Grabbing Strategy The unionists remain under intense external pressure and arm twisting that have been exerted by Puntland and Mogadishu, asking them to share, by demand, some of the few seats already allocated for Somaliland. This time Dr. Abdiweli’s demands have to be satisfied. He has formulated a new doctrine of land grabbing, justified by deep desire for tribal dominance. Puntland becomes the octopus in the region, grabbing every seat within reach by force from Khatimo, Galguduud, Kismayo and in between. Why should Puntland decide the fate and the aspirations of the people in Khatimo state? Such recklessness is now forcing Khatimo state to recoil back into the hands of its other nemeses, the lesser of two evils—Somaliland. Dr. Abdiweli is even claiming that some of the eleven upper house seats, allocated for Somaliland belongs to him…that Khatimo shouldn’t be considered as people who can rule themselves, or can decide on electing their own representatives. This is nothing more than a pre-emptive strategy of threading the needle through and beyond tribal lines, to anywhere he succeeds in swaying his tribesmen to rise and support this dogma of tribe dominance.
As for President Hassan Sheikh, well! The greed of President Hassan Sheikh to stay in power is a sign of Machiavellian approach to win the Villa Somalia again, at any cost and by any possible path—the end justifies the means. You all know the drill! This is the same President who fired two prior Prime ministers because of a simple disagreement stemming up from conflicts in vision; a constitutional right his Prime ministers had. This is the same President who publically expressed his threat, and vowed to risk sinking the boat (the country) if he didn’t get his way. While the President gives lip serves to transparency and democratic processes as essential elements in governing the society, he practices an aristocratic system of government, where the power stays in the hands of the privileged few, which may even lead to royalty. Ismail Ali Ismail, a man with ample experiences with governances and is well versed with the Somali culture, writes in his book, Governance, that, “Local government can be expected to thrive and prosper in truly democratic system; it is an essential feature of democracy and cannot be expected to do well in a suffocating political atmosphere.” An antithesis to what we see today in the existing governing apparatuses in the country. No wonder! Call it arrogance, ignorance, or what other adjectives suit his behavior, but it is a disturbing behavior in today’s Somali politics. He gets away with it because he knows that Somalis have selective short memories, and tend to forgive those in power easily; unless it involves tribal vendetta. The Somalis respond predictably to the same adrenaline impulses-tribal emotions-to any new appeals from politicians and pundits. Nonetheless, such demonstrable behavior of power greed and corruption we see in Puntland and Mogadishu today, with no regard for governance and country building, shows the inability of these two men to imagine what it could have been, and how much they can affect a new leadership for their people, for their country—a missed opportunity blind sighted by greed. I don’t pretend to know much about the local politics and the thinking behind it, but I sense that these long standing grievances left unaddressed for decades, are reaching a new trajectory beyond control.
Today’s self declared Presidents in the south, trampled over domestic sensitive issues, violated civil rights and civil liberties of many, including the people of Khatimo and Benadir, who are shunned and denied their place in this political processes. That is not governing! That is power grabbing. The Winner of the Week! It is becoming apparent that Somaliland is the winner of the week. Hooray! Before you just jump to your guns and shoot me, let me explain. The dialogue between Khatimo state and Somaliland is not, to the view of many in the region, an insignificant step, it is rather a big deal towards conflict resolution and establishing better relationship and lasting peaceful coexistence between these neighboring tribes. At least they share strong and historical ties that can be proven by their DNA. Rumor has it Khatimo state has a proposal for equitable power sharing with Somaliland on the table, and negotiations are underway. And guess where they will meet next time! Addis Ababa, where else, the only judge in the Horn where all Presidents in Somalia visit several times a year for cleansing off their sins—their Mecca. In a parallel maneuvering the President of Somaliland has opened a dialogue with the Awdalites in an effort to address their long standing demand for equity and power sharing. Furthermore, to put an icing on the cake, Somaliland just announced today that all Somaliland politicians in Mogadishu, who want to come back to Somaliland as Somaliland citizens, are welcome to return with no stipulation, and even their transportation and accommodations will be provided by Somaliland. All this happened in two-week span. Whether all of that will materialize is yet to be seen, but if such strategy succeeds, Somaliland can win big. It is a mature political maneuvering by the grown up in the region, the President of Somaliland. Imagine all Somaliland politicians in Mogadishu walking out and heading home. No more umbilical cords to sustain Somali nationalism alive in Mogadishu, to the chagrin of many in the south, and all tribes, including Khatimo state, will be free to fend for themselves and decide their future to live amicably with their neighbors.
I have been called naive before, but I think President Silanyo envisions building strong political elites comprised of, but not limited to, ex-unionists, such as, Professor Ahmed Samatar, Dr. Ali Galaydh, Dr. Ismail Bubaa, Dr. Mohamed Abdillahi (Sifir) and other important, savvy politicians-a think tank class. Men and women who could organize themselves to build a firewall for Somaliland’s case, challenging the International community; and proving the narrative that Mogadishu represents all Somalis for all political and practical purposes is false. I think it will be difficult for the brothers in the south to defend their shortsighted vision for better Somalia. After all, we are all segregated tribes, each one free to decide its own future and governance. No one tribe should be empowered alone by the international donors just to enslave its neighbors. By and large, the Somalis believe in natural rights… a nomad tending his to camels freely in space under the sun. They were born free and that is an embedded cultural value Somalis endear. Somalis are irritated by any attempt to be governed by force, particular by another tribe. Therefore, for Puntland, Somaliland or any ex-land to try this to their neighbors contradicts the natural right of a nomadic tribesman. I think this narrative wins! Leave these tribesmen alone. In conclusion, I think President Silanyo knows that his days in power are very limited and he wants to leave a legacy behind; bringing back into the fold all the sons and daughters of former Somaliland protectorate, provide them with equitable power sharing system, and let them design their future. This could be a game changer in the region. I think he is seizing that opportunity, and think Dr. Ali Galaydh and company are smart enough to realize this opportune moment. Something has to give, and Silanyo feels he can convince his tribesmen (Isaaq) to bend to this idea… a trade off for peace. And think if that succeeds, the world view will take a note and this might put the Mogadishu government in a dilemma. No more free loading! I am just saying, but don’t read my lips.
Dr. Ali Bahar,