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Somaliland: One Tribe’s Quest for Statehood.
Professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar spoke at Burco University on January 4, 2014. The presentation was part of a series of one-sided debates, lessons and discussions with officials and elders; and Isak and Gadabursi intellectuals in Burco, Hargaysa, Gabiley and Borama. He said his second visit was a follow up to his previous trip to Somaliland in June and July of 2013. He did not publish his findings about Somaliland, but has become a vocal and staunch fan of Somaliland, often describing himself as the “free ambassador of Somaliland”. The entourageaccompanying him to these gathering includes Isak government officials and some segments of the Gadabursi tribe—primarily afew tribal elders and intellectuals.
During his presentation Samatar addressed the question of why it is so difficult for Somaliland to acquire recognition. He explained that one of the obstacles to recognition is that the recognized government of Somalia is opposed to the division of the country and continues to tell the international community that Somalia is one. Secondly, Somaliland has no friends among “heavy weight” nations to help them achieve recognition. In addition to these issues, Somaliland has not presented an actionable strategic plan to persuade other nations to recognize them. All they have to date are roving “representatives” withempty briefcases.
In order for Somaliland to attain recognition, Samatar advised the government of Somaliland to consider four important stepsas they begin to formulate strategic plans. The first step involves the creation of a political message as it pertains to Somaliland’s quest for statehood. The message should focus on the consensus of Somaliland tribal groups in approving secession from Somalia. Somaliland leaders should then carefully select a broad spectrum of knowledgeable and capable personalities representing all the tribes of Somaliland to lobby abroad. The message should be designed to help convince influential countries that can help Somaliland achieve recognition. Thethird step is to establish a national commission specificallydesigned to guide the strategic plan to achieve recognition. Professor Samatar said the commission should be backed withsufficient investment and all the resources necessary to conduct its work effectively. The fourth step should be the creation of an organization called Global Solidarity for Somaliland—largely consisting of members of the Somaliland diaspora to fund and lobby for recognition in key countries around the world. In addition to these steps, he called for improving the quality of Somaliland’s “representatives” in various countries. He saidcapable individuals who can debate with, and convince the political elite of these countries should be appointed.
As it stands today Somaliland in the words of the professor isunder “quarantine.” Without access to bilateral relationships (country to country relations), multilateral relations (as a member of the United Nations, African Union, World Bank and other global and regional organizations) and without being part of the international system Somaliland is unable to interacteffectively in this era of globalization.
Despite the professor’s bias for approval of Somaliland, some of its tribes, including the Dhulbahanta, Issa, Warsangeli, and FiqiShini have come against recognition of Somaliland. The Dhulbahanta—who hold a vast amount of territory in eastern Somaliland—are opposed to Somaliland, with the exception of few individuals who shuttle back and forth between Somaliland and Puntland. The majority of them have a strong desire to be part of a federated Somalia. The Dhulbahante are against Somaliland and are currently in a standoff with Somalilandmilitia in several towns. The majority of both the youth and elders of these tribes are opposed to Somaliland. Many of the youth of these tribes were orphaned by the ruthless invasion of the Somali National Movement of the 1980s. Subsequent incursions by Somaliland militia have exasperated relations. The professor overlooked renewed civil war in the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions; and the wrongdoings of the highly centralized tribal government in Hargeisa.
Samatar’s assessment is confined to the ruling clan (Isak) who are providing various kinds of support, including the help needed to get around the country. He did not travel to theterritories of those tribes opposed to Somaliland to evaluate their concerns and ambitions. The professor traveled only to areas of the ruling administration for fear of being rejected by angry tribes.
The future of Somaliland depends not on lobbying abroad but oninternal consensus and country-wide approval of whatever is determined by the majority to be most desirable for the future of the country. The ruling tribe has not been willing to give other tribes their true share of the “pie”. The professor opted to lobby for the ruling tribe and is no longer an impartial figure. Somaliland should not be recognized by the international community as such recognition would renew internal strife and empower a single tribe that is ready and eager to trample over the territory and resources of all the others. It is very unlikely that the tribe in power in Hargaysa would follow everything that the professor advises, but Somali unionists should be aware that Samatar has been gradually duped by the lopsided single-tribestate leadership of Somaliland, and is now purveying their one-sided party line. By Jaafar M. Sh Jama
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