General Jama Mohamed Ghalib is a senior politician from northwest Somalia, a lieutenant of Somali National Movement(SNM) and the author of "The Cost of Dictatorship: The Somali Experience"
Enjoy the read.
This article is in response to an article published in many Somali and non-Somali website in March 2006, by Bashir Goth entitled â€œWill the Arabs dare to listen to Somaliland?â€
I agree with Mr. Bashir about the great suffering meted out to the Somali people of the north during the twenty-one year totalitarian military rule. And although many other groups of southern Somalis were also equally meted out to similar maltreatment in the hands of that regime, nonetheless, some northern communities, especially the Issaaq, were collectively subjected to discriminatory atrocities to the culmination of mass extra-judicial executions. I also agree with Mr. Bashir about the relative peace that exists in many parts of the north in contrast to the south. But the common Somali people bear no responsibilities for these heinous crimes. However thereafter, I do not only differ with Mr. Bashir, but also totally disagree with all his other assertions on the issue, which I endeavour to address under the following headings:
A: THE CURRENT SITUATION
The prevalent situation in the north of the Somali Republic that now styles itself as â€˜Somalilandâ€™ has been the best of an overall bad scene since the collapse of the Somali nation state in early 1991. As already mentioned here above, there has been a relative peace in many parts of the north very much unlike most areas of the south. Some semblances of most ingredients of governance also exist there. However, these are not without dictatorial bents and bullying where the rule of law is flawed. Of all parts of present Somalia, only in the administration of the north are the centres of the power to be remnants of the former dreaded security apparatus of the defunct regime of Siad Barre. Despite the existence of nominal houses of parliament, stifling of dissent by the authorities is widespread and there exists no mandatory habeas corpus to safeguard the liberty of the individual for the ends of justice. Just to cite a few examples, during early 2005 or so, four defence lawyers were arbitrarily and simultaneously convicted in Hargeisa in connection with a legal argument with the public prosecutor inside a court room. It was highly improbable that all four lawyers should have together misbehaved. Even so, in legal ethics, an independent court would be expected to only require them to apologize to the court and failing that could have suspended their legal practices as the last resort. The treatment meted out by the court to the four lawyers was outrageous and was characterized by the mockery of the former military regimeâ€™s legal system.
The simultaneous conviction of all the four defence lawyers very much prejudiced the defence of a female child who was paradoxically accused and convicted of the serious crime of spying. The child was, according to Human Rights groups, incapable of committing such crime because of her age of childhood. Spying is an art that required special training and experience both of which could not have been accomplished during childhood.
A standoff controversy has arisen between Riyaleâ€™s administration and the recently elected parliament over the annual budget. The parliament made some variations of funds allocations in favour of the social services before approving the overall budget. After receiving the parliamentâ€™s approval, the administration circumvented the budget implementation by ignoring the variations made by the parliament and working on its earlier Draft Budget. The standoff is yet unresolved.
Again, only very recently an NGO, Care International, was about to hire the wife of a leader of a political opposition party, after she had emerged as the right candidate through the process of interviews, etc. The authorities then intervened and aborted her employment opportunity, simply because her husband happened to be an opponent of the authorities.
B: THE HISTORY
It had long been the cherished goal of all Somalis to reunite all the Somali territories that had been arbitrarily grabbed by foreign powers and divided among themselves and bring them under one flag. Nonetheless, the timing of the 1960 north-south reunion was prematurely imposed upon the south by the people of the north, who not only demanded an immediate reunion without any preconditions, but also even denied their representatives mandate for any bargaining initiative during negotiations with the south for the reunion. While the southern politicians could not even delay the popular demand of the northern people, much less to reject it, despite the immaturity of its timing, they were, nonetheless, appalled when their northern counterparts said at the negotiating table that they had no preconditions whatsoever.
The northerners accepted with alacrity the proposals presented by the south including a southern capital and southern constitution. The southern politicians doubted the seriousness of their northern counterparts, but there was no turning point and the reunification was eventually proclaimed. Because of being over zealous about the reunion the northerners made further concessions by accepting a total southern leadership such as the presidency of the republic, the premiership, key ministerial portfolios and the Commandants of the armed forces during the formation of the first unified national government. However, the Somali leaders were conscious of these regional imbalances and always endeavoured and continued to make the necessary amends. Half of the eight early ambassadorships appointed in 1961 were assigned to northerners in London, Paris Moscow and Addis Ababa and their southern counterparts were assigned to Cairo, Rome, Washington and the UN, although the northern population strength was about one-third and the parliamentary representation about one-fourth.
In the formation of the second Somali government in 1964 under the premiership of Mr. Abdirazak Hagi Hussen, northerners were appointed to most key portfolios of that cabinet including Foreign Affairs, Finance, Defence, Agriculture and Planning. Likewise, almost half of senior civil service posts were assigned to northerners.
About 36% of development projects during the nine-year civilian rule were allocated to the north.
Mr. Bashir distorts history by citing examples irrelevant to the Somali case of other individual countries that since split into becoming more different countries. And to just briefly comment on each of the examples, those separations were not opted for by either the peoples of Lebanon and Syria or Jordan and Palestine, but were engineered by colonial machinations and designs.
Egyptian-Syrian union, not unlike West and East Pakistan (present Bangladesh), among other things, became dysfunctional for lack of geographical proximity.
The Union of Gambia and Senegal lacked homogeneity among the two peoples. Likewise, the problem of north and south Sudan stemmed from lack of homogeneity-cum religious differences,
Mr. Bashirâ€™s remarks that Djiboutiâ€™s decision of separate independence in 1977 dealt a blow to the Greater Somalia endeavours is another distortion of fact and history, because Djibouti is not inhabited only by ethnic Somalis. And in appreciation of this reality the Somali Government of Mr. Abdirazak Hagi Hussen declared to the whole world in 1966 its denunciation of any Somali claim over Djibouti. Only then ethnic Afar groups came forward and joined the pro-independence movement. Continued division of the population of Djibouti over that issue could have at best unduly delayed their independence much longer. Djiboutiâ€™s separate statehood was therefore foreseeable by all sensible people including the Somalis, despite Siad Barreâ€™s attempts of last minute overture. None of this cases have any parallel similarity with the Somali situation.
C: THE SECESSION ISSUE
The population of the north is composed of five groups: of equal partners (1) the Issaaq who inhabit the central areas; (2) the Gadabursi to whom the present incumbent president Riyale also belongs and (3) the Issa live in the west of that territory; while the two other groups: (4) the Dolbahante and (5) the Warsengeli live in the east.
The secession has been the brainchild of the Issaaq (to whom I also belong) and was supported by the majority of the Gadabursi and the Iss-a. All these three groups are sub-sets of the D-ir clan. To the contrary, the overwhelming majorities of the other two eastern non-D-ir groups who belong to the Ha-rti of the Dar-od clan are strongly opposed to the secession or for that matter any separate independence of the north. They, among other things, quite fairly fear of perpetual domination by the Di-r groups and their fear is not without justification, because for the last more than fifteen years the two top posts of president and vice-president have been alternating among the D-ir groups. The clan factor is the Achilles heel of Somali nationhood. Wisdom would therefore dictate that all decisions of such importance should always and only be reached by consensus of all the stakeholders, In this case among the five common groups inhabiting that area. Majority decision making is not the least in the lexicon of Somali traditional values and fair play. Consensus is the essence.
Unilateralism vis-Ã -vis the secession is conflict prone and can only renew a civil war among the northern communities on the one hand and re-invite armed conflict between the authorities of Puntland and Somaliland on the other. Armed clashes already took place about a year ago or so between the two authorities concerned causing great lose of human lives and material damages. One of the main towns, a regional capital, Las-Anod, and all its hinterland, which is claimed by Somaliland has since been occupied and administered by the Puntland authorities.
The article mentions internationally observed and democratically held elections, but omits the fact that at least more than one-fourth of the population did not participate those elections because they opposed the secession.
The article also claims that a report compiled by an African Union fact-finding mission strongly recommended recognition of the secessionist entity. If this information is correct, it would only be one sided representing a partial view point and ignoring the opposite and to recommend the recognition of an entity that is not in control of more than one-fourth of the territory it claims is preposterous. And besides that, it will be a recognition that will only serve to invite another Somali civil war. The AU would be best advised to destine that report to a dust bin. In any case, the dismemberment of the country is not only a wrong diagnosis of the Somali national ills, but also a wrong surgery, because alternative solutions are not lacking.
The article further claims that both Nigeria and South Africa indicated their readiness to recognize the secessionist entity. It is farfetched to believe that Nigeria that had the bitterest experience of fending off the Biafra secession would entertain the dismemberment of another African country. The claim looks preposterous and only wishful thinking of individual cronies of the secessionists. With regard to South Africa, however, there have been some flirtations and contacts by some officials with the secessionist entity. According to retrievals from websites some of these officials even claimed connections with higher personalities of South African officials. Nevertheless, nobody expects that South Africa will act without the greatest circumspection or would do anything that contributes to renewed civil war in the remote Somali desert with little prospects of policing such a fratricidal war.
The article also suggests an alleged Egyptian-Ethiopian rivalry over the Nile waters as a bone of power play in Somali context. This is nonsense. Somalis lack both any knowledge and proximity of the Nile waters and can contribute little to nil, in one way or the other. However, the inclusion of this assertion looks like an Ethiopian view point by proxy, as a Somali adage says: EE DHEH (say it for me). It is not a secret that Egypt always and strongly supports Somali unity and that is a paramount Somali interest; while on the contrary Ethiopia strives to dismantle that unity, which is Somali disinterest.
The article further suggests Egyptian influence over Saudi Arabia for its ban on Somali livestock export to the Kingdom. This is an insult to both Governments. Egypt does control other sovereign states. The ban was imposed during 1998 not only on â€˜Somalilandâ€™, but on all Somali parts when an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever was suspected. Somali livestock have since long ago been cleared free from the disease, but there has been no recognized government whose healthy certificates could be acceptable.
D: THE LEGALITY
Mr. Bashir joins the pro-secessionist erroneous mantra that claims the union, which I call reunion, was never ratified. What is a ratification and when does its need arise? It arises when an agency of a state enters into and signs a tentative agreement with a third party. That agency then seeks final approval from its higher institution(s). Such approval is ratification. In the case of the Somali reunion, it was an act of parliament, which was the highest institution in the land. Who else would be needed to ratify it? Furthermore, there is nothing more authentic than the historical events of the reunification and the Act(s) of Union recorded, among other things, by the United Nations chief legal adviser, Dr. Paolo Contini, seconded to the then new government of the Somali Republic at the latterâ€™s request for during 1960-64, who was also the chairman of the legal integration committee. I extract the following relevant summary from his book: â€˜THE SOMALI REPUBLIC: AN EXPERIMENT IN LEGAL INTEGRATIONâ€™ (as per italics) here below:.
â€œThe decision to form a union was reached at conference of Northern and Southern Somali leaders held in Mogadiscio between April 16 and 22, 1960.
â€œOn June 27, the day after its independence, Somalilandâ€™s Legislative Assembly passed â€˜The Union of Somaliland and Somalia Law No, 1 of 1960â€™.
â€œOn June 30, the Legislative Assembly of the Trust Territory met. After prolonged debate, in the evening of June 30, the Assembly approved the Atto di Unione (Act of Union).
â€œAt midnight of June 30, the Trusteeship Agreement ceased to be in force, and the President of the Legislative Assembly, acting in his capacity as provisional President of the Republic proclaimed the independence of the State of Somalia. During the same night he promulgated the Constitution, which came into force immediately.
â€œIn the morning of July 1, the members of the Legislative Assemblies of Somaliland and Somalia met in joint session as the first National Assembly. The President of the Assembly proclaimed the union and the members sealed it by standing ovation. As of that moment the Constitution was deemed to apply to both parts of the Somali Republic.â€
The former colonial boundary between the two Somali territories ceased to exist as from July 1, 1960, the date of the proclamation of the reunification. In spit of that, the secessionist entity still claims that former boundary as being consistent with the then OAU (now AU) resolution about the sanctity of boundaries inherited from the former colonial powers. This is wishful thinking nonsense. The then OAU resolution, which was adopted by its second Summit, held in Cairo in 1964, more than four years later since the Somali reunification and long after that boundary in question had ceased to exist, was neither retrospective nor was it designed to unravel already established institutions of its member states. Its only object was to be applied to future contingencies. That resolution would not even apply to the Union of Tanzanian by the merger of the two former states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which had just been proclaimed only few months or few weeks before that Cairo Summit.
Conclusion of Treaties of Protection that Britain had entered into with elders representing various Somali tribes or clans during 1884-86 were the basis of the northâ€™s colonial history for the following seventy-six years. A lone, but important, non-signatory of those treaties of protection was the Dolbahante. The subsequent de facto association of this group and their homeland within the British Somaliland Protectorate administration was only by default and mutual expediency, but never a de jure. However, since the essence of the northâ€™s independence in 1960 was only perceived as a transitory process to the reunification with the south, it was non-controversial. If otherwise, however, the then new State of Somaliland could not have inherited the Dolbahante homeland without the latterâ€™s consent, and would not even now, had that issue not already been resolved by the reunification process. Because that independence would only be for the signatories of those treaties of protection, but the Dolbahabte that was not a party to those treat could only join it by own consent.
Jama Mohamed Ghalib