By Ibrahim H. Gagale
The procedural system of selecting parliaments and forming governments for Somalia (In this article, Somalia is referred only to the South) since the fall of Siad`s dictatorship in 1991 is solely responsible and to blame for the failure of all peace talks and prolongation of civil strife and political turmoil in the country. The agendas for peace talks and national reconciliation conferences held for Somalia between 1991-2004 were all based on Greater Somalia approach with their delegates coming from Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopian- occupied Somali Western Province, Kenyan- occupied Somali North Eastern Province, and Djibouti to participate in talks instead of holding exclusive peace conference for Somalia. To this date, no single true national reconciliation conference was held for the people of Somalia, where the problem exists, and no government genuinely representing Somalia’s interest was formed yet. These misguided agendas for conferences created calculated political confusion that gradually led Somalia to anarchy and violence for 16 years and turned it into perennial failed state. Such situation, finally and sadly gave false pretext to the illegal invasion of land-locked Ethiopia, the archenemy of all Somalis in the Horn of Africa, to impose its infamous and brutal occupation on Somalia in order to exploit forcibly its seaports against the will of the people through puppet government.
Of the many peace talks conferences held for Somalia since 1991, only three conferences set up government-like administrations without tangible results. The first one held in Djibouti in 1991, elected Ali Mahdi as the head of state and picked Omer Arteh Galib, hailing from Somaliland, as the prime minister of the government. The Second one held in Djibouti too in 2000, elected Abdiqasim Salad Hassan as the head of state and picked Ali Khalif Galayr, hailing from Somaliland too, as the prime minister of the government. The third one held in Nairobi in 2004, Kenya, elected Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed as head of state and Ali Mohammed Ghedi succeeded in the premiership. Unfortunately, the first two conferences failed and the last one, which authorized Ethiopia to invade Somalia, is facing the same fate. The failure of these conferences was caused by making similar serious political blunders for claiming falsely to represent all the five Somali territories in the name of Greater Somalia.
The idea of Greater Somalia had momentum in the 1940s and 1950s with the political objective of liberating all the five Somali territories and bringing them together under the same flag and government. Unfortunately, this Greater Somalia dream did not come true yet and its realization is unpredictable as Djibouti rejected it, Somali Western Province and Somali North Eastern Province are still being colonized by Ethiopia and Kenya respectively, and the union broke up into Somaliland and Somalia. Delegates not representing any one and hailing from Somaliland, Somali Western Province in Ethiopia, Somali North Eastern Province in Kenya, and Djibouti are each time allowed to participate in Somalia’s peace conferences offering them many parliamentary seats, some of them holding important positions, and cabinet ministers that are neither recognized in their homelands nor serving for the interest of Somalia but turning it into no man’s land with no man’s government living in gun-culture and lawlessness. At the end of each conference, Somalia is stranded in the middle of political confusion denying its people of golden chance to have their own peace conference that would lead to form their own government which, in turn, would restore peace, law and order, and stability.
It is well known that Somalia’s citizens are not allowed to become members in the parliaments and governments of Somaliland, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya while many elements from these countries fill the ranks of Somalia’s parliament and government. Some of these pseudo representatives falsely claim that they will bring Somaliland back to the union while others use Greater Somalia umbrella for their presence. But the truth is, these elements take advantage of the political confusion in Somalia and come there either for personal greed or for tribal power ambitions. When democratic elections are held in Somalia in the future, these outsiders will not have districts to run for to be elected.
Many of these elements are deliberately engaged in acts preventing Somalia’s people from having reconciliation conference believing that they would lose their profiteering positions if Somalia forms its own government. To mention some examples, the foreign minister of Somalia, Mr. Ismail Mohamoud Hurre (Known as Buuba) hails from Somaliland but he is not welcome to Hargeisa, the capital city of Somaliland, because Somaliland people and their government regard him as a puppet serving for Somalia. Recently, he openly rejected the inclusion of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a Southern famous politician and a leading member of the Islamic Courts Union, in the proposal of the international community to hold national reconciliation conference for Somalia. Mr. Buuba sees Sheik Sharif as a defeated terrorist who should not be included in the talks of his own country. Likewise, the vice president of Somalia’s parliament, Mr. Osman Elmi Boqorre, who is also hailing from Somaliland, engaged recently in relentless campaign against Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, a famous Southern politician too, and removed him from the presidency of Somalia’s parliament in January 2007. Mr. Yussuf Omer Az-hari, Somalia’s presidential advisor hails from Somali Western Province in Ethiopia (From Diridhaba) and he is one of the fierce opponents of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden shockingly calling the first “CRIMINAL.” These two politicians are embraced by the international community for being seen as key players in any future peace talks and reconciliation process for Somalia. Outsiders, opportunity seekers, prevent citizens of Somalia from helping their people in need for peace.
The world witnessed that the Islamic Courts Union restored peace and law and order in the capital, Mogadishu, and other parts of the country in less than 6 months after 16 years of violence and anarchy. The reason why they succeeded in such a short period is because all the members of the leading council of Islamic Courts Union were citizens of Somalia touched by the long ordeal and blight of their people and committed to help them. The so called federal government and its Ethiopian backer, which overblew the threats from the Islamic Courts Union to justify invading Somalia, put Mogadishu back in anarchy, violence and chaos again.
Having seen the endless anarchy, fear, violence, and misery in Somalia and the total failure of the successive Pan-Somali parliaments and governments, Somalia’s politicians, business people, intellectuals, traditional leaders, and civil society must stand up for the cause of their country and take matters in their own hands to restore peace and law and order in Somalia. They must reject the idea of basing Somalia’s peace and reconciliation conferences on Greater Somalia which is not realistic today but perpetuates the misery and suffering of their people. The Only Road to Peace in Somalia lies in holding Southern National Reconciliation Conference to form parliament and government that belong and represent only Somalia and its people. Somalia must no longer remain hostage to Greater Somalia. An old Somali say tells: “Fruits kept in the waist are not discarded for fruits on a tree.” “Miro gunti ku jira, looma daadiyo miro geed saaran.” Somalia must rely on itself for reconciliation and peace.
To implement The Only Road To Peace in Somalia, with the help and sponsorship of the international community, the following 4 step-plan needs to be adopted:
1. Immediate withdrawal or expulsion of all Ethiopian troops from Somalia. Any genuine reconciliation process or government formation for Somalia will be impossible under Ethiopian occupation and influence. For historical hostility, Ethiopia is and has been destabilizing factor in Somalia for the last 16 years and now is practicing old colonial divide and rule policy. Somalia must be free of all foreign influence and meddling to determine its destiny.
2. Holding Southern National Reconciliation Conference for Somalia where the delegates of the conference come only from the provinces of Somalia which are: Banaadir, Sh/Hoose, J/Hoose, J/Dhexe, Gedo, Bay, Bakool, Sh/dhexe, Hiiraan, Galguduud, Mudug, Nugaal, iyo Bari – The land formerly known as Italian Somalia. Delegates from Somaliland, Ethiopian-occupied Somali Western Province, Kenyan- occupied Somali North Eastern Province, and Djibouti must be banned from participating in this conference to avoid the past deceptive Pan-Somali conferences that prolonged anarchy and violence in Somalia.
3. The conference dissolves all clan-based administrations within Somalia to restore the national and territorial unity and identity of Somalia.
4. The conference elects provisional parliament and government that restores peace and stability in Somalia and paves the way for democratic elections.
This article may draw ire and anger from Somaliland critics accusing me of justifying Somaliland independence. That is not the case but my heart sympathizes with Somalia’s people living in fear, violence and misery for 16 years of political gambling hijacking their destiny. Somaliland’s legitimacy is already justified by the 1960 independence status and the history of the failed union. Somaliland is not a province like Nugaal or Bay that broke away or seceded from Somalia. Somaliland achieved independence from British colonial rule on June 26, 1960 and duly recognized as sovereign, independent nation by the United Nations and 35 countries including United States and Egypt.
Pioneering Greater Somalia dream, independent Somaliland joined voluntarily with the newly independent Southern counterpart (Italian Somalia) on July 1, 1960. Somaliland withdrew from the union in 1991 as the successor states of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia did in 1990s.
Somaliland’s withdrawal was based on the two following major reasons:
1. The voluntary union of 1960 was derailed in 1969 by military coup d`etat led by General Mohammed Siad Barre who ruled the union with brutal dictatorship for two decades. Siad Barre, a southerner, destroyed the foundations of North-South democratic agreement and unleashed merciless, murderous military campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1980s against northern civilians. This brutal campaign resulted in more than 50,000 deaths, dumping the bodies of many in mass graves at midnight, and created over 500,000 refugees let alone the massive destruction of cities (Hargeisa and Burao), rural villages, and public and private property through shelling and aerial bombardment.
2. When Siad Barre was ousted in January 1991 and SNM seized the North, the northern expectations for national unity government were dismissed by unilateral government declared in the South in February 1991 naming Ali Mahdi, a southerner, as president thus hijacking the union again.
These are the historical facts of Somaliland independence and the reasons of its withdrawal from the disastrous union. The South squandered the unification opportunity and betrayed the good will of the northern people by committing heinous crimes against them. Many of those advocating for unity today or screaming behind Somaliland were either behind the horrendous crimes, supportive or silent. Somaliland has the same legitimacy for international diplomatic recognition within its borders drawn in 1884 as Djibouti or any other African independent country has.
Threats against Somaliland independence, interfering its internal affairs, false claims over it’s, and uncalled invitations of Somaliland to Somalia’s conferences will only put the two sisterly states farther apart. If the people of Somalia form their own representative parliament and government that bring hope, peace, and stability to them, then Somaliland government is not ruling out to have bilateral, mutual talks with Somalia.
Ibrahim H. Gagale