After seventeen (17) long years of existing in the margins as nonentity and with no hope of ever receiving international recognition, the bottom seems to be falling out of rebel-held territory in northwestern Somalia, calling itself “Somaliland”. The signs supporting this sensible observation are many. Suffice to say few irrational actions taken by the splinter group in Hargeisa, of late, reveal how deeply distressed and anxious the ring leaders there must be feeling just about now. Consider the foolishness of their unprovoked cross border raids against Sanaag, Sool and Cayn jurisdictions in the past few days.
On the evening of Monday, April 9, 2007, a caravan of at least ten (10) technicals armed to the hilt, have descended on the peaceful town of Dhahar located in Sanaag region, Northeastern Somalia. Dhahar is a city populated by good natured people and it’s known for its hospitality. In their daily interactions, residents do not brandish weapons. Only the security forces of the autonomous Puntland state, with which the region is affiliated, are authorized to carry fire arms.
The intruding force was sent many hundreds of miles by the secessionist regime in Hargeisa. They arrived at the town center in the dead of night. Residents reached by phone indicated that the “Somaliland” force came uninvited and that it exhibited menacing behavior. Furthermore, they refused to heed the request of the community leaders to leave town peacefully before sunrise. Instead they proceeded to issue threats and repeated their nonsensical claim that the region is part of their fictitious state; a state that lacks historical legitimacy, legality and is recognized by no country on earth.
The secessionists have done this before. After the collapse of the Somali national government in 1991, their clan-based militia, the so-called SNM, had attempted to invade both the Sanaag and Sool regions as well as Cayn District. They have massacred non-combatants in all three jurisdictions. In the eastern part of Sanaag alone they have killed in cold-blood upwards of 600 people (602 to be exact), most of whom where unarmed civilians.
Despite their overwhelmingly superior armaments and the use of militia that acted as a standing army, however, the secessionist forces were roundly defeated. And they left many, if not most, of the war dead behind.
In the current situation, after invading a peaceful neighbor, secessionists rebuffed the pleas of the elders and community leaders of Dhahar City to cease and desist from their aggressive posture. At that point, the community adopted defensive measures to protect their families. In the ensuing battle, secessionists suffered one fatality and two of their militia conscripts were wounded. The citizens of Dhahar have not suffered any casualties. Nor did they sustain significant property damage.
The fleeing secessionist force was briefly detained in Xingalool town in Sanaag along the road to Ceerigaabo. When the town’s folk learned that the fleeing force has not caused much damage in Dhahar, they allowed them to proceed to their final destination—back to rebel-held territory.
The secessionists have recently made similar incursions into Sool region and Cayn District, all of which were repulsed.
So why are the rebels, from far away Hargeisa, who are up to their eyeballs with internal problems making these foolish forays (that are doomed to failure) into the territories of neighboring communities that have demonstrated, time and again, keenness for peaceful coexistence?
Some believe that these are desperate moves designed to distract and further mislead the population of the Northwest enclave, under the control of the ruling secession-obsessed clique in Hargeisa. Other knowledgeable observers have indicated that the rebels must have miscalculated, overestimating their strength and underestimating that of their opponents. This, it must be pointed, is a characteristic haste on the part of the secessionists.
The great military strategist, SUN-TZU, wrote in his book “The Art of War”, more than two thousand years ago, the following lines that would have been instructive for the Hargeisa-based rebels had they possessed the presence of mind to appreciate its wisdom:
Armaments are instruments of ill omen, war is a dangerous affair. It is imperative to prevent disastrous defeat, so it will not do to mobilize an army for petty reasons—arms are only to be used when there is no choice but to do so. Chapter 12, “The Incendiary Attack”.
There is clearly an identifiable element of self delusion in the affairs of this sad enclave in Northwestern Somalia that calls itself “the Republic of Somaliland”. The land is Somali alright, but there is nothing Republican about the dealings of the clan oligarchy that operates there. That is why the people of much of Sanaag, Sool and Cayn would need to associate with that group’s treasonous, secessionist project the way one would need a hole in the head.
Kat-induced bravado will not grant the misguided ‘Landers’ their secession dreamboat; a scheme that is conceived for the sole purpose of forging a territory where clan hegemony holds sway. Unbeknownst to them, though, theirs is an idea, which its time has long since passed. Today in Somalia, the veritable lesson taught by the civil war is this: no clan can dominate another. So the sooner they understand this fact the better for all Somalis. For that is when the society as a whole will shift gears and mobilize its resources (human, knowledge base and natural) to build the nation for the benefit of all in an environment of justice and fraternity.
Here, it is important to make an important distinction between the decent Somali citizens living throughout the Northwestern region and their self-seeking politicians. The people have the same hopes and aspirations as their fellow Somalis in other parts of the country. They want peace and a chance to rebuild their communities without rampant corruption and the study diet fear-mongering that is dished out to them by their cunning politicians. Hence the tragedy of a community that is held hostage to the whims of a group of craven political hacks hell-bent on a campaign of self-aggrandizement.
If history is any guide, the kat-crazed political elite of “Somaliland”—ever so reliant as they are on the handouts of their foreign enablers, whose aim is nothing more than to wreck Somalia, once and for all—will be probably whistling past the graveyard before they come to their senses and stop being such a destructive force in society. I hope I am wrong on this. But, as the saying goes, time will tell!
Ali A. Fatah email@example.com