By: Abdalla A. Hirad

It may have been a little too soon or, indeed, surprising to many outside the community of the newly proclaimed Maakhir State of Somalia, as the people of the territory now officially call themselves. Read proclamation and related information:

But the idea is not strange to or new among the Maakhirites. Ever since the collapse of the Somali government in January 1991, the initiative was being increasingly contemplated by the community, alongside political considerations to maintain good neighborly relations with its neighboring communities to the East, West and South as well as maintaining internal harmony within the Maakhir community itself.

Maintaining such a balance has not been easy, given that, on the one hand, there have always been those within the community—a minority—who have preferred to explore the possibility of cementing political relations with northern clans including the Issacs, the Gadabursi and Dhulbahante, with a view to maintaining peace and stability in the northern regions, in the interim period, during the absence of national government. I must hastily add that some may have even been considering cementing those relations between the northern communities towards reconfiguration into a new political compact under the banner of what has come to be known as “Somaliland”. Needless to mention that these have been a negligible minority.

On the other hand, there were those who valued kinship (tolnimo) over non-kinship-based regional interests (Ood) and were therefore inclined to unconditionally amalgamate with their kinsmen in a “Puntland” Federal State. Indeed, a greater rationale for joining a “Puntland” or a “Harti” compact, tilting the balance to the East, has been has been the collective wish of the community to neutralize the separatist intentions of “Somaliland”, in the interim period, and while there was no national government in Somalia. However, the majority of the Maakhirites remained in the middle, with a preference to a region or a State of their own, independent of both sides—“Somaliland” and “Puntland”.

As a result of this precarious political situation the community remained in a limbo between its nationalist motto and aspirations for independence and its interim goals to achieve peace and stability in the region and with surrounding communities. The downside of these noble and lofty considerations has been that it may have dearly cost the community in terms of rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in the interim period. In fact, both the hopes of those preferring amalgamation with “Puntland” as well as those bent on cementing relations within “Somaliland” have been failed. While constantly hampering and frustrating the aspirations of the majority of the Maakhirites for independence and self reliance, these entities have also contributed to the community’s underdevelopment and lack of progress during the interim period, since the collapse of government in 1991.

The United Nations may have contributed with its lion’s share in undermining the community’s interest and aspiration for independence and self-reliance, in this regard. The UN’s Administrative Zoning Program which divided Somalia into for Administrative Zones for providing relief and rehabilitation assistance in 1992, as recommended at the time by the former Secretary-General’s Envoy to Somalia, Mr. Muhammad Zahnoun, has been the major culprit in this regard. Zahnoun’s zoning program which remains operative until this day, as adopted by the Security Council at that time, had lumped the community with the North West region—in other words, “Somaliland”.

However, despite the bogus claim of Maakhir regions by “Somaliland” as part of its territory, the regions remained neglected by the international community since its share of resources for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance was being channeled via Hargeisa, the leadership of which remained deliberately swayed against letting the assistance through to the Maakhir community. On the other hand, assistance through “Puntland” was thwarted on the grounds that the Maakhir community’s share of international assistance was appropriated through the North West or “Somaliland”. So the community’s partial association and relationship with both entities has amounted to no more than lib service. Indeed, those precarious conditions which kept the community hanging in the middle have rendered it a victim of the prevailing geographical, political and administrative circumstances surrounding its recent existence

Ironically, despite these ill-fated circumstances of the recent past, the community has throughout the centuries remained independent and self-reliant. With a shoreline extending between Bossasso to the East and bordering on Maydh to the West, facing the Gulf of Aden, fisheries has remained an occupation as well as an opportunity for investment in the area throughout the centuries. Laskoreh, a port city in the area was the choice of the Somali government of the early sixties to build a large scale fish factory. Since the collapse of government, another smaller factory has been built by means of private investment attracting share holders from business from other parts of Somalia.

Overlooking the shoreline is an invariably lush, green and fertile northern slope of the Golis Range Mountain, known to the locals as Cal Madow, which has for millennia provided for the produce of frankincense among many other potentially high value crops. With a plateau stretching from the bottom of the southern slope of the mountain to the northern banks of the Nugal valley to the south, which is good for grazing and all-season livestock raring, the area has for the centuries past remained self-supporting and independent. In addition to a great potential for infrastructure and tourism development, the area has been a candidate for mineral, gas and petroleum exploration. It is a known fact that the American Petroleum Company, Elf, had conducted offshore oil exploration in the mid eighties. In the last couple of years the government of Puntland signed deals with an Australian conglomerate for mineral exploration, which sparked the famous Mija Yahan skirmishes between the community and some government troops, resulting in the death of about 10 persons. (Click here to see the map of the area:

Endowed with this potential for natural resource development and a traditional heritage of independence, the community has a comparative advantage over many parts of Somalia to make its bid for its autonomy as a federal entity of Somalia. That independence is historically documented, whereby the current Sultan Said Abdusalaam Mohamoud Ali Shire of the area is the 26th generation of a long line of Sultans (or Grads). Most widely known to recent history is Sultan Mohamoud Ali-Shire, the Sultan of Somaliland, and the grand father of the current Sultan. Click here for a glimpse of the history:

As indicated above, the initiative started with a 33 member parliament, the President and 7 member cabinet—a very modest undertaking. A few of the members of the government whose names I recognize had served in the upper and lower houses of “Somaliland”, including the President and the Minister of Justice and Religion. For now, there is a requirement of an overwhelming Maakhirite support within the area and from abroad as well as financial support through remittances from the Maakhirite community in the Diaspora, for the initiative to get off the ground. As the saying goes, there is no stopping for an idea whose time has come. The fact remains though: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Hence, the establishment of the Maakhir State is very much contingent in how much support and funding it receives from the people it is meant to serve—especially during its embryonic stage. Click here for additional information by other Somali websites:

Finally, the Maakhir State will as a matter of course engage in talks with its neighbors to be able to define its borders. The fact that both the cities of Erigavo and Bossasso and their suburbs have sizable Maakhirite communities does not make the negations any easier. In the meantime, it seems that, therefore, the new political leadership and the traditional one have their tasks cut out for them, in this respect.