It is obvious the ambassador first met the Somaliland authorities and discussed the matter with them. It is equally obvious that the President being fully aware of the sensitivity of the issue has requested the foreign diplomat to make some effort on his own and try to sell the case to the local population in a bid to gauge the public reaction to the suggestion.
The Diplomatآ’s approach and techniques during the press conference proved that he is a skilled salesman and indeed managed to make an impact and triggered a heated debate in the local as well as Diaspora circles on a matter that is up until now considered a taboo and beyond discussion as far as the people of Somaliland are concerned. Mr. Chris Allan demonstrated, in details, the purported benefits that Somaliland could reap if they opted to attend the meeting which is officially titled London Conference Somalia.
But he did not tell us and we do not expect him to disclose the minefields and the bottlenecks that Somaliland could find itself trapped in by simply attending the conference without proper planning and cautious reading between the lines.
We all know that Somaliland could benefit from engagement with some 40 countries attending the meeting. However, without careful preparation we could end up dogged down in the Somali Quagmire. I would never question the integrity of our friends in Britain and their sincere efforts to make things better for Somalia as well as Somaliland. However, a Muslim is never bitten at the same spot twice. The people of Somaliland have paid a very heavy price of the miscalculated and mishandled Unity with the South way back in 1960 - more than 50 year ago.
We should not hastily commit a similar historic mistake and make our children and grandchildren pay the price. Similarly in 1884, on the eve of the negotiations leading to the signing of the First Anglo-Somali Tribes Agreement in Berbera, the Somali Elders were asked: what is the extent of your territories?: They innocently responded: As far as our camels reach in the Autumn grazing season. In 1897 (just 13 years later), Rennell Rodd, the British Ambassador and Prince Ras Makonnen, representing King Menelik of Ethiopia negotiated and concluded that the border line between Somaliland Protectorate and Ethiopia should be drawn just 30 miles south of Hargeisa.
In todayآ’s Information Technology, we would not be forgiven for making yet another deadly mistake. Consequently, the following points should form the core checklist of the issues that should be cleared before we give any green light in this matter:
1.The Ambassador told us that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will deliver a formal invitation letter in the name of SL President. He also stated that the foreign Minister of UK will also make personal telephone call to our President requesting him to attend the gathering. Well, that sounds wonderful; but it is worth remembering that similar letters will be sent to Puntland Chief and probably a dozen or so other regional and sub-regional leaders in Somalia who accept and claim to be part and parcel of the Somali Republic but under a new federal deal.
By Contrast, Somaliland contends that it is an independent nation with full sovereignty over its territories and not part of Defunct Somalia Republic. The hosts should therefore find a formula that would satisfy the positions of the two sides and Somaliland should NOT be treated as a Region of Somalia if the conference is intended to achieve positive results.
2.More importantly, the government of Somaliland should be informed of the status of their delegation to the meeting and we need to further scrutinize the status of the invitation. For instance, the Seating and the Speeches to be delivered by our leaders are of paramount importance
3.It should be clear to the hosts that we are not prepared to engage or even appear in any session where the discussions are related to reconciliation of the Factions of Somalia, their forthcoming political Road-Map or any other business related to the political turmoil in Somalia. We should not accept to appear even as observers in these sessions.
4.The hosts should be fully aware of our position vs. any matter that is outside the mandate of our leadership in accordance with the Somaliland Constitution and the Laws of the Land.
5.The timing of the sessions should be clearly segregated to avert participation of Somaliland delegation in discussions that are related to conflict resolving of the Factions of Somalia. It is worth remembering here that it will be inappropriate and rather embarrassing for our leaders walk out at the opening each session that would incorporate discussions of the political problems of Somalia. Such incidences should be avoided in the first place by separating the sessions.
Against the background of the conditions and the precautionary measures that I have outlined above, the following is summary of the Agenda of the Conference. The international community hopes to agree a series of practical measures under seven headings: Topics on the Agenda of the Conference are as follows:
· Security: sustainable funding for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and support for Somali security and justice sectors: (None of our Business)
· Political Process: agreement to what should succeed the transitional institutions in Mogadishu in August 2012 and the establishment of a Joint Financial Management Board: (None of our Business)
· Local Stability: a coordinated international package of support to Somaliaآ’s regions( We can participate and seek utmost international support for the regions of Somaliland)
· Counter-terrorism: renewed commitment to tackle collectively the terrorist threat emanating from Somalia (We can participate and positively contribute to Counter-terrorism efforts)
· Piracy: breaking the piracy business model (We can participate and positively contribute to the anti-Piracy efforts)
· Humanitarian: renewed commitment to tackling Somaliaآ’s humanitarian crisis (We can Particite )
· International coordination: agreement on improved international handling of Somalia issues: (We can participate).
It is obvious the Somaliland delegation will be literally between the rock and the hard place, as the room of any maneuvering has been tactfully narrowed to the minimum. As stated above, the first 2 topics on the Agenda of the London Conference are grossly related to the day-to-day affairs of our neighbors to the South, the Somali Republic so much so that there is no room for the Republic of Somaliland to have anything to do with the issues under discussion آ– simply none of our business.
On the other hand, the other 5 topics mostly comprise issues of interest to Somaliland even though the wordings apparently involve some mixing of the cards. For that reason, we should insist that the sessions of the conference should be separately timed and we should have the option to attend ONLY those sessions that would not jeopardize the aspiration of the people of Somaliland and not in breach of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.
Finally, notwithstanding the skepticism that I have expressed over the upcoming ALL Somalis Conference on London, I am otherwise a strong believer of the notion that it is high time the president of Somaliland Mr. Ahmed Mahmoud Ahmed should engage in face-to-face discussions with his counterpart of Somali Mr. Sheikh Shariff provided the following Basic Principals are adhered to - in form and substance:
1.The meeting should be between the two presidents alone in their capacity as the representatives of the Somaliland and Somalia, representing two States that had entered into the Unity of 1960.
2.The facilitators/mediators should high-ranking representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom.
3.After the discussions, the mediators should release the only communiquأ© covering the discussions between the two men and any developments if any.
4.The two sides should reaffirm their belief that the question of the independence of Somaliland should be resolved in political settlement and by peaceful means.
Hassan Abdi Yousuf (Riyadh/Saudi Arabia)