- The International Conference on Somalia hosted in London on February 23, 2012 proclaimed that the question of Somaliland’s independence is an issue for Somalis to negotiate. The participants of the Conference therefore encouraged a preliminary bilateral dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia, as the resulting Communiqué emanated from the Conference substantiated. Honoring the clause, the two parties agreed upon the nature as well as the manner in which the dialogue ought to be conducted. The path to the bilateral dialogue was the admission of the relative status of the two sovereign states. Put bluntly, the agreement was that Somaliland and Somalia will re-negotiate as two separate sovereign states based on their respective status prior to the union; namely, the former Somaliland Protectorate (Somaliland) and the former Italian colony (Somalia).
Accordingly, both parties were anticipated to select delegates representing their respective government to participate in the dialogue. Somaliland honored its promise and opted for five-member Cabinet Committee whereas the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) failed dishonorably to uphold its word of honor by adding two additional delegates who hailed from Somaliland, which rendered the potential talks null and void, as Somaliland’s Foreign Minister correctly noted.
This episode provides an assortment of lessons and opportunities. First, it underpins and intensifies the Somaliland’s time-tested and deep-seated conviction concerning the untrustworthiness of their Somali brethren. The lessons learned from the hasty and ill-prepared merger with Somalia on July 1, 1960 had instructed and induced Somaliland to never trust Somalia again due to their dishonestly, mistreatment, brutality, and attempted genocide. The TFG’s current monkey business of broken promise apparently resembles the previous countless occurrences in which Somalia had broken its promises. Although related cases abound, one particular episode will suffice.
It is one of the recurring broken promises of the Somalia’s civilian government in 1960s in which the then Prime Minster Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke deliberately levied higher taxes on Somalilanders and reduced the salary of their military and civil servants. To find remedy for the ill treatment, a combination of delegates from Somaliland (including Hussein Ali Duale, aka Awil—the Former Finance Minister of Somaliland) attempted to present their grievances to the military and government leaders.
They approached General Daud Abdulle Hirsi, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Somali National Army, who promised initially to resolve the issue but instead ordered a decree of siege in Somaliland and detained numerous Somaliland military and public officials. General Daud’s failure to keep his promise resembles his progeny’s current knee-jerk reaction. This demonstrates that ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’
The additional aspect that this aftermath instructs Somaliland is the weakness and ineffectiveness of the successive Somali governments. The current TFG leadership is unable to select five-member Cabinet Committee, as Somaliland accomplished effortlessly, from its administration to participate in the talks with Somaliland by intentionally adding two additional delegates hailed from Somaliland. Due to the end of his term, President Sherif is preoccupied to cling to power and appease contending factions within his administration and Puntland.
Puntland strives to support certain elements in the TFG administration hailed from its region, including the current Prime Minster Abdiweli, to become the next Somali president. Therefore, President Sharif bends over backwards to accommodate the political pressure from President Faroole of Puntland and his crony Prime Minster Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. Habitual broken promises, incompetence, and egotism render the current TFG administration unreliable partner.
This is a double-edged sword for Somaliland. On the one hand, it is a golden opportunity for Somaliland government to demonstrate to the International Community that Somalia is incapable of engaging bilateral constructive dialogue as their current debacle illustrates. Thus, Somaliland can advance its quest for recognition by asserting that since Somalia is ill equipped to participate in bilateral dialogue, it is high time for International Community to recognize Somaliland.
On the other hand, it is a silencer to Somaliland opponents who repeatedly accuse Somaliland of rebuffing any dialogue with Somalia. It is indeed a political victory for Somaliland.
By Abdi Hussein Daud
Minneapolis, MN (USA)
(The author has obtained B.A. in Political Science/Global Studies from the University of Minnesota and currently pursuing Masters in Health and Human Services Administration at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota).