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Somaliland’s Quest for International Recognition and the HBM-SSC Factor
By Abdikarim H. Abdi Buh
June 30, 2010

Somaliland is situated in Somalia’s northwest. It declared unilateral independence from the rest of the Somali state in 1991 and has since been campaigning for international recognition. Somaliland’s functional administration is limited principally to the Western part of the former British protectorate as the Eastern part has been a disputed area between Puntland and Somaliland regional states for a good time. It is also worth to mention that a third group under the name of  HBM-SSC (Hoggaanka Badbaadada iyo Mideynta SSC) that is campaigning from a  unionist platform and whose goal is the creation of their own regional adminstration (Sool, Sanaag & Cayn) in their own land to counterbalance what they see as a domination of their homeland by alien clans- Somaliland and Puntland- has further mudded up the already murky politics of the region. See the size of the disputed area.

HBM-SSC and Puntland state share among other things the unionist platform and to some degree clan affiliations. The possibility of them ironing their difference in a short time appears to be within reach as the point of contention is limited only to the establishment of SSC (Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions) administrative region.  HBM and Somaliland have no common ground to negotiate about because of the obsession of the latter on a secessionist agenda that has a minority audience in the Somali political circles.

The secessionist agenda was single handedly introduced by the SNM (Somali National Movement) under the leadership of Mr. Abdirahman Ahmed Ali “Tuur” (first president of Somaliland) in contravention to its own unionist constitution at a time the country was falling apart and SNM was the only force in the North . Mr. Abdirahman Tuur renounced the secessionist agenda in 1994 and instead publicly supported the return to Somalia under a system of federation.  However the agenda of secessionism since then is pursued vehemently by members of the Diaspora who seem to have hijacked the politics of the region. The bulk of the local politicians and commoners are not against unionism per se but because of the chaos in the south have no choice other than to sacrifice their desires temporally at least for the time being. In the unlikely scenario that the international community extends outright recognition to Somaliland it is believed regions such as Awdal and some parts of Tog Dheer and Hargeisa would opt out.   Premature international recognition instead of consolidating whatever gains the region has so far achieved will rather become an agent that can disintegrate the Western part of the region (Somaliland) and thus down grade it to the deplorable level of the south.

HBM-SSC and Puntland by flying the blue Somali flag are well placed to gain the moral and political support of the rest of the Somalis which will ultimately translate into further frustration of the secessionist agenda of the western part of the former British protectorate (Somaliland). The yearning for the return of the Somali state has never been stronger in these days. The media headlines were over flooded by 26 June (50th independence day) commemoration festivals held all over the country and   in faraway places such as Europe, America and Australia - see independence day celebration in  Minneapolis  50th Somali Independence Day -26 June.

The semi - autonomous region of Puntland (North East Region) changed four presidents during the tenure (8Yrs) of President Rayale of Somaliland. This spectacular tradition of changing administrations through the ballot box appears to have taken root equally in both regions. The democratic credentials of Somaliland and Puntland is a morale uplift for the depressed South but at same time Somali eyes including those of the Islamists are focused on how they deal with the HBM-SSC question whose struggle in establishing their own Democratic regional dministration, without which development will depressed, is considered legitimate by the majority of the Somalis irrespective of their political allegiance. Somaliland and Puntland’s hostile rhetoric and name calling of HBM-SSC will only end up in radicalizing the movement and will certainly cripple both adminstrations permanently. Sit back and watch this What is SSC.

Somaliland minus the SSC (Sool, Sanaag and Cayn region) regions stands no chance of international recognition. The legal authorisation of secession rests with the future Somali government but in the interim period logic teaches us that a divided region can’t see the light of the day. The politicians in Somaliland, all three parties, made their agenda to make the common Somalilander believe that if this election goes well then the international community who are waiting in the wings will grant international recognition to Somaliland which will enable the administration to tab into the multilateral and bilateral funds. The common man is waiting recognition that will mean quick fixes of public infrastructures, schools, health and the economy in general soon after the election is concluded. Such empty and nonexistent promises will have devastating effect on the trust of the people in the long run. Please watch this debate on the question of international recognition with regard to Somaliland Inside Story - Somaliland VS Somalia

Somaliland Elections: - changing shape like a fluid in a plastic

The Kulmiye election campaign in Somaliland is lead by the Diaspora who returned to the region in huge numbers with sacks full of dollars to buy the votes of the poor. There is nothing wrong to campaign intensively to further the interests of one’s party but it should be done in a way that that is not deceptive and respects the electoral laws. Reports coming from the region are blaming the tactics employed by Kulmiye supporters to have a created a general feeling that they have a hidden scheme of putting a Habar Jeclo clansman in the presidential office irrespective of his political manifesto – wrong or right it is our time is said to be the going motto of Kulmiye foot soldiers.

The ill timed political miscalculation of Kulmiye supporters who coerced Ministers and chiefs that hail from Kulmiye leader’s clan to cross the floor at the eleventh hour created a fiasco that shifted the voting landscape of the region for the benefit of UDUB, the ruling party, which days before the misadventure appeared to have lost the race. Unconfirmed reports also mentioned that the head of Berbera port, a close relative, to Kulmiye leader resigned too. I will be surprised the least if UDUB wins by a comfortable majority as opposed to its previous win by small margin – the unwise Diaspora involvement rekindled the old volatile clan mistrusts within the clans that reside in the eastern part of Somaliland. The clear clan line, in the eyes of the locals, Kulmiye is accused to have adopted at the last minute united other clans against the perceived threat of Kulmiye winning the seat through deception and as a consequence some clans withdraw their earlier pledges of support and switched to UDUB who was initially staggering far behind Kulmiye.  Read the reaction to the resignation of the Ministers.

The members of the Diaspora were trucking people from the Somali regional state of Ethiopia to vote in Somaliland elections while at same time denying voting rights to over 70,000 Somalis (from the south) who were legal residents of Hargeisa since the start of the civil war -  twenty years back. To put it in another way; the Hargeisa administration’s denial of voting rights or a form of representation to the taxpaying Somalis in Hargeisa while allowing the Ethiopian Isaq clansmen people to vote is just out of character.

Reports from reliable sources confirmed that the voting returns from Garadag and Ceel Afweyne districts were put on hold by Somaliland election commission later this afternoon after they found out that Kulmiya party stuffed the ballot boxes with 10, 000 and 17,000 fraudulent voting papers respectively and the same source confirmed that some districts in Buroa is under investigation after allegations of voting irregularities were brought to the attention of the commission. It is also widely circulated today that UCID party lodged a complaint against alleged fraud in Gabiley region perpetuated by Kulmiye with the election commission.

UDUB has been in power for so long and the gist of this election is to vote for a change which makes Kulmiye party the only choice in the arena but if the allegations so far meted against it materializes, then it will give an excuse for the losers to discredit the result of the vote which will jeopardise the legality of kulmiye’s future administration. In the event the losers resort to violence then Ethiopia will step in and sort out as it can’t tolerate chaos to take reign in the region that it invested so much - Ethiopia’s firm control of the region is among other factors what keeps the peace of the region.

It is common knowledge that the referendum on secession orchestrated by Hargeisa administration held in May 2001 in Somaliland was only confined to the western part of the old British Protectorate and this current presidential election is again confined to the same part which means its outcome has no significance what so ever on the Eastern part of Somaliland (SSC lands). The people who live in the SSC regions are following the progress of the election in no different way to that of Puntland, central regions, Mogadishu and kismayo people who has nothing to do with the secessionist agenda of Hargeisa administration.
Whichever party that emerges as the winner of this election has no option but to deal with the elusive SSC question. To comprehend the gravity of the crisis ahead and the land mass which was not subject to the Somaliland elections; please focus on this link yet again See the size of the disputed area. This fact alone is powerful enough to throw out of the window any prospect of international recognition for which Somaliland was craving for twenty years. The international community will have no incentive to lobby for the recognition of a region that is divided no matter how many times that some portions of the region goes to the polling stations.    

Conclusion: - Ethiopian positive intervention might save the day

Somaliland and Puntland are both Ethiopian client adminstrations which are accountable to Addis on all major policy decisions. Ethiopian interest will not be served by opening yet another front in the north when Al–Shabab vanguards are knocking at the doors of both regional states. The message from Al Shabab leader to Somaliland people on the eve of the polling day, the killing and arrest of Al-Shabab suspected members in Burao and Hargeisa, the assassination of Lasanood election commission officers and intelligence chief, the daily skirmishes in Las Anod between Somaliland Militia and HBM fighters is a prime signal that a change of policy is overdue.

Ethiopia who is designated by the west to oversee Somalia by containing the Islamists within the borders of Somalia will most probably inform Puntland and Somaliland to steer clear from HBM’s endeavour to establish their own regional state which will eventually be another addition to the Ethiopian controlled regions.

Somaliland and Puntland to different scales are banking on Ethiopia to fight their dirty war against the HBM, by falsely labelling them as terrorists, but Ethiopia will not side one tribe against the other as that will compromise their overall security interests in the region especially at a time Ethiopia, for the first time in its history, is in the process of disarming through negotiation its local Somali insurgents. Ethiopia is at this juncture working hard to wrap up the two decade old ONLF lead war inside Ethiopia and so far is in course to achieve peace with itself so it is foolhardy to expect Ethiopia to sacrifice its regional interest for enclaves (Somailand/Puntland) that are already in its pocket.  

Abdikarim Buh
Political analyst and WardheerNews contributor


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