Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) of Somalia are three regions claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland administrations. Somaliland’s claim is based on shared colonial experience whereas that of Puntland is based on shared genealogy. In this paper, my aim is to contribute ideas towards creating an atmosphere in which people from SSC(1) ( i.e. Dhulbahante) can reconcile their differences so that their input in any administration can bear fruit. The starting of this paper is that unionists in SSC who were not traditional supporters of the former armed opposition group, Somali National Movement, outnumber by far their pro-Somaliland cousins. The challenge for SSC unionists is to clarify if, by supporting Somali unity, they want to persuade other SSC pro-Somalilanders with whom they do not share clan affiliation to give up on secession and or if their unionism reflects the views of SSC clansmen and clanswomen.
In the following part, we will discuss the characteristics and political claims of each camp to help the reader understand the camps’ influence and source of support; the strength and weakness in each camp’s argument will be explored.
The pro-Puntland camp bases their reasoning on the role SSC traditional leaders had in setting up Puntland administration in 1998. No matter how Puntland administration failed to prevent or bring to an end the infighting within pro-Puntand SSC politicians and political appointees, support for the Puntland State of Somalia is unquestionable.
Pro-Puntland SSC camp’s argument is based on their aim to avoid blame-game. They look upon Puntland as a clan based entity and that clans and sub-clans and their traditional and political leaders have an obligation towards the people they represent to prevent political disputes from developing into political violence.
Pro-Puntland camp has not set up a conflict-prevention or conflict resolution example to inspire people’s confidence in their continued support for Puntland. SSC political appointees were not reined in by the traditional leaders who endorse their appointments. The new Puntland constitution reduces traditional leaders to the role of resolving clan and sub-clan conflicts and expect them to leave administrative tasks to the technocrats, although it is the traditional leaders who choose the members of Puntland House of Representatives, who inturn elect the president, vice president and the assembly speaker.
Pro-SSC leadership camp put their weight behind the new political leadership formed in Nairobi after some of the major traditional leaders of SSC held a conference in October 2009.
The pro—SSC leadership camp has merits because of Puntland’s resistance to change given the traditional and political leaders’ failure to avert the 2002 Puntland war and the political struggle that caused some one-time pro-Puntland people to switch sides and join Somaliland administration by facilitating the capture of Las Anod by Somaliland forces in 2007. They regard the Puntland political experiment as a failed partnership, and think people of SSC have paid a price for uncritical support for successive Puntland leaders. SSC leadership supporters are increasing.
Pro-SSC leadership camp does not take into account political realities such as divided loyalty in SSC constituencies. It has not so far developed coherent set of policies about how it can woo supporters from other camps.
The Khusuusi, named after the council of advisers of the Dervishes led by Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan (1900-1920), was set to be the collective decision making traditional leadership of SSC made up of Garaads(2), the outcome of a meeting held in Buuro-wadal plains in Sool region in February 2010. Garaads who attended the Buuro-wadal summit are divided on the support the Khusuusi gives Puntland.
The Khusuusi is an all-Garaad council. Their relevance reflects the extent to which SSC people have become disillusioned with SSC politicians in both Puntland and Somaliland.
The Khusuusi lacks political clarity about the role and the political future of SSC people. Is their role a duplication of SSC leadership the traditional leaders helped to come into existence in 2009? Will they be free from pressures from would-be politicians and political appointees seeking the imprimatur of the Khusuusi to join a given administration? This lack of clarity may affect how SSC people, Puntland and Somaliland administrations view their role. The Khusuusi’s influence is in decline. They seem to be complimenting the work of the SSC leadership. Pro-Puntland and Pro-Somaliland politicians can cooperate on undermining the Khusuusi.
Pro-Somaliland camp is made up of politicians and militia leaders, some of whom once supported Puntland. Their influence grew after Somaliland forces had captured Las Anod in 2007.
Pro-Somaliland camp’s political and military visibility is based on the support it gets from Somaliland. SSC people in areas under Somaliland coexist peacefully. Pro-SSC Somaliland forces are more disciplined than Puntland forces so far. People complain about the system not those they indentify as locals working with Somaliland if things go wrong.
Somaliland appointed and empowered politicians and political appointees are known for their anti-SSC traditional leadership stance. The pro-Somaliland politicians and militia leaders ignored calls for reconciliation for SSC constituencies from the chairman of Somaliland’s House of Elders (Guurti) in 2008. They have no support base in their communities; they think any talks with pro-union SSC people will undercut their influence in Somaliland.
The four groups outlined above are key stake-holders in Dhulbahante-inhabited areas of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions. Except for the pro-Somaliland SSC camp, the other three camps regard Somaliland forces in Dhulbahante-inhabited parts of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn as occupation forces. Las Anod, the administrative capital of Sool region was ruled by Puntland until October 2007 when it fell. SSC people differ on the status of Las Anod and the circumstances that led Somaliland to take it over from the Puntland administration.
Conflict prevention approach
The SSC traditional leaders have got to take on themselves the responsibility to solve the political and environmental problems that made Sool, Sanaag and Cayn potential flashpoints of conflict between Puntland and Somaliland administrations. In the past the role of Garaads was intertwined with the role of politicians. The absence of clear role in the context of new challenges caused by state collapse helped the SSC politicians exploit and misuse their positions in Puntland and Somaliland. This is why Sool, Sanaag and Cayn areas inhabited by the unionist constituencies had failed to benefit from reconstruction and development initiatives donor countries the United Nations earmarked for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn. Since December 2007, Somaliland has been the main channel through development aid is sent for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn. Before that year, it is not known who handled development aid earmarked for SSC regions and on which projects it has been spent since the international community started supporting local administrations.
Somaliland administration has not made consultations about development assistance with SSC people nor has it made clear how it asks donor countries for development aid for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions, and how it distributes the resources. This is why pro-Somaliland SSC politicians and militias alienated their people.
The same situation prevailed in Las Anod under Puntland (2002-2007) but being part of an administration that was formed on the basis of kinship (tolnimo) has not made SSC traditional leaders and politicians aware of regional development challenges and opportunities. There is something dangerously paternalistic about clan affiliation in local politics because people put misplaced trust in it.
The traditional leadership of Sool, Sanaag, Cayn people is the only institution that can use its leverage to solve political and social problems facing people in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn region by starting the process of reconciling political groups who support opposing political structures. Somaliland and Puntland administrations can have everything to gain from refraining from attempts to undermine the traditional leadership of SSC. The two administrations have got to check in the excesses of politicians and political appointees whose actions turn out to be liabilities for both administrations.
By Liban Ahmad
(1) Other Somali clans live in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn as well. In this paper emphasis is placed on the fragmented traditional and political leadership of the Dhulbahante clan without whose united stand either Puntland or Somaliland cannot make a territorial claim on Sool, Sanaag and Cayn.
(2)Garaad is a generic name of the Dhulbahante, Geri, Bartire and Warsangeli traditional leader.
(3) It is what makes the occupation thesis implausible particularly when the same traditional leaders who supported the deployment of Somaliland troops now oppose their presence.
(4) Somaliland is promoted by Somalilanders as a polity for clans who live in what was known as British Somaliland but the first president of Somaliland was the late Abdirahman Ahmed Ali, former chairman of Somali National Movement, (now-defunct) one of the armed opposition groups against Siyad Barre regime. The SNM was an armed opposition group for the Isaaq clan just as Somali Salvation Democratic Front and United Somali congress were armed opposition groups for Majeerteen and Hawiye clans, respectively. The SNM constitution was in favour of unity. Secession was declared without changing the SNM constitution or putting forward the secession case for consultation with people who live in northern Somalia.
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