Thursday, November 21, 2019
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An Open Letter to James Swan, UN Special Representative for Somalia

To:      HE Ambassador James Swan, UN SRSG for Somalia

CC:      HE President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo
             HE Prime Minister Hassan Khayre

Info:    Somalia’ Key International Partner

Your Excellency

We, the unionist peoples from Somalia’s northern unionist regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC), not to mention those from the Awdal region, have warmly welcomed your appointment as Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Somalia (SRSG). Given your unrivalled past experiences in African conflict areas as Ambassador representing your country, including your stint as your country’s special representative for Somalia in the years 2011-2013, we consider your appointment as UN SRSG for Somalia as most propitious for helping Somalia get over its turbulent times.


Towards this end, your first trip on 28 July 2019 to Hargeisa, the capital of the one-clan secessionist enclave calling itself Somaliland, is fitting in more ways than one. You are bound out of duty, and also respect to your hosts, to exchange pleasantries, see what they show you and hear what they tell you. It would be most unfortunate and a betrayal of the rest of Somalia, above all those in the north, if the specious deceptive picture presented to you should form your take. The true picture they failed to tell you or show is the dark dismal reality prevailing in the territory they claim.

That is why it is indispensable, notwithstanding the distractions and distortions you may face, not to lose sight of the course of history that led to the birth of the entity you visited which the rest of Somalia and the international community see as an illegitimate by-product of the collapse of the Somali State in January 1991. It is therefore worthwhile reiterating briefly that history for the record lest it be overlooked or overridden in pursuit of realpolitik or other expedient considerations.

The breakaway enclave calling itself Somaliland is the child of rebel insurgents in the north hailing exclusively from the Isaaq clan, and going by the acronym SNM (Somali National Movement -a misnomer for a separatist outfit). They, together with other clan-based southern movements, succeeded in January 1991 to bring down President Siyad Barre’s military government in Somalia. That action unfortunately did not lead to a civilian democratic one as almost all Somalis hoped but to the very collapse of the Somali State as southern rebel leaders, vying for power, turned their guns on each other and on the population along clan basis– a situation in sharp contrast to the case in Ethiopia where there was an orderly transfer of power when Mengestu Haile Marian, the leader of Ethiopia, was chased out of Addis Ababa almost at the same time as Siyad Barre was out of Mogadishu.

For its part, the SNM, taking advantage of the collapse of the State and the lawlessness in Southern Somalia which distracted the world, was able to achieve immediately all its cherished goals except one : laying its hands on the arsenal of the disintegrated Somali national army based in the north; declaring the secession of northern Somalia and calling it by its former defunct colonial name of Somaliland; and lastly occupying the unionist region of Awdal, some parts of Sanaag and Sool, including its capital Lascanod. Only the Cayn region (aka Buuhoodle distinct) escaped their conquests after their successive invasions were defeated at the hands of the local civilian defenders. The only goal that eludes them so far is recognition.

To keep matters in perspective, Honourable SRSG, the secessionist clan is only one of the five in the north (former British Somaliland) and its homeland constitutes around a fifth of the territory. Since no credible independent census has ever been taken in the north, even during colonial times, their claim to outnumber all the other clans put together is self-serving and has to be disregarded. What matters is that all the other four unionist clans reject to be part of the secession and are adamant to remain in Somalia. That is what should guide Mogadishu, its international minders and your office, Honourable SRSG. And for a start, they should all stop lumping together all the clans as if they were all secessionists but deal with them separately for what they are – secessionist or unionist.

What replaced the fallen State in the north therefore is a one clan holding sway militarily in most parts, taking advantage of Mogadishu’s impotence if not indifference and an indulgent international community that, in the case of the occupation of unionist regions, looks the other way or simply goes along with the facts created on the ground. Far worse is their tacit acceptance of the clan’s unlawful claim that they are a separate country whose dominion extends beyond their clan enclave to the whole of the defunct British Somaliland (which they now call themselves) with suzerainty over all the clans and regions irrespective of their loyalties. The proof is the separate preferential treatment they give “Somaliland” in dealings and aid.

Needless to say, the political support and the generous, disproportionate and unconditional aid that donors give Hargeisa (the secessionist clan), to almost the exclusion of the SSC regions, are what prolongs the secession, sustains the occupation of the SSC regions and destabilizes Somalia. This approach, of no cost to the enclave for its actions, will only serve them as an incentive to remain intransigent on the secession and continue with the occupation and all the other indefensible abuses they commit.

In so doing, donors do not only undermine Somalia’s unity which they profess to support, but also ride roughshod over Somalia’s constitution and the inalienable rights of the unionist regions. That makes their claim to be Somalia’s partners so hollow. Donors have only themselves to blame if Somalis see them, rightly or wrongly, as part of the problem and not the solution. Somalia cannot pull out from its security quagmire when Al Shabaab and outsiders are working, not exactly hand in hand, but all the same undermine Somalia’s recovery in their different ways. We believe Honourable SRSG that your office, and you more than anyone else, can do much to ensure that Somalia’s partners help rather hinder this struggling State in ways consistent with its constitution, unity and sovereignty.

When it comes to the SSC people, their stand on the secession has been repeatedly made clear by the community at every level, above by the SSC traditional leaders (Isimo), the highest governing body in the SSC regions. Their message to Somalia and the international community remains the same: that there is no such a thing as Somaliland since the country of that name ceased to exist after union in 1960; that they have nothing to do with their secession; and that they are part and parcel of Somalia as all other regions and clans are, and vehemently oppose to be sacrificed to belong to another clan.

The SSC people are determined to shake off the occupation. As we write, SSC freedom fighters have carried out missions in Lascanod all through the week. Its liberation is only a question of time. This inevitability should guide you Honourable SRSG and the international community. The enclave would crumb without your aid and that immense leverage should be used to prevail over them and make this inevitable outcome as less painful and costly for all concerned. For a start, they should end the occupation.

To sum up, Honourable SRSG, the overarching dire consequences of the forced birth of the illegitimate secession include not only the possible breakup of Somalia along clan lines, but in the meantime the occupation of northern unionist regions, daily violations of their fundamental human reaches, ethnic-cleansing, orchestrated divide-and-rule and engineered inter-clan conflicts. All these are threats to peace and stability to Somalia and possibly beyond, not least because it opens a window of opportunity for Al Shabaab terrorists to fish in troubled waters. Your assignment to Somalia Honourable SRSG would be remembered to the extent you succeed or fail to address and contribute to the solutions of the problems bedeviling Somalia, not least those in the north. For all those who cherish a united and stable Somalia, at peace with itself and with its neighbours, we stand by you and wish you success in your mission.

Please accept, Honourable SRSG, the assurances of our highest considerations.

NSUM Executive Committee
Email: [email protected]

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