By Hassan M. Abukar
On May 18, 1991, the Somali National Movement (SNM) declared the secession of the northern region of Somalia from the rest of the country—a declaration that was met by a chorus of criticism and condemnation. Particular among these critics was the Islamic Movement of Somalia, which produced a four-page statement in Arabic lashing out against the SNM. The statement was signed by Abdirahman M. Abdullahi “Baadiyow of the IMS’ Information Office in Canada. The statement was harsh, conspiratorial, and nationalistic in tenor. It questioned the SNM’s motivation and suggested links with dubious foreign countries. The statement also called for unity among Somalis and the urgent need to seek reconciliation through peaceful means to end tribal conflicts, divisions, and the civil war engulfing the country.
Dr. Baadiyow, a senior advisor for peace and reconciliation for Prime Minister Hassan Kheire, has been prominent among the leaders of the Islah Movement (formerly the Islamic Movement of Somalia). He is one of the founders of Mogadishu University, a former presidential candidate in 2012, and a graduate of Canada’s McGill University, where he earned his doctorate in Islamic History. He has been a leading civil society activist who has conducted extensive research and work on the subject of peace and reconciliation. Last year, President Mohamed Farmajo appointed him as a member of the Somali government’s committee for talks with Somaliland.
The IMS statement, titled, “A Declaration of the Islamic Movement of Somalia regarding the Attempt to Divide the Country,” condemned the SNM as a secessionist movement bent on dividing the country in accordance with the “dirty” plan of the European colonial powers. The secessionist movement, the statement read, even used the name “Somali Land” for the self-declared government, a direct translation of the very name the British colonial government had used for that part of the country.
By following the colonial design, which divided Somalia into five parts, the statement continued, the SNM was taking the country back to the pre-1960 era before Somalia gained independence. The IMS also claimed that the hand of “foreign actors” was at work in the SNM’s decision to secede, and especially Ethiopia and what it called the “Jewish entity” of interfering in Somalia’s affairs. These two entities, it said, were not in favor of “seeing Somalia united.” Therefore, the SNM’s action was “impetuous” legally invalid, and contrary to custom and logic.
The statement asked all Somali people to unite against the SNM and “encircle” the secessionist movement because the secession plans were illegitimate. The statement added that Somalis are homogenous people with the same culture, religion, and language. Moreover, the SNM was wrong to claim the north suffered from more repression than other parts of the country. President Siad Barre, it said, had the same policy of repression against the Somalis under his tyrannical regime.
The real motivation of the SNM, the statement said, was to do the bidding of the interests of the Somali people’s enemies. In addition, the secessionist movement had originated in Ethiopia, was racist, had used tyranny against our people in the north, and endeavored to implement the plans of “the enemies of Somalia.”
The Islamic Movement commended the efforts of some Arab countries and the Arab League for supporting the Somali people.
The IMS statement had two audiences: The Arab world in general and the Islamic movements outside the country, especially the Muslim Brotherhood of which the Somali group is a member.
The use of Arabic was crucial because it conveyed some themes that many Arabic readers can relate to. There was the theme of “Us vs. Them,” the plots being made against the Arab and Muslim world, and the presence of Israel in these evil machinations. Israeli’s backing of a Somali secessionist movement might raise eyebrows and be regarded a poor attempt at peddling a conspiracy theory. Whereas neighboring Ethiopia has had major interests in interfering the affairs of Somalia, the “Jewish entity” has other interest in maintaining good relations with Ethiopia. Since its formation, Israel has always maintained friendly relations with Ethiopia, whether the latter was under a monarchy or Mengistu’s Marxist regime.
Finally, to what extent does the only name on the statement, Dr. Baadiyow’s, affect his current position as the committee appointed to engage talks with the self-declared government of Somaliland?
Last month, General Abdirahman Abdi Hussein “Guulwade,” a member of the reconciliation committee, resigned after he gave an interview in which he agreed how Barre’s regime had reacted in suppressing the SNM’s rebellion in the 1980s. Baadiyow, in an interview with the BBC, called Guulwade’s statement a “personal opinion and not the official position of the Committee.”
Will Baadiyow reaffirm the contents of the statement as was issued by his group in May 1991 or will he repudiate it?
Hassan M. Abukar
Email: [email protected]
Mr. Abukar is a writer, the author of Mogadishu Memoir and a contributor to Wardheernews.
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