By Ali H. Abdulla
“In what state did you come Eid? Are things the same or is there anything new?”
Almutanabbi was a famous tenth century Arab poet.
For Muslims all around the world, the culmination of the month of Ramadan, known as Eid, is a time to celebrate, exchange gifts, share communal meals, remember the needy and hungry after fasting the whole month of Ramadan during the day and spending part of the night praying and reciting the Quran which God revealed in Ramadan itself. Apart from tolerating hunger and thirst during Ramadan, Muslims should also refrain from harming others verbally or physically. In Islam, killing one innocent person is tantamount to killing all of humanity. When two Muslims face each with swords, both end up in hell according to an authentic Hadith (a collection of traditions and sayings by the Prophet of Islam- Peace and blessings be upon him).
Eid is an occasion and an opportunity for Muslims to forgive, help each other and obey God’s command for unity and reproachment. In his farewell sermon before passing away, the prophet of Islam (Peace and blessings be upon him) emphasized the fact that: “every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
Alas, this Eid comes during a time of disunity and bloodshed for Muslims around the world. New conflicts have erupted in Northern Somalia, which has enjoyed relative peace for a while, and the Sudan. Indiscriminate shelling has not spared airports, hospitals, places of worship, utilities and other infrastructure that has taken years and substantial resources to build. Thousands have become displaced and Muslim blood has flown during the month of forgiveness and fasting in total contravention of the teachings of the Quran and the prophet of Islam.
In Somalia, besides the ongoing war between Al-Shabab extremists and the Somali government in the South, a new conflict has been raging for the last three months between a separatist administration known as Somaliland and unionist clans who are the indigenous inhabitants and the rightful owners of the geographical areas claimed by the separatists. The secession attempt by Somaliland administration is not based on any legal grounds apart from the historic fact that parts of Somalia used to be a British colony before independence more than sixty years ago. Imagine a scenario in which East Germany seeks separation from Germany because the Soviet Union temporarily occupied it after the Second World War, although it voluntarily rejoined West Germany after the Berlin wall collapsed, and Germany reclaimed its unity. We can safely compare the Somaliland separation attempt to a legal case which has exceeded its limitation period by more than sixty years.
The fact remains that former British Somaliland never became a country after gaining its independence from Britain but opted to reunite with Italian Somaliland which gained its independence four days after British Somaliland. Another fact that the separatists in Somaliland ignore is that Britain at one point in time controlled the whole of Somalia when it defeated the Italian fascists during the second world war. Even Sheikh Mustafa, a famous religious scholar who lives in Hargeisa, the Somaliland capital, declared in a recent sermon that the lines drawn by a colonial invader cannot justify the shedding of Muslim blood to restore those lines by force.
As such, the international community should realize that the conflict is not between the separatists and a Somali Federal Government that is trying to preserve its territorial integrity. In fact, the Somali Federal Government failed to play its natural role of defending those who stand for Somali Unity and acts as an indifferent spectator. The conflict is between the Somaliland separatist administration, headed by former colonels in the long-gone military regime, and the clans who justifiably oppose the separation, and who believe that the Somali people share more than artificial borders which the colonial invaders introduced to divide and rule the Somali people and share their resources. These clans believe that the Somali people share everything that makes a nation such as language, religion, physical appearance, kinship resulting from intermarriages among the different clans, and unhindered movements by nomads across all Somali regions in search of green pastures for their herds. The reintroduction of long-gone colonial borders, which did not work even during the colonial periods, could jeopardize such free movements, and create unnecessary hardships for the nomads who depend on these free movements.
Any attempts to divide Somalia will cause irreparable damage to Somalia’s Nomadic lifestyle and disrupt the existing clan distributions since Somaliland may force unionist clans to lose their territories in accordance with the Somali phrase they coined: “Dhulku ma gurree, dadkaa guura,” which means that the land is permanent, but people are movable. These clans may seek the help of their clan family members across the border to help them resist such forced migration. As a result, a civil war may break out leading to mass killings on a scale although smaller than the one that took place when India and Pakistan separated but equally as damaging, and equally as deadly. The war raging in Las Anod is a microcosm of the events that can unfold if the separatists continue pursuing their dream of diving the Somali nation and gaining recognition by the world community. Even extremists may also take advantage of the conflict by recruiting disaffected clans.
Somaliland sympathizers are playing with fire for seeking a recognition of Somaliland or even wanting special status in violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and total disregard for the diametrically opposed views on separation in Somaliland itself. It is unethical for foreign powers to put their self-interests ahead of the interests of vulnerable states like Somalia and it is shortsighted to underestimates the potential harm that they may cause. Countries with interests in Somalia can promote their interests more effectively when North and South Somalia reconcile their differences at the negotiating table with the help of the international community. A united and stable Somalia is in the interest of the world given the turbulent nature of the Horn of Africa which has long suffered from drought, famine, and perennial instability.
Taiwan, for example, seems to have ignored the above facts and has started dealing with Somaliland as a sovereign state in violation of international norms. The relationship between the two started in August 2020 and has grown steadily ever since. Taiwan has opened an office that functions like a de-facto embassy in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland without the knowledge or consent of the Federal Republic of Somalia violating Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The relationship has progressed to the provision of substantial financial and material support for Somaliland including sophisticated military hardware and high-level training of military officers. There are strong indications that Somaliland has utilized such direct aid in its current war with unionist clans in Las Anod, a city that opposes Somaliland separation and is under attack by Somaliland which subjected it to indiscriminate shelling that triggered the displacement of more than two hundred thousand civilians.
The United Nations has an obligation to investigate the Taiwanese actions and bring the latter to task for violating Somalia’s sovereignty and for indirectly aiding and abetting the slow genocide that Somaliland is in the process of committing in Las Anod.
Finally, the world community needs to double its efforts to finalize the status of Somaliland by fully understanding the clan complexities involved and becoming an impartial arbiter which facilitates a win-win situation for all stakeholders. It should also play a key role in protecting the unionist clans in Somaliland who have so far managed to repel the concerted onslaught of the Somaliland forces which receive financial backing from some countries who may be unaware of where their financial aid ends up.
Ali H. Abdulla
Email: [email protected]
Ali is an IT consultant
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