By Mohamoud Gaildon
Heritage: Yesterday’s South Africa Apologist, Today’s Somalia Tormentor The Heritage Foundation has become Somaliland’s mouthpiece and chief lobbyist in the United States. (Somaliland is a secessionist region of Somalia that has yet to be recognized by any state except Taiwan.) In a number of recent posts on Heritage.org, Joshua Meservey makes it clear that rivalry with China over Africa is the driving force behind Heritage’s crusade to dismember Somalia. Granted, as a think-tank devoted to shaping US government policy, Heritage cannot be expected to act out of pure altruism— foreign policy, after all, is an interest-driven endeavor conducted within the bounds of International Law and international norms. Still, though, one would, indeed should, expect responsible men and women, irrespective of political persuasion, to be held in check by some moral compass before they call for the breakup of a sovereign nation. Do we know the history? Can we grasp all the relevant facts? What are the likely repercussions? Have we talked to all sides, especially those that will be particularly affected? These are only a few of the critical questions one might have to ask.
Apparently, such are not questions Heritage deigns to bother itself with, as appeared to be the case in the seventies and the eighties when Heritage became America’s chief apologist for the likes of Ian Smith of Rhodesia and P. W. Botha of South Africa, two heads of minority white rule over majority indigenous Africans. So contrary to world opinion was Heritage’s stand that on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s triumphant visit to the US (when America accorded the internationally-acclaimed hero a most-fitting welcome) this was how Heritage welcomed him: “Nelson Mandela is not a freedom fighter. He repeatedly has supported terrorism.” And this was the same Heritage that had lauded Johans Savimbi’s UNITA (an Angolan guerrilla movement allied to Apartheid South Africa) as “freedom fighters!”
Why the unabashed support for the pariahs of the world, South Africa and Rhodesia, and disparagement of the great Mandela? Insensitivity to other peoples’ suffering, to put it mildly, and the Soviet Union! In the intensely ideological world of Heritage, what mattered was what it perceived as America’s mortal rivalry with the Soviet Union. This and nothing else was the criterion Heritage used to distinguish friend from foe. All else paled in comparison. It follows, then, that in this world of Heritage, Mandela was a foe and the oppressed Africans were expendable, except the word “expendable” was never spelled out. The whole nefarious scheme was always couched in the condescending language of WE KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON, AND WE KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR THESE POOR AFRICANS.
In a similar fashion to the foregoing, Heritage is now lecturing not just America but also the very people like me from the region whose cause Heritage claims to champion. In a rebuttal to an article of mine published on Salon.com, Mr. Joshua Meservey advances a number of assertions which amount to nothing more than Somaliland’s talking points all of which are based on a self-serving view of both history and current reality. Heritage’s approach towards Somalia is explainable only through its neocolonial attitude to countries it deems weak and ripe for exploitation.
Heritage is now lobbying the US government to decide Somalia’s fate by carving it up, an act that will surely rekindle a civil war and subject a large number of Somalis to death and destruction. Such are Heritage’s callous, narrow-minded, opportunistic designs on Somalia that it willfully ignores the likely consequences, all in the interest of reordering Africa according to its worldview. And towards that goal, Heritage avails itself of false claims and distortions of simple facts that fit neatly into its opportunistic agenda to divide Somalia. Every rationale Heritage posits for its zealous support for Somaliland’s independence, however, can be easily refuted:
A. The 1991 declaration of secession: no more than a unilateral diktat! No opportunity was granted to the delegates to return to their respective constituencies for consultation; no debate was held on likely ramifications; no concern was voiced for the communities that would be affected the most; and no cooling-off period before actual declaration of independence was set. Outside the conference venue, a huge gun-rattling mob stood clamoring for the compulsory passage of the declaration.
B) Somaliland’s democracy: Outside of the territory of Isaq clans, participation in elections is limited to areas under occupation by Somaliland’s tribal militia. This is the reason why the Warsangeli clan has zero representation in Somaliland’s House of Representatives.
C) Referendum: What Somaliland hails as the referendum of 2001 fell far short of internationally accepted standards. No UN observers were present, as had been the case in Eritrea; no campaigning against secession was allowed; and the vast majority of the Dhulbahante and the Warsangeli clans did not participate.
D) The Organization of African Unity’s 1964 Cairo Resolution to keep Colonial boundaries: This resolution was meant to discourage territorial disputes between neighboring countries. It was never meant to prohibit the voluntary merger of two independent countries, let alone one that predated the resolution by four years.
E) Somaliland is a de facto independent country in total control of its territory: Not True! Somaliland is nowhere near the border of separation it claims. And to reach the presumed border, Somaliland will have to contend with both a local population relentlessly opposed to secession and Puntland State of Somalia. Neutral journalists can easily uncover the truth.
Heritage has yet to seek well-rounded, balanced, credible information about the complex issues surrounding Somaliland. Neither has it reached out to any of the unionist communities in the Colonial Somaliland to establish the facts. Instead, Heritage relies on Somaliland’s talking points and the false propaganda of known foreign sympathizers of Somaliland, some of whom are so joined at the hip to Somaliland that it’s hard to think of them as anything other than outright mercenaries.
It seems Heritage goes by the principle the end justifies the means. Nothing else can explain Heritage’s unscrupulous zest to break up Somalia. And the only remaining question is why Heritage obsesses over a part of Somalia— and risks having China and Russia in other parts of it—when the whole country, with its strategic long coast (longest in Africa), can be an ally of the United States of America. After all, the vast majority of educated Somalis who are in positions of leadership are graduates of North American and Western European universities. This is a classic case of ideology trumping rational thought. China, China, China! In Heritage’s mind, all that matters in Africa is to defeat China in the game of amassing strategic military bases: Dismemberment of Somalia is just collateral damage. This is both irrational and irresponsible!
Gaildon is a Somali-American medical physicist. He has worked in a number of major hospitals including Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Beth Israel and Mount Sinai in New York City. He is now a senior medical physicist at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, and is also the author of a novel, “The Yibir of Las Burgabo.”
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