By Osman Hassan
The community of Dhulbahante clan held a conference in Jigjiga from 10 to 15 December 2022. The delegates comprised traditional leaders, religious scholars, and representatives from key sectors of the society. They came from the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) in northern Somalia. But most of them also belong to the Dhulbahante region in the the Somalia region (Ogaden). Thus, the overall Dhulbahante homeland is a huge territory straddling the 700 km long artificial colonial border which is on the map but otherwise they consider themselves to live in the same territory.
From their perspective, they are not guests, or strangers, or foreigners in Jigjiga. They belong to both parts of their homeland, and therefore Jigjiga, as capital of their region, is as much their town as Buuhoodle is. But it is more than this that determined the choice of Jigjiga as the venue of the conference. It is also it’s historical heritage as the birthplace of Somali nationalism, the quest for Somali unity and Greater Somalia. And as testimony to all that , where the monument of the their Darwish leader, Sayid Mohamed Abdalla Hassan, now towers over the city’s skyline, reminding onlookers, with his sword out, what he stood for.
Alas, as the delegates were to learn to their bitter cost, things ain’t what they used to be. such history and aspirations they imbibe are now taboo under President Mustafe Mohamed Cagjar in his capacity as caretaker of the Somali region for imperial Ethiopia
When it comes to the deliberations of the conference, the assembly dealt with two main issues. First is the common socio-economic and development marginalization that the two parts of the Dhulbahante homeland. Their grievances, in so far as they concern the part in the Somali region (Ogaden), have been taken up with President Cagjar – now and in the past, though his response has been desultory, perhaps reflecting the little weight they carry with him. “Xidid” or “Xigaal” is what carries weight, they say.
Otherwise, the delegates deliberated the occupation of their SSC regions by one northern secessionist clan calling themselves Somaliland. The conference decided that force was now the only option to end the occupation. A number of factors necessitated this drastic decision: firstly, is the fact that the secessionists had turned deaf ears for over two decades to the repeated pleas of the SSC people to withdraw their occupying militia from their lands; secondly, is the failure of successive Somali governments to do anything to end the secession, or at least assist those resisting it and defending the union; and thirdly, it is the stand of Somalia’s international partners, some of whom have been openly supportive, materially if not politically, to the secessionist enclave rather than pressure them to end the occupation if not the secession.
The decision by the conference, namely to be free from subjugation, through armed action in their own soil, is a fundamental human right enshrined in the UN Charter. It is the same right that African countries sought to be free from colonial occupation. Such demand therefore should not offend anyone, least of all a former UN official, like Mustafa Cagjar, tutored to uphold such principles. Unfortunately, power changes people, and President Cagjar, now guided by other considerations. Aspirations such Somali unity and Greater Somalia, the main tenants of the Darwish faith, are now taboos under his watch.
As if caught unawares, he and his information minister, perhaps eager to appease an enraged Somaliland, branded the conference’s decision as being harmful to their deep brotherly relations with Somaliland – as if the SSC people, neighbours too, are aliens from outer space- and detrimental to its peace and territorial integrity, implying that the unionist SSC regions should be part of the secessionist enclave and not Somalia
President Cagjar and his cabinet cohorts have manifestly shown empathy for the one-clan secessionist entity and sensitive to anything they deem to be inimical to them. In contrast, they have been indifferent to what they have been doing to the SSC people for over two decades, entailing among other things massacres and daily human rights abuse, and above all the on-going SNM-sponsored frequent extra-judicial assassinations in which hundreds of prominent personalities in Lascanod are eliminated to sow discord and hostility among the sub-clans as part of their divide and rule policy. That explains why now they proffer sympathy for the aggressor and reprimand for the victim.
One has to ask why President Cagjar harbours such differential preferential bias for them over their victims?. Some commentators pointed to his matrimonial ties with the secessionist clan. Behind every great man, there is a woman pulling the strings, as they say. So just as President Ismail Omar Geele of Djibouti, is beholden to Hargeisa, at the behest of the first lady, so is Mustafa Cagjar is equally receptive to Hargeisa.
But it is geopolitical shared interests more than anything else that bind both Presidents to Hargeisa. Both see the aspirations for Greater Somalia among Somalis as the greatest threat to their visons for their respective countries. For President Mustafe Cagjar, Greater Somalia is his nemesis, and so long it is alive, it would trump his own aspiration envisioning the Somali region becoming Amharized and fully integrated into Ethiopia cutting its umbilical chord with Somalia, Somali unity and Greater Somalia. To kill the aspiration for Greater Somalia, Somalia’s unity must be destroyed. That means Somaliland is their instrument and its secession must succeed.
Paradoxically, they have another ally from an unlikely quarter, and that is Somalia’s President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Self-seeking and devoid of nationalism and patriotism, he panders to all those who are against Somalia’s unity if it serves his personal interest. He showers praise on “Somaliland” conferring legitimacy to an entity which technically committed treason against the State and should be a pariah. One of his acts in his first term was to exclude the north from the federal system, enhancing their claim to be a separate country from Somalia. No less treacherous was his visit to Jigjiga reminding everyone they are better off being part of Ethiopia and to forget about Somali unity and Greater Somalia.
From the vintage point of Jigjiga, President Mustafa’s stand against the unionist SSC declaration to be free and to defend the union, adds up to the unholy alliance against the union. If they have their way, God forbid, it would be the end of the Somali nation. Sayid Mohmed Hassan must be turning in his grave cursing Cagjar.
The SSC have made a declaration to emulate the Sayid and free their land. Like him, they are ready for the long haul. And no matter how long it takes, they are set to win, God willing, gaining not only their freedom, but also saving Somalia’s unity and keeping alive the aspirations for Greater Somalia – succeeding where Jigjiga is failing. Sayid Mohamed Abdalla Hassan must be fretting to be in a place that betrayed his ideals and wishing his monument be rather repatriated to Buuhoodle, his birthplace and the cradle of his Darwish struggle. That too will happen, God willing.
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Osman Hassan is a seasoned journalist and a former UN staff member. Mr Hassan is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews
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