By khadar Jama
After 30 years of independence, the Somali Republic collapsed due to the militarization of its institutions. Similarly, after 30 years of self-proclaimed independence, Somaliland appears to be on a comparable path with a ruling mentality akin to that of the previous regime, led by a group with military experience. However, there are notable differences between the two. While the Somali Republic was recognized as a sovereign state and one of Africa’s most powerful countries, Somaliland faces a similar fate without recognition as a sovereign state and with a weaker immune system.
Somaliland has allocated a significant portion of its limited revenue to building a relatively strong army. Unfortunately, this army was not trained or created to protect civilians but rather to restrict their freedom and kill them indiscriminately, as seen in the ongoing situation in Las Anod. These atrocities necessitate the formation of separate security forces by each tribe for self-defense. Although this suggestion may seem surprising, consider what would have happened if the people of SSC had been disarmed. The outcomes would not be as we see them now.
Regarding the current crisis, President Bihi was oblivious from the beginning until he confronted the people of Las Anod. Now, he is in a situation comparable to jumping from a frying pan into a fire. Keeping his army in SSC is a zero-sum game while withdrawing them means the end of Somaliland.
If this war continues, two equally unpleasant outcomes will emerge. Firstly, Somaliland will ultimately lose control of Las Anod, and two intertribal wars will simultaneously break out. What unites Dhulbahante is their opposition to Bihi’s presence and his army in the SSC region. However, once this common denominator disappears, tribal grievances and unfinished vengeance among them will prevail, transforming today’s friend into tomorrow’s foe. Accordingly, Dhulbahante sub-clans may turn their weapons on each other. I am not here to portray them negatively; rather, our civil war history demonstrates this. Major armed tribal rebels against the Somali government ended up massacring each other, and I believe the SSC community will follow suit.
In the absence of Dhulbahante, the Isaaq tribes, who are already experiencing disintegration and social disharmony, will not be at ease with each other. Several factors validate this argument. Bombarding unarmed civilians indiscriminately is not unprecedented in Somaliland’s history. About two decades ago, one of the major Isaaq tribes faced similar atrocities when Somaliland labeled them unionists. This war has left unhealed wounds and grudges waiting for the right time to explode. The current president, Muse Bihi -with his current interior minister- was the driving force behind that war, and he was and still is proud of what he accomplished. He grinned in broad daylight, saying, “Anigoo wax dili kara duco qaadan maayee, dabci qorigu ha i faro” (I won’t accept prayer while I can kill someone, just let the gun tell me to put it down)
Isaaq tribes have lost their cohesion and unity, and they don’t see eye-to-eye as they once did during the war against Siad Barre. The Garxajis attitude toward the war on Dhulbahante clearly demonstrates this. These factors and more additional issues have the potential to spark a new civil war between Isaaq tribes. Seconly, Somaliland will become a safe haven for al-Shabab and the other notorious insurgent groups. Many people will find this unpleasant, but it is true because breeding in a turmoil environment is a fundamental doctrine for alshabab.
Somaliland has survived for 30 years, not because of solid infrastructure or a strong economy, but because of brilliant leaders with a clear vision and mission, such as genuine traditional leaders and well-qualified politicians prioritizing peace over war.
Today, Somaliland suffers from a total lack of leadership, and the fate of millions of people is in the hands of a colonel with dictatorial tendencies and compliant and disloyal traditional leaders. Leaders with such a narrow vision may quickly reignite a tribal conflict among Isaaq tribes at any time. The Isaaq tribes no longer share a common interest as they once did. There have been instances of power abuse and marginalization of some Isaaq tribes over the last two decades. These factors have the potential to spark a new civil war between Isaaq tribes.
To end the conflict, two options are available. Firstly, Bihi must resign unconditionally to facilitate peaceful political dialogue. This necessitates a concerted effort from all stakeholders and the international community to exert enough pressure on him. Secondly, it is essential to hold reconciliation conferences that incorporate all tribes within the boundaries of the British Somaliland protectorate. The agenda must be inclusive of all possibilities, including reunification with Somalia, without resorting to oppression, blackmail, imprisonment, or threats towards those who hold divergent opinions. The success of this initiative requires the active participation and cooperation of all parties involved.
In summary, Somaliland is currently embroiled in an intractable dilemma that can result in an all-out civil war at any minute. The fate of numerous individuals now rests with an aging military leader who exhibits authoritarian tendencies, disloyal elders, and selfish politicians who blindly support him. Therefore, urgent action is necessary to avoid a potential humanitarian catastrophe in Somaliland.
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