By Abdul Ahmed III
Somalia has been a nation-state for a mere 30-years. It is unlikely ever to restore the Former Somalia as a nation-state. That is the conclusion I reached in 2009. I published my findings/conclusions ten years back. I presented it within academic circles (see Dynamics of Collapse and the Emergence of Alternative Forms of Social Organization) and published on WardheerNews ( see Regionalism and Alternative Forms of Governance:
A Critique on Centralized, Top-Down Approach to the Problem of Somalia, September 16, 2009. The Former Somalia; Facts and Fallacies, October 01, 2009. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Former Somalia, November 07, 2009 and Saving Somalia: Theseus Paradox, January 20, 2010.
Now, after 10-years of additional observations and reflections – since I last wrote about this topic. – I assertively state that Somalia will not be a viable functioning nation-state ever again. (notwithstanding the risky nature of projections about the future). I also worry for Puntlanders whose time and efforts were wasted by an illusory Somali nation-state.
Puntland’s silence and authoritarian tendencies of Mogadishu are contrary to the moral claims of those who advocate for the restoration of a fair and just nation-state. However, that is not my main argument. My contention in this article has little to do morality and more with the naïve surrender of Puntland to an imaginary idea of a Somali-nation state. My point here is to argue against some 100-years of effort by Puntlanders seeking and fighting for Somali nation-state. It is an argument for the self-interest of the Puntlanders – I will try to argue so, with all respect for other Somali people in the Peninsula.
Don’t accept my arguments without thoughtful examination. To do so, I want to bring your attention to peculiar facts at hand. First, you may acknowledge that Somalia exhibits strange patterns of spatial differentiation in ideology and politics. Here is what I mean by that. By observing Somali people today, one cannot help but notice an extraordinary correlation between pro centralist totalitarianism and lawless the regions of the Former Somalia. Most of the people who support a centralized command system in the Former Somalia come from the most lawless regions, and perhaps insignificant areas of the Former Somalia. Some of these people are mushy, sentimental for and about an absolutist regime that controls the daily life of people – perhaps even the destruction of stable parts of the Former Somalia.
I may sympathize with many well-meaning Somalis who believe that a centralized nation-state. I understand the sentiments of unity and pan nationalism but reject the notion because it is wrong! Doomed is the idea of a Pan Somali nation-state! I also refuse the fondness of totalitarianism and the prejudiced logic of violence (if we can call that logic at all).
I reject the rationalization of the violent destruction of the stable regions of the Former Somalia, particularly violence against Puntland, Somaliland, and Jubbaland. Violence and abuse will not restore the Former Somalia. A violent force of rebellion destroyed the Former Somalia, violence can’t repair it. Nor will the silence and patience of Puntland recreate a just nation-state. This assertion is not a rejection of an abstract idea; it is the rejection of Mogadishu’s totalitarian tendencies. It is a rejection of an attempt to use of force against Jubaland.
Today the Former Somalia consists of Puntland, Somaliland, South-Central Somalia, and TransJuba (Jubbaland). It is not a wise idea to put these pieces together by force; instead, one should save the broken pieces from each other and keep them in-situ.! No one can put Humpty Dumpty together again. Somalis and their friends in the world have been attempting to – miraculously – recreate Somalia for the last 29-years. The latest experiment is the nominal Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in Mogadishu – A corrupt entity that is reminiscent of the intra-war era the Weimar Republic.
As was the case in the Weimar Germany, the FGS evolved to an incompetent, corrupt entity that harbors Islamic extremists, irredentist, nationalists, pseudo-secular politicians. An authoritarian regime of the Orwellian type. – Complete with Newspeak, the Ministry of Truth and the Ministry of the Plenty. Worse, the FGS in Mogadishu poses the greatest threat towards the most stable and well-governed parts of the Former Somalia. (namely Puntland, Jubbaland and Somaliland). By destabilizing these areas, the FGS turns out to be a direct threat to all the nations in the Horn of Africa region.
Stability of Puntland, Jubbaland, and Somaliland is central to peace Horn of Africa. The autonomous Puntland, and to a lesser extent Somaliland are well administered and stable de-facto states as witnessed by Brian Hesse in his article titled “Lessons in successful Somali governance”. Puntland and Somaliland are distinctly different and better governed than the FGS administered South-Central regions of the Former Somalia. So why would Mogadishu want to destabilize and/or undermine Puntland and Somaliland? Why and how did the FGS hitch its wagon to megalomaniacs, supporters of Islamists, and totalitarianism?
Knowing the facts I mentioned above, – and recognizing the trends in Mogadishu towards totalitarianism – Should make Puntlanders contemplate, force them to ask themselves why be part of Somalia? Why advocate for a nation-state? Why spend so much effort and material on restoring Somalia? That indeed is the question for Puntland to answer. Puntlanders have to realize that they must save themselves first in order to be of help to others. Puntland must not be bewitched by the illusion of a potential Great Somali nation-state.! (An unattainable goal).
It is also mind-boggling to examine why in the first place did Puntlanders of 1940s choose to become part of Somalia after the second world war? – after their long struggle. The heroic struggle of the Northern Sultanates (Obbia, Migurtenia and the Warsengeli Sultanate) against Fascism.
It is a common knowledge that after the defeat of the fascist, the British authorities in Mogadishu promoted the restoration of the Sovereignty of Sultanate States. Sadly, however, the sons of the Sultans not only reject the British suggestion, but they strangely helped organize the Somali Youth League (SYL). They did so to create a post-colonial Somali nation-state. They probably meant well, but this was an unfortunate act on their part. An act that made them be blamed for wanting power, thought of as Machiavellians monarchist, a power-hungry monarchist from the Northern Sultanates. With all that, they naively continued to build Mogadishu and abandoned their ancestral land! – Not quite the kind of Machiavellians we read about or hear about!
At this juncture, it is worth noting that 5-members of the 13 founding members of SYL were from the region of Northern Sultanates, by far a large number from any areas of the Somali inhabited territories at the time. Most of them were the sons of exiled leaders of the Northern Sultanates. One may ask, why wouldn’t they go back to the Northern Sultanates after the defeat of the Italian fascists in 1942? That is a mystery! The mystery of history! It was a bad decision worth examining! Shall we re-examine that bad decision? Well, that will take multiple pages, exposes and more importantly, more of your time. The more pertinent question is, shall the mistake be corrected?
More directly, shouldn’t Puntland consider the rightful act of restoring its Sovereignty? Raising the question – Restoration of Puntland’s Pre-Fascist era, Sovereignty is not bringing separatism or clannism. In fact, both clannism and separatism are already there, already practiced by Mogadishu to alienate not only Puntland but Somaliland, and Jubbaland. Yet, it is often overlooked by Puntlanders for the sake of an imaginary Pan Somali state. The question is, why? Again, I do not have a simple answer! I would, however, suggest that Puntland needs a way of accounting for politics that operates in and through the prism of centralization, and – a process of enregisterment of – Anti Puntland Ethos. The FGS continues to do so with the resources of the supposedly a just “centralized state” and the and amplification measures of the propaganda of Mogadishu’s Ministry of Truth).
My final question is, shouldn’t Puntland seek to restore their rightful Sovereignty? Of course, by and with the consent of the governed in Puntland. In doing so, Puntland would and should wish the best for the rest of inhabited Somali regions in the former Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
Puntland’s self-denial is not patriotism, and it will not restore the former Somalia; it is a weakness.! Puntland’s undue silence and patience with Mogadishu amounts to self-defeat. It also is not an effective analgesic for the pain Puntland’s people endure daily.
Yes, perhaps, it is just about time for a full and formal partitioning of the former Somalia. I ask why not?
Abdul Ahmed III
Abdul Ahmed is the president and founder of Strategy and Operations Group and former employee of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in Washington DC.
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