Sunday, July 12, 2020
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The Djibouti Conference and its ramifications for Somali Unity

By Ali H. Abdulla

The late Kennedy said and I quote “We cannot negotiate with those who say “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable”

The Djibouti meeting between the Federal Government of Somalia and Somaliland under the auspices of Djibouti government and International community

Somaliland came to the negotiating table with an attitude that smacks of what Kennedy was talking about in a speech that addressed the Berlin Crisis. Muse Bihi Abdi, the president of Somaliland gave an opening long speech that was supposed to last ten minutes but lasted for over twenty minutes in which he rehashed what Somaliland successive administrations tried to sell to the international community for thirty years but failed to gain traction and win world sympathy, since it was all based on twisted facts such as being recognized by thirty four countries and an attempt to use the Montevideo accord to justify their one-sided secession. He somehow believed that the presence of two heads of state and the ambassador of the United States to Somalia would sway minds and achieve what thirty years of wasted energy had failed to do. Muse seemed convinced that he could get what he wanted without renouncing his secessionist agenda.

Article 1 of the Montevideo convention,  sets out the four criteria for statehood that have been recognized by international organizations as an accurate statement of customary international law:
The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:

  1. a permanent population;
  2. a defined territory;
  3. government;
  4. capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Somaliland does have a permanent population in parts of the North West but the larger population he claims to represent do not all believe in the secession. In fact, several major clans identify with Puntland with whom they created a Federal State in 1998 to counter the secessionist agenda of Somlailand. Others are captive in the heart of the secessionist enclave but express their opinion from time to time. A civil war erupted in the heart of Somaliland in 1993/94 when one of the clans supported the former Somaliland president Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur) may God have mercy on his soul, who was an avowed unionist. Young poets and journalists routinely express their unionist sentiments and end up in jail although Somaliland projects to the world that it is a democratic entity.

Somaliand claims its sovereignty on the basis of old colonial borders but it does not control all the territories within such a border. Large chunks of Eastern Sanag and Sool are outside the control of Somaliland and will continue to be so since none of the clans in these areas has an appetite for a country ruled by a narcissist.

Somaliland has a form of government but this government does not reach all the clans within the old colonial border. For example, it cannot prevent inter-clan conflicts that erupt from time to time in the regions that it claims to control.

Since it lacks international recognition, Somaliland does not have the capacity to enter into relations with other states. It is still a part of the Somali Republic which has the legal right to prevent such relations.

An important part of the convention was a prohibition of using military force to gain sovereignty. According to Article 11 of the Convention. Somaliand tried to use the heavy weapons left behind by the Somali army that disintegrated into clan militias to occupy unionist regions by force. It occupied Las Anod on 15 October 2007 but the population of the city keep resisting the occupation and are subjected to deadly force and hefty prison terms whenever they try to voice their opinions.  In 2011/2012, Somaliland tried to occupy a city called Buhodle but failed miserably leaving behind hundreds of grieving families who lost their youth in the conflict defending their right to oppose and resist the secession.

Even the defunct colonial borders cannot be used to justify Somaliland secession. The British signed separate protection agreements with most of the Somali clans in the North although one of the major clans declined to sign such a protection agreement and waged a war of independence against the British. Since the protection agreements were not signed jointly by the clans, the colonial border does not oblige all of them to become citizens in a new country called Somaliland.  Furthermore, the colonial borders between British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland were fluid and the Somali clans ignored them since their camel herds crisscrossed the imaginary borders without let or hindrance. The image at the bottom of the article illustrates that the Somali clans in British Somaliland did not form a colonial state like Kenya or Uganda but an advisory council represented by each clan. Therefore, all the clans represented in the Advisory Council should have an equal say in any effort to break up the Somali Republic and no single clan can unilaterally decide the fate of the Northern Regions.

Prime Minister Egal (left), President Lyndon B. Johnson and Edna Adan, US visit in 1969

I am not going to second guess the Federal Government which seemed to extend an olive branch to the separatist enclave by conceding to meet and negotiate with them on their terms. For example, Somaliland insisted on excluding unionists hailing from Northern Somalia from the delegation of the Federal government. Conspicuously left behind were the chairman of the upper house in Mogadishu and the deputy prime minister who both hail from the North as were several ministers such as the minister of fisheries, the minister of information, the minister of finance and the minister of planning and international cooperation.

Meanwhile, the Somaliland delegation included individuals from unionist regions such as the Minister of Foreign affairs, the minister of livestock and marine resources, and the minister of commerce and industry. All three ministers are from clans that oppose the Somaliland secession and they do not represent their clans. Furthermore, the core members of the Somaliland delegation included die-hard secessionists like Edna Aden, an ex-first lady of the Somali Republic who, whenever she gets the chance, tries to impress foreign governments with her command of the English language to lobby for Somaliland recognition.  In an international gathering, Edna labeled her fellow Somalis in the South as pirates, warlords and terrorists.  She claimed that every Somali in the South is a member of Al-Shabab, the extremist group that massacred thousands of Somalis in the South, forgetting the fact that she was once the first lady of the Somali nation as a whole. Even the outspoken traditional leader in Somaliland, Buur Madaw, conceded that the Somaliland delegation was loaded with extremist die-hard secessionists who have no expertise in international law or negotiation protocols. For example, Suleiman Gaal, the speaker of the upper house in Somaliland spoke to the media on the first day of the conference and declared that the negotiations had hit an impasse and could not continue. He was later corrected by the Somaliland minister of foreign affairs and the negotiations continued.

When negotiating with another clan, Somali clans select their negotiating teams on the basis of the outcome they desire from the negotiations.  If a clan wants to foster peace and stability, they select individuals who are experts in projecting an atmosphere of tranquility and brotherhood while they select the toughest and meanest negotiators if they have no desire for peace and want the negotiations to fail. This is what happened in Djibouti. The Somaliland delegation came to Djibouti in the hope of transmitting their secessionist aspirations to the international community. When the Somaliland president went back to Hargeisa, he was welcomed with fanfare as if he came back victorious from a major battle and not from a conference that was held for building trust and fostering brotherly talks.

President Farmaajo

I would like to remind the Federal government that appeasement is a dangerous road to travel as evidenced by the actions of Chamberlain when, in the hope of avoiding war, he appeased Germany in the 1930s by allowing Hitler to expand German territory unchecked. The leaders of the Federal government took an oath of office to protect and preserve “Danta dadka, dalka iyo diinta”, the land and the citizens of Somalia.  It is a cowardly act to throw unionist regions under the bus in the hope of appeasing a die-hard secessionist enclave that considers Somalis from other clans their erstwhile enemies. I would like to remind the Federal government that they are dealing with a dangerous individual who has a tainted history and narcissistic tendencies. Just listen to his past speeches in which he uses the most derogatory and mean language against a fellow unionist clan. I will not taint this website with the link to his speeches but they are all over the web.

As Northern unionists, we stand firm in our opposition to any settlement that smacks of appeasement and concessions that may lead to breaking up the Somali Republic. Our rights as human beings cannot be ignored and no one can force upon us an agenda that is unjust. Our absence from the negotiating table is wrong and shortsighted and only encourages the secessionists to reach their goal. We sincerely hope that this error in judgment will be rectified before the forthcoming negotiations.

We call upon all Somalis to be citizens as called for by the ancient Greeks, and stand firm with us and give us a hand to defeat this travesty of justice. We are dealing with die-hard secessionists who are bent on breaking up our country into tiny fiefdoms.  Let us recall the powerful songs that aroused our people to defend their land such as:

“Tulda geela oo dhacan baad dhimasha ubadheetanee, Ma dhulka dhan ee tegey baan ninna dhagax utuurayne.”

We are not calling upon you to throw physical stones, but to use your voice and pen to support a cause that concerns all Somalis. Start by signing our petition to preserve and safeguard Somali Unity and territorial integrity.

Edna is fond of saying that a united Somalia will not happen, and must not happen. This declaration is offensive to most Somalis in the North who have families on both sides of the imaginary colonial border. For example, I am from Northern Somalia and my mother is from across the border in the South and there are thousands like me in Somaliland. Why should we accept being separated from our maternal uncles, aunts and cousins. To answer Edna, secession will not happen, and must not happen. So, should we make sense and negotiate in good faith with our brothers in the South and reclaim our place in the Horn of Africa which is witnessing dramatic changes,  or should we hold our people hostages in an imaginary state for another thirty years and subject our children to dangerous trips across the Sahara and the Mediterranean.

Finally, we call on the international community to fully understand the Somali problem and not be misled by the likes of the sweet talking former Somali first lady, Edna.  As Somali unionist, all we are asking for is to be fully represented in talks that will determine our future for generations. The sponsors of the talks cannot ignore this basic human right. Our voice needs to be heard and not suppressed to cater to the whims of die-hard secessionists who have held the Somali people in the North hostages for thirty years.

Ali H. Abdulla
Somali Northern Unionist Council
Email: [email protected]


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