The following piece appeared on a Somali journal before the International Conference on Somalia in the British capital.
February 2, 2012
Little doubt remains that the International community would continue hosting as many Somali peace conferences as there are Somali warlords. And time and time again, attempts to transform Somali “leaders” from vicious warmongers to humble peace-lords would prove a futile effort. In other words, just as Thomas Alva Edison failed 1000 times before succeeding to invent a light bulb, the International community may conduct many experiments (Somali peace conference) before realizing that the road to Somalia’s success goes through not the wealthy metropolitan cities like London, Washington, Rome, Paris, Nairobi, Cairo or other International capitals but through poverty-riddled Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital. But the challenge is: damned if Somaliland participates in Somalia’s upcoming peace conference, in London, U.K and damned if Haregeisa abstains from the meeting.
Somali conference scheduled to take place in London, U.K. in February 23, 2012 divided Somaliland people. Although Somaliland is invited as a country that is not recognized, but is not part of the conference’s agenda either, Somaliland people remain divided into two camps: those who are adamant that we cannot share a table with Somalia’s notorious warmongers and lower our status, as a sovereignty state, to that of Somalia’s warring regions. And those who argue we can no longer permit Somalia’s warmongers speak on our behalf in the International arena. Therefore, we must help Somalia stand on its feet, so we could speed up the divorce process between Somaliland and Somalia.
The opponents of the conference have valid concerns. Their strategy is: Somaliland is not a broken nation, so don’t bother fixing it. Instead, fix Somalia. This group resolutely opposes Somaliland’s participation in the conference; but they neither propose an alternative solution to end Somaliland’s isolation nor reflect back on the two decades plus that Somaliland remained in political and economic limbo. They also argue if Somaliland’s gets involved in Somalia’s interminable conferences and conflicts, Somaliland would be dragged into the conflict. Hence, if Somaliland participates in Somalia’s conference, condemnations against Hargeisa would pour from every corner.
On the flip side, the proponents of the conference, the second camp argues the International community recognizes Somalia’s savage warlords, not Somaliland’s democratically elected leaders. So, we must reshuffle our deck of cards. And this time play our Ace card. This group is adamant that the International community doesn’t say or hint that it won’t recognize Somaliland but demands that we sit down with failed Somalia, just as South Sudan negotiated with Sudan and Eretria gained its independence from Ethiopia through peacefully. They emphasize: the international community cares less whether or not Somaliland and Somalia agree on Somaliland’s separation. All we are required is to take a photo opportunity with Somalia’s warlords and say, “There you see: we tried to negotiate with them to expedite the divorce process, but having dialogues with them is as meaningless as negotiating with the silly goats on the streets…and therefore, just as easily we joined Somalia in 1960, so too, we simply withdrew from the failed union in 1991.” After all, it wasn’t Somalia that joined Somaliland; but it was Somaliland that united with Somalia—a union that was never ratified, anyways.
Additionally, the proponent group argues the longer Somalia remains in turmoil, the longer Somaliland remains in isolation. And if anyone is under the illusion that Somaliland would be dragged into Somalia’s conflicts, truth is: Somali warlords who couldn’t contain Al-Shabab, much less defeat it, would have a snowball’s chance in hell to destabilize Somaliland. That is, Somaliland is not only obligated to participate in the conference and spearhead a vigorous campaign to end Somalia’s carnage, but also Somaliland has the opportunity to put its case for independence in front of the world. Forty nations including Somaliland are invited in the conference, so this will be a golden opportunity for Somaliland to push its quest for an International recognition, while finding a lasting solution for Somalia, echoing across the conference hallway its [Somaliland] success to achieving a lasting peace and establishing democratic institutions.
What’s more, Somaliland President, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo), will have the opportunity to address the British Prime Minister’s, David Cameron, plan to arm ships travelling the Gulf of Aden and warn the International community against the impeding ecological disastrous in the event that pirates fight back, riddling a super-large oil tanker with millions of gallons of oil with bullets. Doubtless, Somaliland and Somalia’s crystal-clear beaches would turn into muddy oil fields, with millions of marine lives and seabirds perishing overnight. U.K. will be held accountable for the impending ecological disaster, once Mr. Cameron’s ill-fated plan is implemented.
Moreover, Mr. Silanyo will echo that Somalia’s problems are beyond terrorism and piracy (TP). Taking the focus off from the TP phenomenon and shedding a light on the devastated fishing communities in Somaliland and Somalia because of the heartless European and Asian fishing fleets—the condoned pirates, under the NATO protection—as well as dumping toxic waste in Somalia’s waters are the root causes of piracy. To protect Somaliland and Somalia’s rich marine resources, the world should compensate the devastated coastal community and rebuild Somaliland Navy forces. And again condemnation would pour from everywhere, if Somaliland fails to take advantage of this opportunity.
As for the second component of the TP phenomenon—the T word, terrorism, never-ending foreign meddling in Somalia’s affairs and millions of Somaliland and Somalia’s unemployed youth is what keeps Al-Shabab terror group alive. And contrary to the misleading reports from the International news outlets, the latest Kenyan and Ethiopian’s incursions into Somalia are not defeating Al-Shabab but they are reviving it. After all, just as Al-Shabab was facing a devastating defeat, both Ethiopia and Kenya jumped on the wagon to rescue Al-Shabab. Now, Al-Shabab screams fake Somali nationalism and Islam (its version of Islam, not real Islam) to defend Somalia from its natural adversaries. That is, Al-Shabab’s recruits number by the thousands. Indeed, Al-Shabab remains a curse upon the Somali people, but a blessing in disguise—a propaganda tool—for Somalia’s archenemies and Western Intelligent Agencies.
On the economic spectrum, Mr. Silanyo must expose the International community’s hypocrisy of keeping Somaliland poor and isolated while stationing hundreds of U.N. and aid agencies for Somaliland and Somalia in Nairobi, Kenya, instead of relocating them in peaceful Somaliland; for one thing, the presence of these aid agencies in Somaliland will provide jobs for thousands of unemployed youth. For another, almost eighty present of the donated money is spent on the U.N. and aid agencies’ overhead expenses. Additionally, the president must demand the U.N. to move the Somaliland and Somalia’s airspace control center located in Kenya to Somaliland. Again, hundreds of people will have employment opportunities and the fees collected—currently looted by none other than the U.N. itself and its collaborator: Kenya—from the International carriers passing over Somaliland and Somalia’s airspaces would generate countless jobs. What’s more, sadly, Somaliland and Somalia’s shipping lanes are controlled from Kenya, while Somaliland is far more peaceful than Kenya. Figure that one out!
As for Somaliland’s recognition, Somaliland would simply remind the International community: if South Sudan and Eretria could gain independence, so could Somaliland. But Somalia’s warlords must not mistake Somaliland’s participation in the conference for an indication that Hargeisa is ready rebuild the shattered Somaliland and Somalia’s union. Usually, empty euphoria keeps Somali unionists alive! Nor would Somaliland’s independence be something that Somalia’s warring factions would have the audacity to question, much less oppose it.
On a positive note: clearly, Britain’s effort to end Somalia’s turmoil is genuine and deservers standing obviations. Also, Somaliland’s participation in the conference would put a shame to Somali “leaders” because for the first—in front of forty powerful International leaders—Somali warmongers would answer the question: why Somaliland is so successful but Somalia is so miserable? Doubtless, holding the conference in London is a great steps but having the second phase of the conference in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, would force Somalia’s warlords to end their bickering—holding Somali people hostage for decades. That is, just as the British government convinced Somaliland to participate in the conference, U.K. also must provide Somaliland the financial and military supports that it needs not just to facilitate the second Somali conference but also show the apprehensive Somalilanders that Hargeisa has the security forces to defend its territory, while helping Somalia stand its feet. The traditional half-baked solution for Somalia won’t work. London must work with Hargeisa to see Somalia stand on its feet and Somaliland gain its long overdue recognition. This will be a win-win situation.
In short, just as Thomas Alva Edison argued, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb…” indisputably, the internationally community may argue, “We have not failed Somalia 1000 times. But we have successfully discovered 1000 ways to screw up Somalia.”
But, admittedly, this conference will bear some fruits only and only if Britain keeps Somaliland in the loop, paving the way for the second phase of the Somali conference to be held in Somaliland. To do so, Britain as well as the International community ought to do two things: provide economic support for Somaliland and rebuild its security forces. This approach won’t only motivate Somaliland leaders to facilitate the second Somali conference but will also assure the Somaliland public that their country will be safe.