AlJazeera wrote in 2009: Is “Somaliland” an Arab affair?

Somaliland celebrated the 25th anniversary of its declaration of independence with a parade in the capital city of Hargeisa on May 18, 2016. Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

In November 2009, Hamdi Abd el Rahman, African affairs analyst, wonders in the following Google-translated article, posted on Al Jazeera.net, the absence of a common view among  Arab nations on SOMALILAND and how that country was drifting towards nonArab alliances due to this indifference and oversight on the part of the Arab world.

The author explores a number of salient features that made the Republic of Somaliland a critical player on the socio-political layout of not only the Horn of Africa but the whole region extending to the Gulf states.

Ancient Egyptians regarded it as the land of gods and perfumes and recently occupied by the British for its strategic location in the Horn of Africa, where it controls the security of sea lanes across the Gulf of Aden and on the way to India, the jewel of the British crown. It is Somaliland or Somaliland, which unilaterally declared independence on 18 May 1991, following the collapse of the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre in Somalia.

Somaliland has since exercised the functions and powers of an independent State, despite the absence of legal recognition. It has a flag, a national anthem, an entry visa and institutions of government and administration. The ruling elite are trying to do everything in their power to gain international legitimacy.

Sometimes speaking to the West in the language of democracy and human rights and other times remind the United States of strategic importance within the framework of the US campaign to combat terrorism, and even offered to host a military base for the American fleet in the port of Berbera.

What is surprising and surprising in this context is the absence of the Arab position in both its formal and popular aspects and ignoring what is happening in the region, which began to turn its attention to regional and international non-Arab parties to achieve its goal of obtaining international recognition.

What is the importance of this region geopolitically? What is the seriousness of its approach to African and international non-Arab parties? What are the features and prospects of political development in light of the internal and external challenges that face it?

Evolution and development
Somaliland is of great strategic importance, inheriting the same geographic boundaries as the British occupation in the second half of the 19th century. The total area of the region is estimated at (137,600 km 2) and it has coastline around (850 km). According to 2008 estimates, the population of Somaliland is five million people divided by tribal origins into three main clans: Isaac, Darood and other. Hargeisa is the capital and largest city, while Berbera is the first commercial port.

“Many writers and observers point to the experience of Somaliland after the declaration of its separation and the achievement of peace and stability as a model and a real success story in the adoption of self-solutions to national problems on the basis of reconciliation and reconciliation”

Many writers and observers point to Somaliland’s experience after its secession and its peace and stability as a model and a true success story in adopting self-solutions to national problems. Perhaps the crucial point in the post-1991 political development of the region is the use of the Somali National Movement by the tribes of Ishaq to adopt a policy of reconciliation and reconciliation.

At the first reconciliation conference held in Berbera from February 15 to 27, 1991, the paramount goal of the two communities was to rebuild trust between the tribes of Ishaq and the other northern clans associated with the Siad Barre regime. This first conference paved the way for the major reconciliation adopted by the BURAO conference from April 27 to May 18, 1991, when the leaders of the northern tribes and the Somali National Movement agreed after two months of deliberation on the need to build and develop the institutions of the region through To disengage from the rest of the Somali homeland, which in practice means unilateral declaration of independence.

In any case, the Somali National Movement led by Abdurrahman Ahmed Ali Tor became the fledgeling state apparatus, granting the authority of UNTAET for two years. However, the transitional president Abdul Rahman Tor showed a clear deficit in the leadership of the region for several reasons, most notably: the lack of faith in some of the leaders of his party the idea of separation or fear of the consequences of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to the emergence of divisions in the ranks of the Somali National Movement, which in some occasions has turned into a violent conflict. Then the other northern tribes, other than Isaac, intervened and contributed to a negotiated solution to the problems of the conflict. However, the formation of the Guurti tribal council has become one of the defining features of the political development of Somaliland in the post-1991 period.

A five-month conference on “national reconciliation” was attended by five hundred politicians, tribal leaders, businessmen, religious leaders and representatives of civil society groups. The conference resulted in a peaceful transition to power in May 1993. A civil administration headed by Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, a well-known and respected Isaac, was formed and served as Prime Minister of Somalia before Siad Barre’s coup in 1969.

The “Borama” conference was able to reach a compromise formula for governance in the region that takes into account issues of power sharing, tribal demands and the requirements of democracy in its Western sense. It is noted that the first written Constitution of the Territory in 2001 approved this hybrid version of the system of government. After the death of founding president Mohamed Ibrahim Egal in May 2002, multi-party presidential elections were held in April 2003, won by Tahir Riley Kahn by a narrow margin of about 80 votes from a total of nearly half a million voters.

Somaliland still faces the problem of postponing the presidential election, which has been due since April last year. The tribal leaders’ council is keen on delaying all measures to ensure the fairness and transparency of the upcoming elections.

Geopolitical considerations.

Since Somaliland’s unilateral independence in 1991, Somaliland has been able to present a different image to stereotypical stereotypes of Somalia’s failure or disease. It is one of the few success stories in East Africa. Through its experience of national reconciliation, it has been able to rely on its own resources without outside interference. Suffice it to mention the role of the Somali community in the diaspora, which contributes through its financial transfers about $ 500 million annually, which is the largest source of access to hard currency in Somaliland.

In a comparative view, all national reconciliation conferences in southern Somalia have been sponsored by external parties and supported and financed by international donors, which makes their influence overwhelming and influential on the path and the machinery of national reconciliation. From the very beginning, Somaliland has been interested in the concept of reconciliation and confidence-building. We can point to a number of considerations of strategic importance that affect the nature and future of the political development of this region:

“The importance of the strategic location of Somaliland on the Gulf of Aden and its connection with the Red Sea security system made some turn a blind eye to the issue of international legitimacy and cooperate with the authorities of the region”

First: The importance of the strategic location on the Gulf of Aden and its association with the Red Sea security system has made some people turn a blind eye to the question of international legitimacy and cooperate with the authorities of the region. Here we can point to the nature of the Ethiopian, Yemeni and American interactions with Somaliland to ensure the security of sea lanes off the coast of Somalia.

Second, the port of Berbera provides a strategic sea port. Therefore, some studies sponsored by the US Department of Defense have proposed the need to recognize Somaliland as an independent state in order to get rid of the intractable crisis in southern Somalia. In other words, the geopolitical temptation may outweigh the narrow political considerations of the major powers in their reluctance to recognize the region as an independent state.

Thirdly, the discovery of oil in Somaliland helps to support its separatist orientation and helps in the process of building its national institutions without the need to solicit external parties. Indeed, the administration of the region began to make investment in its oil sector a major priority.

It is remarkable that President Taher Riley Kahn visited Washington and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs visited Somaliland last year. It is therefore felt that, given the worsening problem of international piracy in the Indian Ocean and the settlement crisis in Somalia, the outcome may be direct dealing with Somaliland as a member of the international community.

The Arabs and the plight of Somaliland
It seems that the official Arab discourse has been a traditional formula that has been repeated since 1991 and which does not lack the agenda of any Arab summit. The moral stance and moral support of Somalia is only in its ordeal. The failure of the Arab system to rearrange its priorities made it unjustifiably excessive in terms of its national security requirements, particularly in the regions of the parties and in contact with neighboring countries.

This is not proof of the failure and confusion of the Arab position on the land of Somalia. As they all hold the pretext of not supporting separatism and standing by the unity of Somalia. To make matters worse, the Arab civil society, with its various institutions and bodies, also turned a blind eye to what is happening in Somaliland, which has repeatedly called on the Arabs to help them in the fields of education, health, fighting poverty and so on.

Perhaps the approach of the approach in the Arab position on the recent events in Gaza, regardless of the different context and the subject in clarifying what we mean. It raises the political and humanitarian problem in the issue of aid and civil aid, can we say that extending the Arab hand to the people of Somaliland necessarily means recognition of the independence of the territory!

“The official Arab discourse on Somaliland is satisfied with the moral position and moral support of Somalia in general in its ordeal, and invokes the lack of support for secession, and the Arab civil society turns a blind eye to alleviating the suffering of Somaliland”

President Tahir Riley and opposition leaders attended a ceremony in Hargeisa to mark the opening of a Voice of America radio station in the region. This was part of a cultural event entitled “Freedom of the press and democracy”. On another occasion, Israel intervened through its ambassador in Addis Ababa to assist in a cardiac operation for a child of Somaliland in Israel. Perhaps all this is pushing the region to abandon its Arab and nationalist tendencies and fall into the arms of non-Arab parties.

On the other hand, Ethiopia maintains diplomatic and economic relations in the territory of Somalia, where the port of Berbera is used in its commercial movement. Since 2001, Ethiopian Airlines has operated regularly between Addis Ababa and Hargeisa. Not only that, but Ethiopia opened a diplomatic office in Hargeisa in 2006 to the embassy. It seems that the Ethiopian interest is to support both Somaliland and Puntland and to prevent the existence of a unified and strong Somali state.

Although Djibouti would accept the Somaliland passports and had diplomatic relations with the Hargeisa government, there was tension between the two parties as a result of Djibouti’s role in Somali reconciliation conferences and support for the Sheikh Sharif government.

Therefore, everyone is moving in East Africa, but we Arabs raise the banner of silence and count him and came.

Prospects and scenarios
We have two different models of post-1991 political development in Somalia. Somaliland has gained its distinct experience in national dialogue and civil peace building to cover the pattern of conflict, chaos and the all-out war against all that has been witnessed in the rest of Somali territory. Therefore, many saw the possibility of applying Somaliland’s experience in African armistice positions, including Somalia itself.

In any case, this optimistic picture of the future of Somaliland faces serious challenges, perhaps most notably the weakness and fragility of the institutions of the region and their loss of international support and assistance in the absence of international recognition.

The crisis of the current presidential election and its continuing postponement pose the seriousness of this challenge. On the other hand, the border conflict with the autonomous region of Puntland could push the parties into an open conflict, threatening the stability and security of Somaliland and bringing the situation back to square one. On the third hand, the lack of international recognition deprives the Somaliland authorities of the support of international political and economic institutions. In short, it re-experiences regions such as Abkhazia and Ossetia, but within the framework of our Arab and African reality.

In light of this, three future scenarios can be envisaged that govern the process of political development in Somaliland:

“Three scenarios can be envisaged in the future governing the process of political development in the territory of Somaliland: the first to obtain international recognition, and the second return of war and open conflict in the region, and the third survival of the situation as it is”

Scenario I: Getting International Recognition. Some international actors such as the United States may push for acceptance of the region’s independence because of its geopolitical importance. Then the African Union may reconsider its policy of recognition by saying that Somaliland is a tribute to colonial boundaries. However, this possibility is difficult to achieve because it will represent a dangerous precedent in African international interactions.

The second scenario: the return of war and open conflict in the region. This could be achieved if the border dispute between Somaliland and the neighboring Puntland region develops. It is noted that the general trend in Puntland, the majority of which is to preserve the unity of Somalia in any way.

Scenario 3: The situation remains as it is. This seems likely in the absence of an international will to resolve Somalia’s intractable crisis and the tendency of many international parties to deal with Somaliland as a truly independent entity.

Perhaps the question that arises after all this concerns the people of Somalia. Can they, through their cultural and historical heritage, mobilize their own potentials and abilities in planning to build their future and make their unity model appealing to all parties? This is a challenge.

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