This article is on the pressing need to extend the federal system to northern Somalia and in particular to the unionist SSC regions which happen to be the only ones in the north crying for it. Their perspective on the federation, the central government and its member states and their relations is mainly shaped by their Darwiish history. The dominant strands of this perspective can be summarized as follows:
- That the relationship between the central government and federal member states be symbiotic to the extent possible for the benefit of all concerned ;
- That the federal system is conducted in accordance with the federal constitution, the will of the people and the national interest.
- That the adoption and practice of the federal system be in conformity with the requirements of Somalia’s unity and sovereignty and at no time be counter to them;
- That only a strong central government can hold its parts together and ward off external or internal threats to the country’s unity and sovereignty.
- That in a war-torn fragile state like Somalia, it is incumbent upon the federal government as guardian of the constitution, unity and sovereignty of the country to step in and defend these paramount pillars of nation when threatened
- That the paramount authority in the land is that of the central government and all others are subordinate to this in a manner consistent with the constitution.
It is in the above-mentioned spirit that the SSC people, hailing from Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) in northern Somalia, (aka Khatumo and Makhir), are active at every level to have their own federal State since their territory meets the required conditions. As the staunchest unionists in Somalia, their membership should have been the first to be granted. Unfortunately, they and for that matter the whole northern Somalia have been left out for reasons best known to Ville Somalia. it is time this changed if a united Somalia matters.
Much as the achievements made towards launching the federal system are laudable, these however remain partial, confined as they are to southern Somalia (former Italian Somaliland). As it is, Northern Somalia (former British Somaliland) has so far been excluded for whatever reason, despite the express wish of the eligible SSC regions to be included as a federal member state.
This prolonged exclusion, which spans the presidencies of three presidents, has come to create the present-day existence of two de facto separate countries, one by the name of Somalia representing former Italian Somaliland and the other by the name of Somaliland where none of the federal government’s institutions exits and its writ runs. The unmistakable message this state of affairs sends to the international community, and in particular those eager for a separate independent Somaliland is quite clear: that Mogadishu cares little about the union. On this basis they are under no pressure to respect Somalia’s unity and feel free to treat the enclave as a separate country just as Villa Somalia it does in practice.
Extending the federation to Northern Somalia
No single action could be more helpful to the secessionists and their foreign backers than when Somali governments limited the federal membership thus far to southern Somalia, leaving northern Somalia to its own devices. One does not have to be prescient to predict that this will eventually lead, intended or not, to the recognition of the separatist enclave and the end of Somalia as a united country. And vice versa, no single action could be more supportive to the union and hence bring about the end of the secession than extending the federal system to northern Somalia.
Assuming the federal government decides to extend the federation to northern Somalia, the only way it can do so is to admit the SSC regions as a federal State member given they are eligible and unionists. But there is another consideration which should weigh heavily with the federal government more than the mere eligibility factor. These regions happen to be the sole bridge that links the two parts of Somalia that united in 1960. And irrespective of their eligibility for the federation (which they amply do) it would be incumbent upon any government serious about the unity of the country to ensure these regions are at all times under authority.
Apart from the SSC regions, the other regions in the north are Awdal, which is totally occupied and voiceless, and e the secessionist enclave which turned its back on Somalia or its federation. But that could change eventually when they realise that a one-clan secessionist enclave is unsustainable and that they need Somalia more than it needs them contrary to the imbibed propaganda. More than force, it would be the admission of the SSC regions to the federation and under its authority which would act as a powerful catalyst to reinforce the discernible disillusionment with the secession that is gathering momentum among the new generations.
The Fabricated disputed territory” Mantra
The claim of the SSC regions to their political, economic and social rights under the UN Charter and International human rights conventions, as well as their inalienable constitutional rights to be equal to other regions in Somalia and be a member federal state, have been largely denied in one way or another. The ploy used by those driving these wrongs and the failures of those who should have upheld those rights and the right way forward need to be briefly spotlighted in the interest of justice and fair play.
The mother of these wrongs done to the SSC regions is the one-clan secessionist enclave. From the time they declared secession from Somalia in May 1991, and crowned themselves as the rulers of what they called born-again Somaliland (winner-take-all), they have been rightly wary of the unionist recalcitrant SSC regions and regarded them as their Achilles heel which could deny them fulfilling their separatist aspirations. Accordingly, they embarked on what they considered would eliminate this obstacle. Thus, they invaded and occupied much of Sool and Sanaag regions as if one clan’s recourse to pseudo colonial practices in the 21 Century will succeed where imperialist superpowers failed to hold on to their conquest.
Occupation might be the shortcut to subdue people and get control of their territory but does not confer the legitimacy that is indispensable for the recognition they crave for. That is where their foreign backers stepped in and came up with the means to achieve that legitimacy. What they concocted is far more nefarious than occupation itself. As if they were the arbiter of Somalia’s affairs, they simply disposed of the SSC people as nonexistent and came up with the mind-boggling notion that the ownership of the SSC regions is not theirs but “disputed” between Somaliland and Puntland. To be treated as such is adding insult to injury to a people who have cherished unrivalled history in Somalia – and all the more when this year marks the centennial anniversary of the defeat of their Darwiish liberation struggle by the British air force and their foreign and local mercenaries, including the forefathers of the very ones now occupying them.
Although Somaliland dismisses any sharing of what they see as their spoils of the collapse of the Somali State, nonetheless it tolerates this “disputed territories” saga as an effective ploy to do away with the existence of the SSC people and reckons Puntland, which has no presence in these territories, would drop out eventually, leaving them the sole “undisputed” owner”.
The foreign supporters of the enclave have achieved their intended aims at least for now. For a start, the clarion call to defend the union is silenced since its main voice, the SSC people, are cast off as non-existent and those disputing ownership of their regions (Somaliland and Puntland) have no interest to speak for the union much less demand federal membership for these regions. This Machiavellian maneuvering is what ensures northern and southern Somalia to remain de facto two separate countries
The fallacy of the disputed territory manta
There has always been in the history of the Somali nation disputes among nomadic clans over grazing and water rights. But until now, there has never been a case of two clans disputing territory let alone one belonging to a third clan. In a country under sovereign authority, all the territory is under the suzerainty of the State, and no two clans could have territorial disputes much less one over territory belonging to a third clan. The State is the arbiter over land ownership and not foreigners. The SSC “disputed regions” case is one manufactured by outsiders and has no roots in Somali history. Its success to gain currency if not credibility attests to the failure if not betrayal of successive Somali federal leaders.
None of these achievements by Somaliland’s backers would have been possible if it was not for the hands-off approach to northern Somalia, if not conspicuous silence, adopted by successive Somali governments and leaders since Siyad Barre.
If only these federal leaders had the temerity to pour scorn on this malevolent “disputed regions” mantra, and publicly rubbished it as baseless, that would have been the end of the story, in which case the SSC regions and Somalia would have been spared the consequences of that failure, in particular the immense harm done to these regions and to Somalia’s unity.
The buck stops at Farmaajo
The rights under Somalia’s constitution are indivisible: they cannot be the entitlements of some regions, clans, or individuals but denied to others. The right to establish federal member states has been accorded to each of the qualifying regions in southern Somalia. The time to extend those rights to the regions in northern Somalia is long overdue. And there is no better place to start than in the northern SSC regions for more reasons than one.
Speaking at a conference the other day, Garaad Jama Garaad Ali, the leading traditional leader of the SSC regions, spoke for his people when he reminded Villa Somalia that they are not asking for favours but demanding their constitutional rights. When other regions were given membership on a plate, the SSC regions have been knocking on Villa Somalia’s door all these years but to no avail. It is time the constitution is respected and all qualifying regions treated equally. The buck stops with Farmaajo. He could go down in history as the man who extended the federation to northern Somalia and saved it as one country.-
Osman Hassan is a seasoned journalist and a former UN staff member. Mr Hassan is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews.