Francis Kornegay who teaches international relations at South Africa’s
Witwatersrand University, was one of the speakers at the conference on
peace, security and development in the Horn of Africa, held in Hargeisa –
Somaliland August 1-2.
Q. What are your impressions of Somaliland and what was significant about
A. Well, they are quite inspiring and positive what I have seen in
Somaliland is an efficiently functioning society, when compared to many
other places. I would think that a lot of other countries in Africa can
learn from Somaliland.
The conference was a beginning of a dialogue that you need to have along the
Somali Coast, among different Somali communities, on interim Somali
relations. I think the conference was a good start and I’m glad to have had
the opportunity to be part of it.
Q. The conference hailed Somaliland’s human oriented security. Why this
approach has generated interest?
A. I guess what it relates to is the focus on human security as opposed to
the conventional state driven security. For security to be enhanced in
Africa, you have to have popular participation in situations where you are
trying to move from conflict to post-conflict, reconstruction and recovery.
And also in preventing conflicts and implementing security structures and
mechanism maximum participation of people. Security basically relates to
governance and governance has to be participatory. It has to allow for
open-ended opportunities in which people can exchange ideas, discuss issues
and get away from militarized approaches of peace coming out of the barrel
of a gun.
Q. As an African American who has been living in South Africa over the last
decade, can you imagine similarities or scope for cooperation between
Somaliland and South Africa?
A. Yeah. I think there is room for a lot of cooperation. South Africa is
still building its democracy. They have gone a long way in the shortest of
time since 1994. You see the same thing in Somaliland where you are clearly
engaged in building and consolidating your democratic environment. Given
that situation of transition, I think both societies should be able to
interact to learn from each other in terms of sharing experiences and moving
Q. In your keynote speech to the conference, you brought up the idea of
holding dialogue among Somali Coast communities. Who are those communities?
A. Well, those communities, I would imagine, are the ones symbolized by the
five-cornered Somali flag.
You are talking about Somaliland, Southern Somalia, Ogaden, Somalis in the
Diaspora, [Djibouti and Kenya]. So looking at the situation of regional and
sub-regional integration in Africa, what is going in the Somali Coast, I
think, is one chapter in how African people are trying to find each other
and how they can come to a workable arrangement for managing unity and
diversity. In other words, we are talking about inter-Somali dialogue. That
means dialogue among your selves in Somaliland, about your future, and it
also means dialogue with other Somali speaking communities outside
Q. In your opinion what impact the conference will have?
A. I think it will have an impact in terms of generating ideas and options
for carrying of the dialogue forward. You have to start somewhere with the
dialogue. I think the kind of inter-action we had at the conference ought to
help evolve the on-going debate about Somaliland and its future and how
Somaliland relates to Southern Somalia. I think the conference was very
important in that respect.
Q. How your proposal for the emergence of a “Somali Coast Dialogue Forum”
could differ or be more effective in comparison to Somali peace conferences
sponsored by he international community that seek imposing solutions on
Somalis from the top?
A. In fact it could be a parallel complementary process. But by focusing on
the Somali Coast, you transcend all the divisions in the Somali region. By
looking at it as a Somali coast frame-work, all Somalis can engage in
talking about the future of the Somali region.
I think it is a good strategy for Somaliland because Somaliland can tend to
its needs as a country in the interest that you need to advance. But at the
same time without conceding anything, you can put forth a broader Somali
concept that is inclusive. I think that he who puts forth the truly
inclusive concept is the one who will occupy the high ground to which
everyone else will have to respond.
Strategically it would be good for Somaliland to go that road because it
would allow to focus on Somaliland as well as on the wider Somali region.
You would give up nothing, and you would have the best of both worlds in
dealing with your own situation and at the same in influencing a wider
Q. Wouldn’t a dialogue involving Somalis living in the area stretching from
Hargeisa to Wajeer be opposed by the international community given the
well-known regional sensitivities to the revival of Somali irredentism?
A. Well, I think that basically depends on the Somalis. Because you would be
talking about your own future. There isn’t any one outside the Somali region
who should have any say over that. Outsiders might have an interest in it,
one way or the other. But if Somalis decide pro-actively to take control of
the dialogue, then how can anyone else, really, come up with anything
differently. May be create mischief here and there or try to complicate
things. But I think you can come up with a compelling strategy that makes it
difficult for anyone to undermine.
In other words Somalis talk to each other on their terms in an open-ended
way that has no time-frame. It is your Forum and it provides opportunities
to spin off any initiative that might come out of it. It has no preconceived
notion of where it should go. But it has got to be initiated by Somalis. It
is possible that the best place for the initiative to come from is
Somaliland itself. Somaliland probably has more interest in something
like this than anyone else. So I think that it is something that should be