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A Rejoinder To Abdalla A Hirad’s Outburst Against Professor Jhazbhay
I am sure that you may also entertain critique in similar faith with the way you tried to dismantle Professor Jhazbhay’s arguments which were broadly in support of Somaliland’s assertion of independence.
One of the major weakness of your arguments and which rather negatively tones the otherwise beautifully crafted piece is the rather personal aspersions you tried to throw at Professor Jhazbhay. Your attempt of reducing Professor Jhazbhay as a hired Somaliland’s apologist not only dent your argument but reduces the whole piece to the usual pedestrian squabbles associated with either bitter intellectuals who feel left out from the political process or one man clannish think tanks that dot the perennially failing political negotiation of the fratricidal south.
It was rather interesting to read the way you attempted to characterize the disintegration of Somalia in Hobbes-ian state of nature typology. Post-1991 Somalia was in deed a contemporaneous case example of state of nature. Between 1989 and 1992 the whole of Somalia perfectly fitted ‘the condition of mere nature’ a state where there was no agency with recognized authority to arbitrate disputes and effective power to enforce its decisions. The mayhem that followed the collapse of the dictatorial regime need not be re-catalogued here but not to acknowledging the fact that the political disorder (i.e. state of nature) remains only in the south is to say the least a sign of intellectual dishonesty.
However more importantly, your attempt to classify either the clan based systems of social contract that pre-existed the colonial subjugation of the Somali people or the subsequent normalization of life in Somaliland as equivalent to what Hobbes rendered as the state of nature is not only academically flawed but also betrays a sense of cultural inferiority of your part. The Somalis are historically known as extremely independent people who had elaborate clan systems that ensured social harmony. They may have lacked a centralized authority as did many other social groupings but they were far from what Hobbes referred to as ‘state of nature’.
Coming back to your extension of Somaliland to this ill-expanded definition of ‘state of nature, it is a documented historical fact that despite any existing schism between any clan groupings within Somaliland at the moment, they had independently and without coercion participated in a prolonged but unlike in the south, successful negotiation that led to the reclamation of Somaliland as defined. Hence if we may indulge your views and assume that independent clan organizations of the Somalis constitute a ‘state of nature’ then the negotiated settlement in Somaliland was what was referred to as ‘social contract’ thus marking a turning point from the ‘state of nature’ which still reigns in the south. Furthermore, if we extend the arguments, state of nature as was later argued by a descendant of Hobbes, John Lock, is preferable to a ‘social contract’ that results in tyranny such as that of Siyad Barre. A Newsweek columnist writing about Somalia and Somaliland had similarly concluded that if living together meant living on each others throat, then living apart was much better.
Another grossly over simplified verbose was the blanket claims made about the Darood clans in Somaliland. To claim that the Darood clans in Sool and Sanaag would prefer Puntland’s tutelage rather than be ‘hurried and bulldozed’ into Somaliland is not entirely correct. As mentioned earlier these clans were part and parcel of the negotiated settlement of Somaliland and thus to say they were either ‘hurried’ or ‘bulldozed’ tells a lot about your objectivity on the issue. Such display of verbal exuberance betrays both the supposed objectivity of the submission and renders your critique of Professor Jhazbhay rather personal than intellectual.
In fact you have mentioned the stationing of militia from Puntland deep into what is jurisdictionally part of Somaliland but what you seem to refuse to acknowledge is the fact that despite repeated provocations by Puntland which included an attempt at the life of its current president, Somaliland government had unilaterally removed its security personnel from the area and have been vocally calling for political solution to the stalemate. The irony that is escaping you is the simple reality that despite non-presence of Somaliland’s army, these clans have not yet declared total separation from Hargeysa. And to use one of your premises that the presence of individuals in a political grouping such as TFG is indicative of political leaning of whole clans, some of the leading officials of Somaliland’s government are from the very same clans you claim are seeking separation from Somaliland.
But for argument sake, let entertain your view as regards the political ambition of the Darood clans in Somaliland. I submit that these clans have a better standing in Somaliland than in a larger unified Somalia as you seem to be cravingly calling for. First and foremost the concept of clan as you are aware is astonishingly fluid one. Clan don’t remain static consanguinity but rather fluid cultural adaptations that change according to the prevailing social economic and political context. This is clearly demonstrated by the Hawiyes in the south. At one point in time they were identified as a single grouping but since the ouster of Barre, the concept of Hawiye as a single group was violently fragmented. What we have in stead is shifting alliances that tend to either expand or shrink in respond to prevailing circumstances and needs. The same applies to all be they Isaq, Darood or Rahaweins.
Given this reality of clannish relation, in a larger Somalia, the political jockeying and bargains will once again re-establish the larger inclusive clan identities i.e. Darood, Isaq, Hawiye and Rahaweins etc. In such eventuality and as history attest, sub-groups as Dulbahante and/or Warsangeli will be swallowed by larger clan arrangements and thus significantly reduce their respective bargaining positions. The dominant sub-groups within these expanded clans will be the ones who will benefit the most. The recent outcry in Las Canood by the Dulbahante on unfair resource distribution in favor of the Majeerten under the Puntland’s administration and the skirmishes between Warsangeli and Puntland militia underscores this scenario.
Hence, either I am wrong and the said sub-clans in the disputed region are so altruistic towards their brethrens in Puntland that they are ready to surrender their own political position or you are wrong to assume that they are not aware of the stakes in joining a larger entity that will render their separate identity inconsequential as compared to the relative position of power they will enjoy in Somaliland. The only factual reality is that within these sub-clans there are elements on both side of the equation and that while Somaliland would prefer a peaceful resolution of the dilemma, Puntland for whatever reason are in preference for conflict.
You have also belabored without much success to refute the de facto and de jure existences of Somaliland prior the ‘union’ with the south. I was not aware that legal sovereignty was subject to unspecified time frame i.e. for a country to be accepted legally as a sovereign country it has to have existed beyond a certain number of days, months or years. This unprecedented thesis needed more elaboration which sadly you seem not to have bothered expounding on. That as it may, the current standing in international law and as per the irrefutable factual history, Somaliland was a recognized sovereign member of the international community before its ‘union’ with the south four days later. The political context of the ‘union’ or even the intention of the departing colonial powers and/or political elites at that particular moment is irrelevant as far as this legal fact is concerned.
Opponents of Somaliland’s reclamation of sovereignty tiredly accused any sympathizers of Somaliland with the intention of dismembering Somalia. This absurd claim also featured in your tirade against Professor Jhazbhay. Strangely at one moment you are talking about Somalia as a failed state that is technically in what can be described as the ‘state of nature’ at the same breadth you talk about its dismemberment and accuse ‘others’ of seeking to do so. The irony that I find hard to understand is how is it possible to dismember that that does not exist in the first place. It on the same basis that I also find the use of the word secede a misnomer. What did Somaliland secede from?
Although you seem to be selective when it comes to the history of Somalia’s supposed union, the fact remains that the much talked about ‘unconditional’ union of the north with the south was never ratified to formally acquire legal status. It was in fact a judge in Mogadishu and an Italian for that matter (I am sure if it happen that he was British, unionists such as yourself would have been claiming neo-colonial interference) who ruled that legally the union between the two parts was non-existent. Similarly, it is also laughable to overuse the fallacious argument that the Somali people were ‘divided’ by the colonial scramble for spheres of influence in the continent. Somalis have never had a history of unified authorities. Every clan had its own structures and entered into relationship with the other through complex cultural institutions.
Lastly but not least, to update your selective memory, Somaliland unlike the unionist extremist, has pursued unique and successful state building process that employed cultural and local resources, undertaken internationally supervised referendum to ratify the decision to reclaim her sovereignty, undertaken several elections in the democratization process and above all seek peaceful resolution in the outstanding disputes with irredentist Puntland. And unlike the perennially failing unionists, Somaliland people and their leadership are basing their case on their history and current achievements while the unionist seem to have stagnated their views on selective historical accounts, baseless interpretation of facts and threat of further bloodshed. I am sure the international community is sober enough to notice the difference.
Ahmed Aideed Ali London