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Re-Integrating Somaliland & Somalia In The Community Of Nations

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EU Delegation Secures The Release Of Haatuf Journalists

Noteworthy Historical Facts Challenging Blair’s Perception Of So-Called ‘Somali Territorial Integrity’

Ethiopian Helicopter Shot Down In Mogadishu

SOPRI Press Release: 2006 Somaliland Conference In Arlington Now Available In DVD

Somali Clan Releases Prisoners In Peace Gesture

Illegal arms trafficking deepens Kenyan fears of insecurity

Congo struggles to emerge from free fall

Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia Issues Statement and Video of Suicide Bombing in Mogadishu in Revenge for Somali Muslim Woman

Mission Report on the Trial Observation of Detained Human Rights Defenders
in Somaliland

Regional Affairs

U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Without Charges In Ethiopia Says He Was In An Al Qaida Camp In Somalia, But Was Never A Fighter

De-Traumatizing The Mind

Special Report

International News

Blair sharpens tone over 15 Britons held in Iran

200th Anniversary Of Slave Trade Abolition

Swedish Girl Released After Somali War Arrest

Salvaging Security in Somalia


Abdillahi Yusuf Fulfills The Age Old
Ethiopian Grandiose Strategy Against Somalia

Simple Dreams For Somali Teen

Ink in His Veins and Somalia in His Heart

Analysis: Clan Rivalry Threatens Somali Reconciliation Efforts

Finding their footing in a new land

Uganda Commander in Somalia Urges Speedy Deployment of More Troops

Food for thought


Re-Integrating Somaliland & Somalia In The Community Of Nations

Imagine Somaliland As Offshoot Republic Of China In Africa!

Somaliland May Be Teetering Toward Failure

Following The Barre’s Footprints

Freedom Is In Jail, Not The Haatuf Journalists

Mr President, thank you for heeding nation's concerns

Petition For Impeachment Of Dahir Rayale Kahin

By Ahmed M.I. Egal


The problems bedeviling Somalia, and therefore indirectly bedeviling Somaliland, can be summarized as those particular to ‘failed states’. A ‘failed state’ is essentially a country in which state authority has collapsed and which has, therefore, imploded into a state of anarchy characterized by fewer or greater numbers of warring factions each of whom is trying to either maintain its grip over a given swathe of territory or impose its authority over the others. Yugoslavia is the European example of a ‘failed state’ while Africa has produced the largest number of such states including Liberia, Ivory Coast, DRC and, of course, the granddaddy of all ‘failed states’, Somalia – the subject of this paper. Before proposing how Somalia could be transformed from this ‘failed’ status to functioning status, it is perhaps useful to provide a brief context by addressing two distinct, but inter-related, issues. Firstly, the question of re-uniting Somaliland with Somalia – is the secession of Somaliland irrevocable and permanent or is there some modus operandi by which the pre-1991 Somali Democratic Republic can be re-established? Secondly, how can the state in Somalia be re-established and extended throughout the country, i.e. how can political consent in Somalia be re-established?

Union between Somaliland and Somalia

This is an extremely important issue, since the question of whether Somaliland will ever re-unite with Somalia (which is as inevitable for a non-Somali to ask as it is equally inevitable for the Somalilander to resent) nearly always frames any discussion of Somaliland and its future between Somalilanders and foreigners in a bizarre and Kafkaesque discourse whereby the two interlocutors approach the issue from such diametrically opposed perspectives which renders rational discussion well nigh impossible. The deep antipathy that Somalilanders have to the prospect of unity with the south stems from a visceral rejection of the Somali Republic which was created in 1960, in large part by their efforts, and the principle of Greater Somalia upon which it was built. Many analysts and commentators, including many Somalilanders, posit that Somalilanders’ adamant unwillingness to countenance union with Somalia is based upon their collective experience of a calculated and carefully executed savagery employed by a state (using all the apparatus available to it) against an ethnically defined section of its own public.

Certainly, the vile record of the Siyad regime with respect to the wholesale murder of its own people (either from the air as when Siyad’s fighter planes piloted by South African and Rhodesian mercenaries bombed Hargeisa; or from closer up as evidenced by the mass graves containing remains of men, women and children manacled or bound together and summarily executed with a bullet to the back of the head) now a matter of public record, even if the full story of its genocidal campaign against a specific group of its own citizens has yet to be told. However, these horrific acts by themselves do not account for the deep antipathy that the overwhelming majority of Somalilanders have for re-uniting with Somalia. The simple truth is that the irredentist dream of Greater Somalia had lost its luster in the eyes of the people of Somaliland by the time the Siyad regime seized power in October 1969. The loss of the 1977/78 war with Ethiopia and the resultant genocidal campaign of the Siyad regime to ethnically cleanse the Isaaq from their own lands in order to repopulate them with his own Darod kinsmen was but the final, if brutally grotesque, nail in the coffin of the dream of Greater Somalia.

It is important to remember that Somaliland willingly and voluntarily surrendered its sovereignty in 1960 without preconditions in the cause of Greater Somalia. In the two wars with Ethiopia over the Haud & Reserved Area (Ogaden) in 1964 & 1977/78, the north suffered disproportionately in terms of casualties (both military & civilian) as well as in terms of property and infrastructure damage. The south was never bombed by the Ethiopian air force, and the majority of the property and assets (primarily vehicles and livestock) destroyed during these enmities were northern-owned. In addition, during these wars, the public in the north was seized with a nationalistic fervor that overtook rational thought, young men volunteered to fight, older men donated whatever they could and women pawned their gold & jewellery for the war effort. In contrast, during both wars, life went on pretty much as normal in the south and there were not the scenes of mass nationalist fervor that were witnessed in Hargeisa, Burao, Borama and Berbera. It is fair to say that the popular passion for Greater Somalia was much hotter in the ex-Protectorate (i.e. Somaliland) than in the ex-Trust Territory (i.e. Somalia). This could be explained, at least partly, by the experience that the south had of some limited, self-government for ten years prior to independence, whereas the elixir of self rule was new to the north. However, it could equally be that northerners are more nationalistic, or more easily roused by nationalist sentiments, than southerners.

In the context of possible re-union of Somaliland and Somalia, it is also important to note that during the 31 years of union no infrastructure was constructed in the north, i.e. no roads, schools, hospitals, telecommunication facilities, with the exception of the Burao-Mogadishu road (which was built during Egal’s premiership). No industrial projects were built in the north during this time, with the exception of the cement factory in Berbera, which had to be sited there since the raw materials for the factory were contiguous thereto. By comparison, all the development efforts were concentrated in the south, whether they comprised construction of roads, schools, hospitals etc., or industrial projects, e.g. the cotton mills, the sugar refinery in Jowhar, the oil refinery, the flour mill, the pasta factory all in Mogadishu etc. While this southern bias in government expenditure also prevailed during the civilian era, the quantum of such expenditures was modest by comparison with the Siyad era, when the bias became more marked and overt.

This history of marginalization was compounded by the genocidal policy of Siyad aimed at evicting the indigenous population of Somaliland in order to give the land to his maternal kinsmen as an apologia for his disastrous war with Ethiopia in 1977/78. Thus, the very people for whose liberation Somalilanders had sacrificed their independence in 1960, not to mention their property and their very lives in 1964 and 1977/78, became their colonial masters, indeed the instruments for their very eradication, some 28 years later. So much for irredentism and dreams of Greater Somalia! Every Somalilander will tell you that this is one road he or she will not venture down again and a dream born of a, perhaps naïve, nationalist idealism today lies buried in the mass graves of inter-Somali genocide.

With the death of the dream of Greater Somalia, died the raison d’etre of the union of Somaliland and Somalia. In the absence of the unifying, nationalist impulse for Greater Somalia, the other possible unifying forces of language, culture, ethnicity and religion have been trumped by the harrowing experience of oppression and genocide. Somalilanders do not envisage a future of enmity with their southern kinsmen, the ‘open-door’ policy of the country to the desperate refugees from the south who have fled, and continue to flee, north from the anarchy of Somalia is an eloquent testament to that. Neither do they countenance a future wherein there is little or no commercial and ‘people-to-people’ contact between the two Somali nations. Rather, they hope for a relationship characterized by fraternity, mutual respect & goodwill, free trade and good neighborliness. What is inconceivable to Somaliland and its people is to once again cede one iota of their sovereignty and right to self determination to anyone or any state other than Somaliland, no matter how it might be constituted.

Some commentators have talked about a loose federal structure uniting the north and south at some time in the future, while others have pointed to the United Arab Emirates (where real political power lies with each emirate and federal decisions are reached by unanimity) as a possible future model. Such extrapolations ignore a fundamental and basic element of self determination and statehood, namely political consent. The citizens of a state must consent to be citizens of that state and they must consent to the political structures of such state. Anything short of such consent amounts to coercion and negates the legitimacy of the state. The simple fact is that the people of Somaliland will not countenance any arrangement that does not recognize their independence and their right to self determination as a sovereign nation. They voted for this independence in 1992 when they ratified the ‘independence’ constitution by a margin of 97% in favor.

Thus, to return to the disjointed discourse between the foreigner and Somalilander referred to at the beginning of this topic, the international community must understand that the question of union (or any other bilateral arrangement) between Somaliland and Somalia, is moot as far as Somaliland is concerned until their independence and statehood are acknowledged and recognized. Efforts to push Somaliland into considering any such arrangements with the Somalia, in the absence of the said recognition of their statehood and sovereignty, have only resulted in strengthening their determination to maintain their independence. The UN, the EU, the AU and the Arab League, have all discovered this simple truth during the last eleven years of Somaliland’s re-birth. The EU has now accepted that Somaliland will not be coerced into a union with Somaliland and that ‘punishing’ it for this refusal by denying aid and resettlement relief speaks more about the callous inhumanity of Brussels bureaucrats than it does about Somaliland’s supposed ‘obstinacy’. To their shame, the UN, AU and the Arab League blindly continue with that discredited, dead-end policy.

Destruction of the State in Somalia

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Siyad Barre dictatorship, the international community has attempted to restore the state in Somalia in a variety of ways. The US-lead ‘Operation Restore Hope’ in 1991 turned into an attempt at nation-building which degenerated into a war between the US and the biggest warlord in the country. The experience proved disastrous for both protagonists with the US losing 18 soldiers of their crack Delta Force and beating a hasty retreat from Somalia, while Aideed’s opponents were emboldened by the drubbing he took from the Americans to pose an effective challenge to him for the first time. While this was the most high profile episode in Somalia’s sorry history over the last eleven years, particularly in the international media, it is actually symptomatic of the lack of understanding of the legacy of the Siyad dictatorship in Somali politics, that continues to lead to miscalculations on the part of the international community in its attempts to effectively address the problem of reconstituting the state in Somalia.

The post-independence political setup in the ex-Trust Territory was marked by the dominance of the Majerteyn clan of the Darod tribe. The Siyad era entrenched Darod dominance while replacing the Majerteyn this with the ascendancy of his own Marehan sub-clan, the Dulbahante of Somaliland and the Ogaden. In fact, the power of the Majerteyn waned considerably after 1975 when a group of Majerteyn officers tried to overthrow Siyad in a failed coup and he responded by ordering a punitive campaign against the Majerteyn that was characterized by his usual ferocity. The coup plotters escaped to Kenya and formed an anti-Siyad guerrilla force under Col. Abdillahi Yusuf (the present President of Federal Transitional Government concocted in Embagathi, Kenya). One of the ironies of modern Somali history is that the first clan to take up arms against Siyad Barre and create a guerrilla force to fight him (the Somali Salvation Front – the SSDF) were his own Darod kinsmen, the Majerteyn.

During the last several years of the war in Somaliland, when it was becoming increasingly apparent that the regime would not be able to withstand the SNM and that war in the north was being lost, Siyad unleashed his exclusively Marehan Presidential Guard and the also exclusively Marehan crack commando unit commanded by his son Maslah upon the Hawiyeh population of Mogadishu and its environs. His aim was to subdue and cow the Hawiyeh so that they would not be emboldened by the success of the SNM in the north and open another front against him in the south. Thus during 1989 and 1990 Mogadishu and the surrounding area was subjected to a regime of state-sponsored ethnic savagery that would make Milosevic’s actions in Bosnia and Kosovo seem tame and docile by comparison. Summary executions, mass killings & rape, collective punishment and ethnic cleansing of entire districts were the order of the day. However, true to the dictum that brutal dictatorships sow the seeds of their own destruction, the campaign that was supposed to subdue and cow the Hawiyeh succeeded in radicalizing them and rousing them to arms.

The Hawiyeh who had remained peaceful up until that time, if resentful of the previous excesses of the Darod regime, decided that enough was enough. Mohammed Farah Aideed, who had tried to convince the SNM leadership to open a southern front in their war against Siyad and had been rebuffed with the terse rejoinder to find Hawiyeh fighters to liberate Hawiyeh land, suddenly found his kinsmen ready to fight. The general without an army at last had an army and Siyad’s game was up. By the time his army returned from the north in disarray and defeat, Siyad found himself with an even more formidable enemy on his doorstep in the person of Aideed. Aideed’s guerrilla army was being swelled by the day by embittered Hawiyeh soldiers who had returned from the defeat in the north only to find their clansmen and women tortured, raped and killed by the very regime they were fighting for. Aideed was a more formidable enemy for Siyad than the SNM, because (unlike the SNM) he did not want to ‘merely’ expel him from a territory, he wanted to publicly humiliate and execute him.

In January 1991 Siyad threw in the towel and escaped from Mogadishu in a tank with a large entourage comprising the Presidential Guard, family members and assorted kinsmen & women. Aideed, determined that Siyad should not escape, set off in hot pursuit and he radioed ahead to Col. Omar Jess, an Ogaden commander who controlled Kismayo and who was anti-Siyad and therefore a nominal ally to detain him and not let him pass Kismayo and proceed to Kenya. In the event, blood trumped politics and Jess let Siyad proceed on to Kenya and make good his escape from certain death at Aideed’s hands. The Hawiyeh were at that time united under the umbrella of the United Somali Congress (USC) of which Aideed was Chairman. While Aideed was engaged in the pursuit of Siyad and in mopping up the remaining elements of his armed supporters, the USC held an emergency convention and elected Ali Mahdi Mohammed as President of Somalia. Ali Mahdi was a wealthy hotelier and businessman who was one of the main financial backers of the USC. He was a Hawiyeh, but from the Abgal sub-clan while Aideed was from the Habr Gedr sub-clan. Aideed returned to Mogadishu in a rage and declared the convention and its election of Ali Mahdi null & void. At this time, Aideed commanded the Hawiyeh militia which included all the Hawiyeh sub-clans, although most of the fighters were Habr Gedr.

The tense stand-off between the two men continued for some months, while the elders tried to mediate between them. A compromise was impossible since Mahdi insisted that he was the President duly elected by the USC convention and Aideed refused to recognise him as such claiming that the convention itself was ultra vires since, as Chairman, he neither called it nor was informed about it. The dispute became an inter-clan one in the absence of successful mediation and Ali Mahdi quietly began assembling an Abgal militia. Aideed responded by kicking Mahdi and his supporters out of Mogadishu and declaring himself President, thus there were two Hawiyeh, USC ‘Presidents’ of Somalia. In the meantime, with the strongest fighting force thus divided and turned in upon itself, many aspiring local militia commanders carved out their own territories which they controlled and over which they levied taxes on all traffic and commerce. Thus, was Somalia torn into a multitude of greater and smaller fiefdoms each controlled by a greater or lesser warlord who collected tithes from his sub-warlord lieutenants or paid same to his liege respectively, and this situation largely persists to this day. The fury of the Hawiyeh against their erstwhile Darod masters overlay this mosaic of feudal anarchy and the ferocity of the Hawiyeh vengeance against the Darod, matched in full the savagery which the Darod had visited upon them so recently. It was into this heady brew of intrigue, anarchy and inter-clan & inter-tribe vengeance that the US-lead forces of Operation Restore Hope ventured in blissful ignorance.

The Darod (particularly the Marehan), realising that they would have a very bad time of it against a united Hawiyeh assault and seeing in the Abgal-Habr Gedr rift an opportunity, adopted a strategy of ‘divide and survive’. Thus, they sided with the Abgal who were much less well armed than the Habr Gedr, while in Ali Mahdi they found a man they could deal with, compared with Aideed’s implacable hatred of the Siyad regime and anyone associated with. The other Hawiyah clans divided up among the two camps as geography and political expediency dictated. Thus, was the pattern of warlord domination established characterised by constantly shifting alliances as the tide of battle among the warring factions ebbed and flowed. This pattern persists to this day. At this point, it is necessary to turn the focus away from the Somali protagonists briefly to outline a hugely important ingredient to this explosive mix which has not been brought out into the open thus far except. This is the role that the UN, wittingly or unwittingly, played in the immiseration of Somalia.

The Role of the UN – UNOSOM – The Warlords’ Paymaster

Discussion of the effects UNOSOM’s actions in Somalia must be prefaced with a simple statement of fact which provides a useful reference point for the subsequent discussion. In 1990, according to World Bank figures, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Somalia amounted to UD$ 920 million (US$ 600 million in 1980), while UNOSOM I spent a total of US$ 1,500 million. This comparison provides a stark illustration of the huge financial inflow into Somalia which was occasioned by UNOSOM’s entry into the country. A large proportion of this inflow of funds went directly into the coffers of the very warlords that UNOSOM was charged with neutralising in order to re-establish a viable government. It was a source of great frustration to ordinary Somalis that UNOSOM funds were financing the weapons purchases and murderous actions of the warlords that UNOSOM was supposed to be removing from the political scene. Indeed, if the effects of this surreal situation were not so disastrous, it would be a source of great satire.

Successive Security Council Missions to Somalia during UNOSOM’s existence bemoaned its passive and appeasing attitude to the warlords, yet the Council continued to renew its mandate and allocate funds for its activities. The complete mismanagement of the operation is exemplified by the incredible theft of some US$ 4 million in cash from its offices in Mogadishu. At this time, in view of the perilous security situation in Mogadishu, the foreign staff of the UNOSOM office in Mogadishu were housed in Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya and flown in each morning and out again each evening. It was during this period of ‘air commuting’ the staff each day in and out of Mogadishu, that a safe containing the said US$ 4 million was left overnight in the Mogadishu office which was broken into and the safe taken. This explanation beggars the imagination, since the greenest neophyte could foretell the result of such crass stupidity or negligence. An independent report on the incident prepared by a retired Scotland Yard police officer on the instructions of the Secretary General has never been published or made public. Among the Somali people, the above story provided by UNOSOM of how the funds came to be stolen and who stole them is widely disbelieved in favour of alternative theories that there was complicity, if not active instigation, of the theft by UNOSOM staffers.

What is incontestable however, is that a relatively huge amount of hard currency entered the Somali economy in a relatively short time as a direct result of UNOSOM’s operations. What is equally incontestable is that the vast bulk of this hard currency went into the coffers of the very warlords that UNOSOM was charged with removing from the political scene. The end result of this unintended subvention by the international community to the warlords was to expand their power and further entrench their hold over the people and the country. Whereas before the arrival of UNOSOM the warlords had merely looted aid and emergency convoys in order to sell the looted foodstuffs on the market, they now had access to a renewable supply of hard currency. Warlording became a hard currency- generating business instead of a path to power which required armed robbery in order to raise funds. An example of how the warlords subverted UNOSOM to their own ends (which was related to the writer by an Aideed militiaman who was personally involved in the episode) will illustrate this.

UNOSOM contracted with a supplier for the purchase of some four wheel drive vehicles for delivery to Mogadishu. The vehicles were purchased in Dubai and shipped to Mogadishu port where they were promptly appropriated (stolen) by Aideed’s gunmen. The same vehicles were repainted and leased to UNOSOM with drivers/security guard at a rate of US$150/day for the vehicle plus US$ 50/day for the driver & security guard. Thus, UNOSOM paid the supplier the purchase cost of the vehicles (and the supplier most certainly paid a portion of his profit to a warlord as the cost of doing business) and then paid Aideed for lease of their own vehicles which Aideed had acquired at no cost. While foreign aid operations (and particularly UN aid operations) in many Third World countries are viewed as good opportunities for rich pickings by many foreign and local businesses, the UNOSOM mission was characterised by a free wheeling attitude to expenditures that was unheralded. While the sums spent by UNOSOM constitute only a tiny fraction of overall UN expenditure on peacekeeping and famine relief at that time, they nevertheless amounted to veritable fortunes in the Somali context and their appropriation became the newest battleground of the major warlords. It is fair to say that the lasting political impact of UNOSOM on the politics of Somalia was to expand and entrench the power of the warlords. Thus did the good intent of Operation Restore Hope result in bringing the wretched people of Somalia more completely under the heels of the very self-seeking, parasites they were to have been delivered from.

Establishing the Basis for a New State in Somalia

Re-establishment of the state in Somalia must perforce start from the premise that the old rationale underpinning the creation of the Republic is gone forever. Somaliland has taken back its sovereignty, Djibouti is a sovereign state and will not contemplate surrendering its statehood in favour of any notion of Greater Somalia, and the inhabitants of the Haud & Reserved Areas and the NFD are not exactly lining up to partake of Greater Somalia either. Thus, the people of Somalia have to find a new modus operandi (or “heer”) for establishing a state and governing themselves. This can only be accomplished through inter-clan and inter-tribe discussions and consultations in the same manner as the inhabitants of Somaliland. The inhabitants of Somalia need to have their own equivalent of the Borama conference that established the Somaliland government, and agree on the type and form of government to be established as well as how it is to be shared between themselves. Bearing in mind that a great deal of inter-clan & intra-clan/tribe bloodshed has taken place over the past 10 years of anarchy, it is going to be an extremely difficult negotiating process to convene such a conference and then steer it to a successful conclusion. A fundamental requirement for the successful convening and conclusion of such a meeting, is the total exclusion of all the warlords. The attendees should be limited to the elders of all the clans and it should be left up to each clan to determine who will represent it, subject to the ‘no warlords’ caveat.

The warlords have effectively subverted the traditional political structures by marginalising the elders and the clan & tribal councils by imposing their will through force. However, it would be relatively simple to remove them as actors from the political scene once they have been excluded from the conference, as explained below. The former President of Somaliland had indicated that Somaliland would be willing to convene such a conference for the clan elders/representatives of the people of Somalia in Hargeisa, or some other location in Somaliland, if the international community will agree to support such a proposal and fund it. This will, of course, require some form of recognition for Somaliland and its government which need not be full nationhood status, but could take some de facto form that would enable the international community and multilateral & bilateral bodies to deal with the Somaliland government. Such interim recognition, and the assistance that would flow from it, would send a very powerful signal to the people of Somalia that the world will only aid & support those who support themselves first by agreeing to live together in peace. It is important to bear in mind that the ordinary people of Somalia are sick and tired of war and anarchy and desperately yearn for a way out of the nightmare in which they are caught.

There is every indication that the ordinary people of Somalia and their representatives and clan elders would heartily welcome such an initiative and support such a conference in Somaliland. After agreeing upon the type & form of government, and the representation of each grouping within it, the conference would select a Head of Government to form an interim government that would be charged with stabilising the country, disarming the militias and creating a functioning state. The international community would recognise this government, ensure its security after its move to Mogadishu and provide financial support for disarming the militias. Somaliland and other African countries (possibly Ethiopia, South Africa and others) would provide troops to ensure the government’s security, train the new police force & national army and provide internal security, much as the US and its allies are now doing in Afghanistan. The international community, particularly the US and the EU, would provide logistical and financial support for the African peace keeping force.

With such a credible military deterrent, the power of the warlords will rapidly dissipate and the government, with the active help of the elders of each clan/tribe, will be able to secure the defection of their militias. In this endeavour adequate funds to finance the re-deployment of these militias into the new national army, police force or back into civilian life will be fundamental to its success. Indeed, it is my prediction that if such a government was created as outlined above with the clear support of and pledge of funds from the international community, most, if not all, of the warlords would quickly pledge their allegiance to it and the few hold-outs would be isolated, thus facilitating their dethronement.

In the context of the current international environment, where the fight against terrorism is the pre-eminent foreign policy objective of the major powers, the existence of countries without a functioning state but with many competing warlords jostling for power, such as Somalia, pose a clear danger. Such countries are tempting targets for international terrorists to infiltrate and use as safe havens and bases from which to mount their operations. The need of the international community to prevent Somalia becoming such a safe haven, the deliverance of the long suffering people of Somalia from the anarchy of the warlords’ hegemony, the need of Somalia’s neighbours for secure borders and an end to the never-ending ebb & flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees across their borders and the need for the international community to recognise the achievements, legitimate rights and aspirations of the people of Somaliland all militate in favour of a radical, new effort to reconstitute the state in Somalia. We believe that the proposal outlined above presents a realistic process through which this can be achieved. Ten years of efforts by the UN, the AU and the governments of Djibouti & Egypt which were based upon appeasing the warlords (or creating a new one in the form of the Transitional National Government – the TNG of Arta) have succeeded only in inflating their egos and making them more recalcitrant. A new approach is needed and we believe that we have presented one rooted in Somali political culture that has the best chance of success.

The Arta Conference, the TNG and the Failed Machinations of Djibouti

Soon after Ismail Omar Guelle assumed the Presidency of Djibouti, President Egal of Somaliland went to see him and proposed a plan to him for resolving the crisis in Somalia. The proposal was essentially the one outlined above and Egal suggested to Guelle that as the President of the only Somali territory that enjoyed international recognition, his sponsorship of the plan was likely to secure the support of the major powers. If the plan succeeded, then Guelle would have the satisfaction of knowing that he had contributed a landmark achievement in the history of the Somali people which would be to his credit. For his part, Egal pledged that he and Somaliland would assist Guelle in any way they could to achieve this objective. After all, with an effective government in Mogadishu which was recognised by the international community, Somaliland could begin a dialogue with it to regularise its secession and so secure recognition for itself. Thus, assisting Guelle in re-establishing a government in Somalia was in Somaliland’s own interest, and Egal pledged to use his good offices as an elder statesman in Somali politics in support of the initiative among the elders and political figures in Somalia.

Guelle accepted Egal’s plan and promised to commence work right away. A few months later, Guelle outlined his plan in a keynote speech to the UN General Assembly that was very well received by the international community, particularly the US, EU and the Arab League, who all pledged their support. The plan Guelle presented to the General Assembly was Egal’s blueprint (as outlined above), even down to the exclusion and marginalisation of the warlords. Imagine then Egal’s shock a few weeks later to receive an invitation from Guelle for his government to attend the Arta Conference as one of the warring factions in Somalia! When Somaliland replied that it was not a faction, but a separate state, Guelle responded that the territorial integrity of the Republic was sacrosanct and that the Arta Conference was going to establish a transitional government for Somalia, including Somaliland which was considered a breakaway region. It quickly became apparent that Guelle had twisted Egal’s plan for the establishment of a genuine government in Somalia to meet his own requirement of creating a puppet regime that would be imposed upon the country through coercion, blackmail and, if necessary force.

The participants of the Arta Conference were hand picked by the Djibouti government to ensure that they would endorse whatever government was placed before them, and did not comprise the elders and other genuine representatives of the people of Somalia. Indeed, it is a fact that many participants were paid by the Djibouti government to attend and vote for Abdul Qasim Salat and the TNG, while others were kept in Arta under the ‘supervision’ of the Djibouti security services until the ‘election’ of the TNG was completed. The initial euphoria that greeted the TNG’s arrival in Mogadishu quickly dissipated as it became clear to the public that it did not have the will, the vision or the popular support to be an effective government. From inception, the TNG was a vehicle for Ittihad – a shadowy organisation that claimed to be a pan-Somali Islamic movement bent on the establishment of an Islamic Republic throughout the country. Ittihad cadres were given several portfolios in the TNG and many of their people were inducted into the ‘legislative assembly’ created in Arta. It is important to point out that the organisation not only funded the TNG, but was one of the principal sponsors and funders of the Arta conference itself. The movement had secured control of some areas of Somalia and instituted the Sharia legal code in these areas which resulted in a dramatic reduction in crime and lawlessness, which was heartily welcomed by the long suffering population of these areas

However, the movement aroused suspicions among some Somalis since its antecedents were unclear, to say the least and it was well financed, yet claimed that it had no foreign sponsors despite having no credible local source for its funds. Ittihad was present in Somaliland, but it was not a significant political, social or religious force there. The Egal government was suspicious of them and worked to actively limit its growth by aggressively countering their propaganda – indeed Egal personally attacked them and their brand of Islam in several of his speeches. Ittihad was one of the organisations listed by the US government as terrorist in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The initial reaction of the TNG to Ittihad’s inclusion in the list of terrorist organisations was to deny it fervently and express their continued confidence in them. Later, the TNG distanced itself from Ittihad and arrested seven Arab refugees (six Iraqi and one Palestinian) living in Mogadishu as terrorist suspects to demonstrate its commitment to fight international terrorism. While it is impossible to state with any certainty whether these men were Al Qaida operatives or not, it seems unlikely given that they had been living openly in Mogadishu, that they had been registered with the UNHCR for 2/3 years and had combined their resources to open a take-away outlet serving Arabic fast food. In any event, this rather laughable action of initially trumpeting Ittihad’s innocence bona fides, only to execute an about-face as evidence of its links to Al Qaida was presented, and the subsequent round up of the hapless Arabs only served to further diminish the TNG’s already tattered credibility.

The bankruptcy of the TNG and the machinations through which it came into being has now been exposed for all to see. Despite the sustained efforts of the Djibouti government at the AU, the Arab League and the UN, its illegitimate offspring has failed to win the support of the international community. Perhaps the most unedifying spectacle the TNG exposed to the world was the public spat between its Prime Minister and Foreign Minister over the dispensation of the US$ 13 or 17 million donated by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while the President mutely looked on. These funds were obtained by the then Foreign Minister (who enjoyed close personal ties with the two ruling families), and the Prime Minister was upset that he had neither been made privy to its ‘allocation’ nor was provided with a portion for his office from the said funds. There have been numerous defections from the TNG’s ranks as the funds provided by friendly governments have dried up, while the hoped for aid from the international community has not been forthcoming. In short, the funding gap left by the collapse of Ittihad has never been filled and prospects for the TNG’s future look increasingly bleak.


As mentioned in the Introduction, the Somali people are passing through a particularly grim period of their history at this time and occupy a place on the lists of the most wretched people on earth, whatever the yardsticks may be that are used to measure wretchedness. They are responsible for their plight in that the calamities that brought them to this sorry state came to pass while they were a self-governing, independent state and were largely inflicted upon them by themselves. It is all too easy to blame some external factor or factors, such as colonialism or the geo-political rivalry between East and West, for the plight of Somaliland and Somalia, but the hard reality is that, whatever the impact of these external factors (and they did have an impact), the principal responsibility for the catastrophe visited on the people of the Republic lies with Somalis themselves.

Despite this, the international community cannot turn its back upon the Somali people for many reasons, not least of which is shared humanity and occupation of the same earth. Firstly, the exemplary success of Somaliland in achieving stability, democracy and the rule of law against almost insurmountable odds with virtually no assistance from the outside world must be applauded and supported. The people of that country have literally pulled themselves up by their own frayed bootstraps and if this feat of collective bravery and vision does not deserve the support of the world, then what does? Secondly, the ordinary people of Somalia are actually hostages to their own kinsmen who have turned from liberators into vampiric monsters who survive on their degradation and misery. The fate of the two peoples is inextricably bound together and the international community should support the efforts of both peoples to regain their membership in the polity of nations. The readiness of Somaliland to sponsor and facilitate the re-establishment of a viable government in Somalia that enjoys the genuine support of its citizens is not only worthy of support, but indeed mandatory if the world truly wishes to help. It is our fervent hope as Somalis that this be so.  


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