GAROWE: About 12 Somali traditional elders from the disputed regions of Sool and Sanaag have issued an open letter to the Djibouti president, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh over the renewed talks between Somalia and Somaliland.
STATEMENT FROM THE SSC TRADITIONAL LEADERS AFTER DJIBOUTI CONFERENCE
July 17, 2020
To: H.E. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti
H.E. Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia
CC: H.E. Donald Yamamoto, the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia
H.E. James Swan, the SRSG for Somalia and Head of UNSOM
H.E. Nicolas Berlanga, the EU Ambassador to Somalia
H.E. Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary of IGAD
We, the traditional leaders, who are the highest accepted authority of the regions of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC) in north-central Somalia, would like first to convey to you our highest respects and express our profound appreciation of your endeavour to help us solve our internal problems. In this regard, we are presenting herewith for your attention our reaction and response to the so-called Somalia/Somaliland talks which took place in Djibouti on 15 June 2020.
We as traditional leaders prefer to keep to our traditional roles of conflict resolution and peacemaking within our societies. As such we refrain from getting involved in political affairs. But that is not always possible when we, in the SSC regions, are the exception in Somalia to having no federal member status, despite our entitlement, that could have defended us when wronged as recently happened at the Djibouti conference. On such occasions, our people perforce look to us as a last resort to intervene and make sure that their voice is heard by all concerned. When that is the case, as it is this time, we are duty bound to respond to their call.
From the outset we would like to express our deep consternation to have been excluded from the Djibouti talks at a time where our fate was being sealed and sacrificed to our enemy and of Somalia and all at the hands of those who were supposed to defend us both. As such, all the talk of inclusiveness, fair play and respect for fundamental human rights, which are often trumpeted, now seem hollow to us. When we are treated as such, it is not only our inalienable rights as SSC people that have been violated but more seriously it is Somalia’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity that are being betrayed. Despite all that, we remain as always unionists who are committed to the unity of Somalia and are making the same sacrifices that our forefathers had paid to defend our motherland from its adversaries, both foreign and their local lackeys.
We have to state from the outset again that the problem we face with the secessionist enclave in northern Somalia is not with its people who are our fellow brothers, nor so called Somaliland which is only a fig leaf. The real culprit in northern Somalia, and for that matter the whole Somalia, are the Somali National Movement (SNM), a rebel group hailing from one of the five clans in northern Somalia who rose against the former military regime and still remain a separatist to the present day. They have killed thousands of our people in both the SSC and Awdal regions for merely opposing their secession. For that reason, those of us who are its victims consider it terrorist by any definition and would like the world to see it similarly.
To win international support and sympathy, the SNM propagates ad-nauseam that the secession is embraced by all the northern clans (former British Somaliland). Nothing could be further from the truth. It is on the contrary supported by some members of their clan and none from the others who remain unionists. We have to add that until the SNM came to highjack them in the late 1980s,the clan was the most ardent unionist in Somalia. As such, not everyone from the clan is a secessionist. Many have never been their followers, and many who were so at one stage are deserting them in droves. When the SNM is facing resistance from the unionist clans in northern Somalia, and the tide is increasingly turning against it in its own home ground, this is the time all the more for a determined Somali government to back the unionists to accelerate its demise. To engage them instead in futile endless talks, and worse to appease them as the government does, we believe, is to bolster their status and prospects.
We would like to emphasize that the SNM’s justification for their secession is not based on any inherent irreconcilable differences between their clan and the rest of us in Somalia. We are one and the same people,the most homogenous in Africa, sharing one language, religion, culture and common ethnic identities. None of this has changed. Nothing divides us other than coming from different geographical locations which are inevitable in any country. What is simply driving the outfit is clannish megalomania that should have their own country where they would be on top and rule the rest by force.
These bonds we share have stood the test of time and are the genesis that gave birth to the independence of British Somaliland on 26 July 1960 and its unity with Italian Somaliland four days later on 1st July 1960. Those actions were first and foremost the free choices of each of our clans/regions and secondly the collective free choices of our clans sharing the same aspirations. No clan forced another to join the union just as no one clan should give itself the exclusive authority to force others against their will to secede from the union let alone occupy them as has happened. All these bonds are testimony to our oneness and debunk the SNM separatist ideology.
Yet all our common heritage was trampled upon by the Somali National Movement (SNM) when they proclaimed on 18 May 1991 the secession of the north (former British Somaliland) from the rest of Somalia. When we have every reason to be united and none to divide us, there was no justification for the secession, all the more when the military government they detested was oustedand gave way to a new era of civilian rule and equality among clans and regions under the federal system of power sharing. The proof is that the SNM clan are equitably represented in all the branches of the federal government and even hold some of its key posts. But equality and equity are not good enough for them.
It is ironic that when artificial colonial borders failed to stop the unfettered free movement of our people across their common God-given land, the SNM would follow their example and force our people to be divided along those defunct artificial borders which no one will respect them anyway. It is time they learnt that we are indivisible? Our SSC regions will always remain as in the colonial times the bridge that binds northern and southern Somalia. And just as the colonials failed to do away with that bridge and divide our people so will the SNM fail with its artificial balkanization of the Somali people along south-north divide.
What we have now under SNM in the north amounts to a new colonialism in the 21th Century reminiscent of the old one we had under the British in the 20th Century. And in many ways it is worse. It would be delusional for the international community and for that matter the federal government in Mogadishu to think we would substitute one colonial rule for another, least of all a sub-clan one. We resisted British colonial conquest of our homeland for 22 years and we would be no less determined to deal with their successor.
The SNM secessionist entity would not have succeeded 30 years in a poverty stricken enclave if it was not for the disproportionate aid it gets from some member of the international community which makes mockery of their professed support for Somalia’s unity. What has emboldened these donors to act this way is when they see the indifference of successive Somali governments towards the defence of the union in the north. That perception is reinforced when the federal government continues to turn a deaf ear to the SSC rightful claim to federal member status. The message is clear: we are designated as part of “Somaliland” as has been affirmed at the Djibouti conference. But our people will not accept this message and it will lead to more conflict and bloodshed.
Our SSC regions constitute over 40 percent of northern Somalia and also extend to a large part of the Somali region of Ethiopia. We are therefore too big to be treated as expendable to be disposed of as a pawn for the benefit of others. Since the SNM proclaimed secession, we have reiterated time and again to the international community:
That we are not secessionists;
That we are not part of the SNM enclave which calls itself Somaliland and will never be;
That any attempt to include us in so-called Somaliland would amount to blatant violation of our fundamental human rights for self-determination as enshrined in the UN human rights conventions and shall oppose it accordingly;
That our membership of Somalia from its foundation on 1st July 1960 is irreversible, non-negotiable and cannot be changed willy-nilly by any other party;
That any decision or deal taken over our heads by third parties and without our consent is null and void and hence unenforceable.
The SNM is floating other options to achieve their ends. One option would call for a referendum on the secession for the northern people only, expecting the outcome to go their way. Another option is a confederation between the north and south as two equal states which can allow SNM to pull out of it at a time of its choosing. As far as we in the SSC regions are concerned, both options are non-starters. They cannot be imposed on us against our will merely to expedite secession for the SNM through the back door. If the rights to secession and confederation are to be allowed, they would have to be rights open to every clan/region and enshrined in the constitution in a way similar to the Ethiopian constitution. Adopting any of these options would be a recipe for the end of Somalia and trust that this is unthinkable under any Somali leader.
Foreign sponsored talks between Somalia and the SNM have led nowhere other than to enhance the group’s status as a de facto separate country as the Djibouti conference has more or less accorded it. Unless the aim is to champion their endgame, we believe it is time to adopt an exclusively Somali approach, not between the federal government and SNM but between the northern Somali people themselves through their traditional leaders. We are the only legitimate credible institution that represents our people. Marwo Fowzia Yusuf Haji Aden, a Member of the federal Parliament and a former deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, suggested such an approach the other day which we fully support.
We the northern Somali traditional leaders were the ones behind the independence of British Somaliland and its unity with Italian Somaliland. The north has suffered massacres, occupation, oppression and fragmentation under SNM since the collapse of the Somali State. The mission of the northern traditional leaders would be to address and overcome those pains. That is a necessary requirement to revive the brotherhood and unity that we established among our people in 1960 that led to independence and the unity of Somalia. We can do it again and unite our Somali nation. Needleless to say, we deserve for a change the support of the international community for this noble goal.