An Open Letter to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, By Osman Hassan.
Dear President Sheikh Sharif
First of all, please accept my cordial greetings due to you as a former Islamic preacher and currently the head of theTFG. The purpose of my open letter to you is to draw your attention to the responsibilities to our nation that you have sworn on the Quran to uphold as you now embark on a monumental perilous task that you have not hitherto faced and whose consequences could either make or marSomaliaas we know it as a nation. I am referring to the forthcoming talks with “Somaliland”.
As you recall, the single most important outcome of the London conference onSomalialast February, from the perspective of Somalia’s unity and territorial integrity, was its recognition that the solution to the secession waged by the entity innorth west Somalia(Somaliland) is a matter for the Somalis themselves to settle. In this regard, it called for talks between the government of Somalia, (yours and those that come after it), and the secessionists calling themselves “Somaliland”.
In responding to this conference call, there would need to be national consensus at all appropriate levels (central and regional governments, Parliament, civil society, etc) about key issues pertaining to the talks. Above all, who does “Somaliland” and the members of its negotiating team represent at the talks?; what are the composition and profiles of the members selected by your government for these talks so that they defend rather sell out Somalia’s unity and territorial integrity?; and finally, what are the terms of reference for your team unless you have given them carte blanche with no accountability to, or control by theTFG, federal Parliament and the wider Somali nation?. As a concerned Somali, and no doubt one speaking for millions, above all the unionists innorth west Somalia, I would like to share with you my thoughts on these issues.
1. Who does “Somaliland” represent at the talks?
The most critical procedural question that needs to be settled from the outset is who does this entity calling itself “Somaliland” represent at the talks?. Unless there is a sell-out on your part, these talks are bound to get no where if this question is not first settled. There are irreconcilable positions on this. “Somaliland” for one thing maintains its hackneyed mantra that it represents the whole clans and regions of the territory formerly known asBritish Somaliland. This is precisely the latest message from their so-called foreign minister, Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar.
In an interview with the BBC Somali Service on Thursday, April 19th, the minister claimed that the talks are between his “government”, representing the people of “Somaliland” (i.e.north westSomalia) on one side, and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) representing the people of former Italian Somaliland(Somalia). It is in this regard that he raised their objection to the inclusion of two members hailing from the SSC regions in the TFG team selected for the talks, threatening that his “government” would not participate in these talks if these members, who are from his “country” as he put it, were not withdrawn. This amounts to a diktat which is unacceptable to the Somali people and hopefully no less to you and your government, Mr. President.
The minister’s demand is totally at variance with the letter and spirit of the London conference which merely called on theTFG, the internationally recognised government of the whole ofSomalia, north and south, to hold talks with the secessionists in its territory with a view to resolving this internal problem. The TFG therefore has a right to select members within its ranks that that hail from anywhere inSomalia. For you and your TFGto accept such preposterous demand from the minister that dictates to you the exclusion of participants from specific regions of Somalia (SSC) on the ground that they do not belong toSomaliabut are their patrimony and part of “Somaliland” is to de facto accede to their secession.
The background to the union has great bearing on the secession, the question of who speaks for who in thenorth westregions ofSomaliaand on the substance of these talks. For the record, the only common aim and agreement among the five clans of formerBritish Somalilandfor demanding independence fromGreat Britainin May 1959 was simply to unite withItalian Somalilandand nothing else. No agreement, oral or written, exists among these clans for possible future secession by one clan or more from the union on whatever grounds. If one clan among these five is now opting for secession, as is the case, that is a matter for them alone and the people and government ofSomalia. It does not hence bind in anyway the other northern unionist regions and clans who still remain part ofSomalia.Somaliland’s use of force or occupation can not nullify these clans’ free will and their inalienable right to self-determination and to be part ofSomalia.
If clans and regions in north west Somalia were part of the secession as “Somaliland” always claims, there would have been no occupation in these unionist regions, no tanks and all sorts of lethal weapons used in Kalshaale and Buuhoodle region against ordinary civilians defending their rights, no systematic repression committed daily in Lascanod, and no Khaatumo State, Makhir State and Awdal State would have been established. These facts attests to the illegitimate basis of the secessionists’ “Somalilandbaby” and its current rejection by the people in the north other than its adherents.
The fallacious claim of the secessionists that all the clans and regions in north west Somalia as ones united under “Somaliland”, as one people, one country, with one government, might be imbibed by gullible uninformed foreigners but we know better as Somalis and among ourselves that it is nothing more than hogwash. All this is to remind you Mr President that “Somaliland” represents at the talks only its one-clan based secessionist enclave and none of the unionist clans and regions. These regions represent themselves at the regional level and are represented by theTFGat the national and international levels. Given that the talks affect them more than any other part of Somalia, they should have been represented by delegates chosen by their regional States of Somalia and, if not, by ministers in theTFGhailing from these regions.
2. Composition and profile of the TFG delegates to the talks
The confidence that the Somali people could have on these talks have been gravely dented by the way you have so far handled them. First, was the absence of maximum inclusive consultations with major stake holders in the talks such as the regional States innorth westSomalia(KhatumoState,MakhirStateandAwdalState). They are after all part of the subject of these talks givenSomaliland’s gratuitous and indefensible clam to them. Secondly, and what makes a mockery of your selection, is the inclusion of the minister of the interior and national security, Mr. Abdesamad Maalin Mohamoud, a self-declared, unrepentant and unabashed supporter of Somaliland’s secession (recall his VOA interview, November 2011). One has to therefore ask the rationale for his selection unless you too, Mr. President, share his stance and equally support the secession?. If that is not the case, he should be immediately withdrawn as well as others in the team whose loyalties to the union and toSomalia’s territorial integrity are questionable.
Thirdly, it is the bizarre inclusion of two ministers named by Mr. Faroole of Puntland that is found outrageous in many quarters. Where does he come in in all this? In allowing him to nominate SSC representatives from his administration, you have clearly endorsed his claim that the Khaatumo State of Somalia is null and void, that the SSC regions are part of Puntland and that he alone represents the SSC people. How do you square this action, Mr. President, with the fact that barely one month ago you recognised theKhaatumoStateofSomaliain which case it is them who should choose their representatives to the talks?. This is an insult and a stab in the back of the SSC people. And if you can betray them this way by submitting to Faroole’s demand, what guarantee do we have you would not also betraySomalia’s unity in deference to “Somaliland”?. That fear Mr President is real and widespread.
This flip-flopping, of taking one positive step forward only to reverse it later and take two steps backwards, had sadly been a hallmark of your presidency. But this time the stakes are too high and one can only hope you do not do an irreversible damage to Somalia’s unity and territorial integrity before the end of your term – unless of course you do not mind going down in history as the man who just did that.
3. The Talks should only be preliminary and preparatory
For the reasons and analysis I had given above, and speaking for all those who care about their country and fear of a looming betrayal, I call upon you and your government to limit these talks with “Somaliland” to the modest aim of being preliminary and preparatory. They should pave the way for more substantive talks between them and the government that will take over from yours after August.
With all due respect, Mr President, this is not the time that an unelected, foreign- made, lame-duck administration on its way out after three months can be entrusted to decide on such existentialist issues as our unity and territorial integrity. For once, do your country and people a favour.
Finally, forgive me, Mr. President, if my language is at times strident. That is because I know no other way of getting the message through to you.