The February 2012 Somalia London Conference; A Foggy Charade for Somaliland
The following piece is part of our continuous coverage on the upcoming conference on Somalia in the British capital. Our policy of encouraging free and open discussion of the issues or presentations of all facts and opinions is always open to all regardless of view/political affiliation or beliefs.
OPINION | February 2, 2012
By:Mohamed Muse Dualeh
Despite the Londoners claim that the fog of December 1952 which killed approximately 4000 people is a myth, the City of London cannot shrug off its reputation as Foggy City. Its validity is further strengthened by the numerous movies and documentaries that depict it as the foggiest capital.
But fogginess is not the only scrooge that is, rightly or wrongly, plaguing London. Sometimes 10 Downing Street adopts foreign policies that are often seen by the rest of the world as murky, incoherent, ambiguous or starkly blatant, all characteristics of a muddled foggy outlook. From its colonial policies which left a legacy of simmering and bloody conflicts; to the British policy blunder that caused the 1954 India-China war, the Middle East Israeli-Arab quagmire and the Kashmir are some of the few of British foreign policy bungles.
Somalia now is the new kid on the block of the British foreign policy, forgetting that most of Somalia’s problems are a legacy of earlier British colonial blunders in the Horn of Africa. In a typical British stiff upper lip, they see Somalia now as the ogre that ought to be tamed before peace and stability could be reached in the region. And in the process, Somaliland must be the sacrificial lamb that anoints the “Somalia London Conference” scheduled for February 23rd, 2012.
The British seem to say: Somaliland’s bloodletting is a pre-requisite for conquering the Hydra-like Somalia nightmare. One only needs to read the several papers, press releases, diplomatic visits and study papers, to mention a few, that are coming out of Downing Street, British diplomats and other British-sponsored think-tank institutions, to the see the apparent double-speak.
The following is a sample of this literature emanating from British politicians, Ministries and diplomats for the readers to determine the validity or even the plausibility of my rebuttals of these statements. The underlined parts of these statements are the vocal points which points towards the possibility of a British double-speak when it comes to Somaliland. I have also added, in italics, my comments on these relevant points.
Operational Plan 2011 – 2015. Somalia
By: Department For International Development-UK (DFID ) May 2011
1. Meanwhile, the current signs in Somaliland (about 2 million people) are more positive. After a second successful Presidential election last year, and with relatively little violent conflict, the promising government there could – with the right help – continue progress which might help anchor stability for the rest of Somalia. Somaliland currently offers more opportunities for working with government.
The paper never mentions in detail how Somaliland, in its independent status, could be an anchor for stabilizing Somalia. There are no constitutional mechanisms so far both in Somaliland and Somalia that could provide a legal frame work that could make this statement a possibility.
As far as we know both the constitutions of both countries are designed to hold legality in the two countries separately. Many Somalilanders suspect that there is an undeclared fine print to the London Conference to circumvent this hurdle without informing or consulting the population of Somaliland. Such a ruse would certainly have dangerous ramifications for the peace, stability and development of both Somaliland and Somalia and the whole Horn of Africa region.
For the London Conference to adopt such suicidal policies would make Somaliland vulnerable to terrorist incursions, expanded piracy and a foothold for Al-Shabab who already have sympathisers inside Somaliland but are only thwarted by the unified stand in expectation of statehood. Somalilanders would not be willing to stand as vanguards against the maladies of Somalia if they feel they are cheated out of their righteous aspirations for statehood.
2.The future of the Transitional Federal Government beyond its mandate in August 2011 hangs in the balance at the time of writing. It has limited capacity to plan or deliver development and its legitimacy are increasingly questioned. We have no plans to channel any funds through it or its successor. Under the right conditions we would be willing to support it and help it become more capable. We have a growing relationship with the Somaliland authorities, and will support them in development leading on their own plans.
The paper does not elaborate on the scope and type of support the British would extend to Somaliland. It also contradicts the statement in the Conference Agenda that says: “The international Community MUST bring Somaliland to the London Conference not as an observer, but as a partner”.
The paper also fails to mentions a partner to who; the attending international states and organizations, or the Somali Transitional Federal Government or its future replacement. Knowing the British double-speak, many Somalilanders are wary of the conference as a whole.
Meeting Report – Somalia’s Transition: What Role for Sub-National Entities? Chatham House – January 2012.
Note: The following are some of the statements and recommendations published by Chatham House which is considered an eminent British Think-Tank that many see as a major player in shaping British Foreign Policy.
1.The Transitional Federal Charter offers a framework for Somalia that would maintain the coherence of the country while providing space for the emergence of sub-national entities.
In another place in the report Chatham House categorizes Somaliland as a Sub-National Entity. So, the question is “How come none of the British Politicians state that Somaliland is expected to adapt and abide by the Transitional Federal Charter”?
2.After many years of endeavour, Somaliland and Puntland have developed state structures and established relatively competent governments. There are risks associated with this phenomenon.
Why the peaceful and democratic existence of Somaliland is a risk to a Somali state built on the southern remains of the defunct Somalia? Is the International Community willing to create two chaotic, unstable and dangerous states if they failed to resurrect an irredentist Federal Somali State?
3.Clearly there are qualitative differences between the various entities, and few possess the capacity for territorial control and service delivery of the governments of Puntland or Somaliland.
Why then ignore the near-impossibility of creating a federal entity from politically incompatible parts of the failed state?
4.The authorities in Somaliland present themselves as a national government, separated from the rest of the country. However, Somaliland’s independence is not internationally recognised, despite it providing the most effective and democratic system of government in Somalia. If sustainable peace begins to emerge in the rest of Somalia the question of relations with Somaliland will become urgent.
Who decides whether Somaliland is obligated to establish relations with a future Somalia? Who decides what the major factors are that would necessitate establishing such a relationship, if any? And many other questions Somalilanders and their politicians ought to ask to clarify Somaliland-Somalia issues.
5.Since it remains unrecognised, some argue that Somaliland also functions as a state government as it shares many of the functional attributes of Puntland. However, the Somaliland authorities have a different view of their country’s future.
Why the existence and due aspirations of Somaliland be judged by the status of Puntland; an administrative Somalia region that willingly accepts the national legitimacy of a Mogadishu-based TFG that have no say in Somaliland? Who decides the legitimate sovereignty of a state except its people; as the British would soon learn in Scotland?
6.Though some sub-national entities may indeed be problematic, others are a result of real local processes to address concerns. Somaliland and Puntland have different systems of government but they will be increasingly convergent if the Puntland democratisation process is successful.
Some Somalilanders already suspect the recent stand of Puntland on the insignificant unrest in Somaliland’s eastern borders. Punt land’s support of Somaliland on the issue see as a sign of this trend; a move entertained by some of the international players as a first move towards federalism.
There is also no alternative scenario here for Somaliland if democratisation fails. Would Somaliland then bee accepted as a sovereign state or it be left to be consumed by the fires blowing from its southern neighbours?
7.Somaliland rejects engagement with the wider Somalia peace process; it sees Somalia as a foreign affairs issue. However from an external perspective there appear to be advantages to involving this established and democratically legitimised entity in the search for durable solutions in Somalia.
It is not only absurd but also unrealistic to expect Somaliland to play a major role in finding a long-lasting solution to the Somali debacle. Such a solution eluded the combined resources and mettle of the International Community for more than two decades. To hold Somaliland to such an expectation, as the Arabic proverb says; is similar to seeking Birds Milk; a Herculean and impossible task deemed to fail.
8.The dilemma is to find an approach that can bring the experience of Somaliland and its potential for positive influence on the wider Somalia issue into the peace process without compromising its achievements. It is inconceivable that Somaliland would accept such engagement without some tangible concessions in respect of its search for a recognised status.
This is the only sensible and pragmatic statement in all of the literature, proclamations, diplomatic blogs and working papers coming out of Downing Street and other British high ranking officials. But how to find a way to bring these solitudes in tandem is the persistent Achilles heel of the Somaliland-Somalia unity issue; if ever possible again.9.The international community will not recognise Somaliland until the AU or Somalia does so. The fictional dilemma which the international community is willing to entertain; but for how long and at what cost to whom?.
10.A constitutional process which; guaranteed no erosion of Somaliland’s current status; and gave Somaliland the right to choose to remain in Somalia or secede after a period of trying to live in the federation might be the kind of compromise that helps all sides. The prospects for such an approach remain slim, given the highly allergic reaction of Somalilanders to any perceived threat to their independence. However this kind of thinking might offer a solution to the ‘Somaliland Question’.
One of the other sensible views but with a typical British poison-bill; Somaliland would have the right to choose to remain in Somalia or secede after a period of trying to live in the federation…why would Somaliland be required to join the federation even for a week, since it has stood by its political independence for the last two decades. Who is being appeased and at what cost?
11.The establishment of sub-national entities is not necessarily contrary to the prospects of establishing national government, but fitting the two processes together Requires A Nuanced Reading of the transitional Charter.
The charter itself was made in consultation with and by the TFG, Puntland,Galmudug and ASWJ. In other words; Southern Somalia. If Somaliland never had an input or an opinion in writing it, how Somaliland could be expected to accept it. Unless the term nuanced reading have altogether another meaning hidden from all Somalis.
Finally, taking into consideration the ambiguity of the whole issue of the London Somali Conference when it comes to Somaliland, one is forced to find an apt term that explains this muddle. Finding none I humbly propose a new word “CONFIGUITY” a fusion word made up of CONFUSION and AMBIGUITY. This only can describe the current fracas and would join in the latest additions to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary like the other terms inspired by the Somalia Tragedy. But the British should also realize that such muddling and fuddling would only bring the Genie out the lamp and create further havoc in a region already at the brink of becoming Dante’s Inferno. It would be unfortunate that the British who have established productive relations with Somaliland and invested in its development, intelligence and governance would be the ones who unravel all this for a mirage.
All for what; to safe guard Somali Unity. To borrow one of Nietzsche’s famous maxims:
“SOMALI UNITY” FOR THE PAST TWO DECADES: A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS”.
Mohamed Muse Dualeh