The responsibility of the crimes committed against the people of Somaliland remains with Siad Barre regime abetted by leaders from all clans and regions of Somalia. As someone who witnessed the political dynamics of Somalia for more than four decades, I think that Somaliland leaders are committing deliberate sin if they claim that the suffering inflicted upon their population is attributable to the Southerners acted out by Siad Barre Regime. The calamity that visited all Somali communities is the result of wild abuse of government power caused by the combination of personal cruelty, despotism, clan prejudices and perceptions, or nationalistic views executed wrongly.
The exclusive attribution of culpability to the Southerners for the murdering of between fifty thousand to quarter of million of Isaaq members, the displacement of half million people and the destruction of entire cities like Hargeisa stir hate, permanent resentment and possible retribution towards Southerners.
The Speech of Madam Edna Adan, former first lady of Somalia, delivered in Belgium at the beginning of this year contain dangerous and unfair reasons1 for soliciting an international recognition to Somaliland. The speech implies that violence, incivility, fundamentalism, terrorism and piracy are innate attitude of the Southerners.
Two days before the foreign dreamed talks between Somaliland and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG)2, scheduled on June 21, 2012, in London, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Somaliland Dr. Mohamed A. Omar sent a letter to Hon William Hague, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to the European Union and to all members of the UN Security Council.
Excerpts from the Minister’s letter read as follows:
Three decades after the voluntary union between the former British protectorate of Somaliland and Italian Somalia in July 1960, Somaliland was driven to reclaim its independence from Somalia in 1991. This decision was not taken lightly. It followed the systematic discrimination and grave human rights abuses committed against our people by the Siad Barre regime, and the ensuing war which saw the deaths over 50,000 of our citizens, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others, and the destruction of our capital , Hargeisa.
1 Madam Edna Aden speech on the cause for the recognition Somaliland
2 In 1994, Deputy Head of Africa Desk at France’s Foreign Ministry, Catherine Bonivineau, advised Somaliland delegation visiting Paris to follow the example of Eritrea by seeking Somalia’s acquiescence in Somaliland’s independence. ( Dominique Jacquin-Berdal, 2002, p. 194)
Given this history, it is unacceptable to Somaliland that the new draft Somalia constitution might purport to lay claim to our country. Somaliland emphatically rejects any such claim on our national territory.
True, the scale of destruction inflicted on Isaaq community was much higher compare to other communities. But Somaliland was not colony of Italian Somalia. In addition, the letter suggests a message of self-centeredness by not taking into account the atrocities Siad Barre regime meted out to other Somali communities. Gen Jama Mohamed Ghalib has explained in his book, “The Cost of Dictatorship- the Somali Experience,” (1995) the root causes of the Somali tragedy, the responsibility of the crimes committed and the many forcibly conscripted Southerners killed in the Northern conflict. When Isaaq Community forgave the Northern clans, associated with Siad Barre regime, by extension the Southerner clans deserved similar kindness.
Nine out of the twenty five members of the military Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), which overthrew H. E. Mohamed Haji Ibrahim’s government after the assassination of President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, and ruled the country for 21 years, were from Somaliland. Thus, northerners held key positions in the political, financial, judicial, diplomatic, administrative, security and intelligence institutions from the beginning to the end of Siad Barre rule. Injustice, abuse of power and opportunism decapitated Somalia.
As well documented, the Siad Barre regime practiced clan persecution policy whenever it perceived dissent for whatever reason. Use of terror against civilians and arming clan against another clan were the preferred methods by the regime for eliminating opponents. To put in context, the Isaaq persecution escalated as soon as the rebel movement “Somali National Movement” was formed in London. The Africa Watch Committee of the Human Rights Watch issued in 1990 a report titled “ A Government at war with its own people” detailing the brutalities committed by the government against the northerner Isaaq population.
Before Isaaq persecution, Majerteen Community suffered painful persecution, Late President Abdullahi Yusuf, former leader of the rebel movement “Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF),” recounted in his “struggle and conspiracy” memoir the atrocities inflicted upon his Majerteen clan by the military regime. To describe the scale of the public suffering, he simply said that any sound mind will refute that a government could inflict such kind of suffering to its own people. He stated that government officials of Isaaq origin were responsible of the atrocities committed against his clan and complained that some of the “responsible” officials are living in Hargeisa with impunity. This event is described in the pages 136 to 144 of the memoir.
Similarly, after the formation of the rebel movement “United Somali Congress (USC),” many Hawiye sub clans were subjected to systematic collective punishment- arbitrary execution, starvation, rape, mass arrests, torture, looting of properties, and inter-clan hostilities. These punitive treatments forced mass exodus of the local population from their homes and livelihood, which exodus increased criminal gangs in urban areas and USC rank and file force.
The reaction of the regime after the formation of the rebel movements, “Somali Democratic Movement (SDM)” of Digil and Mirifle and “Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM)” of Ogaden, was the same. The social breakdown which completely ruined the Somali Society did not come from other than the immoral lessons learned from the civilian and military governments that abused public trust and deviated from the right path for good governance.
Northerner Communities and leaders (Isaaq and non Isaaq) initiated wholeheartedly and made happened the union with the Southerners. On their part, the Southerners shared their concern for the risks and problems inherent in the union of the two territories and populations with the northerner leaders.
Collectively, the union was rejoiced and implemented quickly. Thus, the newly elected leaders were entrusted with the mandate and responsibility of amalgamating the two territories and protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the new republic of Somalia. The agreed proportional representation was 1/3 for Somaliland and 2/3 for Italian Somalia.
In order to strengthen the unity of the Somali Republic, the central government implemented major projects in the Northern region of Somalia. The projects included major infrastructure roads, water and energy supply, security and educational facilities, ports, factories, agricultural and local development. These projects improved the social integration, interactions and unity. But there were many grievances not addressed timely and fairly, which triggered social unrest and rebellion in the North.
Overthrowing oppressive or bad government is legitimate course of action for the citizens of a country but partitioning or dividing a country like Somalia into clan or semi clan fiefdoms based on unfair claims is not right cause. Rwanda remained as a country despite the genocide that shock the world and today Tutsi and Hutu are living together. The people of Southerner Somalia need their Northerner brothers and sisters for their bravery, civilization, strong spirit, as well as for the shared identity, culture and history.
The failure of the Somali State is the consequence of dictatorship governance that misused the national resources and the coercive power of the State. It is up to the present and future generation to rehabilitate Somalia on right principles. The solution is not fragmenting Somalia but it is adopting correct values and outlooks and sticking to the pursuit of justice, fairness, equality, protection of human rights and prosperity through responsible and accountable national government based on decentralized system of governance.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso