A friend of mine from the Somali
Region in Ethiopia (Ogaden), another region under occupation like Khatumo,
talked to me the other day about the similarities of the two occupations- in
their case under an empire dominated by successive Amhara/Tikray governments,
and in our case by one Somali clan bent on establishing its own mini empire in
NW Somalia (former British Somaliland). What struck him were the differences of
the stand of the respective governments and peoples in the face of secessions
or other threats to their country’s unity and territorial integrity.
The stand of the two governments
could not be so contrasting. As my friend and I concurred, all Ethiopian
governments of every hue, from Emperor Haile Selassie, Mengesto to the late
Meles Zenewi, would fight tooth and nail, and spare nothing to defend the unity
of their country when faced with ethnic separatist insurgencies, and towards
this end would commitwar crimes and crimes against humanity as it happened against the somalis in
the Somali Region.
In the case of Somalia, on the other
hand, it is its presidents and other political leaders more than the public who
are in the forefront to scuttle the unity of the
country rather than defend it. Former president Sheikh Shariif Ahmed
rarely ever rebuked Somaliland for invading and occupying unionist regions of
Somalia let alone censure it for declaring its secession in the first place.
Indeed he was often under their spell and receptive to their charm offensives.
Who knows what he would have done if he was re-elected. Many in Somaliland are
sure that he would have formally conceded their demands once the postponed
talks with the Somali government resume.
Unlike Sheikh Shariif’s secret
clandestine flirtations with the secessionists, his successor, Hassan Sheikh
Mohamoud, has gone public and has no qualms in openly embracing and giving
succour to them for whatever reason. First was the way he left Khatumo,
Somalia’s most proven loyalists, in the cold while rewarding secessionist
Somaliland – sworn to the destruction Somalia – with the most coveted post in
his government; secondly was his complete silence to defend the unity of the
country at least orally as behoves a head of a State, in the face of
Somaliland’s latest brazen attacks on Khaatumo; and thirdly was his unwarranted
gratuitous compliments to the enclave for holding elections aimed at bolstering
the ultimate break-up of the country, and implicitly condoning those polling
they tried to impose on a number of Khatumo areas, killing a number of people
The contrast between the two peoples
in the two countries towards their territorial unity could not also be so
different. Unlike Somalia, whose people are the most homogenous in black Africa
south of the Sahara, Ethiopia, my friend intoned, has over 70 diverse ethnic
groups. And whatever else might divide them, they are all solidly behind their
union apart from Somali and Oromo separatists. In the case of present day
Somalia, its people couldn’t care less about the union, secession or for that
matter Somalia itself. It is the clan or personal interest that matters. He
reminded me, rubbing it in, that even Khatumo’s erstwhile partner, the Puntland
administration under the freaky and fiendish Faroole, far from giving a hand to
a brethren under attack, misses no opportunity to bring it down, sometimes in
collusion with Somaliland. We were in one mind about our diagnosisbut he ventured no prescription for us in Khatumo at this stage.
Following my conversation with my
Ogadeni friend, I persuaded myself that despite my forebodings, the president
and his government could still hold surprises for us. Alas, I was only deluding
myself as I got a rude awakening when I listened to the Prime Minister, Abdi
Farah Saacid, emulating Ban Ki-Moon, and appealing to “both sides”, without
daring mentioning either, to “exercise maximum restraint” and stop the on-going
“firing”, as if the fighting related to disputes over water holes, camels,
grazing or women! What an affront to the victims of Somaliland’s invasion and
occupation when their own Prime Minister does not dare to point a finger at the
aggressor let alone demand, as it is his duty, that they stop the fighting, end
their occupation and withdraw unconditionally from the SSC regions. Clearly,
the president is simply following the footsteps of his boss, the president,
that Somaliland presence and actions in Khatumo can not be publicly condemned.
This is the second victory for Somaliland, this time from the head of the
government of Somalia.
My Ogaden friend, not willing to let
me off the hook, contacted me again, anticipating my shock with the Prime
Minister’s intervention. What he found mind-boggling, he told me, is why the
Khatumo people in the face of these odds stacked against them, whether their
government or people, are still beholden to Somalia and its unity? Would it not
be more sensible, he demanded, to succumb to Somaliland’s demands and save
ourselves all these sacrifices and suffering?; or, if that is unpalatable and
unthinkable, go our own way, as clan the calling itself Somaliland did, and
declare our own separate Khatumo Republic?
Shunning to answer those radical
options he suggested, I settled for a more non-committal answer and retorted
that belonging to Somalia is the raison d’etre of our people, something inbred
in their genes, and there is nothing much they can do about their gene make-up.
But I assured him one thing: that the Khatumo people will prevail over
Somaliland, whether it takes them one month, one year, ten years, or as long as
it took them to fight the British. Perseverance and the will to win against all
odds, I finally reminded him, is also in their genes.
Khatumo Forum for Peace, Unity and Development