I was listening on Sunday evening to Mr. Abdisamad Maalin Mohamoud Sheikh Hassan, TFG's Minister of the Interior, who was a host on VOA Somali Programme answering questions from listeners. Most of the questions were on Kenya's invasion of Somalia, its legitimacy, the role of the TFG and the humanitarian consequences of this invasion. As a typical representative of a TFG office holder, the minister's responses provided a valuable case study and insight into what they stand for. What amazed me is the blasé way that he viewed Kenya's invasion- justifying and legitimising it as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, and even portraying it as a favour it was doing the Somali people to the extent it was fighting al Shabaab.
Tragically, the palpable trepidations felt by the listeners about Kenya's violation of Somalia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, or its predatory territorial designs on Somalia was something not shared by the honourable Minister, or for that matters by the rest of his colleagues in the TFG. That includes among others, Parliament, the President, and the Prime Minister and the Minister of defence who both shamelessly act as devil's advocates for Kenya's invasion.
But the blame for our national humiliation ultimately had to be put on the shoulder of the head of State, namely Sheikh Shariff. His off-on, flip-flopping stand on the invasion - first agreeing to it, then trying to wriggle out of it, and subsequently toeing the line dictated by Kenya - has done nothing to redeem his already tattered credibility. In a wider perspective, the frequent squabbles among the top echelons of the TFG, leading to predictable turnovers of Prime Ministers and governments, are rarely about disputes about policies and national interest but clashes to defend what each sees as his turf or personal interest. If they are indifferent to the disrepute they brought upon their offices and themselves, they care even less about making Somalia a laughing stock in the eyes of the international community.
Outsiders looking at Somalia's tier government structure, encompassing the Parliament and its Speaker, the President, and the cabinet, would expect failure by one part of the system to be corrected by the other competent parts, for example the president or Parliament. But this is the case where these office holders are first and foremost men and women with exemplary integrity who would put national interest above everything else, and/or have been elected and are accountable to their electorate. The lot we have are neither of this. The whole gamut of the TFG establishment have been imposed on Somalia by outsiders to serve their interest and not that of Somalia, and it is to the outsiders that the leaders of the TFG establishment owe their allegiance, are accountable to, and seek support and legitimacy from. Hence their frequent trips to Addis Ababa, Kampala and Nairobi. This is the setting against which the minister's answers about the invasion has to be seen.
Returning to the Minister and his answers, one listener from Hargeisa demanded whether the TFG would be ready to recognise Somaliland since southern Somalia is a failed State and Somaliland by contrast is a functioning democratic and peaceful entity? The Minister did not hesitate and mince his words but was forthright and unambiguous in his answer: he said he would be happy, as far as he was concerned, to recognise Somaliland but added that it was a matter for the rest of his colleagues in the TFG to also recognise Somaliland. At least, the Minister is frank and consistent given that his support for Somaliland's recognition entailing the dismemberment of Somalia is in line with his support for Kenya's invasion of Somalia and its possible dismemberment of southern Somalia.
The terrible thing about the endless bad news from Somalia for all these donkey years since the overthrow of President Mohamed Siyad Barreh in 1991 is that in the end one becomes so inured to them that nothing seems to shock us anymore. In despair, those of us old enough look back with nostalgia to Somalia's golden era from independence till the collapse of the Somali State in 1991, when the Somalis were redoubtable proud patriots, their government and leaders respected throughout Africa and the world, and their mighty army was the most feared in the region. Telling that story to my children these days or to the present day generation will fall on deaf ears. Who can blame them when all they have known and witnessed is only downtrodden Somalia that is synonymous in the eyes of the world with failure, famine, lawlessness and a play ground for intervention by every Tom and Harry.
There was a time in 1967 when Mogadishu was rocked by the unbelievable discovery that a former foreign minister was after all an agent for Ethiopia. For weeks , people would talk about nothing else, finding it incomprehensible that a Minister, and for that matter any Somali, would betray his country for Ethiopia of all countries. And now, 44 years later, Somaliland, Puntland, all the other lands, and the TFG are in varying degrees serving, overtly and covertly, the interest of foreign governments and rarely those of their country. If there was shock in 1967 about one former Minister turned traitor, there is hardly a murmur in 2011 as the daily betrayal of our country has become so routine that we have come to accept it as something normal.
When we had the warlords, we could at least comfort ourselves by envisioning a time when they would be replaced by educated principled leaders. Well, we did replace them with degree and PhD holders, professors, Sheikhs, you name them, and yet they all turn out to be no less venal, rapacious and puppets for neighbouring governments. As the Somali saying goes: " Xeradayadu waa wada ul miidhan hadana mid la qaato ma leh". (faced with equally bad lot, there is little or no room for choice).
No nation can be bereft of great leader(s) for ever, and no doubt ours will sooner or later come on the stage. Unfortunately, the damage done to our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity by the current foreign-imposed, often foreign passport holders, might become irreversible or irreparable.
An Ethiopian Amhara colleague who used to harbour pathological hatred for Meles Zenewi and his Tigrians for overthrowing Mengestu Haile Marian and thereby ending the Amhara domination of Ethiopia has recently confessed to me how most Amharas have now come to admire him, not so much for his economic transformation of Ethiopia and its status in the world, but above all for destroying the Somalia state and fragmenting it into mini client entities under Ethiopia's hegemony.
There is much parallel between the year 1884 when colonisers carved up the Somali homeland into five parts and 2011 when Ethiopia has partitioned it into disparate enclaves all under its dominion. And now Kenya wants to have a bit of the spoils and establish its own client regions if not grab Jubaland altogether. Sheikh Sheriif and company only hold fancy titles and make money on the sidelines but otherwise they wield no power, control no country, enjoy no public support or legitimacy.
Somaliland's secessionist supporters never miss an opportunity to remind us those of us unionists from the north that the notion of union is a dead duck among those hailing from southern Somalia and that it is only "bone-headed, out of touch" people from the north, notably from the SSC regions, who are still blindly hooked to united Somalia if not Greater Somalia. There is much truth in what they say but it is meant as a psychological war on us, in addition to their occupation of our regions, to make us give up on Somalia and succumb to the secession. That will never work.
Looking on the bright side, and since despair is no option, we can say with certainty that Ethiopia's de facto colonisation of Somalia in the 21 Century is bound to end sooner or later just as European colonisations of Somalia in the 20th Century were forced to end. What kind of Somalia will in the end emerge, whether a united Somalia or one split into different Lands, is open to conjecture.
The support for Somali unity may have withered in southern Somalia but the SSC people -and also those in other unionist regions in the north, such as Awdal region- are presently the remaining fountain of Somali nationalism and by default the standard defenders of Somali unity. Unlike other region in Somalia, the SSC is the only one that is on the one hand part of former British Somaliland but more importantly is the bridge that binds northern and Southern Somalia.
The goal of Somaliland's occupation of parts of the SSC regions is to do away with that bridge, and de-link the SSC from the rest of Somalia if it is to gain recognition. The SSC for their part are fighting, with no help from the rest of Somalia or the TFG, to remain part of Somalia and maintain Somalia's unity. The problem facing Somalia's unity is not so much Somaliland's secession as the failure of southerners to put their house in order. Without the SSC and Awdal, the secession is unsustainable and it is bound to be defeated. As such, the north will always be there for the unity as long as there are southern unionist partners. It takes two to tango. If that is forthcoming, Somalia's unity, including the current secessionist enclave, is assured.
By Osman Hassan
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