Sunday, August 19, 2018
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A Rejoinder to Ali H. Warsame Interview

By Liban Ahmad

Wardheernews interview with Ali Haji Warsame, former Puntland Presidential Candidate and former Minister of Education, was interesting. However, I will limit my discussion of the interview to Warsame’s views on the territorial dispute between Somaliland and Puntland.

To back up his argument against the claim of Somaliland-based territories in ex-British Somaliland Warsame mentioned a Somali clan that “did not sign an agreement” with the British Empire. From this sketchy fact that Warsame shared with Wardheernews readers one can draw insupportable conclusions:

1) Clans whose elders signed Protection Agreement with the British Empire were more privileged than those from clans that did belong to the category of clans protected by the British Empire until June 26, 1960.

2) Only the clan mentioned by Warsame lives in the territories now designated as Disputed Territories.

A fact is sketchy when one leaves out main details and leads a reader or listener to draw wrong conclusions from it. It is different from a selective fact; the first is not based on motive to mislead; the latter is.

The second sketchy fact pertains to Warsame’s take on the Tukaraq stand-off between Somaliland and Puntland forces and his accusation that Somaliland started the conflict when it had attacked a checkpoint at Takuraq manned by militias loyal to Puntland. This is a sentiment shared by many Puntland political leaders including Abdi Farah Said ‘Juha’ , former Federal  Government of Somalia Minister for Internal Affairs, whom Wardheernews interviewed, too. There was no truce between Puntland and Somaliland. War was in the offing.

Warsame suggested a solution to the conflict: Somaliland forces should retreat to where they were in 2007 before the fall of Lasanod. If this suggestion gets implemented, Somaliland forces will be based at Adhicaddeeye, not near Oog. This suggestion is indicative of concessions Puntland has made to Somaliland before 2014 to damage interest of people Puntland galvanised on the basis of shared clan affiliation.

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The interview with Mr Warsame brings up for discussion the issue of political identity. It is impossible to discuss political identity in North Somalia if the meaning of Protectorate is limited to signatories of the Protectorate. It will make Somalia less Anglosphere than Britain would like it to be.

Both Warsame and Juha belong to social groups whose nomadic clansmen and clanswomen live in Sool. In 2017, Mohamud Hashi Abdi, the former Somaliland Minister for Presidency, thanked Puntland for welcoming and treating well Somaliland nomads in search of pasture due to drought.  Hashi was emphasising inalienable rights of the Somalis based on their natural rights. Territorial dispute should never take precedence over citizenship.

If citizenship were at the core of Somaliland quest for secession, its political elites would not have allowed a portion of the ex-British Somaliland territories to be designated as “disputed Territories”.  This designation has had adverse effect on the life opportunities of people living in territories affected by the territorial disputes between Somaliland and Puntland administrations. The idea of Somaliland threatens to cut links between communities that have lived together for centuries. If Somaliland places citizenship at the heart of its goal to secede from Somalia, it will be obliged to expand the dubious political identity known as Somalilander to include people who live in Sool but are viewed by Hargeisa as “foreigners” in a country with one sovereign state.

Puntland does claim Disputed Territories partly on the basis of the 1998 Charter. The unexamined and undiscussed aspect of the conflict revolves around citizenship rights: No Somali can deprive a Somali of his/her citizenship or deny him/her the right to live or work in any part of his/her country. This is not an ideal. It is a principle on which the Somali political identity is based.

Liban Ahmad

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