Monday, June 18, 2018
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Hello Hargeisa, Here Comes Galaydh, Goodbye Union

By Osman Hassan

The final acts for breaking up Somalia have been the subject of a meeting in Hargeisa on 22nd May between Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Siilaanyo), the leader of the one-clan secessionist enclave calling itself Somaliland and the head of Khatumo, Ali Khalif Galaydh. Following that meeting, Mr Galaydh later summoned from Buuhoodle his handpicked flunkeys to join him in Hargeisa to sign up to the “Somalilandation” of the SSC regions. These talks have now culminated in what the secessionists and Galaydh dub as a historical accord whose signed pre-eminent provision is the agreement that the SSC regions(Sool, Sanaag and Cayn) are part and parcel of Somaliland, an act tantamount to the demise of both Khatumo and Somalia’s unity.

Silanyo (right) and Galaydh

Having won unconditional agreement on the fate of the SSC regions as part of Somaliland, all that offered in return is to sugar the bitter bill to make it palatable to the SSC people. For this, future meetings are planned regarding power sharing or tinkering with the constitution. But what bargaining power will the SSC people have when Galaydh already gave away the most important card they wield which is their opposition to or acceptance of the secession and be part of Somaliland?. This is not an oversight on the part of Galaydh but indicative of his readiness to accept what is on offer.

Whether this accord will bring the end of the unity of Somalia remains to be seen. It depends largely on other actors, above all Mogadishu (more of this later). What can be said for now is that this accord is unlikely to survive at least for now the gathering storm of backlash among the SSC people at home and abroad in protest against Galaydh’s treacherous sell-out of his people. But even if they stop this accord dead on its track, it has all same done a serious blow to the cause of the SSC people and the unity of Somalia.

For its part, Somaliland is the main beneficiary of this accord. It is bound to draw immense pleasure and huge propaganda from the fact that the leadership of Khatumo have come to Hargeisa on their own volition to court Siilaanyo and seek to be part of the one-clan secessionist enclave. Somaliland will henceforth use this accord to give the lie to any claim that they are occupying the SSC regions and, more importantly, are forcing the secession on them against their will when on the contrary they had joined Somaliland on their own free will. This will not also be lost on some members of the international community who, though normally averse to one clan-driven secessions in Africa, may now have second thoughts and conclude rightly or wrongly that the enclave’s secession is now embraced by the SSC people and hence represents a “nationwide” aspiration.

Now matter how one looks at it, this accord is a resounding victory for the secessionist enclave beyond their wildest dreams. For all that, they owe it to Galaydh as the man who single-handedly led Khatumo not towards its liberation as he was mandated to do but to its handover to its enemy. How does one explain this betrayal? Mr Galaydh is notorious for his serial broken pledges since he became president. To take one example, he has in the past repeatedly reassured his SSC skeptics worried about his loyalty to the liberation cause that he has no intention to betray them and lead them to Hargeisa. Well, he is in Hargeisa and he did betray them, keeping a straight face as if nothing untoward or inauspicious has happened.

Now that the worst fears of the SSC people about Galaydh’s perfidy have come true, the first question that arises is to put into perspective what has made him betray his people?. Once some light has been shed on this enigma, the attention of this article will shift to the consequences of the accord reached in Hargeisa. Will it indeed bring the end of Khatumo and Somalia’s unity and pave the way for Somaliland’s eventual recognition?, Or will those in Villa Somalia in Mogadishu, tasked constitutionally to defend the union, wake up to this danger and thwart it?. Or will they, as many fear, bury their heads in the sand as Hassan Sheikh Culusow used to do and simply close their eyes to what they may consider is happening in a faraway corner of Somalia beyond their little world of Benadir?

A. From Burco to Buuhoodle: a history of Machiavellian Opportunism

Mr Galaydh’s track record of his political career since he deserted Siyad Barre’s regime in its twilight days has been an epitome of Machiavellian opportunism. Ready to make complete political volte-face he missed no opportunity to adopt or abandon opposing goals one after another if his interest of the time required. The most memorable ignoble act was when he ditched the union and signed up to the declaration of secession at the SNM-organised Burco conference in May 1991. Then came the Arta conference on Somalia in Djibouti in 2000 where he had to perforce nail his unionist colours to the mask and, thanks to the shenanigans of Somali power sharing, landed the Prime Ministerial post.

Finally, he jumped on the SSC struggle bandwagon, having shunned it for many years, when he saw it as a useful springboard for political comeback. And that is what happened when he became the President of Khatumo in August 2014. This brief history shows that Galaydh has no loyalty to any particular cause- secession or union, national or clan. He wear their hats when that suits his personal interest.

B. Mutual Need United Khatumo and Galaydh

One may ask how a man with this questionable record could have been trusted as President of Khatumo and fulfil its aims to be liberated from the one-clan secessionist enclave?. Three possible justifications could be offered: first, his credentials were unbeatable and no other candidate of his calibre has come forward; secondly, many people have persuaded themselves that Mr. Galaydh has no hopes of a political comeback except in his own regions and for that reason wants to devote what remains of his political life to achieve his personal aspirations if not those of his people; thirdly, it so happened that his interest and those of Khatumo were convergent and mutually supportive.

Both the SSC people and Galaydh wanted urgently that Khatumo be recognised as a State of Federal Somalia, and no one was better qualified to articulate that goal than Galaydh himself. If the federal government in Mogadishu granted this wish, Galaydh would have killed two birds with one stone: first realise the status he craved as the President of recognized Khatumo State of Somalia. And for the SSC people, that achievement would have also made unsustainable the farcical claims on their regions by Puntland and Somaliland (and also its occupation).

Mr Galaydh, to be fair to him, has left no stone unturned in the first year or so of his leadership to achieve these objectives Unfortunately the Federal Government under Hassan Mohamoud Culusow at the time would have none of it, deferring instead for his own cynical political ends to Somaliland and Puntland’s coordinated pressure to maintain the status quo of the SSC regions as “disputed territory”.

The paradoxes of these tripartite stands are so manifest: for Culusow and Puntland, the union they claim to support as sacred when the occasion demands is otherwise expendable for their gains. That would be the case even when their actions against Khatumo are inherently detrimental to the union if these actions prolong the secession or the occupation of the SSC regions. And while Puntland and Somaliland are often at loggerheads about who “owns” the place, they are otherwise bedfellows for their different myopic clan interests in their opposition to a free SSC people and cooperate when need be to keep it that way.

C. Goodbye Union, Hello Hargeisa,

No wonder Galaydh has failed in his mission for Khatumo and for himself in the face of so much opposition from all sides. No one including this writer can accuse him of not having tried enough. He knocked on all the key doors in the political establishment in Mogadishu and his pleas for Khatumo, for the union – all for the good of Somalia – were simply rebuffed or at best ignored. On the basis of this collective conspiracy, it is difficult to refute his conclusion that the break-up of Somalia when it takes place would not be due to the one-clan secession as much as the connivance or indifference of the southern political elite whom he has been berating ad nauseam – all of course music to the ears of the secessionists.

How much of Galaydh’s broadside against Mogadishu was genuine concern for the union and how much of it was simply theatrical crocodile tears masking his personal bitter grudges is a moot point. What is beyond doubt is that it marks a turning point in his political loyalties as head of Khatumo. Until then, Galaydh supported the union to the extent it will serve his ends, and thus had no truck with the secessionists as some among the SSC people would claim he did from the outset. Far from supporting them, he went out of his way to heap virulent attacks on them if nothing else to dispel lingering memories about his past role in the secession. That does not mean he had no plan B under his sleeve all along such that if Mogadishu rejects Khatumo, and by implication denies him the presidential office he sought, there is always the Hargeisa option as a fallback position where he and his cohorts would be welcome for different reasons (as is happening now).

Once the road to Mogadishu has turned out a dead-end, Mr Galaydh used his ultimate weapon to take revenge on the very union he was hitherto defending. That was the purpose of the talks he opened with Somaliland, the last ending with his handover of the SSC regions to Somaliland. Perhaps he was taking a leaf out of Professor, Ahmed Ismail Samatar’s book who, when he also failed in the presidential elections in Somalia, renounced the union on the spot and declared support for the secession.

D. Breaching the Bridge

The union is unsustainable unless the whole of Somalia, north and south, are supportive of it. In this regard, it suffered its first body blow when one f the northern clans declared secession of the north from Somalia. A secession by one clan would not be fatal for the union and indeed would fail so long the union is still supported by the rest of Somalia, and above all by the SSC who, as people and territory constitute the bridge, physically and metaphorically, that binds the two parts of Somalia, a fact not lost upon Somaliland which invaded and occupied most of the SSC regions in 2007 and onwards to do away with that bridge. All the same, Somaliland has failed thus far to demolish that unifying bridge thanks to the unionist defiance among the SSC people and as long as it lasts, the union spirit is alive.

But how long will that spirit last? What has shaken it is not so much Somaliland’s punitive and painful occupation but those very southern parties that were supposed to be its defenders, notably former President Hassan Sheikh and his administration together with Puntland. In tandem, they had undermined the SSC struggle to resist the secession and occupation and hence defend the union. Galaydh therefore has a point when he pontificates that it is not Hargeisa but the southern political establishment who are responsible for the break-up of Somalia. It is a message he has been hammering home relentlessly since he decided to throw his lot with Hargeisa and uses as a ploy to wean his people off the union and convert them to the secession. As people despair of Mogadishu, that message is increasingly falling on receptive ears. Unless there is a convincing action from Mogadishu, in words and deeds, the creeping disillusionment of the SSC people could snowball beyond a point of no return much to the delight of Hargeisa and Galaydh.

 E. The ball is in Farmaajo’s Court

To the best of my knowledge, President Farmaajo did not utter a word of censure against the accord reached in Hargeisa between Galaydh and Somaliland, a silence which would do nothing to inspire the dispirited unionists in the north in general and those in the SSC regions in particular. For Somaliland though, it constitutes as a minimum non-interference in what it considers its “internal affairs” as a “separate independent” country. Some members of the international community may also read Farmaajo’s silence that way. All in all, it is a let-down to unionists and a bonus for the secessionists.

His speech on 27 June, on the occasion of the 57th anniversary of Somaliland’s independence from Britain, called predictably for the unity of the Somali people but otherwise provided no vision as to how he will restore that battered union which needs action more than appeal to our emotions. Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud used to give similar bland speeches on such occasion just to be on the act but he would be judged differently for he was openly the least nationalist leader among Somalia’s  presidents of all times.

Such annual anniversary speeches are ritualistic and made by leaders to be politically correct. Otherwise, they amount to little unless combined with real concrete action, Even making allowances for the short time he has been in office, Farmaajo has done nothing so far in dealing with the SSC regions whose occupation by the secessionists is inexorably leading to the break-up of the country. For a man who project himself as a nationalist saviour of Somalia, he would be judged by those standards he set himself. To that extent, history would judge him harshly if, under his watch, the SSC regions are lost to the one-clan secessionist enclave, thereby sealing the final break-up of Somalia. He can stop this for a start by recognizing a post-Galaydh Khatumo as a federal State and by establishing federal presence now in free areas of the SSC like the Buuhoodle district. These are only some of the many actions open to him but can do more. Action speaks louder than words Mr President. The buck stops at your door.

Osman Hassan
email: osman.hassan2
Osman Hassan is a seasoned journalist and a former UN staff member. Mr Hassan is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews.

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