On 11 September 2019, the British Government has signed in Hargeisa a generous aid agreement worth £31 million with the one-clan secessionist enclave calling itself Somaliland. The ceremony was conducted with aplomb. The message it gave was unmistakable that this was an affair between two sovereign countries. What is questionable about this aid is the manner it is given, how it is spent, who benefits, its negative impact on our own occupied northern unionist regions (Sool, Sanaag and Cayn) and its wider implications for Somalia’s unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
For a start, this aid is given directly to the enclave over the head of the central government. This has been the case since the collapse of the Somali State, and, with time, the special treatment accorded to the separatist enclave, differently from the rest of Somalia, has become part of the accepted conventional wisdom among aid donors and in particular the British. Successive weak Somali governments of whatever stripe merely buried their heads in the sand preferring to succumb to this fait accompli rather than stand their ground and run foul with the aid donors. Only federal member states, who objected to this discriminatory preferential treatment given to one part of Somalia at their cost, and the dauntless Minister of Planning, Honourable Gamal Hassan, whose ministerial portfolios include aid coordination and distribution, dared question this anomaly only to be given short shrift by aid donors used to have their way in the affairs of failed Somalia.
Secondly, what is again disturbing about this aid is the manner the agreement was conducted. For the British to have bypassed the required protocol of channeling the aid through the Federal Ministry of Planning was bad enough. Failing that, one would have expected the agreement to be reached between the enclave’s ministry of planning and Britain’s Department for International Department (DFID). This did not happen. As the photos included here are witnesses, the draft agreement was signed at the “Presidential Palace” by the enclave’s “President”, Muse Bihi, and for the British by the Head of Office for DFID in Somalia, Mr. Damon Bristow.
To emphasize the intended state-to-state significance of the occasion, the signing ceremony was witnessed by the British Ambassador, Ben Fender, representing his government and the Queen, and accompanied by his entourage, including their representative in Hargeisa, Stuart Brown. With their respective flags placed in full view by their sides, and the conspicuous absence of the Somali national flag, not by oversight but by design, in a territory which is recognized by the international community as part and parcel of Somalia, this signing conducted with aplomb has all the hallmarks of an affair between two sovereign States. As if to emphasize this point, Mr. Damon, speaking after the signing ceremony, added that the UK is “committed to supporting the people of Somaliland”. The people he is referring to can only be the clan who subscribes to the secession and what they call Somaliland. Those of us in the SSC regions who belong neither to the secession nor want to be part of Somaliland are perforce excluded from this aid.
The third worrying aspect of this aid regards its end users The British claim the aid is for the whole of “Somaliland”, presumably for the whole people in its former colony. In reality how that aid is used is left to the discretion of the Hargeisa-based authority. If the past is if anything to go by, none of that aid will trickle down to our regions since they are seen as ones not belonging to the clan, or to the secession by choice but only by force. What this aid does from our perspective is to sustain the secession and to release funds for the occupation of our regions that would otherwise have been spent on development. To that extent, Britain is complicit indirectly if not directly, in sustaining the secession, the breakup of Somalia, the occupation of unionist regions and the crimes against humanity and human rights they commit to suppress our people.
Prudence and hard-nosed forethought guide the actions of the British, so their latest action has been taken with the sound calculation that it would have no adverse consequences for them. They are not entirely to blame. Successive Presidents of governments of all stripes since the collapse of the State have been ambivalent about the union, the secession, the occupation and the suppression of regions and clans that are supposed to be under them. None of them has set foot in the north since Siyad Barre’s overthrow. Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud went further to disown the north when he declared the formation of the federal member states to have been completed with the accession of Galmudug. The message was clear: Somalia is Southern Somalia. And the present administration is no different, all the more lamentable given the hopes raised when it came to office. The British have only drawn the right conclusion and so far they have been right.
Britain’s support to the separatist clan cannot but revive the painful memory of their alliance against our Darwish freedom fighters. As oral history holds, around hundred thousand people if not more died following its defeat in 1921 or its aftermath. The common denominator between these two eras is Britain’s at the time and that of the separatist clan now to bring our people under their heels. We cannot succumb or surrender to a fellow Somali clan when we refused to do so from a supper power. This time, God willing and our given our resoluteness, we have every reason to triumph and shake off the occupation which alone can restore Somalia’s unity. Unless Britain wants to establish a one-clan Hong Kong type of enclave in northern Somalia, there is no way otherwise that its former colony in which we are part of it, can be revived, for its benefit and that of its protégé. Britain’s best interest is served by throwing its lot with Somalia rather than banking on a fake Somaliland that ceased to exist after 26 June 1960.
The secession can be defeated politically if the federal government was to declare that the SSC regions are part and parcel of Somalia, and, even better, that they fulfill the requirement to became a federal state. That is all is required. Is that is too much to ask to save the union?
By: Mohamed Yusuf Indhasheel
Former President of Khatumo