HARGEISA, 6 April 2010 (Somalilandpress) – This is a reply to Dr Mohamed Abbas’s 1st April 2010 article ‘Mr Goth’s Article Represents an Old Disease’ meant to rebut Mr Bashir Goth’s 23rd March 2010 ‘Somaliland: America’s Underestimated Friend’ both of which were posted on Hiiraan.com. In his rebuttal Dr Abbas tries to cover issues including the case of a woman extradited by Somaliland authorities to Ethiopia Somaliland-Ethiopian relations; Somaliland’s statehood; President Dahir Riyale’s alleged humiliation by Ethiopian Airline staff at Hargeisa airport and globalisation processes. Although most of these themes did not feature in Mr Goth’s article, Dr Abbas invokes them to undo the picture portrayed by Mr Goth advising us to disregard Goth’s article. In the following I am going to consider the substance of his rebuttal to see if we can take his advice.
On Busharo Wacdi
Dr Abbas discusses the case of a woman Somaliland authorities had extradited to Ethiopia. Notwithstanding that this case has no connection with Mr Goth’s article, Dr Abbas, without giving us relevant background information, wants us to accept his verdict of the story: an innocent woman going about her business extradited to Ethiopian authorities. The only description he gives us is that Busharo is a 50-year-old grandmother accused of having links with ONLF. Apart from his sexist and ageist view in his description of Busharo, Dr Abbas referring to aspects of the Somali culture wants to tell us that women do not commit a crime.
Although I disagree with Dr Abba’s sexist and ageist description of Busharo, and although Busharo does not feature in Mr Goth’s writing, I still want to comment on this. Because this part of his rebuttal contains valuable insight into his views on an important issue: Ethiopia’s fifth Kilil. Wondering why Busharo left Jigjiga for Hargeisa in the first place, Dr Abbas invokes Prophet Muhammad’s (Pbuh) advice to ‘his companions to emigrate to’ Ethiopia. To him Jigjiga, dating back to the start of the Islamic Hijra, has always been an Ethiopian town. Here Dr Abbas signs off Jigjiga as being an Ethiopian territory. I believe that such historical misrepresentation would annoy many Somalo-Ethiopians, because it goes against the historical evidence dating back to Imam Ahmed Guray in the fifteenth century that Ethiopia was an occupying force. Further, Dr Abba’s misreading of history has implications for the legitimacy of the ONLF and others to wage a war against Ethiopian government and their aspirations of independence or autonomy. In addition to his conceding the fifth Kilil to Ethiopia, Dr Abbas’s ascription of the resistance in that region solely to members hailing from the Somali Ogaden sub-clan is, I think, an ‘insult’ to the wider Somalo-Ethiopians aspiring for more advanced autonomy, self-determination or even an independent state.
He goes on to accuse the Somaliland government for its ties with Ethiopia. If anyone holding ties with Ethiopia is by definition guilty of siding with the enemy how would Dr Abbas describe those in Ethiopia’s fifth Kilil who are not taking up arms against the Ethiopian government?
Dr Abbas is right that people fleeing persecution should be protected under international treaties. But he is perfectly happy that Busharo was after all sent back to her Ethiopian home country – a place recommended by our Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Is she not blessed then? In my view instead of invoking Busharo’s case which has no relevance to Mr Goth’s article, Dr Abbas would have been better advised to raise his concerns, if he is concerned, about Somali nationals being fished out of their boats sometimes in their own maritime waters and tried in Egypt, Yemen, Seychelles, Kenya, Spain, France and even as far as in the US. Some of these people could have been engaged in a piracy activity, but under what international law are they being tried in foreign soils? I think Dr Abbas would be better advised to worry about why these Somali nationals ended up in foreign juridical system than worrying about an Ethiopian national who, in his own admission, was sent back to her home country.
On Somaliland-Ethiopian Relations
Dr Abbas tells us that Somaliland is not a sovereign state. According to him Somaliland is a ‘satellite state’ of the Ethiopian government. Although he does not use the term ‘satellite’ that is, however, what he trying to get at. To substantiate his point, Dr Abbas tells us of an incident whereby the president of Somaliland H.E. Dahir Riyale Kahin was subjected to a humiliating search at Hargeisa airport by Ethiopian airline security staff whilst President Kahin was boarding an Ethiopian airline. This incidence, if true, is an unfortunate fiasco. I suspect though that no one in their right mind would take that on face value. Because of the effectiveness of the opposition parties in Somaliland such a fiasco would not have gone unnoticed.
It appears to me that the issue is not necessarily a routine search of someone boarding a plane. If Dr Abbas means that Somaliland is not a sovereign country, simply because of the presence of Ethiopian airline security at Hargeisa airport, I suspect, he has just bared his grasp of international jurisdictions. Even in the heyday of the presence of Ethiopian army in Somalia, Somalia was in international legal terms never considered as an occupied country. The mere presence of an Ethiopian army did not render Somalia an occupied country. Likewise, the presence of Ethiopian airline staff at Hargeisa airport searching passengers boarding Ethiopian airlines has no bearing on the sovereignty of Somaliland. I am sure their presence is legislated for within commercial pact between the two nations. However, I agree with Dr Abbas that heads of states should be exempted from routine searches.
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On Dr Abbas’s view on Somaliland
Dr Abbas is right to say that world is becoming further globalised, but he forgets that another process of localization is at the same time taking place. Globalisation is truly meaningless if not based on rigorous local initiatives. But like many other concepts he has been using in his writing, Dr Abbas seems to have no grasp of what the concept of that he refers to in his use of the concept of ‘globalisation’. However, it appears he invokes the term to mean that more and more nation-states are giving up their sovereignty and joining up to form a bigger nation-state. Dr Abbas is simply mistaken in his thinking as no country in the world is giving up their sovereignty for globalisation sake. Further, you cannot just turn up at a local Singapore municipality and request a voter registration form arguing the world is globalised.
The funny thing in his rebuttal of Mr Goth’s article is that whilst Dr Abbas seems to be familiar with some political current terms, at the same time he appears frozen in his thinking. The situation in Somalia is changing so fast. Yes, historically Somalia had no piracy problems nor was there religious extremism. But that is no longer the case: piracy is peeking in Somalia, whilst extreme violence waged under the banner of Islam is an everyday reality in the country. In this respect, Dr Abbas fails to place Mr Goth’s reply to the Kenyan lawyer and his recent article in their historical perspectives. Dr Abbas also confuses commenting on Somali issues by a Somalilander is tantamount to their being pro or anti a particular political position.
He accused Mr Goth of secessionism. ‘Secession’, Dr Abbas tells us, ‘is an old disease’. Dr Abbas’s use of the phrase ‘old disease’ in his title raises serious questions. Not only is the phrase irrelevant to the topic he discuses, but his use of it has implications for the Somalo-Ethiopians dreaming to one day have their own state: by implication he warns them ‘session is an old disease’. This is understandable after he has signed off the fifth Kilil to Ethiopia. However, if he means by the phrase that people of Somaliland had in the past harboured hatred towards their brethrens in Somalia, Dr Abbas would need to educate us the history of that animosity. Indeed if this is his line of thought, I believe it is a very dangerous accusation to regard people of an entire nation to have always been harbouring animosity.
I think it would have made sense if Dr Abbas complained that Somaliland government has not contributed to finding solutions to the Somalia problem. But I can say that in my observation, the general feeling among people in Somaliland is that the misery that befell on their brethrens in Somalia ended sooner rather than later. It is a good sign to see that things are taking shape in Somalia. Indeed Somalilanders forwarded support to Somalis fleeing war in Somalia as they stood by their brethrens in Djibouti when the Eritrean forces invaded their country over border dispute in the summer of 2008.
Clearly, Dr Abbas seems stuck in time. In real terms former Republic of Somalia as a legitimate entity ceased to exist 20 years ago. Not only that he does not wake up to that reality, but after signing off Somali inhabited fifth Kilil to Ethiopia, Dr Abbas wants to revive dangerous irredentist movements in Somalia – to get all Somali ethnic inhabited regions in the Horn of Africa under one Great Somalia. If something is a dream, as Dr Abbas says of Mr Goth’s view regarding Somaliland, Great Somalia was a big dream that turned into a nightmare to every Somali across the Horn.
Now Ethiopia’s fifth Kilil enjoys now some form of federal provisions would Dr Abbas advise them to join their brethrens in Somalia and leave the Ethiopian federal system they are part of? In a similar vein, now Kenyans are voting for a new constitution would he tell them ‘come on guys you have now the opportunity’. Likewise, it would be naïve to ask Somaliland drop its sovereignty to join up an already fragile and complicated Somalia problem.
It appears to me that Dr. Abbas political literacy has let him down. It is not good enough to find some seemingly contradictory remarks in some one’s political writings. Dr Abbas fails to understand the complexity and richness in Mr Goth’s opinion articles. Dr Abbas took the example of Goth responding to a Kenyan lawyer proposing Somalia be divided between Ethiopia and Kenya. Anyone of Somali blood, Somalilander, Somalian or Djiboutian would oppose to such nonsensical proposition.
But that does not make one either in favour of Somaliland or Uninion of Somalia. Indeed if Dr Abbas cares about the Republic of Somalia he is so concerned about, did he respond to the Kenyan maverick, instead of taking on a brethren who just expressed his opinion. To be sure, rejecting to Somalia being divided between Kenya and Ethiopia does not equate to Somalia and Somaliland being re-united one more time. There is nothing contradictory in believing the cause of Somaliland and rejecting the idea of the territory of former Somali Republic being divided between Kenya and Ethiopia.
On Dr Abba’s rebuttal approach
Dr Abbas, because he disagrees fiercely with Mr Goth, has unreservedly descended into very undiplomatic language. With few exceptions, throughout his writing Dr Abbas refers to Mr Goth as ‘the man’. I think that Dr Abbas is unfamiliar with the rules of the game of engaging in a political debate. Even if you disagree with the Sheikh, you still address him as by his proper title. Instead of taking that charitable approach, Dr Abbas continued to make unsubstantiated psychoanalytical inferences. Quoting Mr Goth, Dr Abbas writes:
“When you read his recent article, you will understand how deep the man hates Somalia except his hometown. His biased comparison is only a small part of what he believes about the rest of Somalia. … Mr. Goth’s rhetoric and fallacious words reveal that the man wishes to see Somalia remains where it is today”.
Dr Abbas immediately continues with the following remarks:
“Previously, Mr. Goth has written many fascinating articles that attracted many readers. He should use his pen to unite his people instead of using it to propagate secessionism”.
Commenting on Goths article, Dr. Abbas continues to say that:
“He based his abusive criticism against Somalia on certain problems that are obvious and already known to everyone such as piracy, religious extremism, lawlessness, a weak government and so forth. The man has denied mentioning that similar problems can also be found in the two regions that he gloried blindly”.
By his own admission Dr Abbas agrees that there is a government in Somaliland, albeit weak. Somaliland is not par excellence the most democratic or strongest government in the region of Horn of Africa. But where Dr Abbas shows his misunderstanding of Mr Goth’s article, or for that matter what is happening in the region, is his claim that ‘piracy, religious extremism and lawlessness’ exist in Somaliland. The absurdity of this statement is, I think, quite clear. Although Dr Abbas does not tell us why he thinks that these three problems exist in Somaliland he seems to be happy that he has convinced us that Somaliland is a lawless, piracy-ridden country struggling with religious extremism. I just wonder who would buy into those misrepresentations.
Dr Abbas agrees that Mr Goth’s commentary on Somalia is something ‘everyone’ knows. However, Dr Abbas takes issues with Mr Goth portraying such a picture of Somalia and likens his expression of free speech to warlodrism. Here Dr. Abbas seems to give being a ‘warlord’ a new meaning: those who write about truth are warlords. If Mr Goth’s representation of what is happening is Somalia is tantamount to warlordism simply because Mr Goth made some factual comparison between Somaliland and Somalia, I just wonder why Dr Abbas is hesitant to call the BBC, the VOA and other media airing the killings and maiming in Somalia warlord media. Wouldn’t that be absurd? Dr Abbas may have tried to shoot down the messenger, but what the messenger has said is still true and has been heard.
Views expressed in the opinion articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editorial