Hargeisa, 1 July 2009 – In order to get an idea of what is wrong with US policy towards Somalis, one only has to look at the title of the congressional hearing that took place on the 25th of this month: “Somalia: Prospects for Lasting Peace and a Unified Response to Extremism and Terrorism.”

Three problem areas immediately jump out of this title. First of all there is the obvious problem of whether there is a coherent entity called Somalia that can be approached as a single unit. For anyone who is familiar with the Somali situation, the answer is, of course, there is no such entity. The Obama administration often ignores this glaring fact, which gives its overall Somali policy the quality of being based more on wishful thinking than on reality. What is that wishful thinking? It is that there is a unified country called Somalia, with a legitimate government called the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that governs all over the Somali territory, when in fact there is neither a unified country nor a legitimate government.

The second problem is that of peace. Clearly there is no peace in Somalia. So if the US says it is interested in bringing peace to Somalia, it is a rational even admirable thing. But the question that US policymakers have to answer is if they are really interested in establishing an enduring peace among Somalis, why they have not helped strengthen the peace in Somaliland by extending development aid to Somaliland and thereby showing all Somalis that indeed there is a peace dividend for those who take the path of peace instead of the path of the war?

The third problem is the problem of terrorism. It is this issue that is really driving US policy toward Somalis. But here, too, the US wants Somalis to protect US interests without any regard to Somali interests. As a matter of fact, it could even be said that the US wants Somalis to participate in their own disenfranchisement. This is clear from US policy toward Somaliland for the last two decades, whereby Somaliland has assiduously contributed to anti-terrorism, peace and democracy in the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa region without reciprocation from the US when it comes to development assistance, recognition, or even political engagement at a level commensurate with the growing geopolitical weight of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa.

The net result of this US policy of wishful thinking has been failure on two important fronts: it has failed to defeat terrorists in the south and has alienated many people in Somaliland. The invitation of both Somaliland and Puntland to the latest congressional hearing is a somewhat tacit admission of the failure of the previous approach of focusing US policy only on the TFG, but the fact that the US is still insisting on a “unified response” even at this late stage of the game, shows that the US is still attached to the previous policy though with some modification.

That modification is not enough for Somaliland, and that was probably why Somaliland declined to attend the congressional hearing as well as whatever talks that were scheduled behind the scene. As a democratically elected government, Somaliland’s government cannot allow itself to be perceived as one of the parties in Somalia’s conflict, because such behavior is unacceptable to Somaliland’s people who consider their country as sovereign country, not part of Somalia.

To make a long story short, US policy toward Somaliland whether in its previous form or in its latest modified form has been harmful to both Somaliland and the US. This policy does not take into account Somaliland’s interests. If the US wants to protect its interests in Somaliland, then it must also take into account Somaliland’s interests. Otherwise, the US may soon have a problem in Somaliland in addition to its big headaches in Mogadishu.

Source: Somalilandtimes


  1. "What is that wishful thinking? It is that there is a unified country called Somalia, with a legitimate government called the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that governs all over the Somali territory, when in fact there is neither a unified country nor a legitimate government." This just about sums up the failed policy on Somalia since 1991, reality vs wishful thinking. A good article

  2. The US isn't ignoring Somaliland, you have to understand Mr Payne is only one man and he isnt from the State Department, he is a Congressman from the House of Representatives, it has nothing to do with US foreign policy.

    He did the right thing to invite Somalis to Washington because this war in the south has been going on forever – you have to play role in ending it, Somaliland needs to work on its foreign policy in the region and stable Somalia is in its best interest, Al shabab are getting out off control and this is what worried Mr Payne.

    Mr Payne isnt speaking for the US president nor Robert Gates nor Mrs Clinton.

    Understand how the US institutions work before you go on the offensive.

    • yonis
      I have to admit, I like the way u analyse information quick and to the point necessary, there are times your die-hard isaaqnimo comes above water, which are most of the times a good read, but fortunately your good old somali blood runs deeper,

      i read your comments and I think to myself, acceptable or decent, I very much respect your comments because it gives an image of u, that of a blogger gentleman would be proud of,

      so i would like to ask u a question thats been bugging me lately, see if I hold the mouse above your picture, i immediately get an enlargement of your picture and also a small quote, just incase u are wondering what i am talking about
      read the below tekst

      ''I'm a geeljire – a proud nomad from the land of 7 million wild camels. I'm self-proclaimed guru.''

      my brother would have been proud of you since u too have in common the geeljire part, ……………………………………………now i know i am in favor of united somalia but where do u stand, somaliland or somalia and please do keep in mind that u are proud nomad from the land of 7 million camels,

      the judge of southern fellas

      • lol @ Xaaji

        Thanks bro I appreciated that and its good to see a brother who can get his point across without offending others or thinking always he is the right one, its possible for Somalis to have a decent discussion.

        If I answer your question, Im not a fan of these "somaliweyn vs Somaliland" debates I believ ein tolerant Somalis that can co-exist in cohesion and in harmony and if everyone for once laid down their arms and stopped with all this Somaliland vs United Somalia its possible for Somalis to exist in harmony.

  3. So, Yonis, Mr. Payne from the US Congress decided to call the pirate regime. Amazing, how uninformed some US politicians are..imagine inviting members of a regime that has grown fat from piracy..couple of months of President Obama ordered the removal of two pirates and the arrest of another, and you expect the Somaliland government to be there also, no chance…


  5. The truth is I would love Somalis to be one nation but as we all know thats not possible in our time so we have to wait for an era where Somalis are educated, they can trust one another and all these sterotype and suspecious is minimized or eliminated and that can only happen through education not by force. If the people that advocate for United Somalia think they can impose their ideas on the people of Somaliland then why is it hard for them to accpet Al shabab because all al shabab is doing is imposing their views on the people by force?

    Im neighter pro Somaliland nor Somalia, im pro peace, and that means stepping out off the political arena and looking at the people – basically I'm Somali.