Last week, Al-shabab, Islamist youth group of Somalis, with ties to Al Qaeda executed a well planned attack with twin truck explosions, at African Union peacekeeping force base in Mogadishu, killing at least 22 people. Among the dead, the deputy commander of AU force, deputy police Chief of Somalia, and 17 Burundian soldiers.
Al-Shabab claimed that they were retaliating against the recent US raid that killed Saleh Nabhan, alleged mastermind behind the 2002 bombings of a Israeli hotel in Kenya. But the attack was part ofa total war the hard-line Islamists are waging against the weak US backed Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s government and the AU forces that is protecting his government
As the Obama administration tries to re-engage the ut terly failed state of Somalia, in order to deny a safe haven for Al Qaeda affiliate groups to plot against American interest in the region , or even on American soil. There are lessons to be borrowed from the northerly part of Somalia—Somaliland’s (which had never been involved any US, UN, and African Union led military intervention) experience and the process it established a fledging, secular Muslim democratic state from scratch, without massive aid and bloated UN bureaucracy.
Unlike the feuding groups (clans and sub-clans) fighting for power in Somalia, Somaliland proceeded with different path—that of true reconciliation, amnesty, and peace. Today, it has multi-party representative democracy, ill equipped and poorly paid, but a functioning police force, free market base economy, and it operates under the rule of law.
Since then, Somalilanders held several successful free and fair elections for president, legislature, and local governments. This week the leaders of the three political parties agreed on the schedule for the next presidential election, a course that will give Somaliland to have a more impressive democracy than most African and Middle Eastern countries, which enjoy US support a nd diplomatic relations.
Despite all these accomplishments, yet Somaliland remains unrecognized as independent free nation. Our own professional state department diplomats are pretending that it does not exist for political reasons.
America offers the best hope dealing with Somalia, and is best suited diplomatically to attend the unfinished business of Somalia in 90’s. Our secretary of state Madam Hillary Clinton will do our country and the world a big favor if she could come up a different strategy of defeating Al Qaeda affiliate groups in Somalia than the one the state is pursuing now, which reflects the realities on the ground
The current State department policy of backing Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s government, which controls small pockets of Mogadishu—a city the size of district of Columbia, and with no popular support and legitimacy among ordinary Somalis, is not clearly working, and is not serving the national interest of US. And t he AU peacekeeping mission is not keeping peace and has become a cash cow for the Ugandan dictator to get cash and arms from America.
Obama administration would wise to avoid the past mistakes of the highly politicized UN practices—which followed policies that were proven to be failure and disastrous, and wasted billions of US aid on the ruins of South Somalia, propped up the warlords, brought the brutal Ethiopian occupation to the streets of Mogadishu, and created atmosphere where the Violent Al-shabab movement become the alternative leadership for the most vulnerable Somalis.
One radical and smart way to neutralize Al Qaeda infected groups in Somalia is to empower and reward indigenous Somalis who acted and behaved responsibly and brought peace and stability to their own people.
Somaliland, which has 760km coastline, is doing everything right and it can play significant role in helping US to combat extremism in the Horn of Africa as well as efforts to eliminate piracy in the Gulf of Aden—one the busiest shipping lines in the world. America and EU shou ld give Somaliland full diplomatic recognition. Doing so would make the region more stable, promote good governance, and will lead to the rest of Somalia to the path of genuine reconciliation and peace.
US should at least provide limited direct aid to Somaliland in the areas of police and coast guard training, education, health, and water. Aid that will have direct impact on the lives of its citizens and can be done without American soldiers on the ground. More Trade than aid will jump start the local economy and one way to do is United States to persuade the Saudis to lift the import ban of the Somali livestock for the coming Hajj Pilgrimage.
The Somaliland people and their political parties unequivocally are yearning for full independence and freedom and they want forge ties with US. The 3.5 million Somalilanders cannot tolerate anymore years of not knowing, what country they live, who they are and what the future holds for them. The warring ( Jihadists and warlords )) in Somalia—-and their backers in the UN as well as in the Arab world (which, by the way, did not promote American values)–have little choice, but to accept the only viable and sustainable solution which is independent and sovereign Somaliland, anything less would never work nor be just.
It is time President Obama and US Congress to do the right thing and accept the independence of Somaliland which stands the same great principles America was founded.
President Somaliland Freedom foundation