Written by Dalmar Kaahin
Hargeisa, 30 June 2009 — As I watch the video of U.S. congressional hearings convened in Washington DC in June 25, 2009 about the current turmoil in Somalia, a hostile voice echoes in the conference room: “If they [Somaliland people] want to be isolated, they can be assured that I will do all I can to isolate them…” an infuriated man states. Then applauses ensue. See the video: http://international.edgeboss.net/real/international/af06252009.smi
Covering my forehead with one hand, I whisper to myself, “Damn Somali warlords and Alshabaab terrorists are so omnipotent; they seem to be everywhere, even in Washington DC, threatening the democratic republic of Somaliland, and working hard to isolated it”.
I play back the video to watch what I missed: this savage warmonger, or this blood thirsty Alshabaab suicide bomber who lashes out at peaceful Somaliland.
To my utter disbelief, shock, and dismay it isn´t the usual suspect: a Somali warlord, or an Alshabaab terrorist that wants to further isolate Somaliland where its citizens will suffer more for they choose democracy over violence, to settle their difference through dialogues, and to rid of their leaders at the polling stations and not at the killing fields.
But it is none other than an honorable American Congressman Donald Payne, the Chairman of the congressional hearings about Somalia, who is upset about Somaliland´s absence in the hearings. For starters, Somaliland politely excuses itself not to participate in the congressional hearings about Somalia because: for one thing, Somaliland isn´t part of Somalia any more. For another, Somaliland senses that Mr. Pyne supports greater Somalia notion. Such a fear comes true, as he states, “We look forward that one day perhaps they [Somaliland people] will decide they are going to be part of greater Somalia.”
Although Mr. Payne is one of the bravest American Congressmen, a commendable man, who risked his life when he visited Mogadishu this year where he was attacked with rockets, he is either not aware of the historical facts that compelled Somaliland not to even share a table with Somalia, or he received disinformation from Somaliland opponents.
Also, what Mr. Payne ignores is: if United States is entitled to decide which meeting it should participate in, so is Somaliland. For instance, the United States boycotts a number of meetings every year. No one threatens to choke it, or isolate it. If the U.S. finds it is not in its best interest to participate in a meeting, it refuses invitations. Even worse, some times U.S. walks out of International meetings when it doesn´t get its way. Take as an example, in 2001, U.S. walked out of World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
So, if U.S. could walk out of World Conference against Racism, why would Somaliland´s decision to avoid joining a conference with Somalia and Puntland—both determined to undermine Somaliland´s existence as a nation—infuriate Mr. Payne?
Ever since the former Somali dictator Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre of the 90s and his notorious henchmen such as, Gen. Mohamed Ali Samatar, a former defense minister and prime minister of Somalia, Col. Yusuf Abdi Ali (Tuke), and Gen. Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan—the butcher of Hargeisa, Somaliland capital—slaughtered over 60,000 Somaliland civilians, and pulverized its cities to dust, understandably Somaliland refuses to touch anything that has to do with Somalia with a ten-foot pole. Both Mr. Samatar and Mr.Tuke live in the U.S. See my article entitled, “Does U.N. Attempt to Recruit Somalia´s Ex-Army Officers Evoke Nostalgia or Poke Old Wounds?”
Then, is the honourable Congressman, Mr. Payne not aware of the historical facts the compel Somaliland to avoid Somalia´s never-ending chaos? Somalilanders ask.
Somaliland is a country that received its independence before Somalia or Djibouti got theirs. Somaliland refused to participate in all earlier fourteen failed Somali reconciliations meetings held in foreign countries from 1991 to 2008 because Somaliland always remained an oasis in midst of a harsh desert and isn´t affiliated with Somalia any more either; similarly, today Somaliland feels that it has no reason to join the congressional hearings about Somalia. And because the hearings is convened in Washington doesn´t mean Somaliland will jump on the wagon to join the meeting either.
It is a paradox in an American democracy that although Mr. Payne is elected democratically, he, inadvertently, suppresses the wishes of Somaliland people and assures them that he will do his best, use his leverage, his influence, and his authority to further isolated them.
Mr. Payne should know that in fact U.S. needs Somaliland as much as Somaliland needs U.S. A case in point: Somaliland security forces cooperate with those of U.S. to curb terrorism and piracy in Horn of Africa. Also Somaliland intelligent agents share invaluable information with their U.S. counterparts.
Congressman, you may as well know that the Somaliland you threaten to strangle because it politely turns down the invitation to participate in the congressional hearings is in fact the only wall that separates Alshabaab terrorists—bent to attack U.S. interests in East Africa—and the U.S. forces in Djibouti.
Additionally, Somaliland is one the most democratic countries in East Africa, far more democratic than Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. As L.A Times writes, “For most of the last decade, Somaliland’s governance and human rights record have drawn praise, particularly compared with those of its neighbors. Somaliland boasts free speech and private newspapers. Its population voluntarily disarmed, reconciled and transitioned into an elected, civilian government.” ‘”The government in Somaliland has a better human rights record than any other government in the Horn, including Kenya,”‘ said Chris Albin-Lackey, an analyst at Human Rights Watch.” adds L.A Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-somaliland17-2009may17,0,3938098.story
Finally, although Mr. Payne´s unjustified economic threats against Somaliland send shockwaves throughout Somaliland and Somaliland Diaspora communities, Somaliland remain determined to cooperate with the United States to confront instability in Horn of Africa. Also, the Somaliland people are grateful to the United States for its understanding of Somaliland´s quest for independency.
Surely, if U.S. could storm of out conferences, Somaliland could choose not to take part of them. Mr. Payne with all due respect, what is good for the United States is also good for Somaliland whether you perceive Somaliland as a poor, weak and trivial country that a single threat from an American Congressman sends shivers down its spine, or not.
Don´t get me wrong. Somaliland people definitely will rejoice to witness Somalia stand on its feet. The sooner Somalia stabilizes itself the better for Somaliland. They also commend Mr. Payne´s tireless efforts to achieve a lasting peace in Somalia. But Somaliland and Somalia are two separate countries.
Also, Somaliland Diasporas encourage Mr. Payne to visit Somaliland and witness how almost twenty years of isolation has devastated the peaceful and democratic people of Somaliland. See for yourself the destitution caused by isolation: poverty, unemployment, none existing health care system and lack of investment to rebuild, schools, hospitals, potholes in the roads and crumpled bridges; see how isolation keeps thousands of children malnourished and denies them access to medicine.
You may be overwhelmed by Somaliland people´s poverty, but you will be amazed by their hospitality and kindness. Without a doubt, a trip to Somaliland will imprint an everlasting impression in your mind. Come to Somaliland, Congressman.