Opinion:- I am one of the many Somali Unionists who loathe seeing our country disintegrate into a plethora of mini-states that can potentially lead..
Ito perpetual divisions and conflicts.
Professor Ahmed Samatar, a Somali Unionist recently voiced his opposition to the creation of new States such as Awdal State and the Khaatumo State of Somalia. While I can understand his stand and sympathize with it wholeheartedly, I would like to argue that the two new states cannot be compared to the multitude of Diaspora based one-man show entities inspired by hidden agendas and self-interests. Both States are determined to defend the Somali Union from highly motivated and determined secessionists who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of dividing the Somali nation even to the extent of using violence.
The Khaatumo State did not see the light on 12 January 2012 as many would like to believe. It was created in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Somali government in a town known as Boame. The State was meant to fill the vacuum created by the absence of a credible government in Somalia. Unfortunately, the State could not function at that time for lack of financial support since the Khaatumo Diaspora at that time was almost non-existent. It also failed because many believed in the quick emergence of a functioning Somali government. In contrast, Somaliland and Puntland became successful administrations as a continuation of well-organized clan-based militias that contributed to the overthrow of the Somalia government. The Khaatumo regions did not participate in the disintegration of the Somali State and did not have any clan-based agendas or organized militias that could be converted to security forces.
The new Somali State of Khaatumo is actually meant to preserve Somali Unity and not to weaken it as feared by some. It is also meant to eliminate the conflict that has raged between the two neighboring States of Somaliland and Puntland over the regions that have now adopted the Khaatumo brand. These regions had been unfairly labeled as disputed territories by the UN and other International Aid groups and were therefore denied any development aid for the last 20 years. As a result of such wanton neglect, these regions lag behind all Somali territories in terms of social and economic development.
On my recent trip to Taleh to attend the Khaatumo congress, I was shocked to see the gaping disparity between these regions and those in Puntland and Somaliland. To illustrate this point further, Yagoori, a village where I spent my formative years and remember as a vibrant and growing place, showed signs of economic stagnation and social decline. I could not help but Compare yagoori to Oog, another village along the same highway from Burao to Las Anod as Yagoori, but established much later than yagoori. Oog is a growing town with signs of progress compared to yagoori. People in Yagoori live on salaries paid by the Somaliland administration to phantom soldiers. Powerful warlords get paid 3 times the number of actual soldiers they have under their command. The money does trickle down in the form of Kat purchases, a powerful drug that prevents people from thinking or doing any form of productive work. This can be compared to the free liquor supplied to indigenous people by the white settlers in the Untied States and Australia. The tactic is meant to buy the loyalty of the local population who do not subscribe to the secession agenda being pushed by the Somaliland administration. Were these salaries to evaporate, so would the Somaliland clan militia based at strategic locations along the highway from Burao to Las Anod. Somaliland believes that the control of the highway could determine the fate of Somaliland and its dream of becoming an independent country.
The lack of actual loyalty to the Somaliland cause in the Khaatumo regions can be graphically illustrated by the failed attempt to apprehend the author and a member of the G62, the group that is behind the Khaatumo concept, on our way back from Taleh. The whole village of Yagoori where we stopped for the night stood up to the heavily armed militia deployed by the Somaliland administration from Las Anod to apprehend us and ship us to the infamous Mandhera prison. To preserver life and to avoid punitive retaliatory action by the Somaliland militia against the village, we decided to leave Yagoori on foot to areas outside the control of the militia, and we were eventually whisked to Galkayo in Puntland where we were welcomed with open arms. We traveled through hundreds of miles of unpaved roads and our 4X4 driver could only be compared to the best world class rally drivers for his dexterity at the wheel.
Unfortunately a few other delegates were not as lucky and got arrested in Berbera on their way back to their adopted countries. One of these delegates is a British citizen who entered Somalia with his British passport. His only crime was to attend the Khaatumo Congress. The British Government that provides generous aid to the Somaliland enclave needs to take note of the way its citizens are being harassed and jailed without due process.
As if the harassment of the Khaatumo delegates were not enough, the Somaliland Administration mobilized its meager resources to invade Buhodle, another Khaatumo city near the border with Ethiopia. The main tactic behind the attack was to force the Buhodle delegates at the Khaatumo Congress to abandon the Congress. Such tactic failed since there were more than enough men and women on hand to stand up to the aggression of the Somaliland militia. After the Yagoori incident in which the S/L administration failed miserably to apprehend us, we went to Galkayo, a major town in Puntland to catch a flight from there. While in Galkayo, we managed to visit the wounded that were brought from Buholde for treatment. They were all innocent civilians who were caught in the crossfire between the defenders of the city and the invading Somaliland militia. With rudimentary medical facilities, most of the wounded could have been treated in Buhodle instead of being ferried across hundreds of unpaved roads to Galkayo. This fact again illustrates the neglect and abandonment of all the Khaatumo villages and towns: more than sufficient reason to establish the Khaatumo State of Somalia which is expected to cater to the basic needs of its residents.
The Khaatumo State is a Federal State that strongly believes in the Unity and Integrity of the Somali Republic. It is the product of a democratic forum where all the stakeholders of the Khaatumo regions assembled under the now famous Khaatumo tree (Berdaha Khaatumo), debated, and voted for the creation of a State that caters for their development needs. 345 delegates representing all the sub-clans of the Khaatumo regions unanimously voted for the autonomous state. The vote was resoundingly ratified by all the traditional leaders who have been refugees for 4 years in Puntland after the capital of their State was illegally invaded and occupied by the clan-based militia in Somaliland.
Both Somaliland and Puntland have no choice but to welcome the new State as an equal partner in the long road towards rebuilding the Somali state. Instead of wasting another 20 years chasing an unrealistic dream of dividing the Somali people, Somaliland has to prove to the world that its democratic claims are for real. Democracies do not use violence against unarmed civilians. Democracies do not arrest innocent civilians for expressing their opinions. Democracies do not arrest citizens of foreign countries for attending Congresses in territories outside their controls. Democracies do not use bullets to suppress peaceful demonstrations such as the one in Las Anod where young men and women were killed in cold blood for no other reason than supporting the Khaatumo declarations. It is unfortunate that an Administration that tries so hard to build a façade of democracy, stability and good governance should favor violence over dialogue to resolve its differences with the Khaatumo delegates and architects.
The language of clan hatred pouring from Hargeisa can only plunge the whole region into unpredictable consequences. Somalis can ill afford another protracted civil war in an area that has so far escaped the carnage in the South of the country. The recent statements of the oldest statesman in Hargeisa, Haji Abdi Warabe, should alarm all Somalis. He recently called for genocide and the ethnic cleansing of those opposed to the Somaliland secession. “Dhulku ma guure, dadkaa guura” is a Somali statement that calls for the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Khaatumo residents from their land.
The men and women chosen to lead the Khaatumo State are ready for cooperation and peaceful dialogue. They are also ready to defend their regions and residents against any aggression. Self defense is a God given right and is a Universal value. Somaliland has no legal claim over the Khaatumo State. Old colonial borders that disappeared 52 years ago are no justification for coercing others to adopt a wrong cause. While dividing the Somali people is morally wrong and reprehensible, it is a well documented fact that the Khaatumo clans never signed any protection agreements with the British and are therefore outside the colonial borders used by Somaliland to justify its secession.
Let us hope that reason will prevail over the language of hate. At the same time, the world community needs to closely watch and monitor the area if it is to avoid another Rwanda.
Ali H Abdulla
* Khaatumo is a Somali word with an Arabic origin. It is often used to denote a good ending for a long-running problem. The word was also used to name the place where a number of Somali clans in the North joined forces in a political party known as the United Somali Party (USP) in their quest for independence from Great Britain. Hopefully the Khaatumo State will become the nucleus for a re-born United Somali State