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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Somaliland - From Talks to Talks: Awaiting the Cliffhanger or Bowing to the Inevitable?

(Medeshi)- Commentary - “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” Albert Einstein 
By Abdirahman Mohamed Dirye
More than two decades of claiming sovereignty, Somaliland refused to sit and talk with Somalia. But finally Silanyo’s led Somaliland accepted the bitter reality: all roads go through Mogadishu, leaving self-proclaimed sovereignty behind.  Last month or so; amid ongoing preparation of the lavish wedding of his eldest daughter’s remarriage, president Silanyo postponed the wedding celebrations then flew to Djibouti to participate in one of his last-ditch talks with Somalia. In scorching day, a group of poorly fed people were dropped in the airport to make “sacabka,” or applaud the president” while they’re intimidated by obese looking brutes during the president’s arrival to the gate.

Djibouti officially hosted Somaliland and Somalia talks for the first time, and the people from Somaliland who have a special connection with the hosting country, rejoiced.  There were high expectations from the talks that going to take place. Unfortunately the outcome wasn’t much different those held from their predecessors. However, one little difference on the agenda: talks about overriding issues concerning the fate and future of Somalia as whole, and Somaliland in particular.

The mere to mention of the talk alone means lot to some Somalilanders but the discussion of Zakat or alms and aid was very disheartening to them. they argue that it was inappropriate to discuss the issue of alms while Somaliland has been suffering from neither being a part of a Somalia nor independent that can work economically with rest of the world but the question that always strike the minds of many is this: looking at the cruel and interest based global politics where furtherer Somaliland can go? What other options does Somaliland have rather than always falling to the knees of Mogadishu and asking for a share in the Turkish aid if any left?

But the yesterday stern warning to Chinese mining company in Awdal by Somalia was a singular incident or harbinger of something disastrous? Was it enough testimony and wakeup call to all that Somaliland’s sovereignty is still tenuous and vulnerable despite decades of claims of self-rule? The company has withdrawn, according to the World Bulletin, to keep Chinese interests in the Arab World intact perhaps.  But the move also indicates ongoing talks are not only nonbinding internationally, means if Somalia defaults the accord, no dire consequences at the all, but also aimed at the reunification of Somalia. Hence, it would be a naïve assumption that talks will result in separation of Somalia and Somaliland any time soon.

Does Somaliland stand any chance for recognition in the status quo?
Given the failure of Kulmiye ruling party to solve the problems in the East of the country which exacerbated under their rule and the growing dissatisfaction in Awdal, the greater concern is if they achieve any tangible through complex dialog. Unlike the talks of Ethio-Eritrea, the Sudan CPA, and Indonesian-East Timor partition plan of which all resulted in the desired outcome without any changing of the venues, president Silanyo met with President Hassan of Mogadishu without any blueprint to independence.

In spite of the mutiny in the West region, open war in the East, the unity within Somaliland has weakened by squabbling among Kulmiye elites. Is Somaliland really in trouble? Many say yes; Awdal’s Sultan’s defection is another milestone of Somaliland decline.

President Silanyo used to write dubious letters to all countries of the world during his opposition urging to do something yet their contents were neither known to any of his colleagues. Somalilanders therefore are wary of Silanyo’s sincerity of his intention at the first place. UK foreign ministry issued statement on late president’s unsuitability to spearhead and champion the cause of Somaliland and  the Republican local newspaper republished  “it’s Egal who took Somaliland administration into Somalia who now heads Hargiesa administration…” hopefully president’s “doubtful “letters may not tarnish his image as true secessionist which he portrays often  locally though they’re reflections of his personality.

But the talks is oddly unique and unprecedented. The international community has observer role and no responsibility rather than being a third party signatory of the agreement to enforce the accord if one signatory defaults the agreement.  Apart from no time limit and no single defined pathway to the desired result of the talks, there are wheels within wheels within Silanyo’s government that always hamperany meaningful decision.

However; in a span of four years, several talks were held in Turkey but none of them produced desirable outcome useful for Somaliland; the talks have seemingly taken Palestinian style in producing minimum results  much like the inconclusive talks that begun a half century ago.   But what can be done about it? Asked people amid the fact that Somaliland is lacking resourceful diplomats like Ambassador Awil . He once said. “I’ve forty years’ experience in diplomacy.  If Somaliland doesn’t get recognized in Riyale’s presidency, it may never.”  Again, Professor Ahmed Samatar echoed the same thing four years later “why four men of the same ethnicity are always sent to the talks if Somaliland‘s political process is inclusive!”  Hinted Somaliland was reducing to single clannish entity. Moreover, Somaliland devoid of any leverage rendered her passive listener to Somalia’s dictations improvising while the Western attentions turned to Somalia’s reconstruction.
The President’s frequent travels to Turkey is about aid, not independence.

President Silanyo is travelling back and forth for talks though many say that he is looking at the aid with one eye considering independence rather secondary matter at the moment compared to his need of money to finance his next 2016 elections in Somalia.

He developed a strange habit since his election, he releases political speeches recorded in cave-like atmosphere where he insults press or opposition and distances them from any national overriding issues. From year to year, he releases new album about his life sometimes about his ministers but recorded in advance for no apparent reason, the latest one was about his ministers running for nominal candidacy, he recorded scathing remarks like Ayman Al-Zawahari, but after all, he as “fit as fiddle” according to his health crew.

To keep the public in the dark about the agreement, parties are excluded.
Besides, the exclusion of national parties from the talks this time is quite alarming, a painful reminder and the replay of the same disastrous movie of the sixties when Somaliland was lost in the hands of the shortsighted bunch while the consequences were shared by all.  Again four decades later, a tiny minority is determining the direction of the country is moving without any consensus. Haatuf paper ran news article during the talks in Djibouti before African intelligence recently published factual article “Mogadishu Woos Issaaqs”. The former paper said that Hirsi met Somalia president on the margins of the summit asking to include his upcoming cabinet several ministers of his tribe! A good reason why he decided to exclude all the national parties from the political talks aimed at the disunity is now understandable. Somalilanders again are at the mercy of one man.

Wadani Party leader Mr Erro’s delegation to Djibouti worried president Silanyo like they represent two hostile countries, but why? After all, his anxiety centers on the murky deals, so the true nature of the agreement may come to the delegates’ knowledge. Excluding all major stakeholders in Somaliland from the talks itself is worryingly counterproductive.  The people also are cynical about Silanyo’s foggy talks.
Rather than expecting better solutions to disentangle intricate fatal issues, Somaliland intellectuals are very worried about the personal ability of their president. He is 80 years old but the vice president young and healthy succeeds if and when the president dies or becomes incapacitated.  Like Ayman Al-Zawahari of Al-Qaida, president Silanyo begun to record his press releases without the presence of any journalists avoiding social embarrassments . He is bedridden and frequent medical tourist to the UK but not sure if he became incapacitated.

His green entourages are very much in common with the DamulJadid run government of Somalia, they detest partition of all Muslims countries no matter what, let alone their heterogeneous reality, Sheikh Hirsiformer Chief Cabinet and currently the “left hand” of the his grandpa president and the Imam–turned politician Mullah Samalealong with their Bukharis, and hidden Salafistunionists are running the state from behind who never believed in the secession in one moment. However, they have been acting cleverly so far.
Opposition parties spoke about the preliminary agreement in different ways.  AbdirahmanErro of Wadania Presidential Candidate and Speaker of Parliament took note of the ambiguousstatement included in the agreement “to dare the issues of fate.”  “What does that mean?” He asked. “The matter needs clarification from the part of the government”.  Ali Guray of UCID also stated that the talks in faraway places are simply “picnics” and sightseeing.

Many people who read the communiqué paradoxically intrigued by the indebtedness to His Excellency President Ismail Gheele. This was one of the five agreed points instead of saying verbally.
As the national, regional, and international support of Somaliland is drastically eroding amid of militancy allegations and failure of earning friends, networking, and contacts in the international arena, the just cause of Somaliland stands chance for recognition has grew dimmer. But Somalilanders still have choices to make now—not tomorrow when Somalia rises up from its ashes and sends ultimatum to the international community not to deal with Somaliland. But the waiting of the cliffhanger of endless talk shows is the worst option.

-Somaliland Activist and Political Commentator, dirye@democracychronicles.com

Editors Note : 
The opinion in this article is solely that of the author