April 1, 2006 — I watched a speech of Lebanon’s Hizbollah leader Shaikh Hassan Nasrullah at a rally in support of Syria. Millions of Lebanese participated in the rally sending a strong signal to the world that Syria is not alone. It was shocking to hear Nasrullah describe Somalia as vulnerable to balkanization while Lebanon is immune to such attempts.
I am reminded today of this painful speech after having read the article “Will the Arabs dare to listen to Somaliland?” published recently by Sudan Tribune and other Somali web sites, and written by Bashir Goth, an accomplished Somali journalist who lives in the UAE. My admiration for Nasrullah increased after realizing that the guy is well read and knows a lot about how this world runs. He must have studied Somalia and its murky politics and came to the conclusion that this is a nation headed towards balkanization with the help of its own people.
Reasons given for Balkanization
Most of the calls to balkanize Somalia are based on the fact that Somalis in the North have done a very good job of keeping the peace and the building of democratic institutions while Somalis in the south are immersed in fratricide and mayhem, and ruled by abhorrent warlords who have no respect for law and order. Another argument tossed around a lot is the suffering of the people of the north at the hands of the national government that collapsed in 1991.
If the yardstick to balkanize a nation is based on these two arguments, then a lot of countries deserve to be Balkanized. In Iraq, for example, the Kurds have managed to stabilize their side of the country and have democratic institutions. They also suffered tremendously under the overthrown government of Iraq. There is documented evidence that thousands of Kurds died as a result of chemical weapons. Therefore, Kurdistan, a nation of 20 million scattered in Iraq, Iran and Turkey should be allowed to break away and form an independent state. They speak the same language, have the same religion, managed to govern them-selves well, and have been persecuted by their governments. They, more than any other people on earth, deserve such recognition. There are many other examples.
AU condones Balkanization of Somalia!
The article of Bashir mentions a report by an AU mission to Somaliland that condones the balkanization of Somalia. It is ironic that an organization that calls for African unity and its name stands for unity, should call for the dismemberment of a member state. I have looked for this purported report everywhere and failed to find it.
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) talks about the report in an article titled “Somaliland: AU Mission to Somaliland Says Recognition Overdue”.
The article talks about the contents of the report but admits that it has not been published. It states that “However, the report of the mission – which was appointed by former president of Mali and chairperson of the AU Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare – has been kept under wraps and is yet to be discussed by the AU executive council for possible adoption by the heads of state summit.”
Who is Iqbal Jhazbahay?
Another writer who has dedicated his life for the balkanization of Somalia is Mr. Iqbal Jhazbhay who teaches at the University of South Africa and is a member of the ANC’s Commission of Religious Affairs. According to a South African Newspaper, Mr. Jhazbhay is an advisor for Mr. Rayale, the president of Somaliland. Given his energetic endeavour to balkanize Somalia, one can only assume that he is on the payroll of the Somaliland authority and cannot be relied upon for unbiased scholarly essays about Somalia. There are also unconfirmed suspicions that he is an advisor to some South African mining companies that are interested in Somaliland mining concessions
In an updated essay titled “Somaliland: Africa’s kept secret, a challenge to the international community?”, Jhazbhay quotes Professor Ali Mazroui as having said, “Somaliland should be let to go its way, for it has resources to sustain itself. The situation in Somalia now is culture of rules without rulers, a stateless society. There is order there, they have the potential to survive”.
Unfortunately professor Mazroui has given several interviews that are contradictory and it is very difficult to know where he actually stands on the issue of the balkanization of Somalia. The following is a section of a recent interview with Sagal Radio Services in the US.
“Before colonialism, they came from a culture of minimum governments not minimum rules, they had rules but minimum rulers and then the colonial system started this institutionalized government and the idea of having rulers rather than just rules of conduct. And our brothers and sisters in Somalia as a whole including Somaliland are adjusting to these new ways of government and are attempting to find satisfactory ways of maintaining rules, but nowadays just observing rules is no longer enough. You also need instrumentalities of power for law and order. They are having some difficulty in learning something, which is alien to their culture because previously they were ahead of other people who needed rulers and now they are left behind because they haven’t adjusted. But we in Africa, in Somalia and elsewhere of course must never give up we must continue to find the right formula for our people.”
He seems to portray Somalia as a nation that is way behind other Africans; a nation that has failed to adjust to the realities of modern statehood. He has a point there and we should acknowledge our faults. Somalia should have been ahead of other African states being a homogeneous nation speaking the same language, have the same religion and pretty much all look alike.
Mr. Iqbal Jhazbhay is a South African from the Indian subcontinent who must have suffered under Apartheid. His great nation of South Africa embarked on a bold effort to forget the atrocities committed by white South Africans. The great Nelson Mandela steered his nation towards reconciliation, unity and brotherhood. It is inappropriate for Mr. Iqbal Jhazbhay to call for the balkanization of an African country that has emerged from a disastrous civil war when he knows very well that his country suffered more under Apartheid than our brothers in the north had suffered under the repressive Somali State in which the current president of Somaliland was a member. If the criteria to balkanize a state includes past grievances, then the whites of South Africa should not have been allowed to be part of the South Africa of today.
I. M. Lewis’s calls for a half loaf
Another proponent of the balkanization of Somalia is I.M. Lewis, a throwback to the colonial days of Somalia. Lewis is a professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and spent several years in Somaliland compiling research data for his book Pastoral Democracy. In his article, “Mohammad Siyad Barre’s Ghost in Somalia”5, he calls for the recognition of Somaliland by arguing that a half loaf is better than none. It seems that Lewis would like to complete what his country started more than 46 years ago when it divided Somalia into 5 parts. We should reject his sinister offer of half a loaf. We deserve 5 complete loaves. We should be wary of people like him and his leaders. Winston Churchill said about the Palestinians, “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”6
How can we trust an individual from a country whose leaders have no respect for our kind and divided our country into 5 pieces?
Somaliland does not need outright recognition. It needs economic assistance as a reward for its achievements. If the west is sincere about helping Somaliland, they should help rebuild its economic assets such as the Berbera Port and Airport; the water resources, the road networks; the educational institutions; the means to protect its beaches against looters and polluters. This should not be done through corrupt NGOs, but through direct bilateral agreements. They should also put pressure on Saudi Arabia to lift the ban on the export of livestock from Somalia as a whole. The same applies to Punt land and other areas that show progress towards peace and stability. This will encourage our brothers in the south to get rid of the ignorant warlords and rejoin their brothers again.
In an era when nation states are uniting to form powerful economic blocs, it is sad to hear calls for further divisions in Somalia from an accomplished journalist who is well versed in world affairs. The south needs the north for its potential mineral and oil deposits and the north needs the south for its potential to become the breadbasket of Somalia and other neighbouring countries as well as for its human resources for economic growth and security.
Democratic Debate on Secession
Somaliland should enhance its democratic credentials by allowing an open debate on the issue of secession. The honourable Hadrawai, a famous Somali poet from Somaliland, fired the first salvo when he travelled to the south and declared his stand as a unionist. I am sure that there are thousands like him hiding in the shadows. They should stand up and be counted. Bashir belittles our Arab brothers for their three “nos”: No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel. Along the same lines, he should also belittle Somaliland for its two “nos”: No negotiation with the south; No re-unification with the south”.
Somalia has a lot of enemies that would like to see it disintegrate into mini-states. Some are mercenaries who are in it for the money; some are unwittingly participating in the conspiracy without realizing the abyss that they are trying to drag us into; some are warlords guarding their interests; some are sovereign nations vying for the potential riches of our country; some are neighbouring states afraid of a strong Somalia that may one day demand the return of the territories stolen by the colonialists and handed to them.
It is easy to defeat the mercenaries, the warlords and the foreign nations if we are untied. It is going to take a lot of effort to defeat those of us who are intent on committing suicide and drag us all into a dark tunnel. Let us hope that they will wake up to the dangers ahead and reassess their stands.
*Ali H. Abdulla, is an IT Consultant from Somaliland based in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org