Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Despite pressure from the UN and some western countries, the elected leadership of Somaliland articulated a nuanced approach towards Somalia based on the fact that the two countries have two different political identities but share the same language, religion and culture- no negotiation on issues involving any political arrangement between the two countries but a desire to strengthen bilateral trade and cooperation on other areas of mutual interest such as fighting piracy and terrorism.
The question is why Somalilanders are wary of any political arrangement with Somalia? Since Somaliland reclaimed her independence in 1991, a potent national consciousness emerged in the minds of the people which resulted in the erection of a rampart-like barrier that insulated the country from the problems that bedeviled Somalia for the past twenty years. As a result Somaliland escaped the misery, violence, terrorism, and piracy that plagued Somalia. It seems the inescapable conclusion among Somalilanders and their elected officials is that any political arrangement will result in the collapse of this protective wall and the serious problems that plagued the south will infiltrate into their country and ravage their society.
In addition to the injustice that came with the 1960 unification, the history of Somalia during the past 20 years is also important to consider in understanding why Hargeisa does not want to have anything to do with Mogadishu. During those two last decades there was no country called Somalia but men who did not care about their country and who were determined solely to make large fortune by any means. First there came the warlords who dismantled factories and sold these assets for their salvage values in neighboring countries. Then pirates who roamed in the high seas and demanded millions of dollars from hard working seamen going about their business in the Indian Ocean. Then there were the so called transitional leaders who traveled from one foreign capital to another soliciting for financial help. As someone once wrote about Romania, Somalia in those 20 years was like a man who inherited rich resources-rivers, rain forests, rich soil, factories, etc- and who degraded and even recklessly destroyed those assets.
This is the place the UN wants Somaliland to go under its creeping unionization policy that handed control of Somaliland air space to an agency based in Mogadishu. If the UN get away with this, it will of course be followed by other steps engineered to gradually administratively bring Hargeisa under Mogadishu. But Somaliland vehemently objected to the UN ploy. If Somaliland is to make a political arrangement with Mogadishu, she will be swallowed by the deep black hole in the south: the problems that afflict Somalia will move into the country, development activities will cease, businesses will move out and people looking for work will rush to Mogadishu even when there is nothing, but misery and unemployment for the local people in Somalia. There will be a meltdown and later the period Somaliland remained independent will be remembered as the Golden Years.
It may be helpful to recall another moment in recent history when officials from another international agency experimented with ideas in Mogadishu that contributed to the collapse of the Somali state: In the early 1980s the International Monetary Fund persuaded Siad Barre to float the Somali Shilling which was pegged to the US dollar at the rate of 7 to 1. At the time there were no foreign currency reserves, no commodities for exports to generate foreign currency and there were no large diaspora to remit hard currency. Immediately after the Shilling was floated its value fell sharply. The massive public employees sector and the uniformed personnel who depended on fixed salaries suddenly found their wages were not worth even 10 dollars a month. Misery visited households. Anybody who can leave the country did so. By the end of the decade, the state collapsed. The rest is history.
And the social and political conditions of the two countries now are far more complicated than the financial one the IMF bungled in Mogadishu in the 1980s.
Somaliland and Somalia are two different countries as much as Djibouti is a separate one. The two countries had different colonial experiences; they got their independences on separate occasions and obviously they had different political evolutions during the last two decades. It is naïve to lump them together. The UN should deal with Somaliland separately from Somalia.
Adan H Iman