To weep crocodile tears is to pretend a sorrow that one does not in fact feel to create a hypocritical show of emotion. Crocodiles weep while luring or devouring their prey. Similar are Somalia`s voices advocating for the revival of the doomed union knowing that the destruction of the unity was unshared responsibility of Somalia.
For the last fifteen years, these voices have been obsessively resorting to a common misguidedexpression: “The unity is sacred” believing that rhetorical, misplaced speeches and writings couldbring back the union that Somalia buried in a deep grave without mark. So far, the politicians,intellectuals, and writers of Somalia have failed to admit in their writings, interviews, conferences, and meetings that the relentless injustices and atrocities of the South (Somalia) against the North(Somaliland) during the thirty years of the doomed union (1960-1990) were the undeniable root causes of Somaliland`s withdrawal from the union to reclaim its independence after an almost decade-long devastating civil war between the two sides (1982-1990). Instead, they unwisely use Somaliland for scapegoat and blame it for the destruction of the unity. This dishonest approach of denial and cover up is completely irresponsible, hypocritical, and unintellectual for sidestepping the truth. Such attitude will only make any chances for future talks for mutual, bilateral relations between the two sisterly states even remote.
It is undeniable historical fact that Somaliland was the first of the five Somali- speaking territories to become independent on June 26, 1960 and, as well, the first pioneering founder of the Union to make the ‘Greater Somalia’ dream come true when it willingly initiated the unification with Somalia on July 1st 1960 creating the first Republic of Somalia. But, unfortunately, Somaliland became the first victim of that Union too after the South-led civilian and military governments turned the history of the Union into history of conspiracies, injustices, and atrocities plotted and committed against the North.
The political blunders that drove wedge between the North and the South began with the formation of the first government in 1960. When honorable Aden Abdulle Osman (From the South) was elected the first president of the former Republic of Somalia (1960-1967), which was created from the unification of the two newly independent states emerging from former British Somaliland Protectorate and Italian Somalia, every one expected the premiership belonged to theNorth without challenge and that the top cabinet and armed forces posts would be shared fairly too. Unfortunately, president Aden failed to understand the fact that fair and balanced power-sharing was essential to sustain that newly born unity. He treated the North as an ordinary region like Mudug or Banadir and treated Northern People as second class citizens depriving them of the legitimate share in the new government thus hijacking it for the South by granting premiership and other top civilian and armed forces positions to the South.
He appointed Mr. Abdirasheed Ali Sharma`arke (From the South) as the first prime minister of Somalia (1960-1964), AbdirizaqHaji Hussein (From the South) for minister of interior, Mr. Abdullahi Issa Mohamoud (From the South) for minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Osman Ahmed Roble (From the South) for minister of Finance, General Da`ud Hirsi (From the South) for Commander of the Armed Forces, General Mohammed Abshir (From the South) for Commander of National Police Force etc. TheNorth, which was the pioneering founder of the Union, was betrayed and faced embarrassment and humiliation in the hands of the South.
The betrayal angered furiously the Northern people in general and politicians, traditionalleaders,intellectuals, military officers and youth in particular. This deep resentment of the North againstthe South, influenced young military officers of the North, at the command of Hassan Kayd, to lead the unsuccessful military coup in Hargeisa on December 10, 1961 to reclaim Northern sovereignty and independence from the South. Instead of addressing the grievancesof the North and the root causes of the failed military coup through national dialogue forreconciliation, president Aden Abdulle Osman made the second political blunder by transferring South-born military service men to the North while transferringthose of the North to the South in order to punishNorthern people for the abortive coup thus turning North into a semi-colony occupied by the South forcing its people to travel to Mogadisho for all necessary documents of life that they were supposed to have in their homeland including commercial licenses, middle and high school diplomas etc. Appointments and nominations for regional and local officials were also made in Mogadisho as everything was centralized.
President Aden Abdulle Osman repeated the same polarizing mistakes for the third time when heappointed Mr. Abdirizaq Haji Hussein (From the South) as the second prime minister of Somalia from 1964-1967. He betrayed the North for two reasons. First, he was a South-oriented man without vision and who could not understand the importance of unity. Secondly, he bowed to the pressure and demand of his wife`s tribe to have premiership and that is why the first two prime ministers of former Republic of Somalia were appointed from that tribe. President Aden masterminded the first hostility and deep political divide between North and South inflicting the first irreversible political damage on the newly born union. Again, Mr. Abdirasheed Ali Sharma`arke (From the South) was elected president (1967-1969). He saw that the country was heading in the wrong direction and appointed Mr. Mohammed Haji Ibrahim Egal ( North-born politician) as the third prime minister of former Republic of Somalia but Siad`s military takeover on October 21, 1969 shortcut his tenure and prevented him from addressing the grievances of the North to narrow the gap between the two sides.
Late Somali Dictator, General Siad Barre (From the South too), taking advantage of the unexpected assassination of president Abdirasheed Ali Sharma`arke on October 15, 1969 in Las Anod, over threw the civilian government and led the country into vicious, bloody military dictatorship for 21 years (1969-1990). Knowing that his unconstitutional power takeover wasnot welcomed by the Northern People who were already oppressed by the South and fearing that they might revolt against him, General Siad Barre could not hide his harsh attitude and treatment towards the North to subdue it for his dictatorship. In his first ten years of power (1970-1980), he gradually purged most of Northern high civil Servants from his government. This exacerbated the deep political disagreement that already existed between North and South.
After all talks and negotiations between the two sides failed, the Northern People had no choice but to challenge the unabated injustices of the South with armed resistance and founded the famous armed front, SNM, in April 1981 to oust Siad`s dictatorship. SNM forces waged relentless armed struggle against the Southern forces of oppression, suppression and repression in the North between 1982-1990. As revengeful response to SNM armed struggle, GeneralSiad Barre detained indefinitely prominent leaders hailing from the North, notably Mohammed Hagi Ibrahim Egal, Ismael Ali Aboker and Omer Arteh Galib, and a group of military officers and intellectuals at Labaatan Jirow Prison. Many others were jailed in secret prisons in Mogadisho without charges. He also stripped most of the northern military commanders and officers of their positions in the armed forces in 1980s to wage unchecked brutal military campaign of death and destruction against North in order to subdue SNM fighters and its supporters. The civil war escalated in May 1988 when heroic forces of SNM invaded major cities of the North, Hargeisa and Burao in May 1988 to liberate the people and the country from Siad`s tyranny. In this invasion, SNM forces almost decimated the regular forces of Siad`s Regime in the North and brought his repressive administration in the North to its knees.
Being humiliated by the defeat and trying to expel entrenched SNM forces from the cities, Siad Barre`s government bombarded Hargeisa and Burao heavily and indiscriminately with warplanes, tanks and artillery causing massive death to civilians in both cities. The regime also armed refugee camps in the North and drafted tens of thousands in the South to fight in theNorth. Nearly 50,000 civilians were brutally killed or massacred by the regime and over 500,000 people were forced to flee in 1988 into neighboring Ethiopia and Djibouti. Many of the civilian victims were killed in execution style and their bodies were dumped in mass graves. More than 100 mass graves, including Malko Durduro where skeletons of more than 700 peoplewere unearthed, were marked in Somaliland by UN Forensic Team in December 1991. The bodies of themass graves belonged to victims of massacres carried out by Southern troops loyal to then-president Siad Barre who was ousted in 1991. Most of the mass executions took place in the years 1988 and 1989. Jazeera Beach near Mogadisho was another mass grave of 46 civilians from the North massacred on the night of July 17, 1989. The heroic armed struggle of SNM (1982-1980) supported by its courageous people finally liberated Somaliland from the cruel tyranny of the South in January 1991. The war waged against the North was a criminal plot intended deliberately to eliminate an entire nation. In the Pan-Somaliland conference held in Burao in May 1991, Somaliland people officially declared their withdrawal from the disastrous Union with the South and reaffirmed their sovereignty and independence.
The above historical facts are irrefutable evidence of how the South (Somalia) continuously and deliberately destroyed the unity with Somaliland. It was a painful history that clearly reflects twenty two years (1960-1982) of injustices, oppression and dereliction, and eight years (1982-1990) of repressions, persecutions and atrocities. Many of the voices that call for unity today held high positions in the civilian and military governments of the former Republic of Somalia and participated in the injustices and atrocities committed against the North and rejoiced the suffering of its people for tribal or for envious reasons. Unity is great and promising if both sides are ripe for it and respect it equally, but if it brings oppression, repressions, injustices and atrocities upon one side, it is not unity, it is disaster and that is why Somaliland adamantly rejects to return to the union with Somalia to avoid repeating the same painful history and waste of time.Somalilanders who are members of Somalia`s Transitional Parliament and Government do notrepresent Somaliland Republic and its people but speak for and represent only the Somaliland Community residing in Somalia.
Another mistake constantly made by the politicians, intellectuals and elders of Somalia is that they abuse the word: “Sacred Unity”. The unity between Somaliland, Djibouti and Somalia is never sacred, it is of choice, but the national and territorial unity within each country of the three is sacred and inviolable. Somaliland has legitimacy for independence because it is one of the African countries that achieved independence in 1960. It has also legitimacy for international recognition because it has internationally recognized borders with Somalila and with Djibouti. The border passing between Somaliland and Somalia is not different from that between Kenya and Tanzania or between Sudan and Chad. All African borders, including that of Somaliland, had been drawn by colonial European Powers. The independence and international recognition of each of the 54 African countries are based on the colonial borders and Somaliland is not different from them. There are no tribal borders but there are only territorial borders, and each nation comprises different tribes or ethnic groups.
Another point to make, speaking same language and sharing same religion and color are not the absolute factors to determine unity. The 18 Arab countries would be united today if language, religion, and color determine unity. Respect for justice and human rights are the determining pillars for the unity between two or more countries to sustain and that is what Somalia failed to understand in the thirty years of the union.
The reason why Somalia remains failed state for the last 15 years is because tribal and local allegiance are stronger in the hearts of many than allegiance to patriotism and nationalism. Such situation shows irreconcilable differences between the two and makes any unity between Somalia and Somaliland inconceivable and elusive. Then, the voices that failed to unite their people and their country to end the endless anarchy and violence, the voices that failed to admit the injustices and atrocities committed against Somaliland are simply misleading and deceptive. Somalia must help itself first. Destroying unity and then weeping for it is like shedding crocodile tears and that is what Somalia does for unity it never respected. Somaliland must reject Somalia crocodile tears luring Somaliland people into another disastrous union. Somaliland people can not change the past but can change the future.
Written: Ibrahim Hassan Gagale