The Standard, 19 Feb. 2006--In the streets of Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, ‘banks’ conduct their business openly. Wads of local shilling notes, US dollars, Sterling Pounds, Euros, and other major world currencies are carried around on wheelbarrows and paper bags. Some are displayed in the open air like any other merchandise. As you walk around the dusty city, you also find women dealing in valuable jewellery unbothered about security. Yet this is the country that the UN, AU and rest of the world have refused to recognise despite demonstrable nationhood and statehood. Our Special Correspondent Ken Ramani visited the country and filed these stories. They are stories of a people pushing for international recognition, even daring to go the Taiwan way; the story of peace and stability in a literal sea of chaos; the story of simplicity and frugality in a world of affluence and ostentation; the story of huge opportunities and no investors. We carry this report to draw attention to what goes on around us in the belief that regional stability is good for us.
A deputy prime minister of Somalia Mohammed Hurre Buubaa, is a wanted man in his native breakaway Republic of Somaliland.
He and 35 others in Somalia’s Parliament, who are also allied to President Abdullahi Yusuf, are wanted to answer charges of subversion whose ultimate penalty is execution.
Somaliland’s parliament has already passed a resolution to have all defectors punished should they set foot in Somaliland.
This comes at a time when President Yusuf needs every MP on his side as Somalia’s parliament prepares to have its first session inside Somalia this week.
Somalia’s Prime Minister, Ali Mohamed Ghedi has already broken ranks with President Yusuf and the House Speaker over a decision to hold the session in Baidoa instead of Mogadishu, the capital city.
Although it has not been publicly announced, the pro-Mogadishu MPs are said to be hatching a scheme to kick out President Yusuf and Ghedi through a vote of no confidence.
Should the legitimacy of the representation of certain MPs allied to Yusuf come up as an issue in Somalia’s parliament, the president will be left vulnerable and the Mogadishu group will carry the day because it has the numbers that can be counted on to pass any motion or bill.
"The likes of Buubaa are mercenaries that the southern Somalia politicians have hired to legitimise their transitional government by giving it a national outlook. They are politicians without morals and are out to sell the aspirations of their country for a few dollars," the Vice President of the Republic of Somaliland told The Sunday Standard.
"If they dare step on the soil of Somaliland, we shall have them arrested and charged with treason. They have betrayed the aspirations of their people and country and we have nothing to do with them," Yassin said during an interview in his office in Hargeisa.
The move by Somaliland and its latest warning to the UN over overtures being made for it to lift an arms embargo against Mogadishu, has raised concern about the stability of the Horn of Africa region.
President Dahir Rayale Kahin last weekend said Somaliland will have no option but to arm and defend itself should Somalia attempt to interfere with its freedom if and when the arms embargo is lifted.
Since relocating from Nairobi in May last year, the 275-strong parliament is yet to hold a first session in Somalia due to bickering between the House Speaker Sheikh Aden Hassan and President Yusuf over the seat of government.
The breakaway Somaliland declared its independence in 1991 and has since enjoyed relative peace unlike Somalia. Somaliland was a British protectorate while Somalia (south) was an Italian colony. Somaliland became independent late in June 1960 but its leaders refused to form a government, instead waiting for one week for Somalia to become independent and entering into a union to champion the dream of the Greater Somalia.
However, the hurried marriage became rocky and Hargeisa declared a dissolution in 1991. The young but internationally unrecognised republic had its own internal contradictions which its leaders quickly and decisively addressed in a national reconciliation process. Today, Somaliland enjoys peace that Somalia can only dream of, at least for now.
The VP attributes the success of Somaliland’s reconciliation process to the fact that the exercise was started from the grassroots. "We did not go to Djibouti, Addis Ababa or Nairobi to discuss how to live together peacefully. We involved clan elders and sultans who wield a lot of power and command respect in their villages."
Clan leaders successfully disarmed militia groups and handed over arms collected to the central government of the then president, the late Ibrahim Egal. A number of former combatants were absorbed in the national army while others joined the police force and the skeleton Civil Service.
Hargeisa refused to participate in Somalia’s peace process in Kenya in 2002 on the premise that it was an independent country and had nothing to do with the talks.However, some individuals flew to Nairobi from Hargeisa and claimed to represent certain clans in Somaliland. They were offered seats in the transitional parliament and government.
Buubaa has been one of the critics of the Somaliland leadership and does not recognise his country’s self-declared independence. But Somaliland’s VP says the 2002-2004 Nairobi peace process for Somalia was a drawback to Somaliland’s quest for international recognition. "The international community has kept on telling us to wait and see how the peace process in the south progresses. But why should we be held at ransom by the south whose leaders seem to be talking at cross purposes?"
The VP warned that Somaliland may eventually go the Taiwan way, should the international community not recognise it. Says he: "Taiwan has been operating without recognition since 1948 but is today among developed Asian countries. With or without recognition, Somaliland will succeed."
Ahmed Mohamud, popularly known as Silanyo, the chairman of the official opposition party, argues that the marriage between Somaliland and Somalia in 1960 was meant to be a starting point for the unification of greater Somalia. "The greater Somalia dream became a nightmare and there is no point in trying to revive it," says Silanyo.
The founding fathers of Somalia dreamed of uniting all Somalis whom the colonial boundaries drawn up at the 1884 Berlin Conference placed in five different countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somaliland and Somalia. On the flag of Somalia, there were five stars symbolising the Greater Somalia nation that was never to be.
The infamous Shifta War in Kenya was an attempt by secessionist elements in the then North Frontier District (now North Eastern Province) who wanted the region declared part of Somalia. Also the ill-fated Ogaden War of 1977 between Ethiopia and Somalia was an attempt by Mogadishu to realise its dream of uniting with its Somali brothers in the southeastern part of Ethiopia.
The war with Ethiopia became the most useless and ambitious ventures of the Siad Barre regime. Most of the under-development and suffering for Somalilanders reached a crescendo during this point in time. They suffered more than any other part of the then Republic of Somalia and their priority now is peace, security and reconstruction, argues Silanyo.
The veteran politician who was the chairman of Somaliland National Movement (SNM) said that the excuse advanced by the African Union for not recognising his country is that its Charter states that countries should respect the colonial boundaries as inherited at independence.
"But that is exactly what we are doing. Nobody here wants to redraw the boundaries. What we are demanding is the recognition of Somaliland the way it was until 1960," argues Silanyo.
"The AU member states should accord Somaliland the recognition, then the rest of the world will follow suit," he adds.
The opposition chief says lack of recognition has scared away potential investors. Even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot deal with us, neither can they lend to investors interested in our country.
Finance minister, Hussein Ali Dualleh laments that African leaders have closed their eyes to Somaliland’s predicament, adding that very few of them seem to understand the country’s history and what is at stake.
He notes that his government has been operating on a $30 million annual budget as opposed to its $100 million requirement.
"The ban on Somaliland’s livestock by certain Gulf countries has literally strangled our economy. Our people are hardworking and we shall not be a begging nation if that is what the world fears," says Dualleh.
According to the Montevideo Convention, for an entity to become a state, it should have a defined territory, population, government and capacity to conduct its international relations independently.
In this aspect, Somaliland has succeeded in assuring residents of security in Hargeisa and other majors towns such as Berbera of the kind of security not found anywhere in Africa.
"There are no thieves here. We have hundreds of beggars with whom we share whatever we have," Amina Mohammed, a trader, said.
At the height of the SNM insurgency (1981-1988), it is said that practically everyone in Hargeisa was a refugee or an internally displaced person.
The return of refugees from neighbouring Ethiopia and IDPs was followed by rapid reconstruction.
The SNM insurgency weakened the regime of Barre and made it possible for Gen Mohamed Farah Aideed to smoke him out of Mogadishu with lightning speed.
The Horn Tribune, one of the thriving free local newspapers recently said: "We are still treated as pariahs by the world, despite the flourishing, thriving and booming peace, tranquillity and development."
Last year, Somaliland held democratic parliamentary elections after the previous year’s presidential and civic elections. It has a traditional bicameral Parliament, a police force, defence force, its own currency and a thriving press acting as the country’s watchdog.
A report published by the UN in 1988 declared that "one fact that has been established beyond doubt is that Somalia is rich in mineral wealth which needs to be unearthed".
It is believed that the share of Somaliland in this mineral wealth is enormous. The report indicates that geological surveys had established the existence of Gypsum, quartz, gold, kyanite, lead-barite, copper, zinc and coal in Somaliland.