The Somaliland people have always been vigilant and extremely sensitive to threats that might endanger the sovereignty of Somaliland ever since Somaliland has withdrawn from the illegal Union with Somalia; that was until the Islamic Courts captured Mogadisho, Kismayo and Southern Somalia. Judging by the news reports from Somaliland in the daily papers, web sites, radio stations, television, government news briefs, parliamentary news briefs, Guurti news briefs, letters to editors from people, morning café chats in big cities and small towns; one can not see a credible concern from Somaliland people about security threat to Somaliland sovereignty from Islamic Courts in Mogadisho – and it is both surprising and disturbing at the same time.
When the civil war broke out in Somaliland in the early 90’s the people quickly realized its potential danger to Somaliland sovereignty and that was one of the main factors that convinced everyone to come to the negotiation table to end fighting despite the great loss of property and human lives suffered by all parties. In the last 15 years of institutional building in Somaliland; at every stage of those years the people recognized the fragile nature of the Somaliland sovereignty and have always circled the wagon to protect Somaliland achievement; though there were many challenges that have not allowed a reasonable process to build institutional capacity. I need not repeat under what circumstances it took place to select the former president Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, the 2001 Referendum for Somaliland Constitution, 2002 the local government elections, the 2003 presidential election, and the latest 2005 parliament elections. Also, the people have always been united and recognized any external threats from Somalia, including the potential dangers from the Somalia Peace Reconciliations talks where the International community pressured Somaliland to participate in the peace reconciliation talks.
This time it is obvious and factual that Islamic Courts are easily capturing cities and regions without much resistance from warlords in Somalia or from TFG, for the most part the Islamic Courts are successful in building internal support structure that makes it possible for them to claim victory without much resistance. It is a fact that Islamic Courts have recently captured Mogadisho, Jawhar, Kismayo and much of the South, except the city of Baydhabo - the seat of Abdillahi Yusuf’s TFG administration, which enjoys the protection of the Ethiopian soldiers who crossed into Somalia. It is also true that recently the Islamic Courts declared a new Court in Las Anod and clashed with the Puntland militia who control the town. During the 2006 Somaliland Conference in Washington DC, the Islamic Courts have called SOPRI and left voice message that threatened with consequences unless SOPRI stops activities that damage the unity of Somalia; this shows the extend of their determination to oppose the sovereignty of Somaliland. There is no big secret in the success the Islamic Courts have enjoyed thus far; they have exploited the internal support they have received from the religious community whom they have built very close relationship in the last few years.
It is open-secret in Somaliland that Mr. Sheikh Ali Warsame who is one of the most influential religious leaders in Burao was the founder of Al-Itihaad Islamia Organization who fought Ethiopian forces in Southern Somalia in the 90’s; the current leadership of the Islamic Courts in Mogadisho also consist of entirely the same leadership of Al-Itihaad Organization. The members of the Islamic Courts leaders openly come to Burao to meet with Sheikh Ali Warsame. According to Haatuf newspaper; “Mr. Aways of the Islamic Courts met with Sheikh Ali Warsame several hours during the 2006 Haj Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia early this year. And Mr. Adan Jihaad who is also a member of the executive leaders of the Islamic Courts is also in Burao”. These individuals are the top leadership of the Islamic Courts in Mogadisho and they are coming to Somaliland at will and obviously laying the groundwork for building internal support system that will allow them to duplicate previous operations as they have done in Mogadisho, Jawhar, Kismayo, etc. By far the Islamic Courts has been more hostile to Somaliland than Abdiqasim’s administration and the current Abdillahi Yusuf’s TFG administration.
The disturbing news is that the entire Somaliland political and civil society is silent on this threat and I cannot explain it other than to say the people are afraid to be labeled as enemy of the Islam. The Somaliland executive branch, the parliament, the Guurti, the political parties, and the leaders of the civil society have all been silent on the potential threat from the Islamic Courts in Mogadisho, with the exception of few articles on the papers and on web sites. In fact, in certain cases; Somaliland leaders have made statements that showed their disapproval of the Ethiopian soldiers crossing into Somalia, incidentally Islamic Courts have taken the same position about Ethiopian troops; who represent the only credible force that can prevent their domination of Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland. The silence has been interpreted by the international community as concealed internal support for Islamic Courts from the people of Somaliland and the first significant sign of flexibility shown by Somaliland about the unity with Somalia.
I believe the Somaliland people will never compromise their sovereignty with anyone let alone with religious tugs who use religion to grab power. I also believe the people will protect their sovereignty and young democratic values and will not fall for religious slogans. However, the saying “Prevention is better than cure” comes to mind and I’m seriously concerned about the lack of security concerns by all the Somaliland leadership in the Executive branch, Parliament, Guurti, the political parties and Diaspora; and lack of appreciation for the security threat posed by the Islamic Courts. If we do not recognize the presence of the security threat in Burao from Islamic Courts; including the continues traffic of senior leaders of the Islamic Courts to Burao and the strengthening support of the religious community in Burao at the expense of the elected local government; it will be far more expensive and difficult to recapture Burao from Islamic Courts and that will damage the sovereignty of Somaliland. I have focused my thoughts on Burao because the threat is glaring in Burao, but this does not mean other cities and towns in Somaliland do not have some measure of the security problems that exist in Burao.