Friday, April 20, 2007

“Siyadism” and the issue of Somaliland

It is precise to state that the Hawiye clan has been the dominant figure in Somalia, economically and politically, for many years. However Somali president Yusuf’s clan, the Darod, has been equally influential. In fact some suggest that Yusuf believes in clan supremacy just like the dictator Siyad Barre. Thus some Somalis have claimed that the only difference between Yusuf and Siyad is that Yusuf believes his Majerteen sub-clan should reign while Siyad Barre was from the Marehan sub-clan.

Certainly, most of these are speculations from Non-Darod Somalis but Yusuf’s autocratic behavior is very similar to that of the former Derg official Hailu Shawel, who is the chairman of Ethiopian opposition party CUD. Thus Yusuf might not be tolerant enough to facilitate the Somalia reconciliation conference and many early sign are showing his failures. The fact that many Somalis belonging to the Darod clan were killed and some forced out of Mogadishu in the early 1990s might be a factor to clan bitterness. And also, with the old animosity between the Somaliland region and Yusuf’s Puntland region, other conflicts can restart to complicate the already tense situation in Mogadishu. Ethiopian government might be forced to address this northern conflict over the Dahar region between Somaliland and Puntland because Ethiopia already has influence on both regions to demand peaceful solutions for sharing Dahar.
Thus there is a very thin line of balance to be played by the Ethiopian government so that it can satisfy Somaliland’s age old independence wishes while keeping Puntland & Yusuf happy and persuading Yusuf to be accommodating to other clans in southern Somalia. Also the Hawiye Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi can not afford to play nominal roles in this government. He has the education and many qualities to lead. His selection of the Hawiye warlord Abdi Awale Qeybdiid might be a good step but more has to come from him and Ethiopia should pressure Yusuf to give PM Gedi more power in Mogadishu. These are some of the things the Ethiopian government might do to get out of Somalia even before more AU troops arrive. Playing a delicate line of balance in its support for Yusuf, Gedi and Somaliland is very important for Ethiopia and for many of its long-term interests. Some of these interests include:

To have beneficial economic cooperation and peaceful co-existence with a friendly Somalia and Somaliland nations that respect national boundaries.
To allow Somaliland, which was mostly independent before a united “Somalia” existed, gain its sovereignty. Thus creating a long-term ally for Ethiopia and stabilizing Somalia.

To keep Puntland satisfied since Ogaden National Liberation Front rebels have Darod clan connections with Puntland. (ONLF is believed to have assassinated many Somali leaders in Ethiopia’s Somali state, especially from Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP) who has 24 seats in the Ethiopian parliament.)
To keep the already flourishing relationship between Addis Ababa and Hargeisha and to prevent Djibouti from monopolizing the port transportation business on Addis Ababa.

To resist Egypt, which is blocking Somaliland’s bid for independence and arming OLF & ONLF militants. Egypt’s main goals against Ethiopia remain the domination of the Nile River and the creation of an Islamic state in Ethiopia to create a puppet government. (Egypt’s growing population will depend even more on the Nile basin in the 21st century and Nasser Military Academy in East Cairo is dedicated to watching the Nile situation in Ethiopia. If other measures fail, since the 1990s, Dr Hamdi el-Taheri and many Egyptian authorities have advised for the bombing of Ethiopian Dams along the Nile River.)

To reduce Eritrea’s future military options both in case Eritrean government attacks and for future diplomatic work with Eritrea. [This is necessary because all parties in Ethiopia benefit from it. Ethiopia’s Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP) and Afar People’s Democratic Movement (APDM) as well as the Afar people want the Afar lands in east Eritrea to be reunited with Ethiopia. Ruling sub-party TPLF still aims to reunite the ethnic Tigrayan people in Eritrea with Ethiopia. And various political parties, including CUD, UEDF,UEDP & OFDM claim that the Asseb seaport in eastern Eritrea should be returned to Ethiopia.] Currently, Eritrea gets a lot of military assistance from Iran & Libya due to its deteriorating economy.

To resist Saudi Arabia and Libya, who are also blocking Somaliland’s independence for fear of an Israeli alliance which is already preferred by Somaliland’s “British friendly” administrators. The fact that a pro-west nation in east Africa is considered a positive development to Ethiopia’s long-term national interests is an open secret.

To prevent Libya, Egypt and Eritrea from using Somalia as a base for their proxy attacks against Ethiopia. OLF and ONLF have historical ties with these countries.

To have a moderate Islam or perhaps a secular Somali nation in order to prevent the radicalization of southern Ethiopia against the Northern/Central Orthodox Christians and the Western Protestant Christians. (There have been several religious clashes in Ethiopia caused by the aggressive Islamic movements and the growing evangelical churches which have reduced the domination of the Orthodox Church.)

But with other pressure growing against Eritrea, most expect the Eritrean government to play the same previous role by invading Ethiopia or at least arming more anti-Ethiopia factions to damage Ethiopia’s current & long-term national interests.

Source: American Chronicle

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