Investigative Reports

Financial Turmoil and a New Questionable Venture Cast Shadows over Boodhari Mills’ Future

In our previous coverage, we explored Boodheri Mills, a...

Somaliland Office in Taiwan Rejects Sexual Misconduct Allegations

The Republic of Somaliland Representative Office in Taiwan has...

Ministry of Information Spends 600,000 US Dollars to Fix a Decade Old Radio Station

According to a contract signed by the Minister of Information, Culture...
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Somaliland: A Resilient Journey of Independence and Geostrategic Significance”

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On May 18, 2024, the people of Somaliland, both at home and abroad, are joyfully commemorating the 33rd anniversary of their hard-won independence.

Somaliland, a self-governing and self-proclaimed state situated in the tumultuous Horn of Africa, celebrates the 33rd anniversary of its restoration of independence on May 18, 1991, following its separation from the ill-fated union with Somalia.

After nearly a decade of armed struggle, the resilient people of Somaliland successfully reclaimed their independence and, unaided by external forces, embarked on a remarkable journey of nation-building. Since 1991, Somaliland has thrived, effectively fostering peace, establishing a robust state infrastructure, nurturing democracy, and achieving notable economic progress. Despite its location in a troubled region, Somaliland has skillfully navigated the challenges it faces.

Our unyielding dedication to democracy, peace, and stability has yielded a flourishing society characterized by sustainable economic growth, social harmony, and self-sufficiency.

In accordance with the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, Somaliland has fulfilled all the prerequisites for statehood, including defined territory, a permanent population, a functioning government, and the capacity to engage in international agreements.

In stark contrast to its neighboring Somalia, Somaliland stands as a beacon of peace, stability, and democracy, free from the scourge of piracy, terrorism, and other outlawed activities.

Somaliland’s strategic positioning in the Horn of Africa carries significant importance. Positioned alongside the Gulf of Aden, it functions as a crucial maritime trade pathway linking Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Its close proximity to the Bab El-Mandeb Strait, a critical choke point, provides it with influence in matters concerning regional security and trade. The stability it enjoys plays a part in upholding stability in the region, while its untapped natural resources present economic prospects. Furthermore, its collaboration in combatting terrorism and piracy bolsters regional security. These elements establish Somaliland as a prominent participant in regional political, security, and trade realms, drawing interest from global and regional stakeholders.

Therefore, I confidently assert that Somaliland’s unique case grants it an international recognition more than any other nation. Unlike some recognized countries that pose security, economic, and political burdens to the world, Somaliland presents a different scenario. Recognition of Somaliland would undoubtedly contribute positively to regional peace, security, and the realms of politics and economics.

About the Author

Abdifatah Ahmed Hurre is the Togdher Region Coordinator of Somaliland Quality Control Commission and has a MSc in Economics and an in project Management.

Workshop on Enhancing Employment and Job Creation in Somaliland

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On May 7, 2024, the much-awaited Consultation Workshop on Improving Employment and Job Creation by the Pharo Foundation was held at the Maansoor Hotel in Hargeisa. With the active participation of government ministries and prestigious Senior Experts from Pharo, the event was a great success.

The meeting served as a venue for fruitful discussions, where innovative strategies were explored to address pressing challenges in education, agriculture, health, water, livestock, investment, and finance. Collaborative efforts and information sharing were at the forefront, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and expertise.

The workshop served as a pivotal platform for stakeholders from government bodies and senior management of Pharo Foundation and Pharo Ventures to convene and deliberate on crucial strategies for fostering job creation across public and private sectors.

The workshop focused on addressing key obstacles to productivity and employment, with a particular emphasis on health barriers, financial constraints hindering entrepreneurship and innovation, and structural impediments.

It shed light on the disconnect between the burgeoning number of graduates and the scarcity of employment opportunities, underscoring the pressing need to bridge the gap between educational outputs and the demands of the job market.

Moreover, the event facilitated fruitful exchanges between 14 ministries, including the Ministry of Social Affairs and Family, Ministry of Health Development, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of Livestock Development, Ministry of Trade and Tourism, Ministry of Investment Development, Ministry of Information Technology, and Ministry of Fishery.

Each ministry representative discussed their contribution to national production and employment and the multifaceted challenges encountered in their respective domains.

This collaborative effort aimed to foster alignment and pave the way for concerted action towards overcoming barriers to employment and unlocking new pathways for sustainable economic growth and job creation

Guest Article

Somaliland Sovereignty Resumption Marks its 33rd Anniversary in Few Days

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In 8 days, Somaliland will be celebrating its 33rd year since it reclaimed its sovereignty, and for those 33 years, Somaliland has peacefully sought re-recognition as a dejure state, a status that it rightfully gained in 1960.

However the International Community and the UN have shied away from taking the lead in re-recognizing Somaliland, in the hope that the African Union advocates of “African Solutions for African Problems” would lead the way. The African Union in 2005 showed interest, dispatched a fact finding mission to Somaliland who determined in light of its history, the Somaliland case was unique and built on solid grounds. But since that report was published, nothing substantive has emerged from the African Union Headquarters.

The assumption is, the African Union believes their continued silence will quietly resolve this issue but it hasn’t.

Meanwhile Somaliland has reinforced their desire for re-recognition through a referendum, followed by multiple democratic elections, and peaceful activism.

Yet the African Union still ignores Simaliland and watches as Somalia continues to falsely claim sovereignty, despite the clear realities of the day and their shortcomings.

All Somaliland seeks is a right that’s universally enshrined in various international laws and conventions, such as the UN Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. All these rights are paramount in respecting the autonomy and dignity of individuals and communities, allowing them to shape their own destiny according to their aspirations and needs.

The recent events in the Gulf of Aden have reignited the case of Somaliland, due to its geo-strategic importance. There is now a growing demand once again for Africa and the African Union to take the initiative to acknowledge Somaliland’s quest for re-recognition.

To do so, it requires boldness on the part of the AU to settle an issue that’s happening barely an hours flight away from their Addis Ababa Headquarters. And to be successful in their mission, the African Union needs to recognize, Somaliland was the 17th African nation to gain independence on June 26th, 1960 before most African nations.

Ambassador Roda J Elmi

Somaliland Deputy Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Speed Reading Contest Among Somaliland High Schoolers

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 Over 19 high schools comprising 174 girls across Somaliland recently participated in a speed reading competition in the capital, Hargeysa, using ‘’Daariz,’’ a free language app. Daariz means study in Arabic.

The contest organized by education non-profit, the Sahamiye Foundation, is focused on helping students improve their Somali language while honoring ‘’the joy of reading,’’ a statement to the VOA said.

‘’In each round, students engaged in timed reading challenges in the app to determine the quickest reader with a high comprehension rate,’’ it said.

‘’Daariz uses a unique speed meter reader to help learners build confidence and reading automaticity, while the app’s virtual ‘camel’ badges reward students for each literacy milestone achieved.’’

60 students made it to the semi-final stage as each round gained momentum. The statement added that: ‘’on average, students displayed an impressive reading speed of 166 words per minute, with one young student named Cabdirashiid displaying an incredible reading speed of 469 words per minute.’’

In the end, 14-year-old Hibo from Noradin Girls High School took the first place with a score of 292 words per minute, earning her the top prize of $500.

“My emotions are beyond words; I’m truly so happy… I am delighted that I was among the winners of the Daariz program,” Hibo said.

The second and third place runners-up were awarded prizes of $200 and $300 dollars respectively.

Hayat Arteh, founder of the Sahamiye Foundation said she was ‘’thrilled’’ about the patronage of the competition.

“The event is a celebration of literacy and its transformative potential for young people. With Daariz, we hope to empower as many people as possible to read and write in their mother tongue language,” Arteh noted.

Sahamiye Foundation is a charity founded by Ismail Ahmed, a Somaliland-born business mogul, which according to its website is “dedicated to transforming lives through the promotion of literacy and education.”

Berbera Port’s Growth Is Envied by Regional Port Logistics

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As Kenya’s neighbors forge ahead with the expansion and modernization of their port infrastructure, the country risks losing its place as the regional logistics hub because of the ascendance of political considerations over economic interests.

The Port of Mombasa was lucky to survive the mistakes that had been made in the years before 2007, in particular the failure to develop the facility’s infrastructure in order to keep up with the growth in the quantity of cargo handled. This may not hold going forward given recent Geo-economic and political developments. Unlike Kenya, our competing regional ports may have learned a vital lesson about the need to develop sufficient port infrastructure to keep up with future developments. They have been keen to create linkages with private sector capital. In Kenya, on the contrary, efforts to concession infrastructure development for ports in Kenya have been met with intense opposition from various actors.

Previously without an alternative, the landlocked countries of Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had no option but to pay dearly for Kenya’s failure to develop its port infrastructure to keep up with the growth cargo. The lack of capacity reached crisis point in 2007 when the port experienced immense operational challenges.

Dar es Salaam Port was then in a dire situation and had, indeed, relied on Mombasa Port to address its congestion problems by using Kenya as a transshipment port to avoid long delays for cargo destined for the Central Corridor – largely mainland Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, and Zambia.

The wake-up call came in 2007 when shipping lines threatened to designate Mombasa a demurrage port. This would justify liners calling at the port to charge the unpopular Vessel Delays Surcharge (VDS) – a punitive fine for an inordinately long delay that can be as high as KSh35 million per day depending on the vessel’s size or the type of cargo on board. Although in reality VDS was not claimed – except by oil and LPG vessels that faced storage capacity constraints – the threats were numerous.

However, it is the growth of cargo volumes for the region – and consequently the shrinking capacity at the Mombasa Port – and the emergence of competing ports that should worry Kenyan policymakers who should urgently fast-track the remaining port capacity infrastructure development as well as keenly focus on the other underdeveloped hinterland infrastructure for Lamu Port.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has proposed a number of projects that must be fast-tracked in order to deal with the growing volume in both domestic and transit cargo.

There is a market of over 385 million people in Eastern Africa, huge unexploited economic opportunities, and a growing demand for port infrastructure to drive growth. Cargo throughput – the total volume of cargo discharged and loaded at the port – has been registering impressive growth. For instance, the port moved 18,063,051 tons between January and June 2023, up from 17,474,311 during the same period in 2022 tons, a 3.4 per cent increase.

Globally, vessels are growing bigger as ship owners seek to maximize profits by carrying more cargo while running fewer ships, and shippers want to get lower freight costs through economies of scale. The biggest ships in the market, such as Maersk Emma, MSC Oscar, and others, are now almost 20,000 TEUS in capacity. Ports thus face the challenge of providing space to accommodate these behemoths. Also, global ship operators are seeking partnerships to provide seamless services – from the source to the end market – and port development plays a key role in this new supply chain.

Ethiopia, Lamu Port’s key target, has turned its focus on Berbera Port in Somaliland, which is set to become the most modern port in the Horn of Africa once it is completed. The Gulf states’ growing interest in the Horn of Africa region due to geopolitical and strategic considerations saw DP World enter into an agreement to develop and manage the facility for 30 years in May 2016. The total investment of the two-phase project will reach US$442 million. DP World will also create a free economic zone in the surrounding area, targeting a range of companies in sectors from logistics to manufacturing, and a road-based economic corridor connecting Berbera with Ethiopia.

The port deal with Somaliland – that declared detached from Somalia in 1991 but which is still not internationally recognized by the international community – has increased Somaliland’s credibility as an independent state. Port Berbera is now the closest sea route to Ethiopia, an 11-hour journey by road. The port opens up opportunities for huge growth in the import and export of livestock and agricultural produce. DP World Group Port officials say that the port, which can currently handle 150,000 TEUs, will expand into handling one million TEUs of 20 and 40-foot mixed units.

By Githua Kihara

The GAO Report on 1988 Atrocity in Somaliland: A Crucial Knowledge for the Young to Know & Reminder to the Elders

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This interim report focuses on some of the consequences of the conflict in Somalia: specifically, the causes for the flight of refugees from Somalia, the extent of destruction that occurred in Hargeisa, the use of US. assistance during the conflict, and the role of the UNHCR in distributing U.S. assistance and its reaction to the arming of Ogadeni refugees. In addition, we attempted to determine under what conditions the Somali refugees would return to their homes. We will address all of the objectives of the review in a later report.

In Somalia, we met with U.S. government officials, high-level current and former Somali ministry officials, and informed Somalis to discuss the situation in Somalia. We interviewed staff of UNHCR, the World Food Program, the National Refugee Commission, and private voluntary organizations. We also visited Mogadishu and the military facilities at Berbera and toured Hargeisa to assess the extent of destruction.

In Ethiopia, we interviewed 60 refugees residing at all five refugee camps of Hartashiek, Harshin, Daror, Rabasso, and Kam Abokar. These camps are located along the Ethiopia-Somalia border. At each camp we interviewed approximately 12 randomly selected heads of household in hour-long sessions. Forty-two of the respondents were former residents of Hargeisa, 16 were residents of Burao, and 2 were residents of Shiekh (a village 40 miles northwest of Burao). In addition, at each of the camps we held discussions with UNHCR expatriates and Ethiopian staff, refugee committee officials, and bilateral donor and private voluntary organization relief workers.

Our work was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards between September 1988 and March 1989.

May 4,1989

We are examining the US. role in assisting Somalia in light of recent reports of increased human rights violations in the northern part of the country. As part of our review, we visited Somalia and Ethiopia between February 25 and March 10, 1989.

In this report we focus on the causes for the flight of Isaak refugees to Ethiopia and the conditions for their return to Somalia, the extent of destruction that occurred in the northern city of Hargeisa, the use of U.S. assistance during the conflict, and the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for efugees (UNHCR) in distributing U.S. assistance and its reaction to the arming of Ogadeni refugees.’ In addition, we have provided information on the Somali government’s response to the conflict.

The Ogaden a territory m Ethiopia to which Somalia has made irredentist claims. It IS populated largely by ethnic Somalis During the 1977-78 Ogaden War, Ethiopm retook the Ogaden. and Somalia became the host to over 800,000 refugees who fled the territory Over the years. voluntary repatriation has reduced the refugee population by more than half. This group of people as referred to as Ogadeni refugees throughout the report.

Background:

Somalia is strategically located on the east coast of Africa and, along with Ethiopia and Djibouti, is often referred to as the Horn of Africa. Since a 1969 coup, President Siyad Barre has ruled Somalia with the strong support of the military. Those viewed as opponents of the government have been subjected to arrest and imprisonment and on occasion to torture and execution, In the mid-1980% the State Department and various human rights groups reported increased human rights abuses by the Somali government against civilians, particularly the civilian population in the north.

For years, the more affluent and independent Isaak clan (the largest clan in northern Somalia) has been the target of a wide range of abuses by the government, due in part to its support for the anti-regime Somali National Movement (S&M). The abuses have ranged from imprisonment and detainment without charge or trial to summary executions of suspected SNM members and sympathizers. Many civilians were forced to make payments to gain their release from jail.

In late May 1988, the SNM, in retaliation against the government for these abuses, launched attacks on government officials in the northern cities of Hargeisa and Burao. The Somali army reportedly responded to the SNM attacks in May 1988 with extreme force, inflicting heavy civilian casualties and damage to Hargeisa and Burao. As a result, 350,000 Isaaks fled to Ethiopia, and others fled to neighboring countries and other parts of Somalia. Also during the conflict, Ogadenis fought against the SNM alongside the Somali army. Some Ogadeni refugees, who were settled in camps on Isaak land after their unsuccessful attempt to reclaim the Ogaden desert in 1978, were armed. thereby becoming party to the conflict and ineligible for continued international assistance under U.N. rules

Results in Brief

  • Of the Isaak refugees we interviewed in Ethiopia, a majority said that their homes had been destroyed and family members killed by government forces during the conflict between May and June 1988. It is not likely that the Isaak refugees will return until they are confident it is safe to do so. Most of those we interviewed indicated that the military would have to be removed from northern Somalia before the area would be secure.
  • Most of Hargeisa, the second largest city in Somalia, was destroyed or damaged during the conflict from artillery and aerial shelling. Basic infrastructure, such as electricity and water, is still inoperable. Although the Somali government has not begun repairs in the cities, government officials are actively soliciting donors for reconstruction assistance
  • A shipment of U.S. arms and ammunition, which had been authorized more than 18 months prior to the conflict, arrived in late June 1988 and was used by the government during the conflict. The shipment, valued at about $1.4 million, was distributed to Somali troops in the northern region.
  • Following the outbreak of fighting in May 1988, the UNHCR was unable to restore monitoring over the distribution of food commodities. The NHCR has continued to distribute food aid, albeit with reduced frequency and quantities, to all refugee camps in the north even though, in July 1988. UKHCR and others noted that some of the Ogadeni refugees were armed. UNHCR halted food deliveries to Ogadeni refugees for a short period, preceding an agreement with the government of Somalia to resolve the armed Ogadeni refugee situation. In February 1989, the UNHCR reached an agreement with the Somali government on disarming the refugees and began the process of relocating the Ogadeni refugees from the conflict area.

Prelude to the Conflict

The refugees from northern Somalia that we interviewed in Ethiopia recounted stories of harassment by the army-looting, jailing, beating, and rape-dating back to 1982. While the refugees could not point to specific events that led to a government crackdown on the Isaak community, the majority of the refugees interviewed furnished detailed accounts of abuses that they or their immediate families had experienced at the hands of the Somali army. Many of the Isaak refugees we interviewed who had worked as merchants or professionals and were therefore more prosperous than other Somalis said that they were frequent victims of human rights abuses. Many of them said that the Somali army had jailed them and that beatings of the men and rape of the women were common occurrences. Families of the detainees were forced to pay for their release. In none of these cases had the army brought charges against the detainees. Merchants complained that soldiers helped themselves to their shops’ wares and cash. Confiscation of goats, sheep, and other domestic livestock was also a common occurrence.

Many of the Isaak refugees we interviewed also mentioned the radicalization of the student community around 1984 and the brutal response of the army to students’ periodic demonstrations. According to the refugees, government harassment intensified in 1986, reaching its apex in 1987 when the army instituted a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Conclusion of Peace Accord with Ethiopia

On April 3, 1988, the governments of Ethiopia and Somalia concluded a peace accord that resulted in, among other things, troops being withdrawn from the borders, cessation of assistance for each other’s rebels, prisoners of war exchanged, and diplomatic relations resumed. The peace accord was designed to ease relations between Somalia and Ethiopia and promote economic development by redirecting resources. Some observers believe it exacerbated the conflict. With peace between the countries, the Isaak community saw little hope of removing Ogadeni refugees from its territory. Furthermore, the demilitarization of the borders enabled the SKM to infiltrate Somalia unimpeded.

Somali National Movement

The SNM, which had its base of operations in Ethiopia, started fighting against the government’s mistreatment of the Isaak community in the early 1980s. However, the SNM’S political agenda remains unclear. Some observers believe that the SNM wants increased autonomy for the northern Isaak clan; others believe that it simply wants President Siyad Barre out of power.

None of the Isaak refugees we interviewed said that they had direct contact with the SNM prior to the fighting in 1988, and only a few actually knew SNM members. Many of the refugees from Burao knew of SNM attacks on military outposts but generally were not aware of its activities. These refugees stated, however, that the army’s response to these attacks was one of swift and brutal retribution against the entire Isaak community. The Burao refugees stated that the government shut off utilities, randomly beat Isaak clansmen, and jailed and sometimes executed those who the army believed to be SNM members or who were suspected of supporting the SNM.

The Conflict

The SNM launched armed attacks in northern Somalia in late May 1988, assassinating government officials and suspected opponents. The SNM had control of the northern town of Burao until Somali forces retook it on May 30 and forced the SNM to evacuate the city. The SNM attacked Hargeisa on May 31, which it controlled until July 13 when the Somali military recaptured the city. A map in appendix I shows the locations of these towns, the Ogadeni refugee camps in Somalia, and the Isaak refugee camps in Ethiopia.

Also during this period, the SNM attacked several Ogadeni refugee camps, which forced the inhabitants of one refugee camp to flee farther north. For more than 10 years, the Isaaks and Ogadeni refugees have been competing for the same scarce agricultural and grazing land. During this period, the government has not reached a durable solution to the Ogadeni refugee situation, such as repatriating the refugees to Ethiopia or settling them permanently. The presence of armed Ogadeni refugees on the Isaaks’ land has added to the tension in the region.

During the relatively short period of conventional warfare (May 27 to July 13), the S&M succeeded in attracting a significant number of supporters and sympathizers, making it more difficult for the government to retake Hargeisa. Although the Somali army used its regular forces during the conflict, a bulk of the fighting force consisted of Ogadenis. The Somali military resorted to using artillery and aerial shelling in heavily populated urban centers in its effort to retake Burao and Hargeisa. A majority of the refugees we interviewed stated that their homes were destroyed by shelling despite the absence of SKM combatants from their neighborhoods. They also reported that Somali aircraft bombed several settlements inside Ethiopia, south of Harshin, in mid July.

The refugees stated that they were caught by surprise by the scope and intensity of the fighting in both Hargeisa and Burao. Although a majority of them stated that SNM forces were never in their neighborhoods during the battle, those refugees who saw SNM forces in their neighborhoods during the fighting supported the SNM combatants with food, water. and shelter.

The refugees told similar stories of bombings, strafings, and artillery shelling in both cities and, in Burao, the use of armored tanks. The majority saw their houses either damaged or destroyed by the shelling. Many reported seeing members of their families killed in the barrage. A few of the refugees were quite specific in their recollections; they mentioned that the military aircraft would start shelling at 8 a.m. and stop at 5 p.m.

Flight to Ethiopia

The Isaak refugees began evacuating the cities of Hargeisa and Burao by the end of the first week of fighting (early June), and it appears that the evacuation was completed by the end of the month. UNHCR estimates the refugee population at 350,000. The refugees reported remaining in Hargeisa and Burao until the last possible moment and then fleeing in a panic with only those possessions they could carry on their backs. The refugees gathered by the thousands on the outskirts of the cities, assembling their families and relatives. A number of the refugees we interviewed indicated that, while gathering their families and deciding what course to follow, they were strafed by Somali military aircraft.

Breaking into smaller groups of 300 to 500 the refugees began a 10- to 40-day trek to Ethiopia. Shortly after they reached the outskirts of the cities, the refugee columns were stopped by the Somali army, which had formed a ring around the cities. Refugees reported that at military checkpoints and ambushes, they were robbed and men suspected of being SNM members were summarily executed. The refugees from Hargeisa and Burao said they walked by night and hid by day to avoid aircraft strafing, carrying what remained of their belongings with them.

The Fighting Continues

The SNM has prevented stabilization of the northern region as fighting continues. Transportation through the region is risky and is usually accomplished in convoys with the assistance of armed escorts. The Somali army has retained effective control of Hargeisa and Burao, while the SNM operates freely throughout the countryside.

The SNM has continued its attacks on Ogadeni refugees. During our visit to Somalia in early March 1989, 11 Ogadeni refugees (5 men, 3 women, 3 children) were killed and 16 were wounded during an SNM attack on a truck carrying Ogadeni refugees. We were told that incidents of this type were characteristic of an emerging SNM pattern of terrorizing the Ogadeni refugees to force their removal from traditional Isaak territory.

Conditions in Hargeisa

Hargeisa, the second largest city in Somalia, has suffered extensive damage from artillery and aerial shelling. The most extensive damage appeared to be in the residential areas where the concentration of civilians was highest, in the marketplace, and in public buildings in the downtown area. During a tour of the city, we noted that whole sections of residential areas were still full of rubble and debris. The U.S.

Embassy estimated that 70 percent of the city has been damaged or destroyed. Our rough visual inspection confirms this estimate. Much of Hargeisa appears to be a “ghost town,” and many homes and buildings are virtually empty. Extensive looting has taken place even though the military has controlled the city since late July 1988. We were told that private property was taken from homes by the military in Hargeisa. Homes are devoid of doors, window frames, appliances, clothes, and furniture. The looting has resulted in the opening of what are called “Hargeisa markets” throughout the region, including Mogadishu and Ethiopia, where former residents have spotted their possessions. One observer remarked that Hargeisa is being dismantled piece by piece. We were told that long lines of trucks heavily laden with Hargeisa goods could be seen leaving the city, heading south towards Mogadishu after the heavy fighting had stopped.

The Governor of Hargeisa estimates the present population to be around 70,000, down from a pre-conflict population figure of 370,000. However, the current residents of Hargeisa are not believed to be the former Isaak residents. Observers believe that Hargeisa is now composed largely of dependents of the military, which has a substantial, visible presence in Hargeisa, a significant number of Ogadeni refugees, and squatters who are using the properties of those who fled.

Presently, Hargeisa is without electricity and a functioning water system. The water system’s pumping station (installed and operated by the Chinese) is out of commission. Spare parts are nonexistent, and the Chinese refuse to send technicians due to the insecure environment still existing in Hargeisa and its surroundings. One of the Chinese crew members was killed during the fighting.

There are no indications that the Somali government has taken any steps to restore services or to clean the city of debris. However, Somali government officials are actively soliciting multilateral and bilateral donors for reconstruction assistance.

US Assistance Provided During the Conflict

Starting in August 1988, the U.S. government responded to the emergency with $1.9 million in disaster assistance to help the victims of the conflict. This assistance included $1 million for a field hospital unit and $350,000 for food for displaced persons and refugees. In March 1989, the Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance approved an additional $630,000 for 10 tanker trucks to supplement Hargeisa’s water supply system.

As part of the administration’s ongoing military assistance program, $1.4 million worth of small arms and ammunition was provided to the government of Somalia during the height of the conflict. Since July 1988, the administration has voluntarily limited the military assistance program to nonlethal items, including spare parts for previously supplied weapons.

US-Donated Hospital Unit

The most expensive item of emergency assistance was the $1 million disaster hospital unit, which was set up in Berbera. The hospital unit was donated from the Defense Department’s Humanitarian Affairs Office to assist the victims of the conflict. The government of Somalia provided the building, and the Defense Department provided the medicines, medical equipment, cots, linens, and basic hospital supplies. The hospital is located in Berbera because it was considered a secure area to which supplies and patients could be quickly transported, if necessary. More serious injuries are treated at Somalia’s main hospital in Mogadishu. During our visit to the hospital, we noted that the hospital was providing assistance to military personnel, Ogadeni refugees, and local townspeople.

Emergency Relief Assistance

In addition to the hospital, other U.S. support included plastic sheeting, blankets, vegetable oil, wheat, and sugar for displaced persons and, Ogadeni refugees. All of this assistance is distributed through the Somali government and is intended for the displaced population in Somalia. Detailed information about displaced persons who are to receive this assistance, such as location and estimated population, was unavailable. U.S. Embassy officials estimated that 10,000 former residents of Hargeisa and Burao now live in northwest Somalia. Another large population of displaced persons is believed to be living with relatives throughout Somalia. As indicated earlier, approximately 350,000 Isaaks are currently residing in refugee camps inside Ethiopia

Lethal Assistance

Lethal U.S. military assistance consisting of 1,200 Ml6 automatic rifles and 2 million rounds of Ml6 ammunition, plus 300,000 rounds of 30 caliber and 500,000 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition, valued at about $1.4 million, was shipped on June 9, 1988, with approval of the Departments of State and Defense, to the Somali army under the Foreign Military Sales program. The shipment, initially authorized in November 1986, was repeatedly delayed due to the reluctance of carriers to transport small quantities of low-density ammunition to Somalia. It finally arrived on June 28 at the port of Berbera and was used by the government at a critical point in the conflict. From Berbera. the city of Hargeisa is typically less than a 3-hour trip by car. The fighting was heaviest in this relatively small area. During this period, the Somali government supplied arms to an undetermined number of refugees to fight the SNM insurgents in the north. A senior Somali military official confirmed that the U.S. equipment was distributed to troops in the north and was used during the conflict.

UN Response to the Emergency

The UNHCR assistance program in northwest Somalia was seriously disrupted following the outbreak of the conflict. When the fighting broke out in late May, the UNHCR initially halted deliveries of food in northern Somalia but resumed them on a reduced scale by the end of June. The United States contributes about 40 percent of the food aid through the World Food Program, which is distributed by the UNHCR. U.S. assistance amounted to about $18 million in 1988. The fighting caused severe damage to UKHCR’S operation. Trucks, trailers, commodities, office equipment, and buildings worth about $10 million were destroyed or confiscated by the Somali military and the SNM.

UNHCR continued food shipments based on humanitarian concerns. However, the UNHCR was unable to effectively monitor the distribution of commodities largely due to the security situation in the north. Officials in charge of food distribution and other observers stated that some food was misappropriated by Ogadeni refugees and diverted by the Somali military. In addition, as a result of the reduced number of trucks available for deliveries, some food spoiled at the Berbera port.

Armed Ogadeni Ruled Ineligible Assistance Refugees for

Map Showing Ogadeni Refugee Camps in Somalia and Isaak Refugee Camps in Ethiopia

A triangle section encompassing Berbera, Hargeisa, and Burao formed the area where the heaviest concentration of fighting occurred. Within this area and to the northwest, the UNHCR managed 14 Ogadeni refugee camps. In July 1988, UNHCR and others noticed that some of the refugees at six of the 14 refugee camps in Somalia were carrying arms. The six-armed refugee camps are Gallikar, Bihm. Adi Addeys, Daam, Sabad, and Arabsiyo. The government of Somalia told the UNHCR that the refugees were armed for their own protection. While acknowledging that Ogadeni refugees and refugee camps had been attacked by the SNM and lives had been lost, the UNHCR believed that the Ogadeni refugees had become a party to the conflict and thus were ineligible to receive international humanitarian assistance.

UN and Somali Government Agreement

On October 5, 1988, and again on December 23, 1988, the UNHCR wrote the government of Somalia to express serious concerns about the lack of monitoring over the use of humanitarian assistance and about the arming of the refugees. Considering UKHCR’S strictly humanitarian and nonpolitical mandate, the High Commissioner noted that in these circumstances it could continue to assist only those refugees who had not taken part in the conflict. (UNHCR estimated that population to be 140,000.) For humanitarian reasons, however, relief assistance continued at the original planning levels of 370,000 refugees, albeit with reduced quantities and frequency, until an agreement could be reached between the Somali government and UNHCR. It was not until February 23, 1989, after the UNHCR had halted deliveries of food assistance in northern Somalia, that the government of Somalia and the UNHCR reached an agreement in principle to resolve the armed Ogadeni refugee situation. The government of Somalia and the UHCR agreed to:

  1. Remove refugees from the six-armed camps to locations in Borama in northwest Somalia,
  2. Require the Somali government to disarm the Ogadeni refugees of weapons acquired during the disturbance, and
  3. Re-register them in the northwest camps. UKHCR agreed to resume food deliveries to all camps for a period of 3 months.

The agreement also mentioned that emphasis would be placed on voluntary repatriation.

In March 1989, the process of re-registering and removing the refugees from the conflict zone began. Plans were underway to move refugees from two of the six camps near Berbera to an existing camp, Darbi Hor, located near Borama. The population of Darbi Hor is estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000, which is considerably less than its full capacity of 36,000. Merging the refugee settlements should be possible, since the total camp population to be moved is estimated to be around 12,000.

The United Nations will not likely provide assistance to help rebuild the cities in the north until:

  1. The security conditions are adequate for international representatives to monitor the program and
  2. A screening process is established to certify that the persons living in these cities are former residents.

A rebuilding program without resettlement controls could result in former residents being replaced by people in the area who have been friendly to the government during the conflict and could hinder the return of former residents.

Isaak Refugee Repatriation Unlikely

The Issak refugees we interviewed in Ethiopia expressed a clear reluctance to return to Somalia in the near future. The majority indicated that a precondition for their return would be the removal of the army from northern Somalia. A smaller number of respondents stated that they would accept SKM assurances that it was safe to return. Most refugees expressed their willingness to stay in the camps, despite the harsh conditions, for the indefinite future. Indeed, many of the refugees expect to remain in Ethiopia for several years. The refugees exhibited alarm when questioned about returning home; fear remains the single largest factor in their decision to stay.

We saw no evidence that any repatriation had started. All the respondents indicated that they knew of no one who had returned to Burao or Hargeisa. Both the UNHCR and Ethiopian staff confirmed that repatriation had not begun. The only movement to northern Somalia, apart from SNM members returning from visiting relatives in the camps and smugglers, was from women trying to retrieve belongings left behind.

We also noticed that the camps were virtually devoid of young men, especially Daror, Rabasso, and Kam Abokar. Many of the respondents indicated that most of the men had returned to Somalia to join the SNM in the fight. The interviewees also indicated that a majority of the young men immediately took up arms with the SNM when the refugees were assembling outside of Hargeisa and Burao for the trek to Ethiopia. The SNM is very popular among the camp population. The respondents stated that they trust the SKM. It appears that most of the information within the camps on the status of the war originates with the SNM and works its way through “the grapevine.” When asked if government assurances of safety and gestures of goodwill (such as cross-border food or water deliveries) would convince the Isaak population that it is safe to return, the universal response was incredulity. The refugees emphasized that

President Siyad Barre could not be trusted and that any cosmetic steps at rapprochement were meaningless in light of the trauma they had endured.

Somali Government’s Response to the Conflict

During meetings with high level Somali officials, the U.S. Ambassador has continually urged the government to undertake political reforms and seek reconciliation in the north. At the time of our visit, the Somali government had announced several measures that it planned to take in this regard; however, only limited steps had been taken toward reconciliation. As of March 1989, the Somali government had provided amnesty to those involved in the northern conflict and had released some 300 of an

estimated 1,000 political prisoners.’ Of the released prisoners, many were among the most prominent, as identified by some members of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences. The other prisoners. however, have not yet been affected by the President’s amnesty.

In August 1988, the President appointed a committee to investigate the problems in the northern region, probe its causes, and find peaceful solutions. In December 1988, the committee released its report, which recommended, among other things, that the government undertake a major, organized, and concerted reconstruction program for the war torn north with the help of friendly donors; allow regions and localities a greater voice and role in local government; release from detention all persons arrested with or without formal charges in connection with the northern insurgency; and restore constitutional guarantees against arbitrary arrest and unlimited detention by state security forces.

On March 6, 1989, the government announced the formation of a three-person committee, composed of government officials, to deal with the problems in the northern region. This includes rehabilitating the destroyed properties “caused by the bandits,” restoring security and stability, revitalizing livestock export, and opening a dialogue with intellectuals, elders, and religious leaders in these areas at an opportune moment. The committee has implied powers, including authority over army commanders in the region. Some observers have criticized the committee’s membership as being too closely aligned with the government. In addition, implementing these measures will likely be a slow process.

National Security and International Affairs Division, General Accounting Office, Washington, D.C. 20548 United States.

Guest Article

Somaliland: Retreating From the Edge

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Somaliland’s move towards violence has reached the level of a political crisis. Indeed, a successful electoral record has not resulted in resilient formal institutions that can mediate inter-party disputes.

Somaliland is facing consequential party and presidential elections in 2024. While past elections have been hailed both locally and internationally as a cornerstone of the country’s nascent democracy, a recent dispute over the timing of elections and concerns over the possibility of political violence threaten Somaliland’s much-heralded stability. 

This commentary sets out to examine the recent political crisis in Somaliland, which gradually transitioned from political disagreements over elections to episodes of political violence that have called into question Somaliland’sstability. The political violence is underpinned by the gradual erosion of consensus-based solutions to political disputes among the ruling elite. In the place of this consensual approach, new informal political norms have emerged as a legacy of the contentious 2017 presidential polls that have further entrenched the political deadlock.

As the third wave of democratisation was sweeping through the African continent in the 1990s, Somaliland quietly pursued a multiparty system embedded in local context and culture. The evolution and the subsequent development of Somaliland political parties were a way of preventing clan and regional division. However, they were less the embrace of new principles than a novel expression of traditional clan identity. The country has held nine elections (three presidential, two parliamentary and four local council elections), solidifying the democratic gains and fostering the public participation of citizens, civil society and political actors. The ruling party, Kulmiye, is facing a strong challenge from two opposition parties: Wadani and Ucid. 

The dispute centres around the term extension granted to Somaliland’s president, Musa Bihi, and the need for an electoral roadmap that is acceptable to all political stakeholders. Under the country’s constitution, Somaliland’s three political parties are required to renew their licence every 10 years; the licences of the three current political parties expired in December 2022 and a number of political associations will compete in a popular vote to replace these parties. The opposition parties see the replacement of political parties as an attempt by the government to weaken their position prior to the presidential elections, especially since some of the registered political associations draw their supporters from the same constituencies as the opposition parties. The government, on the other hand, has adopted the language of the rule of law to solidify its position, arguing that the opening of political associations will give the people a chance to choose their political parties. 

Eroding the political culture of consensus

The recent electoral crisis reflects both continuity and change in Somaliland’s electoral politics. The democratic process in Somaliland has always been plagued by delays that have incited controversy after controversy, something which is in part an inevitable part of the democratic learning process. The fact that since Somaliland’s democratic transition each president has afforded himself a term extension has transformed this measure, which typically should be reserved for exceptional situations, into an informal norm. (This is, in fact, a sentiment pro-government people share to justify the two-year extension the Guurti has given President Bihi.) Somaliland’s first democratically elected president, Dahir Rayale, added two years to his 2008 term limit, with his successor, Ahmed Silanyo, granting himself the same license in 2015. Indeed, all told, there have been 29 delays in the local council, parliamentary and presidential elections since Somaliland adopted party politics in 2002.

In the first two instances, political volatility increased, but a negotiated consensus among the political stakeholders was eventually reached, which avoided further escalation. However, over time, electoral disputes have become increasingly controversial and partisan as the stakes are raised, pushing opposition politicians to adopt a zero-sum game approach to oppose the incumbent’s clinging onto power, in some instances by resisting these decisions violently.

For its part, the government has increased its dominance over the other branches of government. For instance, the country’s presidential system gives the executive significant powers to appoint key figures, such as members of the judicial commission, and to override certain decisions made by parliament. Somaliland’s House of Elders (or Guurti), which, as a legislative body, has the power to sanction term extensions, has used this power to its advantage, trading presidential extensions for protection against limits to their own terms in office. This close relationship has often resulted in the Guurti extending presidential terms at the expense of the opposition parties. Most recently, on 1 October 2022, the House of Elders extended President Bihi’s term for two years, overruling the announcement by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), which had called for elections to be held within nine months.

Despite Somaliland’s successful electoral record, past experience has not resulted in resilient formal institutions that can mediate inter-party disputes. Laws stipulating the formation and recognition of political associations, and the processes for selecting the Guurti and NEC, have not yet been adopted. This has resulted in the inability of state institutions, particularly the judiciary, to adjudicate and resolve electoral disputes. Instead, disputes have been solved by pragmatic, consensus-based means whereby parties concede their positions for the sake of maintaining stability and democratic order, often mediated by traditional elders and independent politicians. These processes have continued with the support of international partners, who have provided funding for voter registration and other technical aspects of conducting elections. 

The 2017 presidential elections: Unhealed wounds

Somaliland’s electoral system combines clan identity politics and party politics, with elections revolving around an intricate interplay of clan calculations, alliances, and political grievances. During the most recent presidential elections, held on 13 November 2017, both the ruling party Kulmiye and the main opposition party Waddani departed from the more moderate, flexible and subtle politics of clan that had defined previous eras, instead instrumentalizing tribal sentiment in ways that were highly divisive and polarizing. For example, with the two main parties split along a rough opposition between their core supporters in the Somaliland’ clan landscape of the enormous one, both presidential candidates chose to exacerbate and harden these clan divisions through divisive rhetoric that revived memories of previous bouts of inter-clan conflict in the 1990s. For the core clan of the opposition, this election came to symbolize an attempt to solidify the political and economic exclusion that had led to violent conflicts in the past.

Following polls that were largely peaceful, Waddani rejected the results announced by the NEC over allegations of electoral fraud and manipulation, even as the third, more marginal party, UCID, accepted them. While Waddani’s opposition leader would later accept the results “for the country’s sake’’, this challenge to the integrity of the voting process would have far-reaching repercussions.The first signs of disquiet came in the immediate aftermath of the elections, where the controversy over the outcome resulted in protests in the capital, Hargeisa, as well as in the country’s second-largest city, Burao. Later, in August 2018, a group of army officers based in Somaliland’s eastern Sanaag region mutinied against the Bihi government on the grounds of a perceived lack of equality and justice in governmental power-sharing arrangements, as well as accusations that the 2017 elections had been rigged. The rebellion, led by the mercurial Colonel Caare, ended in January 2020 after clan elders intervened and brokered a deal between defecting forces and the government.

In Somaliland, elections do not end with the announcement of a winner – political contest carries over into the leader’s selection of his cabinet. In fact, for most of its history as a state, both the victors and the defeated negotiate an inclusive cabinet that represents all clan constituencies of the country. In July 2018, opposition constituencies of Ciro’s base, angered by newly elected President Bihi’s breach of these informal procedures, met in the Ga’an Libah mountains where they set out a list of grievances and established a clan committee to pursue their resolution. The committee later played a significant role in mobilizing clan opposition against the government. As will be discussed below, sentiments of exclusion were also shared by the clans in other regions, with violent consequences. 

The 2017 election has haunted Bihi’s presidency ever since. He spent the bulk of his time in office firefighting various disputes, from disagreements over the subsequent electoral roadmap to political polarization of clan relations. This has paved the way for the decline of consensus-based politics in Somaliland, and increased recourse to political violence.

Limits of traditional dispute resolution mechanisms 

The recent electoral disputes demonstrate the limitations of consensus-based politics in Somaliland. For, when political ends are not achieved through consensus-based channels, there is no legal or bureaucratic mechanism of appeal to fall back on, and political violence becomes the only recourse. As state power has increased as a result of state development, Somaliland’s rulers have increasingly strayed from the path of dialogue and repeatedly used excessive force, resulting in the opposition taking a hard stance on all issues of contention.

This failure of consensus and move towards violence has currently reached the level of a political crisis, which has been compounded by several factors. First, thanks to an accumulation of inter-party disagreements, the tumultuous relationship between the government and the opposition has reached a point of no return, with each party viewing the other with suspicion and hostility. Moreover, the actors who used to drive the consensus-based settlements in the past (traditional elders and business leaders) have proven unsuccessful in brokering an agreement, with the government calling into question their very authority.Furthermore, the election dispute has increasingly become an existential issue for political elites. In the current dispute between the government and opposition parties, the former is apprehensive about facing a powerful opposition during elections, particularly after the latter won decisively in the 2021 parliamentary elections. For the opposition parties, there is concern that the government might use the legal and legislative instruments it controls to weaken or disqualify them. 

While there has been sporadic violence related to elections in Somaliland in the past, what Somaliland has faced in the past few years is unique in its scale. For example, in August 2022, after stakeholder-wide negotiations over elections broke down, protests erupted in cities across Somaliland. The government’s response to these protests, which involved the excessive use of force to dismantle the gatherings and which led to the death of six people, prompted criticism from both opposition politicians and international and local human rights groups.In response, in July 2023, members of the Garhajis clan, who were disproportionately targeted by the government’s heavy-handed interventions, formed a militia in the Ga’an Libah mountains and demanded the resignation of the incumbent president. When the president chose to deal with this mobilization by use of force rather than negotiation, tensions only escalated, with an ambush by the clan militia on Somaliland police forces leading to dozens of police deaths, an act of violence of unprecedented proportions. 

These violent clashes have fed an increasing cycle of contest, victim-hood and retribution, which is exacerbated by several factors. While the deployment of the police force at moments of political crisis has been used by successive Somaliland administrations, under Bihi’s leadership, the highly polarized environment makes it harder to cool down tensions through mediation, as each act is fed into an increasingly existential narrative of competition. This has all been exacerbated by the proliferation of social media throughout the society, with widely shared images and narratives triggering extreme responses from all sides. 

For Somaliland, holding democratic elections and demonstrating viability as a self-governing entity are vital elements in the country’s quest for international recognition. This helps explain why political stakeholders continue to appeal to international legitimacy and engagement, even as internal challenges become more intractable. Somaliland’s successive elections since 2002 have been regularly monitored and often funded by governments such as the United Kingdom and the United States, and also by the European Union, granting them disproportionate legitimacy in a region where the holding of elections is not a given. Using the leverage provided to the governance, security and humanitarian sectors, international partners have at times exerted influence over the political process by pressing parties to come together to defuse tensions. 

More recently, however, politicians and analysts have warned of increased disengagement among Western partners in terms of diplomatic mediation and project funding, caused by dissatisfaction with recurrent election delays, regular political deadlock and the increase in political violence. The recent conflict in the eastern region of Las Anod, where the Somaliland military has fought against a minority clan-based separatist movement, has been especially damaging to the government’s reputation. Following the assassination of a local Somaliland politician (a routine occurrence orchestrated in Las Anod targeting Somaliland government officials and local politicians), protests demanding justice for the murder spiraled into clan mobilization and conflict when the police inflicted casualties while dispersing crowds in December 2022. While, on the hand, this disengagement serves to voice concerns over the direction in which Somaliland is headed, at the same time, the absence of substantial Western-funded projects means international partners have less leverage to push parties towards consensus.

The new electoral roadmap: a potential opening of hope?

President Bihi’s August 2022 decision to extend his term not only created inter-party division, it also left the entire social fabric paralyzed and fragmented and bleeding into the Somaliland army’s morale and cohesion – although this was not evident at the time. The ramifications of this lack of cohesion became clear on 25 August last year when the clan militias that the Somaliland army had been fighting in the eastern region of Las Anod took advantage of the country’s internal strife to launch an offensive, expanding territorial control and declaring the formation of a breakaway state. This challenge to Somaliland’s territorial integrity served as a wake-up call to Somaliland’s political elite, leading to resounding calls to defuse the political and inter-clan crisis between the government and the core base of opposition. 

A group of clan elders not associated with either rival camp organized themselves into a mediation committee and then engaged with the stakeholders to resolve their political differences. This resulted in several recommendations related to both the electoral timeline and the demobilization of the Ga’an Libah militia that were eventually accepted by most stakeholders. According to the recommendations, presidential elections will be held in November 2024 and new political associations other than Somaliland’s three official parties will be afforded the opportunity to compete to replace their established counterparts. This is contrary to the political roadmap put forward by the NEC, which stipulated that these two elements would occur separately. This solution, endorsed by the president and passed by the parliament, puts an end to one of the most controversial and divisive political disputes in Somaliland’s history. 

Moving forward, political actors – particularly the government and political parties – should work together in implementing the technical steps required by the political process, while also taking into account the concerns of those constituencies that feel marginalized by the existing political settlement, such as the western minority region of Awdal. It is the right time for international partners to put their weight behind the new agreement and seize the moment to support civil society and political actors in holding peaceful and fair elections. 

Somalilanders have placed their hope in this new political agreement as a means of putting their country back on the right track. The stakes could not be higher, as its success seems to be the last hope in demonstrating that the peaceful means by which Somalilanders have long conducted their politics still have influence, legitimacy and efficacy. If the arrangement fails, it could send a message to other disgruntled political actors that the use of political violence remains the only means by which to achieve the desired political outcomes. 

Other reforms will also be needed. An overhaul of the Upper House or Guurti is long overdue to both replace the current members and further refine the legal regime governing its roles and responsibilities to focus more on core strengths such as working with traditional authorities in peace and security, and less on heavily politicized issues such as term extensions. It will also involve developing relevant electoral laws that are less ambiguous, and developing mechanisms for strengthening civil society and parliament to better keep the executive’s powers in check. 

Elections will always be pivotal to Somaliland’s democratic credentials, and restoring resilience to the country’s unique consensus-based politics will be a part of this. However, for Somaliland to progress through the next elections and the likely contentious post-electoral environment, broader legal and institutional changes will need to be made. 

About Author:

Moustafa Ahmad is a researcher who specialises in the politics and security of Somaliland and the Horn of Africa. He can be contacted via Twitter – @Mustafe_Ahmad.

 

Somaliland Rebukes G7 Communique and Firmly Asserts Sovereignty

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In a strongly worded response to the recent G7 Foreign Ministers’ communique, the Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs has voiced profound objections to the portrayal of Somaliland’s status, particularly its reference as the “Somaliland Region of Somalia.” The Ministry’s statement, echoing sentiments from both the Government and citizens of Somaliland, condemns the G7’s language as not only misleading but also detrimental to Somaliland’s hard-won sovereignty.

Providing historical context, the Ministry emphasized the dissolution of the union between Somaliland and Somalia, citing its lack of legal foundation following the collapse of the Somali government in 1991. Asserting Somaliland’s status as a sovereign entity with its own legal framework, validated through a democratic constitutional referendum, the Ministry reiterated the sanctity of Somaliland’s statehood.

Expressing dismay at the G7’s oversight of Somaliland’s democratic stability, the Ministry criticized the group for neglecting ground realities and called for recognition of Somaliland’s peaceful aspirations.

However, the Ministry’s response comes against the backdrop of concerns raised by the G7 regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Ethiopia and the Somaliland region of Somalia, announced in January 2024. This MoU has drawn international attention and scrutiny.

During the G7 meeting held in Capri, Italy, from April 17th to 19th, member states expressed apprehensions about the MoU and urged both Ethiopia and Somalia to maintain open channels of dialogue. The G7 emphasized the importance of preventing further escalation and called for adherence to international law, particularly principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter.

“to keep all channels of dialogue open to prevent further escalation, working with regional partners, in the framework of the African Union and through bilateral contacts, in accordance with international law and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the UN Charter.”

The Somali Federal Government has accused Ethiopia of violating its sovereignty through the MoU with Somaliland, and threatening war despite Ethiopian forces’ presence in Somalia under the ATMIS mandate. However, Somaliland, despite lacking international recognition, has functioned as an independent country and entered into similar agreements with foreign entities in the past. Its main port of Berbera and free trade zone is managed DP World.

Interestingly, Somalia perceives the collaboration between Somaliland and Ethiopia as a greater threat to its stability than the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization, which recently made significant gains against Somalia’s forces on multiple fronts including attacks in the capital.

Although several countries maintain diplomatic missions in Somaliland, it is noteworthy that Somaliland, for decades has tacitly worked with foreign embassies and diplomats assigned to Somalia, especially those from the west, which has long been pointed to as detrimental to its efforts to differentiate itself from Somalia in its quest to gain international recognition.

Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Essa Kayd, in an impromptu interview in Paris, stated that the Somaliland government will no longer work with foreign diplomats assigned to Somalia. Beyond the minister’s remark, no official communication has been issued by the Somaliland government stating its intention to cease cooperation with foreign embassies to Mogadishu.

Somaliland Presidential and National Party Elections set for November 13th, 2024

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Somaliland’s National Election Commission announced the date for the Presidential and National Party elections, scheduled for November 13, 2024. This declaration holds significant importance not only due to the long-awaited presidential race but also because it signifies the opportunity for all current registered parties, including the existing three national parties, to vie for the coveted status of becoming national parties alongside the presidential elections.

Somaliland’s electoral history provides additional context to its upcoming elections. Since declaring independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has undertaken several rounds of elections, showcasing its commitment to democratic governance despite its lack of international recognition. Past elections, such as those in 2001, 2005, and 2017, were generally considered free and fair by international observers, contributing to Somaliland’s reputation as a relatively stable and democratic entity in the region.

However, Somaliland’s democratization process has not been without challenges. Disputes over election results and concerns about electoral integrity have surfaced during past elections. For instance, in the aftermath of the 2017 presidential elections, opposition parties raised allegations of irregularities, prompting calls for dialogue and electoral reforms.

In contrast, Somalia’s electoral landscape has been marked by instability and challenges. The country has struggled to hold nationwide elections due to ongoing conflict and political fragmentation, hindering its democratic progress despite receiving substantial international support aimed at fostering governance reforms.

Similarly, Djibouti’s political environment differs significantly from Somaliland’s. While Djibouti has maintained relative stability compared to Somalia, its political landscape is characterized by limited political freedoms and a lack of competitive elections, raising concerns about the country’s democratic credentials.

As Somaliland prepares for the upcoming elections, drawing on lessons from its own electoral history as well as comparative case studies like Somalia and Djibouti will be crucial. Addressing past challenges and strengthening democratic institutions will be essential for ensuring the credibility and inclusivity of the electoral process and further solidifying Somaliland’s position as a beacon of democracy in the Horn of Africa region.

Three Reasons why Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Should not be Allowed to become the next African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson

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Mahmoud Youssouf, the fiery and polarizing Foreign Minister of Djibouti, has boldly thrown his hat into the ring for the highly contested position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission. With this move, he becomes the third contender from the East African region, following in the footsteps of the charismatic opposition leader and ex-prime minister, Raila Odinga. However, Youssouf’s candidacy has quickly gained momentum, placing him as the second frontrunner in the race. Despite facing stiff competition from the former Somali deputy prime minister and current federal parliament member, Fawzia Yusuf, Odinga’s strong backing from numerous African leaders has solidified his position as the ultimate frontrunner. The stage is set for a fierce battle as these three powerful candidates vie for the coveted role of AU Commission Chairperson.

Despite the fact that the Djiboutian Foreign Minister harbors a strong desire for the coveted AU Commission chairmanship, his ulterior motives are rooted in seeking geopolitical dominance for his country alone. This narrow-minded ambition, fueled by his personal political ideologies, blatantly disregards the importance of promoting fair economic integration and sustainable peace in the Horn of Africa region. In essence, his flawed intentions can be attributed to three crucial factors.

It’s noteworthy that Djibouti, long aligned with Somaliland, has kept its unrecognized neighbor in a diplomatic purgatory. Privately, particularly to influential players like the United States, it has downplayed Somaliland’s importance. However, Djibouti has taken a public stance against the Somaliland-Ethiopian Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), indicating a recognition of Somaliland’s potential as a significant economic rival to its port and geostrategic economy.

Considering this perspective, Djibouti’s strong support for Somalia’s stance on the MoU, coupled with its recent closeness to Mogadishu and President Hassan Sh. Mohamed, raises suspicions. Djibouti might be hedging its bets in the African Union race by potentially backing both Somalia and its own Foreign Minister. This strategy aims to prevent Kenya’s candidate, Raila Odinga, a known ally of Somaliland, from obstructing Abiy Ahmed and Muse Bihi’s emerging alliance.

Reason #1:

Mr Yousuf’s candidacy poses a potential threat to Somaliland’s recognition, an issue that has been under consideration since a unique UN study in 2005 commended it as deserving international acknowledgment. When Congressman Payne inquired about the penalization of Somaliland in 2008 due to Mogadishu’s disarray, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister deflected blame onto Ethiopia, citing its opposition to a stronger Somalia, which he claimed bred instability and balkanized Somaliland. This argument is a typical red herring peddled by those who refuse to acknowledge Somaliland’s achievements in democracy, state building, and strong institutions, feats which are rarities in both the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Reason #2:

Mr. Yousuf’s support for Abdullahi Yussuf’s presidency in Somalia was grounded in a misguided belief that he had previously quashed the SNM in Somaliland, a feat he thought could be replicated. Contrarily, during that period, Abdullahi Yussuf led the SDDF rebels against Siad Barre, who later bribed them to abandon their pursuit of change. What demands scrutiny is Mr. Yousuf’s denial of the Isaaq genocide perpetrated by Siad Barre. His hope that another Darod politician, hostile towards the Isaaq, could repeat such atrocities is deeply troubling and unfathomable.

Reason #3:

Mr. Yousuf supports the Houthis, causing harm to African trade: In a political forum organized by the Heritage Institute in Djibouti in 2023, Youssouf stated, “God bless the Houthis…We didn’t want to be part of the US coalition…the attacks need to stop as they harm our economy but we share the same feelings with the Houthis.” This statement is not only ironic, but also alarming as it shows that Youssouf supports the Houthis who are attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, ultimately impacting African trade between the Gulf and EU countries.

For two decades, Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf has advocated policies that seem to hold Somaliland hostage, delaying its development until Somalia catches up, a strategy akin to a forced, unratified, and illegal union. From advocating a Saudi livestock ban that stifle economic growth, to blocking Chinese-Ethiopian plans to develop an oil export hub in Somaliland’s Berbera port, and undermining Somaliland’s democracy by promoting politicians with Djiboutian passports, his actions have been questionable.

The African Union requires leaders who encourage unity and economic integration, rather than those who propagate a divisive, colonial mentality. The last thing the AU needs is a politician like Yousuf, who obstructs potential agreements such as the Ethiopia-Somaliland MOU — a plan that could economically liberate approximately 120 million people, a feat seven times more impactful than the American Marshall Plan that provided relief for 17 million Europeans.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guled Ahmed is a Resident Scholar with the Middle East Institute and an expert in Horn of Africa Security and Development.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, or viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff. 

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