By: Osman Hassan
Somalilandsun-A friend of mine from the Somali Region in Ethiopia (Ogaden), another region under occupation like Khatumo, talked to me the other day about the similarities of the two occupations- in their case under an empire dominated by successive Amhara/Tikray governments, and in our case by one Somali clan bent on establishing its own mini empire in NW Somalia (former British Somaliland). What struck him were the differences of the stand of the respective governments and peoples in the face of secessions or other threats to their country’s unity and territorial integrity.
The stand of the two governments could not be so contrasting. As my friend and I concurred, all Ethiopian governments of every hue, from Emperor Haile Selassie, Mengesto to the late Meles Zenewi, would fight tooth and nail, and spare nothing to defend the unity of their country when faced with ethnic separatist insurgencies, and towards this end would commitwar crimes and crimes against humanity as it happened against the somalis in the Somali Region.
In the case of Somalia, on the other hand, it is its presidents and other political leaders more than the public who are in the forefront to scuttle the unity of the country rather than defend it. Former president Sheikh Shariif Ahmed rarely ever rebuked Somaliland for invading and occupying unionist regions of Somalia let alone censure it for declaring its secession in the first place. Indeed he was often under their spell and receptive to their charm offensives. Who knows what he would have done if he was re-elected. Many in Somaliland are sure that he would have formally conceded their demands once the postponed talks with the Somali government resume.
Unlike Sheikh Shariif’s secret clandestine flirtations with the secessionists, his successor, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, has gone public and has no qualms in openly embracing and giving succour to them for whatever reason. First was the way he left Khatumo, Somalia’s most proven loyalists, in the cold while rewarding secessionist Somaliland – sworn to the destruction Somalia – with the most coveted post in his government; secondly was his complete silence to defend the unity of the country at least orally as behoves a head of a State, in the face of Somaliland’s latest brazen attacks on Khaatumo; and thirdly was his unwarranted gratuitous compliments to the enclave for holding elections aimed at bolstering the ultimate break-up of the country, and implicitly condoning those polling they tried to impose on a number of Khatumo areas, killing a number of people in the process.
The contrast between the two peoples in the two countries towards their territorial unity could not also be so different. Unlike Somalia, whose people are the most homogenous in black Africa south of the Sahara, Ethiopia, my friend intoned, has over 70 diverse ethnic groups. And whatever else might divide them, they are all solidly behind their union apart from Somali and Oromo separatists. In the case of present day Somalia, its people couldn’t care less about the union, secession or for that matter Somalia itself. It is the clan or personal interest that matters. He reminded me, rubbing it in, that even Khatumo’s erstwhile partner, the Puntland administration under the freaky and fiendish Faroole, far from giving a hand to a brethren under attack, misses no opportunity to bring it down, sometimes in collusion with Somaliland. We were in one mind about our diagnosisbut he ventured no prescription for us in Khatumo at this stage.
Following my conversation with my Ogadeni friend, I persuaded myself that despite my forebodings, the president and his government could still hold surprises for us. Alas, I was only deluding myself as I got a rude awakening when I listened to the Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Saacid, emulating Ban Ki-Moon, and appealing to “both sides”, without daring mentioning either, to “exercise maximum restraint” and stop the on-going “firing”, as if the fighting related to disputes over water holes, camels, grazing or women! What an affront to the victims of Somaliland’s invasion and occupation when their own Prime Minister does not dare to point a finger at the aggressor let alone demand, as it is his duty, that they stop the fighting, end their occupation and withdraw unconditionally from the SSC regions. Clearly, the president is simply following the footsteps of his boss, the president, that Somaliland presence and actions in Khatumo can not be publicly condemned. This is the second victory for Somaliland, this time from the head of the government of Somalia.
My Ogaden friend, not willing to let me off the hook, contacted me again, anticipating my shock with the Prime Minister’s intervention. What he found mind-boggling, he told me, is why the Khatumo people in the face of these odds stacked against them, whether their government or people, are still beholden to Somalia and its unity? Would it not be more sensible, he demanded, to succumb to Somaliland’s demands and save ourselves all these sacrifices and suffering?; or, if that is unpalatable and unthinkable, go our own way, as clan the calling itself Somaliland did, and declare our own separate Khatumo Republic?
Shunning to answer those radical options he suggested, I settled for a more non-committal answer and retorted that belonging to Somalia is the raison d’etre of our people, something inbred in their genes, and there is nothing much they can do about their gene make-up. But I assured him one thing: that the Khatumo people will prevail over Somaliland, whether it takes them one month, one year, ten years, or as long as it took them to fight the British. Perseverance and the will to win against all odds, I finally reminded him, is also in their genes.
Khatumo Forum for Peace, Unity and Development
E-mail: osman.hassan2 @gmail.com