Somaliland: Should the Government have Dialogue with Defenders of a war Criminal?

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By: Mohamed Omer Maigag

Somalilandsun – Those of us who are following the case of Lul Ali Osman Barake who was raped by 5 uniformed Somali soldiers last August, and the Somali Federal Government’s effort to put this scandal under the carpet before the case came to the attention of the world media, are not surprised about Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon’s ill-informed letter to the US State Department seeking immunity for war criminal Mohamed Ali Samatar.

Mr Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim; the brave journalist who interviewed this innocent mother is still in jail in Somalia for the crime of interviewing a rape victim, if this can be categorised as a crime. These two cases tell us about the true nature of President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s Government. This is not a Government that is promoting peace and reconciliation as Shirdon’s letter highlighted, but a Government promoting hatred and adding insult to injury by seeking to protect the highest commander in chief during the genocide committed by the Siad Barre army against the civilian population of Somaliland in the 1980’s; this which General Ali Samatar finally accepted to be culpable of after a long legal battle which took 8 years.

It was the dedication and perseverance of Bashe Abdi Yousef and the other Somaliland heroes in the Ali Samater case that finally brought this ex war criminal to justice. Somalilanders will never forget the atrocities the army he commanded committed against thousands of innocent civilians in what was Northern Somalia at the time and the indiscriminate aerial bombardments he ordered under his command in the 1980s. Prime Minister Shirdon is oblivious to the fact that rule of law is respected in the US and the fact a US Federal Court found Ali Samatar guilty of crimes against humanity last year.

What does this new development say about the Somaliland/Somalia dialogue? We all know about the extensive consultation the Somaliland Government had with the people of Somaliland before participating in the Somali Conference held in London on 23 February 2012 at Lancaster House. Even though the Conference was mainly about Somalia, Somaliland’s attendance was not bad at all. Paragraph 6 of the communiqué of this conference states:

“The Conference recognised the need for the international community to support any dialogue that Somaliland and the TFG or its replacement may agree to establish in order to clarify their future relations”

Paragraph 5.2 of the Chevening House Declaration, produced after the Chevening House meeting in June 2012 where Somaliland & Somalia representatives had face to face dialogue for the first time states:

“Noted the need to adopt a common approach to avoid anything that would undermine the continuation of the talks as defined above”

So, taking to account the International Community’s effort and willingness to mediate Somaliland and Somalia and open a dialogue between the two countries and their advice for the two parties to avoid any thing that may harm this dialogue, is Prime Minister Shirdon’s letter a political blunder on the part of Somali Federal Government or a slap on the face to the Somaliland Government who is still honouring the Somali Conference Communiqué and the Chevening Declaration? Whatever the intention of Hassan Sheikh Mahamoud’s Government may be, this move by Prime Minister Shirdon clearly demonstrates that Somalia is not putting any weight what so ever to the dialogue with Somaliland by seeking immunity for a war criminal with blood in his hands. It is about time that Somaliland withdrew from these talks that broke down before they have properly started.

In his short visit to the UK last month, President Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud Silanyo informed a meeting with some representatives of the Somaliland community in the UK that Somaliland will only attend the 7 May Conference if this is in the best interest of Somaliland and that he will widely consult the nation about this. After this back stabbing from Somalia, we can safely say that the May Conference and the dialogue with Somalia are not in the best interest of Somaliland. How can this be? How can Somaliland sit on the same table with a regime that is defending a war criminal in charge of the genocide committed against the people of Somaliland; a regime that is still in denial about what happened to the people of Somaliland instead of recognising these crimes & showing remorse? 1

Mohamed Omer Maigag

Somaliland activist

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