Somaliland: “From Tyranny to Anarchy” The Somali Experience, 2008 by Professor Hussein Adam.


A Book Review by Mohamed Abdulahi Dualle

This is an outstanding and important book for Somalis and Somalilanders because it creates order in Somali Political events that have to be understood.

The book reflects Hussein‟s in depth knowledge and first hand experience as a Participant observer of Somali Politics and Society as Hussein was the Head of Social Science Division of the Somali Nation University from 1974 to 1987 and the founding President of Somali Studies International Association in 1979.

Not to mention, that he was the founding Director of Somali Unit for Research on emergencies and Rural Development(SURERD) in 1981. It’s also worthy to mention that he was one of the two consultants that developed the organizational structure of the regional organization of IGAD. This wealth of experience has exposed Hussein a rich of academic literature and primary sources of the trajectory of Somali political events.

Professor Hussein Adam has written and researched some of the essays of the book many years ago but later he was able to organize them as a book. The book addresses the lessons that can be learned from the struggles in Somalia and Somaliland to assist prevent the collapse of independent states and cultural groups when faced with a series of today‟s complex challenges, ranging from militarism, dictatorship to politicization of clan groups.

Since Somalia‟s last democratic government was toppled by Dictator Siyad Bare and his cohorts, Somali people experienced and lived with one of the worst governance systems in the world. During the 21 years rule of Dictator Siyad and his cohorts,Somali people suffered one of the worst human rights violations, which included summary executions, rape, torture, imprisonment or detention without charges. The ugly reality was that Siyad Barre and a close knit group of his direct family and clansmen controlled the levers of power (political, economic and military) and exercised it for the furtherment of their personal, political and economic interest.

This book consists of seven chapters and an introduction, which examines and analyses the causes of the collapse of the Somali state and also contrasts the political cultures of Somalia and Somaliland. Dr Hussien provides an interesting example in which he states that the Post Siyad-Era reveals two paradoxical movements. The bad aspect is represented by the era of the warlords and bogus transitional governments in Somalia, while the good aspect is characterized by the defacto Republic of Somaliland. Dr Hussein‟s argument in regard to Somaliland is not something new in the academia since there are number of Somaliland studies experts who concurred with Dr Hussien‟s view on Somaliland; these prominent experts include Professor Ian Lewis, Matt Bryden, John Drystale, Professor Iqbal, Marleen Renders, Andre Le Sage, Michael Walls, and Mark Bradbury. However, Hussein‟s research and analysis are more accurate and relevant, given his participant observer perspective and deep knowledge about Somaliland and Somalia and given that he was the first Somali who did PHD in Political Science from the esteemed Harvard university.

Hussien Adam‟s book also provides separate and distinct view about Somaliland‟s state building in regard what Markus Hoehne offered- which lacks substance and the core issues underlying Somaliland‟s state building issues.

Professor Hussein Adam explains in Chapter 1 and 2, what caused the collapse of Somali Sate. Professor Hussein lists eight factors, seven of which are internal. The eight factors are: a) Personal Rule b) Military Rule c) from Nomenklatura to Clan-Klatura d) from Class Rule to Clan Rule e) Poisoning Clan

Relations f) Urban State Terror g) Neofascist campaign against the North. Further, this well known professor effectively explains how Siyad Bare installed his personal rule of the military government, ” Over time, he was able to manipulate and modify his rulership style, from being a prophetic ruler advocating a scientific socialism (1970-1977), to an autocrat(1978-1986) and finally a tyrant (1987-1991).” (p.9). Professor Hussein further mentions that the process of militarization which Siyad employed dominated the Somali state and Somali Civil Society consolidated Siyad‟s personal power. It’s also a political fact of life that Siyad imprisoned anyone in the military circle or the civilian circle that he believed might pose threat to him and that is clearly justified by his order of killing General Aynashe and General Salad Gabeyre and later jailing General Aydiid and Colonel Abdilahi Yusuf.

In regard to military rule, Professor Hussein examines the role and the nature of Somali Army; its origin,size, equipments, training and foreign connections. Professor Hussein further reveals an important aspect of how Siyad Bare militarized the Somali State ” These Victory Pioneers( Guulwadayaal) were considered a (revolutionary group) consisting of unemployed youth from urban areas. As a wing of the army, they were organized directly by the Presidency and were headed by one of Siyad‟s son in-law” ( P.51)

In chapter 3 and 4, Professor Hussein highlights Somali civil wars and Clan Conflicts. He first enlightens that Somalis experienced earlier civil strife in a limited clan-warfare as elucidated in Somali poetry but not in the scale of Somali civil wars in 1980s. Hussein further states that the underlying and the pivotal cause of Somali civil wars is due to the militarist state and its brutal repression of its society. Siyad‟s policies of clan and military dictatorship paved the way for the establishment of opposition movements.International factors also contributed to the Somali civil wars because International community continued to support Siyad‟s military government, which prolonged Siyad‟s regime.Moreover, Dr Hussein analyses clan conflicts from the perspective of conflict management and Institutional improvements within the evolving Somali Context ” Currently, policies of state decentralization to contain violent clan conflicts in the Somali context must take into account the defacto partition between southern Somalia and the North, self declared Republic of Somaliland” (P.110). Hussein also further highlights the sources of Somali conflict and frames it into four categories: ” Elite Manupulation; Struggle for social justice and equality; Historical memories; and Environmental pressures. Professor Hussein acknowledges the challenge that violent clan conflicts poses to the Somali Political development and proposes that it‟s of paramount importance to convert this violent clan conflicts into peaceful clan competition.

In the chapter of International Peace building versus Local attempts at Peacebuilding in Somalia and Somaliland, Dr Hussein argues from the onset that the Somali catastrophe could have been prevented from the beginning, as Hussein agrees with Ambassador Mohamed sahnoon‟s thoughts in his publication Somalia: the Missed Opportunities “If the international community had intervened earlier and more effectively in Somalia, much of the catastrophe that has unfolded could have been avoided” (P.152). Professor Hussien Adam accuses United States for not imposing proper conditions to Siyad‟ bare‟s military regime in early in 1978 and believes that there was a great deal of opportunity which the Somali State could have been saved from anarchy and mayhem, ” following the 1977-78 Ogaden war, Somalia switched sides from being close ally of the Soviet Union to coming voluntarily under American hegemony. During this period of high tensions and flux, the United States missed the opportunity to impose conditions that would have directed Somalia toward a somewhat different political trajectory”(P.153). Professor Hussien further critiques specifically the first International peace mission from the international community, which was known ” Operation Restore Hope”. Hussein argues that the mission lacked civil affairs officers, who are critical for any foreign peace intervention since they are specialized with cultures and the coordination role of grassroot communities, ” This was unusual; civil affairs officers are specialists in foreign cultures and are used for liaisening for local communities. The US military deployed

approximately 1000 civil affairs officers to Panama in December in 1989, and a bout 300to Nothern Iraq, after the Gulf war. Under UNITAF was crippled from the start; it was able to mount a viable program to demobilize armed youth, train Somali Police Force and review the legal and court systems” (p. 161).

Professor Hussein argues that both UNOSOM1 and UNOSOMII lacked effective leadership and strategy to stabilize Somalia and specifically believes that Admiral Jonathan Howe, the Special Representative of the United Nations in Somalia did not have any strategy and got the assumption that General Aydid is the main obstacle and the only solution is get rid of him “Boutros Ghali and Howe became convinced that peace and the government could only come to Somalia once Aidid was removed from the Political scene”(P. 165). It’s also believed that Boutros Ghali utilized the mission in accordance with Egypt‟s policy towards Somalia and that is to keep Somalia as a united and single state.

At the end, Hussein highlights that one of the reasons that the National Reconciliation Conferences that were held for Somalia failed is because the top-down approach employed by the International Community and believes the reason that Somaliland‟s reconciliation conferences succeeded is because of bottom up approach adapted by the Somaliland people. Nevertheless, there are some scholars who argue that one of the reasons that South Somalia was not able to stand on its feet is regional intervention and believe that if there were regional interventions in Somaliland, the situation could have been different from what it’s now.

Professor Hussein states that there is a good lesson that can be learnt from Somaliland‟s peace building and state building and further asserts that SNM had a rich culture of rotating leadership and that democratic culture of SNM has been the root of democracy of contemporary Somaliland. Hussein also further mentions that Somaliland practiced a power sharing system which is characterized by balanced clan arithmetic proportionality and indicates if there are any unbalance in power sharing in the contemporary Somaliland, that there is always a room for negotiation which always culminates in peaceful settlement in regard to dissatisfaction and discontent.

Chapter Seven is one of the most important chapters in the book because Professor Hussein provides an outstanding analysis about Somaliland‟s case and contrasts to Eriteria. Professor Hussien offers greater details on Somaliland and provides only summary analysis of Eriteria and argues that there is a rich publication in regard to Eriteria, while the academic publication about Somaliland is very scarce. It’s also worthy to mention that the author published the first publication of the article in 1994 and it‟s academically considered as one of the first academic publications on Somaliland. This part is just an updated one.

Professor Hussein illuminates in detail the historical and constitutional background of Somaliland and further discusses the politics of union and the emotional and the quick decision taken by Somalilanders , ” The two Somalilands rushed headlong into immediate union-unconditional, unitary and poorly prepared.” Hussein further adds ” This hasty decision put incredible, undeserved pressure on the politics and administrations of the two territories. No Committee had been appointed and charged with the official responsibility for drafting the legal instruments for the union and there was hardly any time for consultations”.

From Tyranny to arnarchyProfessor Hussein believes that the union was legally void and null from the beginning in the former Italian Trusteeship territory since the legislative body of the Trusteeship territory had not signed the approved Act of Union from Somaliland legislatures but rather passed their own text, which was significantly different from the Act of the uion, ” It was anticipated that a representative of the independent northern Somaliland and Southern Somaliland states would formally create Union through the signing of an International treaty. The North drafted an Act of union, had it approved by its legislative body and sent

to Mogadisho. Following the approval by the legislative assembly in the South, it was to be signed by two respective representatives. The Southern Assembly never passed the proposed Act. However, it passed its own Atto de union, significantly different from the northern text.” (p.187).

Professor Hussein further analyses how Somalilanders were marginalized in the power-sharing formula in the beginning of the Union and how Southerners dominated everything, “Right at the outset, the Somali sense of proportional balance were ignored. The south provided the capital city, the anthem, the flag. The Parliament elected a southern President who nominated a southern Prime Minister. His cabinet included four northern ministers out of fourteen. Southern occupied the key ministers, such as Foreign, Interior, and Finance.”( P. 187). Dr Hussein further adds that the 1961 constitution was overwhelming rejected by the northern regions of the former British Protectorate and puts forward the exact numbers that voted against the constitution and how unknown village (Wanla Weyn) outnumbered the northern regions of Former British Protectorate ” Estimate indicate that the north had a population of 650,000 in 1961; only

100,000 persons voted indicating that at least half of the electorate boycotted the referendum. In addition, out of the just over 100,000 recorded votes more than half opposed the constitution. The major cities of the norther- Hargeisa (72%), Berbera (69%), Burco (66%), and Erigavo (69%)- all returned negative votes” (p.190).

Dr Hussein asserts that dissatisfaction and disgruntlement from the northerners paved the way for the first attempted military coup in Sub-Sahara Africa.

In the middle of the chapter, Dr Hussein discusses the role of SNM in the struggle of the independence of Somaliland and how democratic that organization was and the good lessons that contemporary Somaliland learned from SNM as well as the forgiveness and reconciliation that SNM offered to the other tribes in Somaliland. Professor Hussein argues that Somaliland‟s reassertion of its independence was widely supported by all the clans that inhabit in Somaliland.

Professor Hussien notes that EPLF of Eritrea was able to assist and offer military support to the TPLF as well as EPRDF of Ethiopia during their struggle against Mengiste. This close cooperation paved the way for the independence of Eritrea, “During its long struggle, Eritrea was able to assist an ally in the neighboring Ethiopian Province of Tigray, the TPLF. As Mengiste regime decomposed, the TPLF forces in coalition with other Ethiopian People‟s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) forces and backed by organized EPLF troops, armored units and tanks, moved on to capture the capital Addis Ababa itself and install an EPRDF government. Outstanding military success, principle and kinship( the Tigrinya element) paved the way for Eriterian recognition by the new Ethiopian government.”(P:207). Even though SNM itself defeated militarily Siyad‟s troops and assisted militarily the USC in the south, but the clan system and how Somali society operate could not allow the SNM to play a similar role with groups like USC in the South,” Clan does not liberate another” Professor Hussien notes. Its also noteworthy to mention that SNM‟s constitution was not secessionist but rather was based on to toppling dictator Siyad and the decision of Somaliland‟s reassertion of independence was later reached in Burco on 18 May 1991.

Dr Hussein also praises the conciational or power sharing democracy that Somaliland practiced and

believes that there are good lessons that can be learned from Somaliland‟s experience.

Dr Hussien believes that Somaliland has passed the statehood criteria and has a very strong case even than Eritrea and deserves to be recognized internationally and suggests that it‟s the interest of the International community to welcome Somaliland as an independent state since Somaliland can play a better role in managing the catastrophe of Somali politics than any other country in the region.

Finally, Professor Hussien advises Somaliland‟s consociational democracy to produce a responsible and socially aware political parties and leaders with a vision of development including broad social benefits and further suggests “Once a stable power sharing democratic system is in place, consistent efforts have to be made in order to conserve and transcend ascriptive clan identities- otherwise a pastoral democracy would eventually degenerate into pastoral anarchy” (P:204).

Professor Hussein analyses in Chapter 7 the role of Islam in Somali politics within the Somali context by examining the history and the concept of Political Islam in Somali society.

Islam has a deep and profound root in the Somali People. Many scholars, such as I.M Lewis and Enricho Cerruli write that Muslims who were running away from presecution introduced the Islamic Faith to the Somalis through peaceful means before Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) emigrated from Mecca to Medina, the Muslim Capital.

There are also some other scholars such Dr Mukhtar and Dr Hersi, who also argue that Islam has reached Somalia after the death of Prophet Muhammed, especially in the southern part during the caliph of Abubakar. Dr Mukhtar bases on his argument that the north of Somalia was not attractive for migrants since it had no major towns and what he calls”natural harbors” but one thing which Dr Mukhtar fails to comprehend is that South of Somalia had no also any major towns and muslim migrants who reached both North and South Somalia were coastal traders. The exact time that Islam reached in Somalia and Somaliland is a highly contested issue and there are different historical accounts which are mainly based on Somali oral history but the geographical proximity of Zeila city is major evidence that Islam migrants had first reached to Somaliland.

Coming back to Professor Hussein‟s analysis, from the onset, he asserts that Political Islam has manifested an expansionist as well as a revivalist face “Expansionism involves the spread of religion and the rapid conversion of non-Muslims. Revivalism involves the phenomenon superficially refered to as

„born again‟ among those who are already converted”. Revivalism is what Professor Ali Mazuri characterized as an angry process of rediscovered fundamentalism.

Professor Hussein notes that Islam has rooted firmly in Somalia even before it properly rooted in Arabia but rightly mentions that the mass conversion of Islam in Somalia happened in the early eleven century ” the mass conversions and deepening of Islam among the Somali seem to have taken place only in the eleventh, twelve and thirteen centuries”

Professor Hussein further states in his book that Islam played great role in the lives of Somalis and argues that Islam is still strong identity which from time to time contends and sometimes substitutes clan identity for Somalis. He also notes the remarkable role Ahmed Guray‟s jihad against the Abyssininians in fourteen century as well as Siyid‟s role in the anti-colonial period in the Somali territories. Neverthless, many argue that Islam has not succeeded as sustained political rallying point in Somali society; it has never been able to overcome the more powerful organizing force of clannism.

Professor Hussein states that the revolutionary radicalism of the Sayyid was replaced by the careful reformism of elders who emerged during the late 1920s and 1930s ” An example of such a new leader was Haji Farah Omar, a former colonial civil servant who became active around 1920″ (P.223).

Professor Hussine also notes what he frames as ” the cautious Islam during the Era of Parliamentary Politics in 1960-1969″. It‟s widely believed that it was this period when the Islamic movements started from Somalia as an underground movement. Professor Hussien also writes that Political Islam has been on the defensive side during Siyad Bare‟s era. This was followed when Dictator Siyad Bare proclaimed a new family law which gave women the right to inherit property equally with men. The Islamic scholars

protested and challenges against the law. Siyad‟s government arrested hundreds of religious people “on Friday noon prayers, twenty three religious leaders protested. They were arrested, charged with violating state security and ten of them were publicly executed on 23 January 1975″( P. 235).

Professor Hussein explains in detail the Islamic awakening in Somalia during the 1990s as well as the

Islamic courts period in 2006.

Finally, Professor Hussien asserts that Islam is poised today to play a more important and pivotal role in Somali politics in contrast to the nationalist, parliamentary and military-rule period. The professor asks himself, what kind of Islam is compatible for political development in Somalia‟s future and proposes several strategies.

Hussein Adam‟s book is a great contribution to Somaliland and Somalia studies and I recommend anyone interested in knowing deeply the politics of Somaliland and Somalia to read.

Reviewed by:

Mohamed Abdilahi Duale Hargiesa, Somaliland April 23, 2013


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