Somalilandsun – The recurrent clashes in Sool region in northern Somalia are undermining the reputation of Somaliland “Republic” as a bastion of democracy. Its state-building model is now being proposed as a lesson for Southern Somalia in its search for a durable state. Neither those in favour of union nor those keen on secession will win if a political solution is not found. Within this seemingly intractable conflict lie opportunities for peace-making.
Two principles will guide the peace-making effort. Principle One will be used to explore weaknesses and strengths in each side’s argument to promote self-criticism instead of self-righteousness. Principle Two will make use of brainstorming. The aim is to challenge each side to own up to weaknesses and suggest ways to convert them into strengths.
Let us apply one of those two principles to Khatumo “State” and to Somaliland “Republic”. Khatumo was formed in 2012 as autonomous administration independent of both Puntland and Somaliland administrations. The Somali Federal Government has not officially recognised it. Geographically, territories Khatumo “State” claims lie within what was once known as Ex-British Somaliland. Emergence of Khatumo is a vote of no confidence for the kinship-based principles on which Puntland was founded in 1998. Khatumo enjoys a massive Diaspora support and considerable local support in territories under Somaliland administration. In reality, it is a third, well- organised political group claiming to represent the Dhulbahante clan. It is in competition for loyalty with two groups supported by Somaliland and Puntland. Hostility from Puntland and Somaliland towards Khatumo deprives its leaders of a major condition conducive to forming a local administration. In its first six years either Somaliland or Puntland did not face external, clan-based threats to its state-building efforts.
Areas under Khatumo have been attacked or taken over by Somaliland forces more than four times since 2012. Two Khatumo co-founding presidents have defected to Puntland — a continuing trend of turn-coat politicians and traditional leaders who profit from conflict. According to the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, Khatumo “could indirectly benefit Al-Shabaab”. The Wikipedia entry of Khatumo contains a translation of “Khatumo State of Somalia” into Arabic as Wilāyat Arḍ al-Khatoum aṣ-Ṣūmāliyyah . Wilayat is an Arabic word used by Al-Shabaab to describe a regional administration under its control. Khatumo leaders have never been sympathetic to Al-Shabaab.
Somaliland “Republic” declared unilateral secession from Somalia in 1991. No country has recognised Somaliland. It has many strengths ranging from spearheading locally conceived reconciliation to promoting peaceful coexistence of clans during 1990s. Since 2010 Somaliland government responses to challenges from unionist groups such as now-defunct SSC and its successor, Khatumo, have been eroding its institution-building record. There is a credibility gap between what Somaliland leaders tell their constituencies and what they tell the international community.
Somaliland government security officials told Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea they are concerned that Al-Shabaab could “take advantage of clan division within the Dhulbahante.” Somaliland government has never admitted inability or failure to reconcile two groups of a clan it regards as one of Somaliland ” Republic” clans. Between 2010 and 2011 DFID committed £82,208 to Conflict Management and Peacebuilding in Sool and Sanaag. Foreign and Commonwealth Office is committed to “encouraging a national, regional, and local political settlement and peace-building mechanisms” to assist Somalis “in reducing conflict and increasing stability in Somalia.”
In a report published October 2014, the United Nations Development Programme stated the “dispute” between Somaliland and Khatumo forces “has development and humanitarian implications in the region”. Aynaba district is a part of pre-1991 Sool region but Somaliland government has created a new region called Saraar with Aynaba being its administrative capital ; it is not affected by development and humanitarian implications of the conflict in Sool. Since 2004 Somaliland forces fought more than five battles of different durations ( 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2012). Two of those battles pitted Somaliland forces against Puntland forces (2004 and 2007); three against Khatumo.
The author Liban Ahmad can be contacted at Libahm@icloud.com