Somalia: Reconciliation for SSC stakeholders matters

Published: June 23, 2010

Sool, Sanaag and Cayn of Somalia are three regions claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland administrations. Somaliland’s claim is based on shared colonial experience whereas Puntland’s claim is based on shared genealogy. In this paper, my aim is aim to contribute ideas towards creating an atmosphere in which people from Sool, Sanaag and Cayn[1] ( i.e. Dhulbahante) can reconcile their differences so that their input in any administration can bear fruit. The starting of this paper is that unionists in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn who were not traditional supporters of the former armed opposition group, Somali National Movement, outnumber their pro-Somaliland cousins. The challenge for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn unionists is to clarify if, by supporting Somali unity, they want to persuade other Sool Sanaag and  Cayn pro-Somalilanders with whom they do not share clan affiliation  to give up on secession  and or if their unionism reflects the views of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn clansmen and clanswomen.
The people of Sool,  Sanaag and Cayn are divided politically  along the following  four political camps  of political:
2-Pro-Sool, Sanaag and Cayn leadership
3-Pro-Khusuusi (new council of elders)
In the following part, we will discuss the characteristics and political claims of each camp to help the reader understand the camps’ influence  and source  of support; the strength and weakness  in each camp’s argument will be explored.
Pro-Puntland camp
The pro-Puntland camp bases their reasoning on the role Sool, Sanaag Cayn traditional leaders had in setting up Puntland administration in 1998. No matter how Puntland administration failed to prevent or bring to an end infighting within pro-Puntand Sool, Sanaag  and Cayn politicians  and political  appointees , support for the Puntland State of Somalia is unquestionable.
Pro-Puntland SSC camp’s argument is based on their aim to avoid blame-game. They look upon Puntland as a clan based entity and that clans and sub-clans and their traditional and political leaders have an obligation towards the people they represent to prevent political disputes from developing into political violence
Pro-Puntland camp has not set a conflict-prevention or conflict resolution example to inspire people’s confidence in their continued support for Puntland. Sool, Sanaag and Cayn political appointees were not reined in by the traditional leaders who endorse their appointments. The new Puntland constitution reduces traditional leaders to the role of resolving and clan and sub-clan conflicts and expect them to leave administrative tasks to technocrats although it is the traditional leaders who elect Puntland president, vice president and Puntland assembly speaker.  
Pro-SSC Leadership
Pro-SSC leadership camp put their weight behind the new political leadership formed in Nairobi after major traditional leaders of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn held a conference in October 2009.
The pro—SSC leadership camp has merits because of Puntland’s resistance to change given the  traditional   and political leaders’ failure o avert the 2002 Puntland war and the political struggle that caused some one-time pro-Puntland people to switch sides and join Somaliland administration  by facilitating  the capture of Las Anod by Somaliland forces in 2007. They regard Puntland political experiment as a failed partnership, and think people Sool, Sanaag and Cayn have paid a price for uncritical support for successive Puntland leaders.
Pro-SSC leadership camp does not take into account political realities such as divided loyalty in SSC constituencies. It has not so far developed coherent set of policies about how it can woo supporters from other camps.
Pro-Khusuusi camp
The Khusuusi, named after the council of advisers of the Dervishes led by Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan (1900-1920), was set to be  the collective decision making traditional leadership of SSC made up of  Garaads[2] , the outcome of a meeting held in Buuro-wadal plains in Sool region in February 2010.  Garaads who attended the Buuro-wadal summit are divided on the support the Khusuusi gives Puntland.
The Khusuusi is an all-Garaad council. Their relevance reflects the extent to which SSC people have become disillusioned with SSC politicians in both Puntland and Somaliland.
The Khusuusi lacks political clarity about the role and the political future of SSC people. Is their role a duplication of SSC leadership traditional leaders helped come into existence in 2009? Will they be free from pressures from would-be politicians and political appointees seeking the imprimatur of the Khusuusi to  join a given administration? This lack of clarity may affect how SSC people, Puntland and Somaliland administrations view their role.  The Khusuusi’s  influence is  in decline. They seem to be complimenting  the work of the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn leadership. Pro-Puntland and Pro-Somaliland politicians can cooperate on undermining the Khusuusi.
Pro-Somaliland camp
Pro-Somaliland camp is made up of politicians and militia leaders, some of whom once supported Puntland.  Their influence grew after Somaliland forces had captured Las Anod in 2007.
Pro-Somaliland camp’s political and military visibility is based on the support it gets from Somaliland. SSC people in areas under Somaliland coexist peacefully. Pro-SSC Somaliland forces are more disciplined than Puntland forces so far.  People complain about the system not those they indentify as locals working with Somaliland if   things go wrong.
Somaliland appointed and empowered politicians and political appointees are known for their anti-SSC traditional leadership stance. The pro-Somaliland politicians and militia leaders ignored calls for reconciliation for SSC constituencies from the chairman of Somaliland’s House of Elders ( Guurti) in 2008. They have no support base in their communities; they think any talks with pro-union SSC people will undercut their influence in Somaliland.
Key issues
The four groups outlined above are key stake-holders in Dhulbahante-inhabited areas of Sool,  Sanaag and Cayn regions. Except for the pro-Somaliland SSC camp, the other three camps regard Somaliland forces in Dhulbahante-inhabited parts of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn as occupation forces. Las Anod, the administrative capital of Sool region was ruled by Puntland until October 2007 when it fell. SSC people differ on the status of Las Anod and the circumstances that led Somaliland to take it over from Puntland administration.
Before Las Anod fell, Somaliland forces were based at Adhi-Caddeeye, about 30 KM from Las Anod. Somaliland forces were deployed in Yagoori and Adhi Caddeeye after SSC pro-Somaliland politicians and traditional leaders lobbied for bringing Somaliland troops in the two districts[3]. The “anti-occupation camp ” calls Las Anod magaalada la haysto ( the occupied town). Adhi Caddeeye and Yagoori were under Somaliland before the fall of Las Anod. Why these two places were not called occupied ‘districts’?
Before Las Anod was captured by Somaliland forces, a group of pro-Somaliland SSC militias  set up a base at Waqidari gully near Las Anod.  Garaad Jaamac Garaad Cali intervened to persuade the militias to leave the area. His intervention was not successful but it remains an example of conflict prevention initiative by a traditional leader. However, the task was too complex for one young, traditional leader who had been a Garaad for one year.
Conflict prevention approach
The SSC traditional leaders have got to take on themselves the responsibility to solve the political and environmental problems that made Sool, Sanaag and Cayn potential flashpoints of conflict between Puntland and Somaliland administrations. In the past the role of Garaads was intertwined with the role of politicians. The absence of clear role in the context of new challenges caused by state collapse helped the SSC politicians exploit and misuse their positions in Puntland and Somaliland. This is why Sool, Sanaag and Cayn areas inhabited by the unionist constituencies had failed to benefit from reconstruction and development initiatives donor countries the United Nations earmarked for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn. Since December 2007, Somaliland has been the main channel through development aid is sent for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn. Before that year, it is not known who handled development aid earmarked for SSC regions and on which projects it has been spent since the international community started supporting local administrations.
Somaliland administration  has not made consultations about development assistance with Sool, Sanaag and Cayn people nor has it made clear how it asks donor countries  for development aid  for Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions,  and how it distributes the resources.  This is why pro-Somaliland SSC politicians and militias alienated their people. The same situation prevailed in Las Anod under Puntland (2002-2007) but being part of an administration that was formed on the basis of kinship (tolnimo) has not made SSC traditional leaders and politicians aware of regional   development challenges and opportunities. There is something dangerously paternalistic about clan affiliation in local politics because people put misplaced trust in it. Blaming either Puntland or Somaliland is not the way to address the development participation deficit. Puntland and Somaliland are impersonal entities–administrations in which SSC people have representatives and decision makers. To pin the blame on administrations—Puntland and Somaliland in this case— is to help politicians and traditional leaders avoid responsibility for not ensuring their constituencies’ development needs and  rights are addressed properly and transparently.  In 1998 traditional leaders of SSC had a role in setting up Puntland administration; politicians took a back seat during consultations because they did not have the influence to persuade people to sign up to a new administration that would challenge Somaliland seen by many in SSC people as clan-based as Puntland administration is[4].  Although SSC traditional leaders’ input into the setting up Puntland administration is widely acknowledged, their trouble- shooting skills were confined to sorting out inter and intra clan differences in urban and rural settings but were pushed to the political scene by convening meetings and conferences such as Boocame   I and II conferences (1991 and 2007), Nairobi SSC Conference ( 2009) and Buuro-wadal ( 2010). Their visible and pro-active political role was afforded by the failure of politicians to avert bickering that usually have adverse impact on peaceful co-existence of SSC people. Laying emphasis on the following shared interests can be a springboard for preventing conflicts caused by SSC politicians:

  • To co-exist peacefully with each other and with other  neighbouring clans
  • To create an atmosphere in which all SSC political camps can have dialogue
  • To be part of an administration that does not accentuate political differences of SSC people
  • To be part of an administration that value and empower the traditional leaders of the SSC
  • To respect representation rights of sub-clans  in a given administration
  • To have an impartial committee to which political  dispute  are referred for adjudication
  • To put in place a rule that does bar traditional leaders  from supportingt  political appointees and politicians who exploit  their positions
  • To agree on a set of criteria used by the traditional  elders when endorsing a political appointee or a politician in any administration
  • To involve religious leaders in regional development consultations
  • To ensure that the tax collected  locally are used for social services
  • To set up civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations
  • To promote the role of women in community development
  • To set local up  print and broadcast media outlets
  • To encourage SSC Diaspora to invest in SSC regions
  • To encourage  local business to set up business associations

The traditional leadership of Sool, Sanaag, Cayn people is the only institution that can use its leverage to solve political and social problems facing  people in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn region by starting the process of reconciling political groups who support opposing political structures. Somaliland and Puntland administrations can have everything to gain from refraining from attempts to undermine the traditional leadership of SSC. The two administrations have got to check in the excesses of politicians and political appointees whose actions turn out to be liabilities for both administrations.
By Liban Ahmad

[1] Other Somali clans live in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn as well. In this paper emphasis is placed on the fragmented traditional and political leadership of the Dhulbahante clan without whose united stand either Puntland or Somaliland cannot make a territorial claim  on Sool, Sanaag and Cayn.
[2] Garaad is a generic name of the Dhulbahante, Madhibaan and Warsangeli traditional leader.
[3] It is what makes the occupation thesis implausible particularly when the same traditional leaders who supported the deployment of Somaliland troops now oppose their presence.
[4] Somaliland is promoted by Somalilanders as a polity for clans who live in what was known as British Somaliland but the first president of Somaliland was the late Abdirahman Ahmed Ali, former chairman of Somali National Movement, (now-defunct) one of the armed opposition groups against Siyad Barre regime. The SNM was an armed opposition group for the Isaaq clan just as Somali Salvation Democratic Front and United Somali congress were armed opposition groups for Majeerteen and Hawiye clans, respectively. The SNM constitution was in favour of unity. Secession was declared without changing the SNM constitution or putting forward the secession case for consultation with people who live in northern Somalia.

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