Somaliland: Africa Notebook


Don’t ever mention that again, an African diplomat angrily chided a foreign journalist some time past when he suggested it was about time Somalia and its runaway kid, Somaliland be united once more after a 22-year partition.It’s like asking North and South Korea to unite tomorrow, a diplomat who was within hearing distance of the conversation said later.
What has led the two countries, which were wedded together to now have such a violent divorce baffles the most casual observer.

“The two are not different: same culture, common childhood friends and cuisines and fair-skinned, sparkling, velvet eyes and trendy shapes.

Although Somaliland appears economically robust, its existence has been snubbed by both the African Union and the international community because of both organizations’ zero tolerance to what they say is ”the breaking up of states.”

”We want Africans to stay united instead of breaking up into fragile states,”  one AU bureaucratic said.
The pronouncement means that discussing any unity, perceived or real, is taboo in the corridors of both the UN and the African Union.

But despite the outward posture, some business deals are being done by the back entrance, making Somaliland not to be as lonely as honest observers believe.

The irony of it all is that unlike Somalia where hardly a day goes by without the harsh sounds of exploded bombs and cries of the wounded and death as a result of jihadist attacks, Somaliland remains quiet as a house rat except with the occasional political mumblings among peers.

Many of its residents are returning diasporans, who having sweated in far-off lands such as the North Pole and Alaska have come back with wads of dollars to invest in the country’s economy.
Compared to Somalia, the engine of economic growth is turning faster in Somaliland and shifting any talk of a united country seemed distant.

”We are happy as a lark and things are working out well,” said wealthy Sari Nurie, who recently relocated from Montreal, Canada where she had been living for the past 10 years involved in textile sales.

With such swank, the question is who would bell the cat to talk about reintegration when one side is seemingly okay while the other side is in sweltering heat?

Count out the west or the African Union, or both as they are reluctant to venture into choppy waters, fearing a backlash from other nations that have no business poking into a political affair which is not of their doings.

Surprisingly, not even border states are keen to see the matter settled. Events in Somaliland are either ignored or given back page coverage.

Asked why, one leading international news agency executive said in a dodgy reaction, ”very little is going on on the wrong side of things. The country is too quiet for our reporting purpose.”

With Somalia sadly embroiled in a protracted war, its administration has little time left to think or even contemplate on plans for reunification.

This does not mean that attempts had not been made. Last January, both Somaliland and Somalia signed the Istanbul communiqué for mutual cooperation and peaceful resolution as the initial step towards reunification.
But few remain optimistic whether anything more could be done at the moment in the prevailing frosty atmosphere. The memories leading to the partition would take time to be erased.  It can be traced to the atrocities of strong-arm ruler, Siad Barre whose symbolic rule was characterized by mass graves dotting several parts of the country.

Somalia, however, see Somaliland as its prodigal son and wants it to return but as a hired servant on its own terms.
But for Somaliland, which has so far proved that it can go it can brave the odds, it is sad that the west is having no faint heart.

The World Bank does not also see Somaliland as a ”dependable prosperous country.”

In its latest report, the institution said it is ”the world’s fourth poorest county, heavily dependent on its diaspora and in dire need of reforms to its private and financial sectors.”

But many Somalilanders have brushed the World Bank concern as ”whistling in the wind”, noting that the country’s oil fields cannot miss the direction to wealth by African standard.

Five international companies are now plowing the country’s oil resources in a financial wrap involving multi-billion dollar operation.

So it is but logical that with all engines running full steam, few would see the gains of reunification. Even when the subject is brought up few times at breakfast tables, it normally ended in scorn, scoffed one diplomat.


By Rod Mac-Johnson



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