In Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, is a monument with a jet fighter bearing Somalia flags. The MiG aircraft is said to have been used to target guerrillas as Somalia President Siad Barre massacred perceived opponents 31 years ago.

Now, Muse Bihi Abdi, a retired Somalia military pilot and current President of the breakaway region, is leading efforts to have Somaliland recognised as an independent state.

PUSH FOR RECOGNITION

This week, Somaliland Foreign Affairs ministry said it would push ahead with efforts for recognition, whether Somalia likes it or not.

“Somaliland government agreed to engage with the government of Somalia in the service of broader regional cooperation and mutual understanding but we will not be held hostage by its intransigence,” ministry spokesman Yasin Hagi Mohamed said.

“We call on the international community to address the issue of Somaliland’s recognition.”

Mogadishu has been at loggerheads with countries perceived to be rolling out the red carpet for Somaliland leaders.

Last month, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau was accused of violating the territorial integrity of Somalia when he hosted Mohamed in Nairobi.

However, Nairobi did not and has not endorsed Hargeisa’s independence bid and Kamau earlier told the Sunday Nation that Kenya supports “federalism within the larger Somalia”.

Yet early this month, President Mohamed Farmaajo of Somalia cut diplomatic ties with Guinea, when Conakry hosted Bihi.

Mogadishu said Guinea accorded presidential protocol privileges “to a leader of a separatist movement and violated the unity of the Somali people”.

TALKS

Just days ago, Farmaajo formed a committee for “reconciliation and dialogue” with Somaliland.

It immediately raised a storm. Somaliland said the move was a “disingenuous attempt to paper over the Somalia government’s policy of aggression and punishment directly targeting Somaliland people, simply for seeking to preserve the independence we suffered so hard to achieve”.

The team includes chairman and former Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullahi Ismail.

Its members are Abdirahman Abdi Hussein, Abdirahman Badiyow, Ali Said Faqi, Ahmed Jama Muse and Ali Ahmed Jangali.

Hargeisa says while reconciliation is needed for a country that has suffered the vagaries of civil war, members of the team include Barre allies.

To Hargeisa, these are remnants of eyes and legs of a dictator loathed in the breakaway region. Somaliland says it cannot negotiate with “war criminals”.

Somaliland’s resident representative in the UK and the Commonwealth Ayan Mahamoud argued that the team includes officials from Somaliland, violating the concept that the talks would be between Somalia and Somaliland.

“The talks between Somaliland and Somalia facilitated by Turkey failed two years ago because Somalia included people from Somaliland in the delegation,” she said.

“Farmaajo is doing the same. He announced his committee including two from Somaliland. This is paying lip service to international partners.”

CHALLENGES

Ideally, Mogadishu wants the six federal states to toe its line. But each of the states – Jubbaland, South West, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Puntland and Somaliland – have a different stand on federalism.

Jubbaland and Puntland want complete autonomy within Somalia, while others like Galmudug and Hirshabelle insist on a centralised form.

Somaliland is a special case, argued one Somali diplomat, seeking to remain anonymous as he works for the presidency in Mogadishu.

It declared independence after the overthrow of Barre in 1991.

It is not internationally recognised, but has a functioning government, departments, police, currency and routinely takes part in global forums.

Yet its path for recognition could be problematic, said Abdiwab Abdisamad, a commentator on the Horn of Africa.

“South Sudan negotiated with Sudan to get independence. Similarly, Eritrea negotiated with Ethiopia after a long war. Somaliland should use the same procedure,” he said.

Unfortunately, the African Union has no appetite for new nations.

“Independence could follow the path of South Sudan, where tribes – in this case clans – fight out for a stake. Isaaq is the largest clan in Somaliland. Others, including Dhulbahante, Warsangali, Guthubiirsi and Iyo Issa – collectively make up about 45 per cent of the 3.5 million people,” he said.

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Somaliland snubs talks with Somalia

Somaliland has withdrawn from talks with Somalia in protest against the new commission appointed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo that included the son-in-law of the former president, Siad Barre.Hargeisa, Somaliland

Somaliland is objecting to the appointment of General Abdirahman Hussein Guulwade, which reminds of the massacre of the members of the Isaaq Clan in 1980s during Barre’s reign.

Gen Guulwade, former commissioner of police—who fled with Barre during the popular uprising in Mogadishu in January 199—was deputy head of the six-member national commission for reconciliation dialogue with Somaliland.

Yusuf Gabobe, a veteral Somaliland journalist said that President Farmaajo by including individuals he knows are not acceptable to Somaliland has proved once again how insincere they are about engagement in a serious dialogue.

Others in the commission are Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail, Dr Abdirahman Maalin Abdullahi “Baadiyow”, Dr Ali Sacid Fiqi, Gen Ahmed Jaama Muse and MP Ali Ahmed Jaama “Jangeli”.

The talks between Somaliland and Somalia facilitated by Turkey in March 2015 failed because Somalia included people from Somaliland in their delegation for the talks.

Somaliland has withdrawn from talks with Somalia in protest against the new commission appointed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo that included the son-in-law of the former president, Siad Barre.

Somaliland is objecting to the appointment of General Abdirahman Hussein Guulwade, which reminds of the massacre of the members of the Isaaq Clan in 1980s during Barre’s reign.

Gen Guulwade, former commissioner of police—who fled with Barre during the popular uprising in Mogadishu in January 199—was deputy head of the six-member national commission for reconciliation dialogue with Somaliland.

Yusuf Gabobe, a veteral Somaliland journalist said that President Farmaajo by including individuals he knows are not acceptable to Somaliland has proved once again how insincere they are about engagement in a serious dialogue.

Others in the commission are Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail, Dr Abdirahman Maalin Abdullahi “Baadiyow”, Dr Ali Sacid Fiqi, Gen Ahmed Jaama Muse and MP Ali Ahmed Jaama “Jangeli”.

The talks between Somaliland and Somalia facilitated by Turkey in March 2015 failed because Somalia included people from Somaliland in their delegation for the talks.

There have been no negotiations following the collapse of the last meeting in Turkey in 2015 and since then any attempts to revive them have not been successful.

Somaliland cancelled its participation similar talks in March this year following a falling out with the Federal Government over the Berbera port.

Sweden, Turkey, Ethiopia, Djibouti and EU member states are actively jockeying for the opportunity to hold the talks on the unity of the Horn of Africa country.

Somaliland, which declared unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, has been seeking international recognition.

In a recent interview with The EastAfrican, Somaliland head of liaison office in Kenya, Bashe Omar, said that Somaliland has been attending the talks to make clear that they seek independence because the people had voted in referendum for separation and that there is no turning back on that aspiration.

A report by the International Crisis Group released on July 12 said that getting back to talks will not be easy because of historical grievances and decades of separate rule, and that efforts to restart dialogue face opposition from both sides.

“With elections approaching in 2020 and 2021, respectively, Somalia’s President is particularly susceptible to pressure from his nationalist support base to shy away from talks and the give-and-take they may entail,” the report said.

It added that Somaliland leader Muse Bihi, a former rebel commander who fought against the government in Mogadishu in the late 1980s, is less open to compromise than his predecessor.

“He will also face political pressure from hardline separatists, including other former insurgents, for whom any concession to Somalia is anathema,” says the report.

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