Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of federal Somalia, while on a tour to the United States, made remarks that many thought were not only tasteless but politically and diplomatically damaging to the Horn of Africa stability and coexistence regarding future relations with the de facto republic of Somaliland and its people.
President Mohamud, addressing a meeting that a body called the United Somali Alliance (USA) – an alliance of unionists that Somalians formed in the United States with a sprinkle of Somaliland-born members to oppose Somaliland statehood – stated that he was opposed to Somaliland statehood and ‘anything that promoted the idea’.
“Our intention was not to pressure Somaliland using Somalia diplomatic muscle, but we are unequivocally opposed to anything that promotes Somaliland self-determination,” he said.
Then, in his next remarks, he completely made a U-turn on this by putting a question mark on any business peculiar to Somaliland interests branding it suspect and a possible contributor to Somaliland sovereignty and self-determination.
“Any agenda that finishes off a unity that is already greatly impaired in whatever form it takes be it economic or development or otherwise we will reject and will make it clear to everyone,” he said.
“We told our brothers (Somalilanders), we do not agree to your self-determination,” he added, enunciating his words for effect.
Then he went intimating that Somaliland affairs, despite the country’s 31-year-old, existence outside of Somalia’s jurisdiction, were always decided and approved by Mogadishu.
“We welcome any other relations revolving around development issues, humanitarian (activities), and trade and investment and we will provide all necessary facilities including requisite (approval) documents as was the case previously”, Mohamud added.
He went on to say that they will restart dialogue with Somaliland with only one ‘end result’ on the table.
“We will talk and explore ways here and there with only one end result,” he said, “a united Somalia”.
“This part was ruled by Britain and this other part by Italy with their demarcated boundaries cannot keep us apart,” he said.
President Mohamud said not a word about how the Somalia he governed came to ‘unite’ with the ‘Somaliland’ he was talking about in the first place. His words made it appear there was always a united Somalia, as he called it, even before 1960. Neither did he present legalities supporting his argument.
To the clatter of a spatter of clapping hands, President Mohamud warmed up to his theme asking his audience to lobby their congressional representatives to keep up the unity of the country.
“You have a role to play (in keeping the unity together). You elect your representatives every four years once. Your reps are up there. Tell them,” Mohamud said.
This last remark, observers suggest, was a direct barb aiming to stir opposition to the United States’ growing interest in the geostrategically located Republic of Somaliland. The US Congress approved a series of acts and amendments defining strengthened cooperation between the US and Somaliland in areas that include, chiefly, security and development.
An upgraded version of these articulating immediate and future cooperation between the two countries is on the table and is expected to officially be posted during this last week of September.
The SLA organized the Somalia President’s visit to the United States to, obviously, counter-balance, offset gains President Bihi of Somaliland reached there during his march visit and subsequent moves that the U.S. took to consolidate budding relations with the Republic of Somaliland since then.
“The United Somali Alliance and its members welcome H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, to Washington, D.C, for his historic talks with members of the United States Government,” a statement that the unionist organization released last Wednesday, September 14, said.
Why did SLA members find Mohamud’s visit useful to their objectives?
“The working visit cumulates many months of work by the Somali Alliance to strengthen the relationship between the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Somalia and to counter the adversarial actions of Somaliland, a separatist region in Somalia, in Washington, D.C.,” the statement declared.
President Mohamud’s off-the-cuff but profoundly impactful words completely contradicted another tone he used earlier on Friday at an audience he granted the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US-based think-tank-cum-lobby group.
During this brief, Mohamud said that his government understood the concerns of Somaliland and how it has successfully thrived for the past decades and that he will first put out the fires in his own home before attempting to start a dialogue with Somaliland.
He said he intended to finalize a constitution that loosely bound the five federal states of Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Southwest, and Southwest with Villa Somalia – all six of which claimed presidencies of their own at present despite their unity in a federal Somalia umbrella.
“It will be difficult to finalize the constitution 100% due to a different issue called Somalia. But if we make the rest of Somalia agree (to it), we can negotiate with Somaliland,” he said at the time, making it clear that Somaliland was neither a signatory to the federal constitution nor a member of Somalia in any way and that the two – Somalia and Somaliland – were two different entities that needed to negotiate a way forward.
He added that the talks on relations with Somaliland were intermittently diverted by the ‘house in flames in the south’.
His tone at the time was conciliatory, careful, and phrased in such a way that indicated his government was open-minded in the issue of the long-stalled talks, the issues discussed, and possible end results. Of course, that the desire for a reunited Somalia was uppermost in his mind, however, was never in doubt. It was only diplomatically cached.
Hassan Mohamud’s words drew an immediate reaction from President Musa Bihi Abdi, presently touring eastern regions of Somaliland.
“Neither Hassan Sheikh Mohamud nor his elk can alter the destined choice of Somaliland nor can they harm it in any way,” Bihi said, Monday, addressing a gathering of elders, academicians, and business leaders in the eastern town of Burao – the birthplace of the new Republic of Somaliland on 18 May 1991, after elders representing all of Somaliland proclaimed a restoration of the country’s 1960, internationally recognized independence in a grand conference resolution they signed.
“It was here in Burao, where I am tonight, that the rebirth of Somaliland independence was proclaimed in a grand conference of elders. Neither Hassan Sheikh nor anyone else in the United Kingdom, Mogadishu, or somewhere else has a say so in the matter. It is our decision, our destiny,” Bihi said.
President Bihi went on to point out why he found President Mohamud’s projection of own governance and independence and ‘diplomatic muscle’ not only amusing but contra-indicative of facts on the ground.
“If you have diplomatic and political muscle, why are you being guarded by AU-organized peacekeepers?” he asked, adding “I am surprised that you boast of muscle when you are guarded by Burundian and Ugandan troops at home and while al-Shabaab taxes your businesses and building at home (Mogadishu)”.
“Somaliland is free and independent. It settles for nothing else and has a right to it. It is not for sale in exchange for what passes down to the stomach,” Bihi stated, alluding to Mohamud’s words that he had the power to allow Somaliland to survive economically and that he or his government will not block its developmental or humanitarian initiatives.
“If that does not sit well with Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, we tell him that everyone will revert to what he was before”, Bihi added, meaning that no cooperation whatsoever will be possible between the two peoples and that only strife and hostility will prevail.
The exchange of words between the two presidents comes at a time that Somaliland has already decided that its agreement to talk with Somalia was not in the best interests of its people.
Talks between the two countries that started in 2012 were called off time and again by Somalia under one pretext or another neither did it honor any of the preliminary points agreed upon since then.
Somaliland, in contrast, conducted 8 1person-1vote elections to Somalia’s none to date. Somaliland, also, has become internationally dubbed as the ‘oasis of peace and stability’ in the Horn of Africa’, and many more flattering qualities including that it was the only established democracy in the region.