The recolonization of Somalia
Somalia has been under the occupation of extremist groups and under the tutelage of neighboring countries and the international community for close to three decades. These three forces – al-Shabaab, the neighboring countries, and the “international community” – differ in their nature and stated objectives but seem united in one thing: The perpetuation of the status quo of anarchy and lawlessness in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab is the primary cause of the Somali mayhem. It undermines Somalis’ quest for reconciliation and peace. It indiscriminately massacres people. It threatens the peace of the region, and by extension, the entire world, and in so doing creates the casus belli for the recolonization of the country in the 21st Century. Somalia’s regional enemies take advantage of the opportunity presented by the marauding extremists and the deficit of nationalism among Somalis. They benefit politically and economically from the insecurity in Somalia. The “international community” finances endless “stabilization” projects without understanding or addressing the core problems that hinder the reconstruction of Somalia.
Somalia’s neighbors and forces from other African nations have been mandated to stabilize Somalia under the banner of AMISOM about ten years ago. Currently, there are about 22,000 troops in Somalia. AMISOM benefits from a U.N. logistical support package, bilateral donations, and voluntary contributions to U.N. managed Trust Fund in support of AMISOM. The European Union (EU) pays allowances and other related expenses to the troops within the framework of the African Peace Facility (APF).
The EU provides $1,028 for each AMISOM soldier each month; way more than what they would have earned in their own countries, while the ill-equipped Somali soldiers are paid $1,00 a month, which is not even paid on a regular basis. In addition to AMISOM, individual military contributing countries receive substantial financial aid by participating in fight against terrorism.
Yet, AMISOM troops are not actively fighting terrorists nor creating peace. They are sitting and waiting in their garrisons to be attacked. In addition to routinely attacking AMSIOM bases, al-Shabaab has managed to strike every week and kill innocent bystanders and lawmakers in Mogadishu. The EU thus is systematically funding a never ending project with zero likelihood of success. Furthermore, neighboring countries, particularly Ethiopia, has been adamantly opposing the creation of a proper Somali army, while arming the divided Somali enclaves and providing military equipment and weapons to AMISOM, undercutting efforts to restore Somalia’s sovereignty.
Ethiopia’s visible and not so invisible hand when it comes to neighboring countries’ adverse interferences in Somali affairs is particularly worth illustrating.
Nowhere is Ethiopia’s open violation of Somalia’s sovereignty more evident than it is in the former north western Somalia regions, currently known as Somaliland. This breakaway region claimed independence in 1991, but is yet to be recognized by any country. The administration does not have full jurisdiction over all of the territories it claims nor is it supported by all of the clans in the north. For example, clans in Cayn, Sanaag and Sool regions are against Somaliland’s independence. The overwhelming majority of Awdal region supports united Somalia. Yet, the Ethiopian government provided an office that represents Somaliland in Addis Ababa and in return the Ethiopian government has sent a representative to Hargeisa, the capital city of the breakaway region.
The Ethiopian government is not willing to officially recognize Somaliland because Ethiopia is facing its own insurgency in the Somali Region that is fighting to be free from Ethiopia.
However, in addition to its mission of keeping Somalia weak and divided, Ethiopia’s elite Tigray military commanders and business people use Somaliland as entry port for goods and contraband to Ethiopia. The Tigray leaders also use Somaliland as a hard currency exchange market. It is illegal to have dollars or exchange dollar in Ethiopia without the Ethiopian commercial bank. As such, when the Tigray elites need hard currency to import goods or for personal use, all they need is to visit the Tog Wajaale town in the border.
As affirmation of loyalty to Ethiopia, Somalilanders are celebrating, along with the other nine Ethiopian regions, Ginbot, the month Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) toppled the Derg regime in Ethiopia. Furthermore, Somaliland business men and women raised substantial funds to support the Abbay (Blue Nile) Dam in Amhara Region of Ethiopia. In return, some of the Somaliland officials are given Ethiopian passports when they require traveling aboard, as the Somaliland passport is invalid.
The rest of the Somali republic share the same story. Ethiopian Colonel Gabre govern the entire country. Any Somali person or politicians who aspire to participate in Somali politics has to be vetted by the Ethiopian intelligence office in Mogadishu. In doing so, Gabre manages to pick and choose the most immoral and unethical leaders for the Somali societies. Furthermore, to solidify their grip and takeover, Ethiopian government has mobilized military and political offices and representative in Puntland, military forces in Jubbaland, South West (Baidao), and in Galmudug. All of these administrations also celebrate Ginbot and their leaders travel more to Addis Ababa than to Mogadishu.
The enigmatic relationship between Ethiopia and so called federal administrations including Somaliland is enforced through fear and intimidations. While Ethiopia maintains military bases in most Somali administrative regions, the Somali Region of Ethiopia paramilitary forces known as Liyu Police have repeatedly entered in Somalia and slaughtered innocent civilians. On April of 2016, the Liyu Police indiscriminately massacred Somali civilians who are under the Ethiopian territory of Somali Region along the border with Hiiraan region of Somalia.
The innocent nomads were forced to flee to their closest kin in Somalia for protection and security. The Liyu Police followed the nomads and entered into the Somali territory and fought with Galmudug region forces. When the Galmudug region president protested to Addis, he was told to go to Jigjiga and negotiate with Somali Region President Abdi Mohamud Omer and settle the issue. In June 2016, the Liyu Police massacred 22 people in in Jaamac Dubad village of Gashso district bordering Somaliland. Both Somaliland and Galmudug have in the past handed over ONLF members to Ethiopia in order to get allegiance, but it seems turning over the ONLF members did not provide them with security or respect.
The Jama Dubad village incident and aftermath reactions marks the worst political humiliation to Somaliland administration. It is reported that a young Liyu Police officer entered Somaliland village and allegedly burnt the Somaliland flag in public. Again, five journalists were abducted on a broad daylight from a border town in Somaliland and taken to Jigjiga. Four were immediately released and the fifth is still under Ethiopian detention. But the irony is that instead of accusing the Ethiopian government and demanding justice, some political and community leaders in Somaliland started making absurd statements, including singling out the Liyu Police and by extension a clan that itself has been the victim of the Liyu for so long for blame by cowardly separating the Liyu from the Ethiopian federal defense forces who also took part in the massacre. This self-humiliation and cowardice typifies the state of Somali politics.
Somalis, regardless of region or clan, need to learn from the past 25 years of agony and anguish and from the experiences of one another. They can only be respected if they are united. In the absence of united Somali government, they will be treated as a second class citizens in their own country. They will not have a voice to stand up and speak against aggression or to advocate for the thousands youth killed in the other African countries or in the sea for search of better life.
It is time Somaliland and Somalia leaders sit together for true reconciliation and power sharing. The recent incidents in both borders area is a sign of the indignity the Somali people are suffering. Somaliland leaders have to stop believing in the illusion that Ethiopia is the best ally of Somaliland. Ethiopia has never been and will never be an ally to Somaliland or to Somalia.
If Ethiopia considers Somaliland as an ally and friend, they would have recognized the independence of Somaliland long time ago. After all, Ethiopia’s political strategy towards Somalia and Somaliland is to create rift among the Somali clans to keep them fragile and vulnerable.
Many countries have gone through civil war and political volatility. If Rwanda overcame the worst genocide in Africa, if Mozambique emerged from civil war and is back in the international forum as a respected nation, if South Africa ended the horrible apartheid era, Somalis can heal their wounds and be a respected. But they can only achieve that if they are united.