Why Somaliland Could Where Others Failed: A Call to the Democratic World!
By Adam Muse Jibril
The Freedom House has recently issued its annual report about democracy in the world with a world map, where a clear distinction between democratic countries and others were shown. In our region, the Horn of Africa and the world around including the Golf states and most of the Middle East (with exception of Israel) the only place where the candle of democracy is lighting, as virtually free and fair election elections have been practiced, according to this report, is in that small spot, the Somaliland Republic, ‘which was denied to stand as a country’. My point however, is what made difference from other places and why?
Observers and researchers, at home and abroad, mostly agree that the peace and state building mission in Somaliland has been attainable without assistances and support from the outside world, whereas in other parts of the Somali territories (the Italian Somalia) all attempts by the Regional and International communities to initiate and carry-out the peace and State building project with mythical financial involvement and military engagements, hitherto, have ended up without tangible progress, and in some cases with tragic closure. Similar experiences prevailed in other countries where external forces interfered and dictation from outside influence become dominant at the expenses of the local people’s role, and where-ever international companies and their local agents making local efforts idle and spectator. Tangible examples do exist in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as an example. It is here where non-Somali observers and researchers raise questions about where the contrast between the two Somali peace building processes lay. In this respect, a brief account of some historical and cultural diversities and dissimilarities between the two might be helpful to fill the gaps of information.
British Indirect Rule: Unlike the Italian part, the British indirect rule of Somaliland played a crucial role in the preservation of the Somali cultural and traditional traits. After almost one century of Colonial occupation, the British left Somaliland without any significant socio-economic and political change and without least features of modernization. As a result, they left the country in an extreme state of poverty. Nevertheless, the Somali-African traditional system remained mostly alive and intact. This is because of the indirect rule of the British colonial policy, which was largely based on clan authorities, known as ”Somaliland Local Authority”. Again, unlike Southern Somalia, where the Italian educated class had been highly politicised and ideologically committed to party politics, the British education system in Somaliland produced generations of non-politicized class of technocrats. This was a true reflection of the different educational systems of the two colonial powers that ruled the two parts of the Somali territories in the past. Again unlike the South, the system of the security sector and its governance in Somaliland since 1991 had been an amalgam of traditional and modern governance.
Lessons learn from within and around in the region: The Ethio-Somali armed conflict in 1977 ushered in a period of in and intra-state wars and upheavals that reached their heights in the 1977s-1991 of the last century with people’s uprising throughout the sub-region of the Horn of Africa. The peoples of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eretria engaged armed struggle against the authoritarian military regimes both in Somalia and Ethiopia. The rise of the Somali National movement known as SNM was a response to the need to a democratic change that led to ten years of armed struggle against the Siyad Barre Military in regime Mogadishu, where other Somali opposition forces and Mogadishu uprising hugely contributed its downfall.
The SNM was not a monolithic organization on ideological and political levels, but a melting-pot of a wide spectrum of different ideological trends with diverse people’s constituencies. Those diverse political forces had been able, not only, to coexist but also to restrain their innermost fundamental differences and thus could work together for a common cause. Traditionalists, moderate religious groupings, Liberal and secular western educated elites and a tiny Marxist oriented group have come to an unwritten deal of modus operandi. This coherence did not come as a result of socially crystallized forces or socio-economic and politically formulated strategy, but by pragmatically concluded common sense which was true to the local traditions of compromises and consensus of ”Pastoral Democracy” as professor I. M. Lewis had set it in his book on that title in 1961. The demand to a common platform to incorporate within the same podium the different political and traditional voices and expressions made that wide range of politically heterogeneous forces unite under one umbrella organization called Somali National Movement, the SNM.
The Organizational, Ideological and political forms of struggle for SNM Strictly reflected and matched to the rationale on the ground, the historical stage of development the Somali society is going across, and the type of political elite it produces whose ambitions to rule can get supporters only from their clan constituencies as there is not yet enough class crystallization in the Somali society. For this reason the central perception about the role of the state is clan domination, which the Somali people practically experienced in the three decades of independence and unity 1960-1990s. That is one main reason that made SNM formed and continued in the struggle as Issaq representative because of the fragmentation of the Somali Elite on clan basis. In spite of this objective and historical dimension the organizational and political forms of struggle enabled them solve problems by both traditional and modern mechanisms. The central and executive committees, as well as the military command of the organization represented the urban population and their political orientations. On the other hand, the Council of elders (Guurti) represented the traditional value of governance (pastoralists and agro-pastoralist population, and reflected their roles as actors in both the peace and war times. The Guurti stands as the highest reference and the main players in the reconciliation endeavours through Traditional means. The alliance of these forces came as a result of a historical necessity dictated by times of difficulties. In spite of its heterogeneous character the SNM had been a cohesive and relatively democratic organization.
The competence to conduct six general party congresses in the ten years of the armed struggle marked its internal strength as modern democratic and traditional oriented mass organization. At the conclusion of each of these congresses the top leadership of the organization had been either re-elected or changed democratically and peacefully on an agreeable consensus based deals.
For the sake of comparison, it is worthy to mention here the fact that the other two organizations of the South (Somalia) that have been on the side of the opposition against the regime at the time fought side by side with the SNM – the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) led by Colonel Abdullah Yusuf, and the United Somali Congress (USC) led by General Mohamed Farah Aided, both organizations that formed on clan basis similar to the SNM itself, but they lacked internal party democratic orientation of struggle, and thus they hardly been experiencing by any kind of internal party democratic practices, moreover, SSDF, the main and militarily strongest faction has been dependent on foreign forces both in financial and weaponry, Libya of Gadhafi in particular. The SNM model of egalitarian democracy and its dependence on internal resources was a true reflection of the organizational dissimilarities with the two other Somali organisations in the same opposition camp that fought together against the regime in Mogadishu. This explains the consequence about the endless failures met by the all attempts in the peace and state building endeavours in Somalia, while on the other hand, the Somaliland track to peace and state building had been just on the opposite in relation to the concrete achievements on the ground.
As a result of the combination, of the traditional and modern values of governance in the armed struggle period and the state building times SNM has been on the right side of history, and thus ultimately won the war against the regime, and although the Somaliland opposition and that of Somalia have contributed together in this struggle against the regime in 1990s, but they have tracked through different ways and means to peace and state building processes for the reasons mentioned above, plus the dictations by the external interventionists. As a result, in Somaliland, the historical initiative was taken by the hands of the SNM in favour of the aim to the establishment a new model of security and political governance, first of its kind in this region. That is what gave these occurrences an exceptional historical significance as a result of which the hostilities amongst the Somaliland clans have been handled, although there is a long way to go to finish the game which is about realisation of reasonable terms of power and resource sharing. These hostilities amongst the clans which have highly politicized disputes about conventional resources by the political elite and shifting them in to the urban political and economic disputes through power struggle and in an exaggerated manner created artificial borders of suspicion and hatred between the people of the same race and interest.
After the collapse of the regime there was no need, in such a complicated situation, to go through the same direction of dictation, domination and ascendency approaches, but through peaceful approach by conducting reconciliation conferences introducing genuine and legitimate all-inclusive reconciliation conferences (known traditionally as ”Golaha-shirrka” to take place under the trees) where traditional wise-men, the Guurti, take things into their hands to end hostilities between warring clans.
This kind of approaches corresponded to the very core of the Somali nomadic culture and customary practices in the society. The initiators and actors of such conferences had been the traditional authorities rather than the political elite whose role had not been contradictory here in Somaliland but took a complementary part. On this background, the course of Peace building and State Formation became possible, worthy to underline here is that when the issue of state building was about to happen the voluntary demobilisation of the clan Militias and SNM guerrilla fighters was also inevitable. Only after all that things were taken into agreeable level of consensus the democratization issue as a vision had been seen and initiated by the late leader M.I.Egal as an urgent agenda. All these achievements in Somaliland were done through local efforts and without mentionable external assistances, but in fact, in a hostile political environment both in the region and the international arena, with exception of Ethiopia.
> As a result of widespread and all-round underdevelopment reality the bases of the challenges facing Somaliland are objective in character and underlying and thus generate increasing economic, political and social pressure on the output of the country’s meagre resources.
>-Since the country’s status has made ‘’Pariah Region’’ and not yet been recognized and lacks access to the international financial institutions and consequently experiencing severe scarcity of foreign capital investment for development.
>-Public services, such as education, health, energy, water and roads are terribly poor, and in a bad need to funds which and can’t be promoted by mobilizing local resources only.
>- As a result of the abovementioned difficulties combined undesirable negative signs started emerging, such as high level of youth unemployment which led to the suicidal massive departure of illegal emigration, which shows the depth of despair and frustration among them beyond the possibilities of the actual economic and social capacity for solutions taking into consideration to the scope of more potential conflicts to emerge.
>-The Security forces; police, military, National Security Service became poorly paid, poorly equipped and heavily tasked.
>- The Jihadist movements, who have taken offensive positions in many territories of the land Somalis inhabit and beyond engender profound challenges to the peace and security, not only in Somaliland but the whole region and beyond.
>-The instability and chaos in Somalia remains the main obstacle to peaceful development and continuous to constitute the main security challenge on the regional, Continental and the world at large.
>-As a result, the Somaliland hybridity model of governance in Somaliland is facing unique and unfavourable situation without which appropriate and timely addressing to the fundamental economic needs could lead to the end of those achievements realised over the years in favour of the Euro-centric world-view to copying the Westminster democracy without giving adequate attention to the rich experience of the Somali-African local governance.
Adam Muse Jibril is a veteran of peace and democracy, on both theoretical and practical levels. Can be reached by email@example.com