Wednesday, January 13, 2010


THE VISIT BY DEPUTY SPEAKER Farah Maalim to the northern breakaway region, which calls itself Somaliland was totally unwise. This is an entity dominated by one clan among the area’s five main clans, and masquerading as a State based on the boundaries of former British Somaliland, a territory which irrevocably united with the rest of Somalia in July 1960. It is an enclave where the aspirations of the pro-secession clan are deemed to be paramount and non-negotiable, whereas those of the other four unionist clans count for nothing. This is the backdrop to the area to which the Deputy Speaker has paid an ‘‘official’’ visit, during which, he went over the top in his praise of the enclave and its policies and actions. He has, to all intents and purposes, recognised Somaliland without saying it in so many words. No one can, therefore, blame his audience if they concluded that Mr Maalim was representing his government and speaking on its behalf. Until Now, Mr. Maalim has been a man held in high regard among almost all Somalis who have come to know him or heard of him in Kenya and Somalia. Before his election to Kenya's Parliament in December 2007, he was a regular participant in the BBC Somali Service programmes, where he would frequently call for peace, denounce foreign interference in Somalia and strongly defend the country’s territorial integrity. He rightly saw a peaceful, united country, not only in the interest of Somalia, but also its neighbours, including Kenya. Which is all the more shocking then that Mr Maalim would betray all these valued positions by ingratiating himself with Somaliland — a secessionist entity (For my readers, There is nothing called Republic of Somaliland. Somaliland is a province of the disintegrated Somalia)

Somaliland has been assiduously soliciting recognition from both Ethiopia and Kenya, and has been ready in both cases, but more so in the case of Ethiopia, to pay any price to win their recognition. Mr Maalim’s visit has been a tremendous propaganda boost for Somaliland at a time when little else is going right for them. Long despairing of recognition, the visit will be presented as presaging imminent recognition and will be exploited to the full by the ruling party and its authoritarian leader in the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Supporting the current Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has been the mantra of both the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments. And while Kenya has been, on the whole, faithful to its pledges in the past, Ethiopia has never missed an opportunity to undermine Somalia or treat it as non-existent. In the meantime, all the available information suggests that Mr Maalim’s visit to Somaliland was initiated without the knowledge or concurrence of the TFG. It is, therefore, difficult to see the Kenya government endorsing such a visit over the head of the internationally recognised Somali government when it has nothing to gain from it. Mr Maalim’s Somaliland escapade was received by the locals and their administration like a ‘‘state visit’’. He was taken to most parts of the region so that the despairing separatists would see for themselves the new friend and supporter Somaliland has at last gained. Clearly, this was a public relations exercise. The most outrageous part of his visit was his trip to the three northern unionist regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC), invaded and occupied by Somaliland in October 2007 on the ground that they were once invaded and occupied by Somaliland in October 2007 on the ground that they were once part of former British Somaliland and because they refused to join the secession.

ITS ACTION HAS BEEN DRIVEN BY the misguided belief that control of a territory by force will somehow beget recognition. The Deputy Speaker’s pronouncement at the end of his visit that the three SSC regions should forgo their membership of Somalia and instead accept Somaliland’s tutelage is a denial of the rights of the SSC people who oppose the secession. Aiding and abetting the break-up of Somalia is like playing with fire, and it is not difficult to contemplate its consequences. For one thing, it could stoke up the conflict between the secessionists and the rest of unionist Somalia. That would give rise to new outflow of refugees and Kenya, already hosting nearly half a million Somali refugees, will be their preferred destination.

The Author, Mr Hassan is a former UN employee, and currently a consultant on development issues. (