Somalia: Loss in Sool means Somaliland ‘project’ is unviable
EDITORIAL | Somaliland has been pursuing secession for more than 30 years. But on Friday, a revolt that had been boiling for months in Sool region may have pushed Hargeisa into reality that they are tied to Somalia at the hip.
A self-motivated uprising known informally as SSC-Khatumo declared victory after pushing back Somaliland troops out of Sool. The victory may be pyrrhic, coming at a cost of great displacements of people, damaged infrastructure and death. Yet the people of Sool will take it as an indicator that unity is better than anything else.
But for Somaliland, this loss may go beyond the battlefield: What form of morale damage will it cause to enthusiasts of secession, people who have campaigned for Somaliland to delink from Somalia without success?
On Saturday, Bihi spoke of “strong measures” to be taken in the wake of the Friday defeat. But even him did suggest there will be an investigation ostensibly to understand why his troops lost to a supposedly underequipped rebellion. Public and private services, he said, won’t be affected in Somaliland.
The context in which the statement was made, however, pointed to a crisis. Bihi summoned his party KULMIYE as well as various other political parties in Somaliland such as Wadani and UCID. They all reportedly endorsed his rallying call.
But in Sool, Somaliland presence may have ended. What the Sool people said unequivocally is that Somalia has to exist as one but the people must be given an authentic listening ear. Somaliland problem has been to ignore the pleas of the people in Sool. For a long time, they have always asked to be administered as other Somali people. They want to be a part of Somalia. They said this in November. They said it on Friday after the victory. Instead of listening, Somaliland forces came in to crush the uprising and to silence the voices, only to learn that the motivation here was the mortar with which the locals had built a wall of resistance.
As we have argued before, the ball is now in the Federal Government’s court to help Sool rebuild itself and be part of a Somalia they feel comfortable with. The International Community, which has been sitting on the fence on the issue must come in and condemn any state-sponsored terror on hapless Sool people. It will be unforgivable if Mogadishu and its international partners do not take advantage of the victory in Sool by the militia to build stronger state presence on the ground. This will not only dissuade any future uprisings but also cement a sense of national unity with Sool people have yearned for long.
The people certainly need to be re-settled from displacement. They need their schools running, hospitals working and roads open. There is a bigger fish to fry, fighting terrorism in Somalia, than fighting hapless civilians.
For Somaliland, this loss could make a great lesson, and a big turning point in political strategy. Its ambition to secede is now dented by an obvious fact that not everyone has boarded. It also reflects the continual reluctance by the international community to entertain the issue. The easier choice for Somaliland, now, is that they must engage other stakeholder of Somalia on the future and political direction of the country.
Secession or any other system of political administration will not be achieved by isolating others.