Thursday, July 24, 2008

IS RECOGNITION The Search for Recognition for “Somaliland”

IS RECOGNITION The Search for Recognition for "Somaliland"
For some time now, Hargeisa has been systemically putting in place the infrastructure for a successful secession.  Chief among them is an army that proved superior to that of Puntland. It has also successfully recruited a number of Western scholars to champion the cause(2).  Unusual silence blanketing the other side, including the TFG and the elite of the Harti(3)clan, with the exception of the nascent Northern Somalis for Peace and Unity (NSPU),(4) did not hurt either.
Since the fall of Las Anod (October, 2007) into the hands of "Somaliland," and the blurb of a Pentagon employee of the Djibouti-based AFRICOM, suggesting the "eagerness of his Department to recognize "Somaliland", the Hargeisa administration has been moon struck by a robust [glimmer] of hope for recognition. 
There are three more immediate [local and global] developments that may change the equation of secession and the search for recognition.  First is the continued fiasco and the never-ending conflict in the southern part of the country, which Dr. Abdiweli Ali calls a manufactured conflict in that secessionists "perpetuate the war, they perpetuate the fighting in the south by helping (al Qaeda-connected) Shabaab and I think they are now in cahoots with the Eritrean groups... There is an argument that some of the Shabaab who left Mogadishu are now in Hargeisa, Somaliland."(5)
A second factor is Hargeisa's resolve to create a "new reality on the ground," and show to the worldthat it, as a state, fully controls its borders.(6)  A not-so-important third factor is the recent defection of Ahmed Xabsade to Hargeisa, whose attributes include former speaker of "Somaliland's" parliament under the late Egal, a co-founder of the ailing regional government of Puntland, and now back to Hargeisa's fold.  Mr. Xabsade joins a host of Dhulbahante notables (Qaybe, Fagadhe, Fuad Adan Cade, et al).  Although initially Xabsade's defection was thought to tip the balance in Hargeisa's favor, it seems to have now energized the unionists and could generate a backlash that neither Hargeisa nor Xabsade expected. 
 A fourth yet critical factor in deciding the fate of "Somaliland" is largely dependent on a possible policy shift by the only supper-power, i.e., the United States of America.(7)  The two Resolutions (1541) (XV) and (2649) (XXV) of the General Assembly,(8) which govern and arbiter issues of secession that so far protected the territorial integrity of Somalia notwithstanding, it is not unthinkable that the US could "partition Somalia" if its interest is being served this way.(9)
New Diplomatic Developments
The first week of December, 2007, almost one year since Ethiopia invaded Somalia with the tacit approval of the Bush administration, witnessed well-healed US leaders including Gondaleezza Rice and Robert Gates, Secretaries for State and Defense, respectively descending down on the region; their visit was highlighted by a foreign policy blurb given by one Captain Wright, a member of the US Defense Combined Task Force-Horn of Africa, AFRICOM, stationed in Djibouti, to the Washington Post, indicating his department's "eagerness" to recognize "Somaliland"(10) and how "the State Department is in the way." To which Mrs. Frazer, undersecretary for African affairs, who at the time was in Addis Ababa travelling with the Secretary of State, responded: "We do not want to get ahead of the continental organization on an issue of such importance." Following the Post's article, a simultaneous fact sheet released by the State Department on December 5, 2007, noted one of the most direct diplomatic languages that inch us towards a potential but real "partition of Somalia":
We understand that Somaliland is pursuing bilateral dialogue with the African Union and its member-states in this regard.  However, as the African Union continues to deliberate on this issue, the United States will continue to engage with all actors throughout Somalia, including Somaliland, to support the return of lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.(11) 
Mrs. Frazer says this with the full knowledge that the AU fact finding mission, a one sided mission, had diplomatically indicated to endorse the claim of "Somaliland" by saying that "Somaliland's status was unique and self-justified and that the cause should not be linked to the notion of "opening a Pandora box." (Alison Egger, 2007).
For an American marine captain to suggest to "partition Somalia", most of which is already under the occupation of Ethiopian soldiers encouraged by the US, is rather incongruent to international law and mutual respect of UN charter.(12) Yet both America's flirtation with "partitioning" Somalia and the AU's findings to potentially sanction the secession of "Somaliland" are in total contravention to international relations laws. 
Both the General assembly Resolutions and the Montevideo Convention, which set the framework for the regulatory authorities for secession versus territorial integrity and provide for the framework concept of a nation, respectively, provide for the protection and maintenance of the territorial integrity of states, in this case Somalia.   For example, the Montevideo Convention explicitly conditions that any nation must satisfy the following four factors before recognition is warranted:  it must (1) establish a permanent government;   (2) a defined territory; (3) a permanent population; and (4) a capacity to enter into relationship with other states are prerequisite for statehood.  These instruments stipulate that a secessionist part must seek its objectives within the framework of the "parent" state.  Mogadishu's say so in this case is a key to any future change in the status quo.(13)
While it appears plausible to argue that "Somaliland" has established a modicum of permanent but fragile government, it is nonetheless a government within a government and may not be able to enter meaningful relationships with neither bilateral governments, excepting Ethiopia, nor with international bodies.  Moreover, unlike Alison's argument, neither the population nor the territory claimed by "Somaliland" is defined.  If "Somaliland's" territory is to be defined as those regions inhabited by clans who had signed treaties with the former colonial government of Britain in the late 1800s, to distinguish them from that of the Italian protectorate, the Dhulbahante clan did not do so.(14)  There has never been an Anglo-Dhulbahae treaty at any time.  Both the territories and the clans who inhabit "Somaliland" are porous and shifting constantly.  A case in point is the multiple allegiances that Mr. Ahmed Xabsade, among many others, exhibited in the last 15 years.  Besides, if the former British Somaliland opted out for not uniting with the former Italian protectorate in that fate night of July 1, 1960, the Dhulbahante and the Harti tribes may have charted their own political course.  With significant human cost, the same could take place now in the event that the status quo is changed.
As to a US marine indicating a policy shift to "partition Somalia," it is an egregiously imprudent diplomacy to dismantle a nation state in order to satisfy the short-term needs of AFRICOM in Djibouti. International law clearly limits an overtly hostile diplomacy, such as the one the Djibouti-based US marine suggested in that (1) "states shall not dismember other states (i.e. use of force unlawfully) under the pretense of aiding self-determination; and (2) international law does not encourage secession, either."(15) Remaining oblivious to this law and flirting with the idea of "partitioning Somalia" at any time is tantamount to a deliberate destabilization of an already volatile region.(16)
If it chooses, the US government has its own way to circumvent international law by invoking Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, Sec. 201, enacted in 1987.  This law enables US government to define and engage whomever entity it considers a nation, regardless of local, regional or international laws.  In other words, the US foreign interest and what it terms "national security" take precedence over any other interest including democracy, human rights, or least in this case, the Somali public opinion. 
Ted Dagne, an expert on the Horn who works at the Congressional Research Service in Washington says "recognition by the United States and, perhaps, the European Union would not give Somaliland legitimacy in the eyes of other Somalis,"(17) Mr. Dagne's caution warrants serious attention lest the situation in the region is so fluid.  It is too soon to make any serious conclusion based on one Captain's blurb on whether the US policy is shifting towards a "partition" of Somalia."  However, the diplomatic significance of the "Somaliland" issue surfacing at a time when power-studded leaders visiting the region is not an accidental phenomenon, and, at minimum, underscores what one analyst called a "ragging debate" in Washington in search for a new direction to the Somalia crisis.  
Many analysts believe that "Somaliland" has entered a new phase of crisis and active conflict.  If the new threat issued in Booame, Sool region, by the council of Garadas and sultans and chiefs of the Dhulbahante tribe comes to fruition, any shift in US policy towards the troubled waters of Somalia "may as well set ablaze", writes Abukar Arman, "the volatile inter-tribal tension looming in northern Somalia,"(18) This in turn may divert the scope of the AFRICOM from concentrating on the "war on terror," to mediating inter-tribal conflict.  How the clouds of war unfold in the coming months and propel "Somaliland" into a new conflict rather than into a state of recognition remains to be seen.
Faisal Roble
Faisal Roble is working on a forthcoming paper titled "Local and Global Norms: Challenges to Somaliland's Unilateral Secession."
(2)Chief among those advocating for the secession of Somaliland are I.M. Lewis and John Drysdale. Both are considered authoritative on Somalia affairs and have worked for the later dictator, Mohamed Said Barre, at different times
(3) Harti Kombo Clan is a lineage based diya- paying conglomerate of clans consisting of Majertin, Walsangle and Dhulbahabte; the latter two clans occupy the districts of Sanag, eastern Togdheeer, Sool and Cayn (formerly known as Buuhodle district) in the former British Protect also known as Northern Somalia.
(4) Nur Hussein Cadde, TFG Prime Minister's interview by VOA, Somali program, and how oblivious he sounded to the US possible shift in policy towards Somalia.
(5) Dr. AbdiWali, Global Watch, 2007.
(6) Faisal Roble, "Somaliland: Is Invading Las Anod, Part of Creating "New Reality on the Ground"?
(7) Faisal Roble, ibid, in a forthcoming article, would argue that the granting of recognition is mainly a function of world politics as much as it is the product of local politics.
(8) Resolution (1541) (XV) of the General Assembly is applied to colonies or territories administered by a colonizing country with distinct national characteristics, while Resolution (264) (XXV) in Article 1"affirms the legitimacy of peoples under colonial and alien domination.
_&_partition_of_Somalia_Arman.html, (accessed 16 December 2007).
(10) Ann Scott Tyson, U.S. Debating Shift of Support in Somali Conflict, Washington Post, December 4, 2007
(11) US Department of State Website, United States Policy on Somaliland, December 5, 2007.
(12) The unexpected bravado by an overseas-stationed, low-ranking marine captain commenting on such a high-valued diplomatic foreign policy while sharing the same podium with the Secretary of Defense without first acquiring clearance from higher authority is rather bazaar.
(13) "When State is a State? The Case for Somaliland," Boston College International and Comparative Law, Vol. 30.211, 2007
(14) The Illusory "Somaliland" ; Setting the Record Straight, NSPU, 2005
(15) Alison Eggers, ibid, 2007
(16) The US has several plans towards the region, especially owing to its paranoid-based "war on terror" policy; one such likely alternative policy includes "partitioning Somalia."  In the event that the Pentagon view triumphs over the meek and non-committal position of the State Department, US present and future administrations most likely would invoke Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, Sec. 201, enacted in 1987.   This law, intended to free the Executive branch from the restrictions of international laws, states that "a[n] entity that satisfies the requirements of [the] Sec. 201 (definition of state) is a state whether or not its statehood is formally recognized by other states.
(18) Abukar Arman, ibid

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