Somaliland: In the Throes of Brutal Clan Violence
by Mohamed A. Awale
Aug 26, 2009

It sounds bit dooms-mongering scenario at this point, but I’m afraid that familiar genie is out of the box in the land, or at least it seems so for now. Security state of SL entity is deteriorating with alarming due to resurgence of brutal and brazen political motivated killings in recent past. This ugly situation has precedent in terms of scale, savagery, consequences and the involved actors in it. An age-old Somali adage that goes nina caadadiisa ma gooyo bahalna caydhiin ma daayo, which roughly translates to that neither beast nor twisted human nature gives up lightly its deviant nature, captures it all.

It is deja vu all over again: a wanton killing of more innocent people, a highway robbery of private properties, perpetrators of the crimes still on the loose, overt threats of clan expansionism through an ill-coached minority within, incitement of tribal violence by top pseudo-political vultures and the list goes on. Much of the repeated arguments of democratic ideals, rule of law, recognition, co-existence and other modest goals are all but could be down in the drains forever. After years of weary co-existence and orderly semblance, Somaliland is in the throes of brutal clan violence once again.

All of sudden, brutal reality catches up the land as sbarramento mania, clan banditry and scourges of warlodism are rearing up their monstrous heads again with vengeance. Once more, the unsuspecting, peaceful but ever resilient Awdal community is at the receiving end of unprovoked and barbaric acts: last month, four prominent business men were abducted and hacked to death in a surprise, mid-night roadblock attack. Worse yet, there is no sense of collective, moral outrage, let alone solving, against the crime the parts of the of the public, regime and opposition blocs alike. If the prevailing mood in Hargeisa after the fact is any indication, it is business as usual for the crowd. But let say first say that people support issues in one time or another and everyone has right to do so. The support of SL entity for many, including this author, is not by default, but because of the fact that there is nothing wrong to a give credit where it is due.

Now, the question that begs is: what or who might be behind of these criminal incidents? Why is in this particular locality and at this point in time? What could and should authority be doing on the matter to recover its fast eroding legitimacy, if left any? What would the regime have done differently if similar incident occurred within its core constituents? And could Awdal community learn any lesson from this tragic experience to avoid next rounds of unprovoked transgression?

True, there are no definitive answers at this point as various news accounts still pointing fingers to disparate players or factors as to what happened; nonetheless, no one with a benign knowledge of Somaliland’s torturous history could easily miss the role of few basic but potentially lethal features in relation with the latest spectacle.

The Familiar Exploits

In a society as simple and clannish oriented as us ours, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the root causes of the incident. According to logic and other credible accounts, the cause of latest event is some cheap political masquerades perpetuated by the so-called political parties and their top-dog leadership personae. Kulmiye Party and its tribal Machiavellian leadership in particular could be the main culprits. Of course, one might argue that Udub and its leaders played negative role at the start by creating new administrative region for mere voting-fodder scheme. Such mindless actions might have sparked old clan expansionistic agendas for some and the usurping, chauvinistic elements in Gabiley is perfect example, but it was not match as to what Silanyo, the alter ego of Col. Yusuf, and his ilk had in mind.
Ever since the colossus Ibrahim Egal, along with help of elders, saved SL from the jaws of anarchy and later passed away, the man has left no stone unturned to claim the mantel: with or without fair elections and regardless of credible political dispute on the scene or not, there has been mounting threats of tribal violence and incitements in every opportunity. And while warmongers & co. were reluctant to beat war drums in their wasteland front for selfish reasons, it was different story when it comes to Hargeisa’s environ and other clueless inhabitants of the western regions, which brings us back as to why in this particular area and timing.

The Gabiley district’s well-integrated groups for centuries (traditionally semi-sedentary and less dogmatic folks in terms of lineage matters) remain the main target. If nothing, latest incident fits that same old destructive pattern policy feed by non local actors. It is a well-rehearsed, divisive exploits that goes back the heydays of the SNM’s failed policies and its core leadership philosophy, and in complicit with former Somali regime. Those ruthless policies caused lot of inter-group bloodshed and pain in the past. Another factor that inadvertently aggravated current situation is the up-coming nominal elections, if you could call elections, in which both main parties some pursued on risky manipulative tactics, and particularly Kulmiye’s militant wing along with few chauvinistic locals, thereby pitting local community against each other and thus reinforcing old fears and suspicions. Intentions of such unholy rhetoric were simply to whips up emotions into frenzy of hate fest and mutual destructive mode.

It is now up to the indigenous people to end the senseless fratricide by separating facts from fiction; neighbor from stranger; friend from foe; and own interest from parasitic one. It is about time those concerned masses in the area say enough is enough to the remotely operated dangerous exploits by putting their own welfare and interest above everything and above anyone

Travesty of Justice

As far as the authority’s role or legitimacy concerned, the issue is straight forward: it is nothing but gruesome criminal act and should be dealt as such. Any other excuse or inaction tat mounts to a mockery of justice. Security agents must catch perpetrators and punishment should fit the crime. There are no “ifs” and “buts” but cold blooded butchery in highest order and with blatant disregard of the rule of law, religious and other inter-communal code of conducts. It has little to do with the alleged prior clan disputes over land, as some would ague. This incident was a brazen attempt to undermine any legitimacy of the SL authority thereby wracking havoc the quasi orderly state in the larger community at once. If not resolved in a timely fashion and with due process, safety of citizens in every village and across the land could be at risk. Nothing prevents people to take matter into their own hands. Any person or group with slightest sense of grievance can go postal next time around and why not if crime pays off?

Thus, authority has very means in its disposal, including the use of measured force if necessary, to bring outlaws to justice. Why would the regime still baby-sitting few banditos and allow negotiating in their own terms and choosing while leaving victims in the cold with body bags? Is it because of the alleged hand of the administration is true as why things shrouded with so much secrecy? Elders should be given only a minor role of delegating their peaceful surrender to credible security apparatus. We heard that they are too many to be accountable for any or that they are willing to the settle things through other venues, which are preposterous and insult to intelligent arguments at best. Let them come out of the veil first and recant who did what, who masterminded, etc. The ball is in the regime’s corner to reaffirm its basic function.

A Tale of Two Incidents

As to what would have done differently, two places and two incidents with similar nature and yet completely different reactions from the regime and its tribal clique speaks volumes. These reactions illustrate about much of the political hypocrisy and other psychological inner-working of Hargeisa’s crowd. Notably, the response to the crises from media, opposition and political heavy weights is striking. One incident occurred in Daror, a remote village within the Ethiopian Regional State border, few years ago where some members of the SL’s clans hail from. Back then, that regrettable incident brought about the business of all political charades in the Clanville to standstill for weeks: a sense of despair and first rate urgency measures to contain clan skirmishes swept across the board; peace Manifestos were saturated in the media outlets overnight and an outpouring emotional, political and medical support for the actors was mobilized. Notwithstanding the area’s outside jurisdiction, a convoy of prominent figures, top opposition leadership and even Ministers, who were trying in vain to broker fragile peace among warring sides, were often sighted at the border.

In Contrast, recent incidents of killings plus other inter-clan hostility in Awdal borders got neither sympathy nor meaningful helping hand from Hargeisa whatsoever. Few well-intended and charitable elders/religious figures were exceptions. All people heard from opposition party so far are vague and incoherent statements, at best, and mere political opportunistic posturing and shadenfraude, at worst. Note that anything is wrong with helping brother in dire need whenever possible, but patronizing social distress on the bases of clan lineage over purported citizenship idea will backfire sooner than later. And don’t even mention about the pathetic, suspicious response of the administration in the face of tragedy.

In any case, something is fundamentally wrong with the system -- some ũber clannish stuff that could seal off any fate of viable Somaliland prospect for good. Whatever happened to the much touted common bonds among SL folks? One fails to see common thread except the familiar clan card. This leads now to the final question of what Awdal masses should learn from here in order to protect their god-given rights and forge ahead some badly needed and free socio-political and developmental coping mechanisms.

Higher Calling for the Masses

In the meantime, whether solved amicably or not, Awdal people should learn valuable lesson from herein and that is they should never let their god-given rights and destiny in other hands for perpetual misuse. There is a godly manifestation for Awdal nation to heed and weigh its options once more. Nothing is noble about clinging to the status quo and all its forms that brought nothing but disaster in terms of socio-economic, developmental and security wise. Turning blind eye in the mounting flagrant violation on the temporary social contracts or xeer is not viable alternative. I don’t want to sound offensive, but the lone ranger leading private life in Hargeisa or few other bottom-feeding and politician wannabes have ceased to represent people’s welfare long ago.

Bear in mind that Somaliland, like the rest of Somalia proper, has been and still is in a Hobbesian state over decades, which means that any group within the ex-republic borders has every right to go unilaterally if need be. However, modus vivant and unity are among brotherly neighbor people are preferable over anarchy or being solitary moves. It must be preserved as much, but that doesn’t necessarily mean to be at the expense of particular groups. If peaceful co-existence and mutual respect is the best interest of the all concerned parties, then every one should reciprocate in its kind. But if realty goes in the opposite, no one is obligated to act differently.

Contrary to the often cited legitimacy of defunct colonial borders, Awdal people have more in common through heritage, commerce, proximity, etc., with the communities on the other side of the borders of Ethiopian Regional State and Djibouti who are eager to do business with. Likewise, the great people of Sool and Sanag have similar relation and aspiration with their respective geographical areas and so might Buroa natives, too. There is nothing wrong with pursuing on the immediate interest till other Somalis realize the meaning of patriotic dignity and cease roaming around Menilik palace in Addis and foreign capitals like strayed wild dogs. Let the chips fall where they may. Abating myopic tribal, agendas that lacks any sense of common value with known disastrous results is not palatable option.

The point is that masses have seen enough of political masquerades and double standards emanating from Hargeisa over decades. Aside from the economic, political and commercial strangulation inflicted upon, it almost became daily sports for camel boys to smear upon citizens whenever political distress felt in the city, even when bloody massacres took place. If you want to horn your political skill, just blast to Awdal or Eastern groups goes the popular saying in the Clanville. Let them make their own cake and eat at same rime.

Mohamed A. Awale

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