| The Somali conflict |
|Part V: Somaliland: peace-building|
On 5 May 1993 the Boroma Conference elected Mohamed H.Ibrahim Egal as the new President of Somaliland. Abdulrahman Aw Ali was elected Vice President. The election of Egal, first Prime Minister of Somaliland in 1960, and an experienced politician and diplomat, was met with general approval. He was welcomed into Hargeisa on 16 May by a crowd of 10,000, anticipating a new beginning for Somaliland.
Things, however, did not start well. When he announced his first cabinet in June, two out of the 13 ministers appointed-one Habr Yunis and one Warsengeli-refused their posts. The Habr Yunis, and to a lesser extent the Warsengeli, have since emerged as vocal critics of Egal. Other critics initially included the Arap and the Edegalle. The Arap appear to have settled their differences and have thrown their support behind Egal. In July the Habr Yunis held a conference in Burco (the Liiban Congress), at which they announced their decision not to take up their seats when the Constituent Assembly and Upper House met on 31 July. They went on to state that they would not be bound by the laws passed in the current session of parliament, and accused Egal of forming his government from a 'single political wing'.
The grievances of the Habr Yunis are two-fold. Firstly they believe that the system used at the Boroma Conference for the distribution of seats for the Constituent Assembly and the Upper House was unjust. The Habr Yunis are divided into four sections: Hargeisa, Burco, Berbera and Erigavo. They believe that they are the largest of the Issaq clans and that the four seats allotted to them for the Constituent Assembly and the Upper House are insufficient. They complain that this compares unfavourably with the Ayub, for example, who are smaller in number and were allotted three seats. They claim that seats were allotted on a clan basis rather than by proportional representation, and refer back to 1960 and the Burco conference of 1991, when they had a greater share of seats. They have called for another national conference to resolve the issue.
Their second complaint concerns Egal's first choice of cabinet ministers. Among those ministers Egal has appointed some of the most aggressive opponents of the government of the former president Abdulrahman Ali 'Tuur' (Hater Yunis). These include Musa Bihi (Minister of Interior),41 Suleiman Gaal (Minister of Education), and Dayib Gure (Minister of Commerce). All these were members of a faction within the SNM known as the 'Red Flag', who had supported the opposition to Tuur in the conflict in Berbera in 1992. The Habr Yunis accuse Egal of opening old rifts within the SNM, which were supposed to have been settled at the Sheikh conference. The impression given is that those who openly fought against the Tuur administration won the war.
Egal has some room for manoeuvre. He can change his cabinet, and there are some unfilled ministerial posts with which to appease the Habr Yunis; as of September 1993 Foreign Affairs, Defence, Planning and Reconstruction, and Religious Affairs were vacant. It is unlikely, however, that the elders will accept another long conference to debate the parliamentary structure again.
Some observers feel that the dispute between the Habr Yunis and the Egal administration is not too serious. Egal's mother is Habr Yunis, as was his paternal grandmother. Both these subclans of the Habr Yunis are said to be supportive of him. To date the Habr Yunis have been conciliatory in their opposition. While publicly critical of Egal, they have made it clear that they are prepared for dialogue. In September their elders were in discussion with the administration.
The Warsengelis' position is less clear. They are divided in their attitude towards Somaliland, with a minority favouring a closer association with Somalia, in particular Bosasso (see below). Their lack of participation in Egal's government is probably more influenced by their relationship with the Habr Yunis of Sanaag than by any major differences with Egal.
The Gadabursi and Dolbahunte appear supportive of the Egal administration, content with their Parliamentary seats and cabinet posts. The only woman (Deeqa Cooljool) appointed to the government, as a Minister of State to the Presidency, is Dolbahunte from Erigavo. The Commissioner of the Police Abdi 'Depot' is also Dolbabunte. Since the Boroma Conference, however, several senior Dolbahunte statesmen, who were members of the Dolbahunte Khussusi, have taken up parliamentary and cabinet posts. It is said that their seats in the Khussusi have been filled by Dolbahunte with southern leanings. Some Dolbahunte and Warsengeli were represented by the USP at the Addis Ababa conference in March. The USP has been campaigning with UNOSOM against the Somaliland secession. However, their credibility, even among those Dolbahunte and Warsengeli in Somaliland who are opposed to secession, is smaller than UNOSOM have given them credit for.
Among the Gadabursi, there remains a small section who are still opposed to Somaliland secession. These come from the Rer Nur sub-clan from Dilla, a town which was destroyed by the SNM at the end of the war. This faction was represented at the Addis Ababa Conference in March by the SDA. The credibility of the SDA among the Gadabursi, like the USP, is minimal.
Despite the four months of meetings, political divisions remain to divide people in Somaliland. Such divisions are nothing new. To date the debates are public. Even the fiercest critics of Egal, such as Jama Mohamed Qalib (Edegalle), have their opinions published in the Hargeisa newspapers. As one Somali in Mogadishu pointed out, in the south he would have been shot. There is no indication of a return to the conflict and insecurity experienced in 1992. The question is the extent to which these divisions will again bedevil attempts to develop effective government. Central to this is the issue of regional government.
Article 21 of the Somaliland National Charter states that 'the principle of decentralisation' will be applied to administration in the regions and districts, through the creation of regional and district councils. The Charter further states that the relationship between the regions and the central administration will be determined by a parliamentary decree. For debate is the extent to which central government will determine the form which that relationship will take.
Since 1991 regional councils have been established in Awdal and Sool, and one is in the process of formation in Sanaag region. It is clear from discussions in Erigavo that there will be some resistance from the regions to a central government making political appointments, like governors, to the regions. Some in Hargeisa, however, insist that the administration should make such appointments. It was a common practice under Barre. Abdulrahman Tuur attempted to do this and failed. After years of centralised government, people are protective of a new-found autonomy. What is being debated is more than clanism or territoriality. It is a political issue about governance, about how people want to see the country run, and how they want to manage their lives. The way in which decentralisation is handled will be critical to the success of the Egal administration.
Another problem facing the Egal administration is that of Somaliland's relationship with the UN. This came to a head on 13 September 1993, when Egal asked UNOSOM personnel to cease operations in Somaliland and to leave the country.
Somaliland's relationship with the UN has never been good. The UN and the international community continue to entertain no possibility of recognising Somaliland declaration of independence.42 In the year since the UN opened offices in Hargeisa (in June 1992), they have failed to provide any meaningful assistance for rehabilitation and development.
The dramatic decision of Egal to expel UNOSOM arises from two sources. Firstly, his government is bitterly frustrated with the lack of support that UNOSOM have provided, despite many promises. And secondly, there is a very deep suspicion among the population in Somaliland of UNOSOM's intentions for that area.
On 27 May 1993 Admiral Howe visited Hargeisa for the first time as the new SRSG. During his meeting with Egal he made commitments to support the Hargeisa police and the demobilisation of the militia. On 3 July Dr Omar Halim (Director of UNOSOM Policy and Planning Group) visited Hargeisa and, after discussions with the administration, made a detailed proposal to UNOSOM for assistance for the police and demobilisation. While some assistance was secured for the police (500 uniforms and food provided from EC funds), no assistance was received for demobilisation. At the beginning of September, with government plans for demobilisation about to be completed, the need for that assistance became critical. The condition for this assistance, however, appears to be agreement by the Somaliland administration to allow UNOSOM to have more control over the process. In UNOSOM's eyes this would mean the deployment of some troops. Although in May Egal had indicated a willingness to accept troops to help with the demobilisation programme and infrastructural rehabilitation, events in Mogadishu had warned people against this.
The deployment of UNOSOM troops in Somaliland is a very sensitive issue. UNOSOM II is mandated to deploy its peace-keeping forces throughout Somalia and Somaliland. However, even at the height of the conflict in Berbera, this idea was rejected by Tuur's government and the opposition. There remains a very deep suspicion among the population at large of the intentions of the UN to reunify Somaliland with Somalia. UNOSOM II, they say, has 'II agendas', one of which is reunification. An announcement by Boutros-Ghali on 3 March 1993 that UNOSOM troops would be deployed throughout the region, including Somaliland, met with a sharp response from the Somaliland elders meeting in Boroma. They considered 'the arbitrary dispatch of [UN] troops into our country as an alien invasion, which we will resist with our utmost resolve'. Since the outbreak of conflict between UNOSOM and Aideed in Mogadishu, the people in Somaliland are even more adamant that they do not want the deployment of UN troops.
In an atmosphere charged with suspicion, a dispute arose between Egal and UNOSOM over a number of diplomatic blunders by UNOSOM. In August UNOSOM personnel made two visits to Erigavo. The first was by the US envoy Gosende and the US Ambassador to Djibouti. The second was by the Deputy SRSG, Kouyate. Gosende also went to Badhan, where he reported that he met with the Warsengeli Garaad and was told that the Warsengeli did not support Somaliland. In August the Deputy SRSG Kouyate also visited Erigavo, during the peace conference, taking with him the northeast Zone Director from Bosasso. He is also reported to have held a meeting in Las Anod. The impression given was that UNOSOM was taking heed of an open letter from the USP (as representing Warsengeli and Dolbahunte) to Admiral Howe, stating their opposition to Somaliland. It was further rumoured that UNOSOM planned to open sub-offices in Erigavo and Las Anod which would report to Mogadishu. The visit was interpreted by Egal as an infringement of Somaliland's integrity and the authority of the Egal administration. In response, Kouyate is reported to have stated that under UNOSOM's mandate he was free to travel where he wished.
At the root of this conflict is the UN resolution, which does not recognise Somaliland's independence, and gives its representatives the authority to make decisions, without necessarily consulting local authorities. Through this action, the UN ignored the four months of meetings in Boroma at which people reaffirmed their belief in the sovereignty of Somaliland. This rift with UNOSOM is a gamble for Egal. It could be used as a reason by his critics for why Somaliland did not receive external support. On the other hand, one effect of this rift is that Egal has now formally submitted a request to the UN for recognition. Allegedly, this was never done by the Tuur administration.
The attitude of UNOSOM Hargeisa could not be more different from UNOSOM in the south. Their position, as stated by the Zone Director in August, was that in Somaliland there was a 'partner' with whom they could work. Their policy was that there would be no deployment of troops without an invitation. Their brief was 'listening and watching and not interfering, demobilisation and to support the police'.43 They appear, however, to have failed to convince UNOSOM in Mogadishu of the same and to provide the resources with which to work. In September 1993 resources were desperately needed to support the demobilisation programme that was underway.