An Open letter to the leaders of Somaliland

Some Preliminary thoughts on responses to the Taleex and London conferences


What are the purposes of the two conferences? How should the Government of Somaliland respond? 

The Taleex conference: The Taleex Conference highlighted a challenge Somaliland faced through most of the last twenty years: the perception and reality of Somaliland as an Isaaq/SNM Project, and the reservation and opposition of non-Isaaq communities particularly the two subclans in Eastern part of Somaliland and some of the Diaspora from Boramo district/ Awdal region. 

The Taleex conference is also part of a new Somali phenomenon: substitution of clan-based factions that sought to take control of the central authority in order to control both domestic resources and external aid with lineage-based cliques with territorial ambitions. But like the factions, they seek a role in the UN-sponsored road map and a share in the new FG and its parliament. 

The London Conference: The London conference similarly highlights the international reservations and unwillingness to endorse Somaliland’s unilateral separation. The British and other western countries want Somaliland to join the current road map and plans for replacing the TFG. The invitation is also an acknowledgement that Somaliland’s absence weakens the efforts of the international community to find a lasting solution to the collapse of the state. 

The Taleex conference proclaimed the establishment of the Khatumo state of Somalia. Indoing so, the organizers and participants of the conference have rejected that the Dolbahante subclan are part of the Somaliland or Puntland. The organizers and participants included groups that were among the founders of Somaliland and Puntland, but concluded that the establishment of their own state is politically more advantageous and enhances the role and opportunities of their leaders in the new federal government. 

The Khatumo state and its organizers and supporters have chosen to confront Somaliland. Both Somaliland and Puntland formally incorporates the Dolbahante communities in their political and government institutions. Puntland is willing to shift its territorial dispute and contest for the control of the the Dolbahante districts to Khatumo. It will continue to formally claim Dolbahante as part of the Puntland subclans. The Taleex conference therefore puts Somaliland and Khatumo state on a collusion course. This has already triggered violent confrontations in Bohoodle between Somaliland forces and militia of the clans supporting Khatumo. 

An agenda and a strategy for action

The two conferences both pose threats to the legitimacy of Somaliland. The outcome of the Taleex conference poses immediate threats to the security of Somaliland while the outcome of the London Conference could undermine the legitimacy and long-term stability of Somaliland. The two conferences create conditions similar to those in the rest of Somalia and will therefore undermine Somaliland successful resistance to the Shabab–led Insurgency. Greater instability in Somaliland will increase the risks of external counter-terrorist intervention and justification for unilateral interventions. Hence, the two Conferences constitute serious challenges to the immediate security and stability of Somaliland and its goal of independence. 

The Somaliland Government must act and act strategically to confront and neutralize the threats and develop strategies for dealing with the new political environment in a manner that recognizes the radical changes in the regional and international conditions. The leaders can not afford to remain aloof from developments in Somalia and the region and the growing international determination to confront the threats of piracy and terrorism that the collapse of the State in Somalia represents. 

Somaliland needs to prevent the escalation of the strife. It also needs to safeguard the democratic achievements of its people while acknowledging the challenges to the security and stability of Somaliland and Somalia are intricately connected.

What are the strategic options of Somaliland? 

Somaliland and its leaders must choose among several options. 

Option A: Stay the course

– mobilize forces and the public to confront and defeat the plans for the establishment of the Khatumo;

– Decline to attend the London Conference and restate Somaliland’s position: Somaliland’s independence is irreversible and Somaliland will only enter into a relationship with Somalia as two separate and sovereign states;

Option B: Pursue “no unity, no recognition” path,

– attend the London conference and seek international support for Somaliland’s security and reconstruction and international support to limit the hostilities with Khatumo State;

– Present concept paper to the conference on “prerequisites and strategies for security and reconstruction in Somaliland.

– Organize an inter-clan conference of all Somaliland communities along the Boramo- Burao model and ask the conference to reaffirm or modify Somaliland independence. 

Option C: Join the process but insist on impendence and present Somaliland’s election plans for local government councils and parliament and seek international endorsement for these elections as part of parallel transition in Somaliland and Somalia.

Option D: Join the process

– Propose interim joint arrangements cooperation with Somalia and the possibility of a reunification after an internationally-sponsored coordinated transitional process;

Option E: Seek immediate long-term solution

– Acknowledge and accept Khatumo state and seek dialogue between Dolbahanta supporters of Somaliland and Khatumo; and

– Join the road map and seek revisions to the transition in conformity with Somaliland constitution: 

–  Propose a confederation with or without Khatumo

By Mohamud Jama
New York,

January 29,2012

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