Tribal Homelands- lessons from the SSC Wars

12 Mar

By Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar *
March 03, 2011

SSC- Objectively Defined: A well armed and fierce political-military organization. Acronym: SSC; Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, two regions and one district considered alternatively within Somaliland/Somalia/Puntland state borders; but also tribal homeland for the members of SSC. Objectives: Liberation of the land of Dhulbante people from occupation by Isaak tribes by force; overcoming the neglect of Puntland State by creating an exclusively tribal homeland defended by an armed force independent from all other interests except that of the tribe. Founded: in Nairobi, Kenya in Oct 2009 by a predominantly Diaspora based Somali intellectuals. Leadership of the organization: known as “Hogaanka Badbaadada iyo Midaynta – SSC.” Acronym: HBM-SSC; roughly translated as the council for unity and salvation. Funded and armed primarily by Diaspora based Somalis who believe in its cause and by those who have a vested interest in seeing the fall and dismemberment of Somaliland. Leader: Saleebaan Ciise Ahmed (Xaglatoosiye) A Somali-American.  Deputy leader and Military Commander: Colonel Ali Hassan Sabarey a Somali Canadian.

Hadith: On the authority of Jabir, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: Two young men were fighting, one from the Muhajirun [people of Mecca] and one from the Ansar [people of Medina]. The Muhajir called out, “Oh Muhajirun!” and the Ansari called out, “Oh Ansar!” The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, came out and said, “What is this call of the people of ignorance?” They said, “Oh Messenger of Allah! It is only two young men who were fighting; one hit the other from behind.” So the Prophet said: “It does not matter. Let a man help his brother whether he is wrong or being wronged. If he is wrong, let him be stopped, for indeed that is supporting him. If he is being wronged, then help him.”

Purpose of this writing:  To define the concept of Tribal Homeland and its relationship to the chaos in Somalia and provide an honest evaluation of the ideological basis of SSC within the context of Somalia and Somaliland. To speak as a self defined Somali, Somalilander and as humanist who wants to add his very humble thoughts to a peaceful dialogue among all Somalis that can help along the birth of a better future for all Somalis who are currently in the clutches of 30 years of wars, rivalry, drought, death and drowning in the high seas.

A confused reading of Somali history

It is bewildering how Somalis are blind to their own history. Or is it that Somalis has no single common history but multitudes of competing and conflicting histories that leaves the Somali stuck in prehistoric tribal struggles, in endless repetition of old follies, and in a state of perpetual disorientation and confusion.  SSDF, SNM, USC etc (Somali Salvation Democratic Front, Somali National Movement and United Somali Congress respectively), these tribe based movements of the eighties have indeed defeated the dictatorship of Siyaad Barre in 1990 but their narrow tribal base prevented them from forging a national consensus and in the end they continued on to dismantle the Somali state one brick at a time exposing the populace to the misery and ruthlessness of chaos, disorder and lawlessness for this last twenty some years.

Why would my brothers in Sool and Sanaag and the rest of the world create a carbon copy of these same failed and deadly organizations 30 years later? Why breathe life into a modus operandi that killed so many of us already.  Why SSC? Especially now, when we already know the ugly legacy of those parent S-word titled organizations, that all claimed allegiance to the nation and that really stood for nothing other than narrow personal and divisive and primitive tribal interest. 

I clearly foresee that SSC could not and would not be any different in its destructive potential from any of these historical “Somali nationalist” organizations, and movements of the eighties. It is clear in my mind that the destructive power of SSC will be unleashed primarily on Sool, Sanaag and Cayn and on all the tribes who share borders in those regions. I have no doubt that the brothers who created SSC had a genuine interest in peace and dignity for themselves and for all Somalis yet when I consider all possible scenarios facing this nascent organization I see nothing but permanent tribal wars, hate, death and destruction.  And I see no hope or salvation from such a miserable fate for people who live in that parcel of disputed territory except if SSC displays the greatness and courage that will lead to its complete, voluntary and unilateral disarmament and its dedication itself to the single cause of the peaceful resolution of the Somali crisis. Nothing less will do! Brothers and sisters of SSC have I not promised to shock? And now let me explain why I come to this bitter conclusion.

The Poisonous and Seductive Sweetness of Tribal Homeland

This war of “liberation” that is being waged by the SSC against Somaliland is based on a single deadly idea that has been introduced into the Somali political thinking in its current lethal form by the armed political movements of eighties that have been instrumental in the destruction of the Somali state. The idea is as potent as it is prehistoric and primitive. It simply states that the members of a tribe, any Somali tribe, collectively own a defined territory, a tribal homeland, which belongs to that tribe and that tribe only to the exclusion of all others. The idea is different from the culturally based tribal land use in which nomads intermittently fought over watering holes and grazing land. It is closer to being a replacement of the state; a kind of tribal sovereignty over territory.

The reality of a modern statehood is quite different.  Every citizen equally owns the whole territory of the State. The State owns and has full sovereignty over all the national territory on behalf of all the citizens of the State. Just as the state has the exclusive right to the use of force in imposing this rule on all of its citizens. This is how things exists in the world we live in today. Collective tribal ownership of the land represents a complete and total negation of statehood.  The tribal homeland idea cannot co-exist with a modern state. It has to be one or the other.  An exception to this rule is when a state with superior power and institutions creates tribal reservations and homelands with the intention of managing, dividing and controlling an indigenous colonized population as is the case in US, Canada and as was the case in South Africa during the apartheid era. Puntland State of Somalia is the most advanced application of this principle on the ground where a Somali tribe (Harti) claims ownership and of vast portions of Somalia. The destruction of Mogadishu in which the USC (United Somali Congress) cleansed the city of other Somali tribes on the basis that it belonged to the Hawiye tribe of Somali was its initial and most violent application. But the idea exists in different forms among all Somali tribes

It is important for us to understand that it is this simple poisonous tribal homeland idea that is behind the destruction of Mogadishu, the division of Gaalkacayo by a green line, the tribal war in Galgala, in Kalshaale, in Ceelbardale and much more. The disappearance of the Somali Republic and the difficulty Somalis had in reconstituting a Somali state in the last twenty years are both direct results of this potent poison that has all but destroyed South Somalia. SSC represents the first armed and organized spread to Somaliland of the tribal homeland principle but there are increasing signs of the viral spread of this poison to all other tribes of Somaliland and conflict and confrontation are brewing in many flashpoints across the region. If Somaliland were to cease to exist, if it were to follow the route of South Somalia, this potent and lethal idea of tribal homeland will be the underlying cause and the only reason necessary.

Like I have said the idea of a collective tribal ownership of land negates the existence of a state.  For a tribe to have its own territory it has to take two essential steps both of which destroy the foundations of statehood. First the tribe has to establish its own tribal force that can impose its desire by violent means if necessary.  SSC has already accomplished this goal to the dismay of both Somaliland and Puntland. And second a tribe has to imagine a tribal border for its homeland (for no such borders exist between any two tribes in real life) and force the acceptance of that imagined border on all neighboring tribes. And every tribe has a strange habit of creating its own imagined map in its mind of where their camel drank last season, where the graves of its ancestors are located, where its sons were born and where they heard, from trusted tribal elders, their caravans settled at the time of British colonization or the Turkish invasion ad infinitum. SSC had mandated a tribal collectively owned homeland, it has imagined the necessary borders of that homeland, it has created the necessary tribally based military force to impose that border on neighboring tribes and now it has started to impose that border by peace if possible and by war if necessary.

One has to understand that the SSC wages war on Somaliland,  its real story however is that it completes the breakdown of Puntland into three separate states each of which possesses its own armed forces and its own claim of sovereignty over certain territory of Somalia: Maakhir State of Somalia which has declared war on Puntland under the leadership of its Salafi Mullah Shiekh Atom, SSC which has declared war on Somaliland under its secular leaders Mr. Xaglatoosiye and Mr. Sabrey and the remainder of Puntland State under the leadership of Mr. Faroole. Each of three sub states of Harti tribal homeland has a produced a territorial map of its own that will be the basis of conflict and war over the next few decades if the idea of tribal homeland becomes fully established in the region. SSC has started the war on Somaliland but this is just one war, on two fronts. It will have to repeat the same process of territorial demarcation in the north against the Warsangale and in the East against the Majeerteen. This is a long order. Indeed it is nothing less than a call for a permanent conflict in the region for every tribe will have to defend its own territorial map that is quite different from the one drawn by SSC.

Let us suppose that SSC pulls off this mighty endeavor by a combination of good politics and peaceful negotiations all backed by the threat of credible use of the powerful technicals and killer bullets (for what is politics except the continuation of war by more peaceful means).  SSC will have then to determine what part of the tribal homeland belongs to Sub-clans A, B, C and D. It has to draw and impose new sub-clan borders and maps. In this process of the ever dividing tribal system SSC will face an irresistible and primitive force that will throw it asunder along sub-clan lines to SSC-A, SSC-B etc. The fact that SSC forces are already organized funded and lead on a sub-clan basis will make this process that much easier. 

Do any of these remind you of what happened to Mogadishu in the mid nineties once the city was liberated as a tribal homeland? Do any of these remind you of the divisions within SNM that devastated Burco, Hargaysa and Berbera in the early nineteen nineties? The tribal organization with its tribal homeland principle is the mechanism by which the best intensions of the advocates of tribal solutions for the Somali problem is translated to the worst outcomes and permanent wars for all concerned.   

SSC must read this history and learn from it for its also its history; that of all of the Somali people and in this regard SSC must think again about the strategic route it has taken that is likely to lead it only to outcomes that Somalis have seen again and again in the last to decades years.

A War Fought in the Wrong place

By establishing tribal army in the “tribal homeland” SSC has succeeded to transform this region of Somaliland into a war zone. The Somali tribes-men who have hitherto lived in peace and harmony in this region will now become victims of continuous wars and the central staging ground for raids and counter raids. Many will die in the SSC-Somaliland wars; many more will be killed in wars of tribal revenge and counter revenge and still many more will die as a result of displacement, economic dislocation and the disruption of the nomadic cycle. The primary victims of this war will be nomads who are cousins and nephews. For tribal wars are, by definition wars of proximity in which neighbors kill neighbors.  The situation will only get worse if this war is escalated to bigger and bigger tribal groupings for the area of confrontation, the border line between these groups will remain to be the volatile region of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn.  And in this process the organization, SSC that was created specifically for the salvation of the people will become morph into the single most lethal harvester of lives. This surely is a war that is being fought in the wrong place. Is this not then a good reason of why The SSC must voluntarily disarm now and not the day after when it is already too late for many of our people?

Fought in the wrong times

Somali tribes reserve the rainy seasons for all of their adventures in tribal bloodletting. They are too busy fighting off the natural enemies of starvation and thirst in times of drought. But the leaders of SSC drink bottled water paid for by Diaspora Somalis who have forgotten what it is like to be thirsty, hungry and desperate for a drop of water to wet parched lips. This war of SSC liberation is launched at the wrong time because its drivers are foreign to the demands of drought and the scarcity of water as it is being led by water-rich naturalized Americans and Canadians who has forgotten the meaning of living in tune with the dessert. They are saviors of the tribe who risk becoming its slayers. There are seasons for war and seasons for peace. We need peace now to quench the thirst of our children.  We should count how many litres of water we deliver and how many lives we save, not how many lives we sniff out prematurely. The traditional leaders of the tribe know this. SSC must learn this lesson quickly, quickly please.

And seriously I call the SSC to declare a seize fire and to cooperate with all Somalis of all tribes in the process of serving our people in this time of need, of water scarcity, of threatened mass death. I call them to take this step for it is what our people needs. We might indeed disagree on the politics and tactics of the moment but I am confident that the lives of our people are of immense value to all of us. Let SSC take this step today. Cease fire. Cease fire today.  And in the meantime let peaceful dialogue take hold and let SSC start the process of transformation into a live giving entity from its current predisposition of being its reaper.

A War Fought with powerful Propaganda

One of the challenges of a good propaganda campaign is that the creators of the propaganda come to belief in its veracity and truth.  In the lives of peoples and nations mistaking the unreal for the real is a costly proposition and often a fatal error.  The central SSC propaganda is that the organization stands as the first line of defense against the division of Somalia. And the organization has come to believe this literally.  Yet just to the contrary SSC is an organization that is dedicated to “protecting” the interests of one Somali tribe. It is engaged in an ordinary, routine and killing tribal war with a lethal twist of a search for tribal homeland that is in essence incompatible with the emergence of a Somali state.  Like any other tribal organization it is essentially anti-national, anti-state and pro-chaos.  The SSC war is definitely not a war for Somalia. If SSC had indeed the national interest at heart it would have worked hard to attract members from all those who believe in the same ideals of Somali nationalism and there are many in Somaliland of all tribal backgrounds (and this includes a sizable population among the Isaac). It would have worked hard to create love and harmony among Somalis tribes not hate and tribal rivalry. And SSC would not have created its warlike reputation on the bones and dead bodies of nomads in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn of all tribal backgrounds. There is nothing nationalistic about violent death of nomads who are already dying of thirst.  

War on Somaliland

War has been declared on Somaliland by the SSC. This much is clear. There is no ambiguity here. The Somali tribe of Dhulbante has not declared war on Somaliland. There can be no ambiguity here either. SSC may draw its membership from the tribe but it is based on an idea of Tribal Homelands that is foreign to the tribe and that represents an immense danger to all Somalis of every tribe and every region of the old republic.

Somaliland must not confuse the SSC with the great people of Dhulbahante. The tribe has broader shoulders, deeper intellect and clearer thinkers than the SSC. There is the sizable community in Somaliland who belong to the tribe they should be at the driver’s seat in formulating strategy and tactics of dealing with SSC. Safeguarding the lives of the people of all tribes who live in this region must be the first job of any Somaliland officer of state and of any security officer, soldier or agent.  And Somaliland must open a dialogue with no conditions attached with all members of SSC who are interested in such a dialogue, for how can people begin to understand each other without talking and how can one engage in war were thousands can potentially die without exploring if there are more rational and more peaceful alternatives.

Somaliland however cannot afford to accept the concept of tribal homelands. President Silaanyo can only accept tribal homeland solution to challenges that arise in Somaliland if he is prepared to become not only the fourth president of Somaliland but also it’s last and if he is willing to take the people of Somaliland to the same tragedy that has befallen their brothers in Somalia at large. The acceptance of Tribal Homeland will cause collapse of the state that will consume the east (SSC), the west (Awdal) and the center as every tribe scrambles to take and horde and kill and maim those who stand up to it and its imaginary lines of demarcation on the sand. It will be chaos all over again. It will be death to every member of every tribe all over again. 

The colonial border has saved all of Africa from the scourge of useless and ruthless tribal wars. Somaliland is no exception. It has reclaimed its independence on the Solid basis of the Colonial Borders of June 26, 1960; the day of its independence. There can be no compromise on this. It is the material basis of the existence of Somaliland and of all countries in Africa. It is what saved Somaliland in the last twenty years from permanent wars that destroyed Somalia. The colonial border represents a call to sanity in Somalia’s Mad Max world. It is the alternative to the Tribal Homeland idea with its demand for permanent war in every village. It is an affirmation of the wisdom of the AU principle of keeping the colonial borders intact.

Somaliland must realize that SSC is committed to the idea of a tribal homeland and that it will continue to fight until it has achieved this goal or until it has been defeated. The organization will use every mishap it can get to wage war. If two youngsters throw bunches at one other SSC will scream tribal revenge and wage war, if someone is hurt in a motor vehicle accident by a person of another tribe- war will be waged on Somaliland, and if cousin and nephew disagree on anything SSC will mount an attack on Somaliland to safe the pride of the tribe. The purpose of SSC in all of this is to recruit the tribe to join its ranks and embrace the “liberations” of the tribal homeland. The organization will never run out of pretexts.

The antidote to the concept of tribal homeland is a strong state where all the citizens are equal under the law and all the national territory is owned by all the citizens of the state.  Building a strong state means building a disciplined war machine that can impose the law of the land on all the individuals and all the tribes in the state, it means building a power structure that is responsive to the public needs.  Somaliland must remember the adage of: walk softly and carry a big stick. The lesson Somaliland must learn from the SSC challenge is that the phenomenon represent just the first waves of the many such challenges to the state that will come to arise in all regions of the country. To face the coming danger the state will need a stronger army; a more disciplined, better armed, better prepared and much stronger army than has been necessary hitherto for coming challenges of Tribal Homeland idea will mean that the state must impose its will over all its unruly tribes until the tribes are weakened and citizens of the state are better protected

Appeal to HBM-SSC and to all of my brothers and sisters of the tribe in Sool, Sanaag, Cayn, London, Toronto, New York, Nairobi and everywhere else in the world to listen not only to those who agree with you and who believe in the rightness of THE cause, for that is really easy, but to listen to those dissenting voices from within and without the tribe who read the social and political landscape of the Somali people quite differently. It is all too common in the lives of Somalis to meet and listen to “our” group and not “the other” who are seen at best as foreign and different or treacherous and poisonous enemy within and more frequently as simply “the other, the enemy”.  But you are our leaders; you have had an instinct and a natural inclination towards the good and the high principles of nationalism and peace from the fateful times of the Darwish revolt to the days of Erigabo, Burco and Borama peace conferences.

I thank you for lending me your ears brothers and sisters for I believe I have been both ruthlessly honest and painfully true in my criticism of the ideas on which the SSC is based.  In your hands you hold the lives of many people and you owe it to them to listen and consider all possibilities, to re-examine all strategic and political calculations continuously and tirelessly for the lives in your hands are expensive beyond imagination. We need to heal together and we should do this by forging common ideals and thoughts through peaceful, even if bitter dialogue for we are people whose real battlefields must be the life draining confrontation with drought, starvation, disease, ignorance and the all too common premature death and suffering of all of our people. The battles that we choose to fight must be for water, food, health, knowledge and human dignity. We do not need bullets and killer knives, we have plenty of death in our hands already, and we need not create any more.  

Abdishakur Jawhar

Faallo u dhaaf

Posted by on Maarso 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


U dhaaf Halcelis

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