Log into your member account to listen to this article. Not a member? Join the herd.

In the complex political landscape of Somalia, recent events such as constitutional amendments, acts of treason by Somaliland and Puntland through compromises with Ethiopia, the SSC-Khatumo state’s political fiasco, and the involvement of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have brought to the forefront questions regarding the political strategies, visions, and ideological backgrounds of various entities and individuals. These events in Somalia have prompted us to reflect on the nature of our political leadership across the country, their guiding principles, and their values.

One event that has captured my attention is the apparent shift in SSC-Khatumo’s stance. Earlier this year, after nine months of sacrificing blood and treasure, the SSC, which had previously claimed to be fighting against being governed under Somaliland, seemed to have decided to come under the blessing of Said Deni and Puntland. Following the decision taken by the Garaads at the Garowe meeting last year that the SCC be governed under Deni and Puntland, many perceived this as marking the end of any hope and political aspiration for the SSC. Furthermore, it signified its continued incorporation into the Puntland administration. This move has prompted me to question the SSC’s lack of political foresight or clear mission and end goal. It appears that their mission or political ambition was solely about opposing Somaliland, lacking a broader political vision and direction driven by emotions. If the SSC-Khatumo constitutes a distinct administrative entity, as it rightfully should, then there are absolutely no grounds for the vice president and the 17 members of parliament within the Puntland administration to assert representation on its behalf. A clear political demarcation between the SSC-Khatumo and Puntland is imperative to maintain the integrity of their respective political aspirations and avoid further conflation of interests.

This development has led me to conclude that we must learn the lesson that we should never blindly follow or allow traditional leaders (Ugaas, Suldaan, Garaad, Malaaq, Isimo, Beeldaajiye, and Nabaddoon) who have zero understanding of politics and statecraft to dictate the course of our nation or society. Their involvement in such critical matters, without the necessary knowledge and expertise, can have detrimental consequences for the future of Somalia, as demonstrated by the Khatumo case.

On the other hand, Somaliland’s 32-year quest for recognition has resulted in it ceding to Ethiopia a portion of the Red Sea territory to which it had laid claim without receiving anything tangible in return except promises of acknowledgment and recognition as a state. This decision raises questions about the political strategies and visions of Somaliland leaders and politicians, and raises concerns about whether Somaliland’s leadership is prioritising realpolitik over the long-term well-being of its citizens without a clear understanding of the potential benefits of Ethiopian recognition compared to the symbolic and economic cost of land cession to a country whose perpetuation of imperialism has roots in several key factors, such as geographical challenges and strategic location in the Horn of Africa; Western expectations for Ethiopia to maintain regional hegemony for security reasons; Ethiopia’s economic potential and increasing influence in the region; and inherent expansionist traditions within Ethiopian history.

The Ethiopian ruling elite pursues a deliberate expansionist policy, regardless of the political party or leader in power. Without addressing the underlying factors driving Ethiopia’s imperialist ambitions, the cost of territorial concessions may outweigh any promised benefits of recognition from Ethiopia.

Furthermore, these events encourage us to reflect on the nature of the political leadership guiding these decisions, as well as the ideological backgrounds from which these entities, individuals, or political actors emerge. While other countries look to colonise or retain territory (such as the disputed Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Niger, Gaza, and Guyana, which is claimed by Venezuela), Somalis appear to be unable to retain what they already have without fully understanding its value or what it possesses.

This begs the question: Do we belong to a cursed society, or are we simply misunderstood within the confines of our political upheaval? Do we truly understand the essence of sovereignty and our national assets? Recently, we put our Indian Ocean territory under a similar kind of agreement with Kenya. What is wrong with Somali politicians? These actions raise concerns about the school of thought, or potentially the lack thereof, from which they have emerged. They seem to be collectively making the same mistake, whether in the case of the Somali Federal Government and its member states or individually, as in the case of Somaliland.

After nine months of sacrifice, many welcomed and expressed happiness when Deni concluded Khatumo’s future and political representation under Puntland’s administration. Then President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud invited all of Somalia’s Federal Member States to the upcoming National Consultative Council (NCC) meeting, excluding Khatumo. This caused a misplaced uproar; it is hypocritical to blame President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for the Khatumo (SSC) status quo, which Said Deni has perpetuated and incorporated into the Puntland constitution. What is the fuss about the decision of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud not to include Khatumo (SSC) in the upcoming National Consultative Council (NCC) meeting, given that he was just following the same political settlement championed by Deni and mandated by Puntland’s parliament? 

President Mohamud’s policies may be opposed, but at least we should maintain balance without emotions, tribal delusions, and hypocrisy. We must approach these critical issues with rationality, objectivity, and a genuine commitment to the well-being of Somalia and its people.

The political paradoxes of Somalia highlight the need for a comprehensive revaluation of our political strategies, visions, and value systems. Do we prioritise tribal or clan lineage over the state? What does Somalia mean to us? Does Somalia signify our political villages, or does it encompass the entirety of Somalia? Only by addressing these questions can we navigate these intricate challenges and pave the way for a prosperous and united Somalia, free from the shackles of tribalism, hypocrisy, and short-sighted political and personal agendas.