NSUM:- The outcome of the meeting held in London (20-21 June) between the TFG and the secessionist enclave going by the name of Somaliland was supposed to have been grounded..
on the previous decisions and declarations of previous conferences on Somalia:
First was the London conference on Somalia in February 2012 which called for intra Somalia talks on the secession issue. This was followed by the Second Istanbul Conference on Somalia (31st May and 1st June 2012) which, in supporting these talks, explicitly "reaffirmed its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia", a clear message to the separatists that their issue with Somalia could only be dealt within the framework of its unity and territorial integrity. This conference declaration constitutes the base line on which the outcome of the London meeting can be judged how far it met or deviated from it . By all accounts, the secessionists have much to be pleased about- at least for now.
Admittedly, nothing substantive was discussed at this first round meeting in London which was basically a preparatory one meant to pave the way for future substantive ones. Unlike normal negotiating meetings between adversaries, this meeting was conducted without a formal agenda, perhaps at the best of the host government and other outsiders playing a role in the meeting behind the scenes. Presumably, the aim was to create a cordial climate to expedite the ensuing substantive talks. All the same, any first meeting between the delegates of the government of the whole of Somalia (including Somaliland) and those from the entity by the name of Somaliland has procedural implication that can not be put under the carpet as a reward for Somaliland to retreat from its hitherto intransigent position and agree to attend the meeting. It was therefore incumbent upon the TFG delegation to raise and settle the question of who the Somaliland delegation represent at the meeting given the divide on the secession issue in the north west region between on the one hand the four unionist clans unrepresented at the meeting and on the other hand the one clan-based secessionist enclave.
This procedural prerequisite was brushed aside not by oversight but at the behest of some quarters- if not the host country, then perhaps on President Sheikh Shariif's instructions as the solo manager of the negotiations, and as one the secessionists had been lobbying in secret clandestine meetings, the last in Dubai. His appointment of the minister of the interior and national security as the leader of his delegation, a man who made no secret in the past of his support for Somaliland's independence, is indicative of the presidents receptiveness to the secessionists overtures. Seen in this regard, the outcome of the London meeting was predictable.
At the end of the two-days meeting, the two parties have claimed satisfaction with its outcome for their different reasons and perspectives. Somaliland claims victory from the meeting since their position that they represent the people of north west Somalia (Somaliland) was implicitly accepted to the extent that it was not questioned or challenged. Indeed, their claim sounds credible since there is no record from the meeting, oral or written, that contradicts this claim. For their part, the TFG delegation consider the London meeting as a victory for Somalia on the grounds that the secessionists, who until now had been deluding themselves that they can get what they want from the international community over the heads of successive moribund transitional Somali governments, were finally forced to bow to the inevitable and sit down with it, as the internationally recognised government for the whole of Somalia, including their enclave. Be that as it may, the claim of victory by the TFG delegation is a disingenuous and empty talk aimed at pulling wool over the eyes of Somali people.
Needless to say, this first round of these proposed talks is a triumph for the secessionists given to them on a plate by the TFG delegation. It represents a timely and morale boosting gain which they see as irreversible in future meetings and negotiations. This is a sell-out of the other four unionist clans, their regions and regional administrations in north west Somalia, comprising the Khaatumo State of Somalia, Mahkhir State and Awdal State.
The secessionists rightly see President Sheikh Shariif, now in his last days in office but also entertaining re-election and very much in need of votes at any cost, as the one most receptive to their demands. It is in this regard that a meeting between pSheikh Shariif and the leader of Somaliland, Siilaanyo, is scheduled to take place soon in the UAE. Officially, they are supposed to endorse the outcome of the London meeting and agree on its continuation. But more importantly for both sides is what they can offer each other. Siilaanyo is likely to offer Sheikh Shariif the votes of his Dir deputies in Mogadishu in return for outright support for Somaliland's case while he is still in office. While it is difficult to surmise what he can offer, suffice to say that Sheikh Shairiif will jump at any advantageous offer and return the favour even if that means riding roughshod over the laws of the land or trading off its unity.
It is ironic that at a time when the international community is supportive of Somalia's unity and territorial integrity, the greatest dangers to the union are no longer the secessionists now on their last leg but some opportunist leaders of Somalia who may sacrifice it for their own selfish personal political interests. Given that these talks are of such existentialist importance to Somalia's unity, it is all the more important that they be left to the next Somali government. We hope Sheikh Shariif and his government would heed this advice.
NSUM Executive Committee