Friday, August 10, 2007

Northern Harti and Isaaq: Political Enemies

Many times we have heard that the Northern Harti and Isaaq have a natural affiliation. This explanation is trotted out by supporters of Somaliland to explain why the Northern Harti should join them in the Somaliland secession. This idea has been repeated so many times that it has become received wisdom. Even right-thinking and rational Southern Daaroods have repeated this insidious lie that has no basis in reality or facts. While it is true that Warsangeli and Dhulbahante live alongside some lineages of the Isaaq and extensively intermarry with them, this is also counterbalanced by the fact that the Northern Harti share large borders with other Daarood factions and some Hawiye and intermarry with those neighbours extensively as well. It is time to examine some history in order to set the record straight.

Let us first look at the relationship between the Isaaqs and the Dhulbahante by way of an example, in terms of tribal connections in the rural and traditional setting. In 1962 I. M. Lewis, an English anthropologist who did extensive research among the Northern Somalis published an essay on Somali Marriage customs. Most of his research was conducted among the Dhulbahante. In a survery of 89 marriages contracted by Dhulbahante men, Dr Lewis found the following statistical facts:

55 (62 per cent) were with women of Dulbahante primary lineages other than those of their husbands; 30 (33.7 per cent.) with surrounding clans of other clan families (with the Habar Yuunis, 10; Habar Tol Jaelo, 18; and Hawiye, 3); and 3 (4.3 per cent.) with other clans of the Daarood clan-family (Majeerteen, 2; Ogaadeen, 1).

Notice how small the incidence of intermarriage between Isaaq and Dhulbahante despite the bias of all the smaller tribes, as noted even by Lewis, to marry outside their primary lineage. There were many small Dhulbahante lineages that had binding tribal Xeer that levied a punitive fine on any man who contracted a marriage within his own primary lineage. As well the sample of this survey was limited however to Dhulbahante lineages living in the Buuhoodle district within the British protectorate borders. It doesnt take into account the most easterly Dhulbahante lineages such as the Ugaasyo, Qayaad, Baharasame, Nuur Axmed, sections of the Naaleeye Axmed and many others whose primary marital relationships are formed with other Dhulbahante or with other Daarood tribes such as the Majeerteen, Mareexaan or Ogaadeen and Hawiye. If the total numbers of marriages contracted by Dhulbahante men in all the tradional lands of the Dhulbahante were totalled, Dhulbahante-Isaaq marriage would account for a very small percentage. Intermarriage between Isaaqs and Daarood was further reduced in the 1950s when the introduction of Berkado led to a decrease in tribal interactions when every Dhulbahante lineage formed semi-permanent settlements in the Hawd with access to water provided by Berkado in the deep Hawd.

By far the area where the greatest intermarriage between Isaaq and Daarood could be found was in the cities among the educated Protectorate Government civil servants and merchant classes of both tribes found in cities like Cadan, Burco, Berbera and Hargeysa who married across clan lines. Many of those elders indeed can be said to have great sympathy and affinity with the Isaaq among whom they lived and worked for a considerable time and made lasting friendships. As well there are many Northern Harti whose schooling was done among Isaaqs and Samaroons in places like Camuud, Sheekh and Dayaxa and they too harbour considerable sympathy for the Isaaqs. Most of the misguided pro-Somaliland Northern Harti can be found in these two cohorts. But by 1970 after the migration of most Somalis towards Mogadishu the capital and the displacement of most educational institutions of higher learning towards the capital those interactions virtually came to a halt.

Since the start of the civil war, the trends have been indicating a an accelerating decrease in the interactions between Isaaqs and Northern Harti as the cosmopolitan culture of Somalia was lost and every tribe retreated to its home region. Today there is very little movement of trade and people between Isaaq and Harti lands. It is a very ironic development that in this day and age, and with the existence of a Somaliland Isaaq entity which putatively contains the Harti peoples, there is less commercial interaction between Berbera and the Harti lands than before the appearance of the White Man. Before the colonial times Bulaxaar and Berbera, among other Red Sea ports, served as the commercial centres of Somalis from as far as Mudug and Ximan(Galgaduud. Today Berbera is a seaport that is used exclusively by the Ethiopian government and all the Harti and many Isaaqs use the Boosaaso port in Puntland. Thus, most of the building materials, fuel, staple commodities that are used by the Dhulbahante come through Boosaaso. There is very little trade linkage between the Dhulbahante and the Isaaq, and when there is, in any exchange of good and services between the two tribes the Dhulbahante insist on receiving and/or making payments in Somali shillings(rather than Somaliland Shilling), thus necessitating the continued use of the Somali currency by Isaaqs who otherwise completely reject any symbol of Somaliweyn.

During colonial times as well as during the 31 years of effective Somali government rule, the main metropolitan centres of the North were Burco and Hargeysa and consequently most Northern Harti used to go to these two urban centres for services which otherwise could not be provided at the Village or town level(medical, financial or educational) in Northern Harti lands. Today the overwhelming majority of Northern Harti go to Gaalkacayo or Boosaaso, two Daarood cities that have seen phenomenal growth in population, infrastructure and services. Most Harti people who need advanced medical care go to Gaalkacayo or Boosaaso to seek that medical treatment if it is not available locally in places like Laasqoray, Badhan, Laascaanood, Buuhoodle etc. All those cities have themselves been transformed immensely since the fall of the Siyaad government and have witnessed incredible growth in their infrastructure and services, largely driven by the diasporic sons and daughters of the region. If those cities suffer in comparison to other cities of Puntland and those of the Soomaali-diid(Anti Somali) Isaaqs it can be excused for two reasons:

1- Lack of infrastructure inherited from the Somali governments that ruled from 1960-199, eg the deep-water port of Berbera, Modern Airport with paved runway in Hargeysa, extensive network of roads that link the major cities of Somaliland. And in the case of Puntland, the excellent port and road links that Boosaaso enjoys.

2- The development efforts of the Northern Harti by and large are not supplemented by the kind of development projects that are carried out in Somaliland and other parts of Puntland by Non-Governmental and United Nations agencies. In this respect the Northern Harti are badly let down the various governments of Puntland, a dire situation that needs to change immediately.

The greatests breakdown of social and economic ties between the Isaaq Somalilanders and the Soomaali weyn Northern Harti has roots mostly in the hatred and enmity that was stoked by the Isaaq for all Somalis and specially the Daarood during the time when the Isaaqs were figthing against the government of President Siyaad Barre. That kind of propaganda that sharpened tribal animus between Somalis to a considerable and deadly degree served the Isaaqs during their struggle against Siyaad. But that negative and destructive policy has divided the northerners to such an extent that the bell cannot be unrung and the amity and friendship that was enjoyed at one time by northerners has been ruptured for all time.

Though the Isaaqs and Northern Harti enjoyed mutual respect and peace for the most part throughout history and their commercial and social interactions ebbed and flowed according to the prevailing conditions, one thing that has held throughout history is that there has never been congruence between the political aspirations, movements, beliefs and ideals of Isaaqs and the Northern Harti.

During the time of the Sayid Maxamed Cabdille Xassan, the hero of the Somali Liberation struggle to free Somalis from colonial servititude, the overwhelming majority of Isaaqs lined up on the side of the English and rejected the call for Somali liberation. At the same time the Dhulbahante in overwhelming numbers chose to fight for Freedom and Liberation in order to safeguard the honour, culture and ways of the Somalis. The Warsangeli while staying aloof from the fight in the early years nevertheles provided the guns and ammunition that the Darwiish armies needed to fight the war by allowing them to import firearms using Warsangeli ports and sailing dhows. When Suldaan Maxamuud Cali Shire ascended to the leadership of the Warsangeli he joined with the Darwiishes and for a while the Darwiishes used the port of Laasqoray to fill their trade requirements. The Daraawiish and the Sultan later fell out but the young Sultan was always very resolute in his resistance to British encroachment on his fiefdom.

Let us now move ahead to the 1950s. During the last decade of English rule in what was then known as British Somaliland, an area that encompassed most of the land settled by the Samaroon, Isaaq and the Northern Harti, there was considerable party political activity in the protectorate. When the UN Trusteeship Committee appointed Italy to prepare Southern Somalia for self-rule by year 1960 the level of political organization and activism increased with the twin objectives of forcing the British to give British Somaliland independence at the same time as Southern Somalia and to prevent England from ceding any Somali-inhabited lands to the Ethiopians. The overwhelming majority of Somalis in the North held identical views on both issues, but there was considerable differences as to means. The Isaaq were the best-organized politically insofar as they created indigenous political parties to organize themselves and mobilize their support. Most of the Habar Magaadle were in the SNL party that was created by Xaaji Ibraahim Cigaal in the early thirties. This was a party with a Pan-Arab and Anti-western idealogy and with some members who had connections to Ethiopia. The principal actors in this party were Maxamed Xaaji Ibraahim Cigaal (HA), the son of the founder and inheritor of a vast wealth, Cali Meygaag Samatar (HA), The Naxar brothers, HY(Ismaaciil became the chief political architect of the SNL after his expulsion from Xamar by C. Ciise's governments after he became a GSL and Xaaji Maxamed Xuseen supporter during his time in exile in Xamar), Miyateyn(HY), Faarax Suusle(HY), Xaaji Maxamuud Shaqalle(HA). There was also a more virulently anti-western and pro-Arab party created by a Habar Yoonis exile who was living in Cairo, Sayid Axmed Sheekh Muuse, educated at Al-Azhar from 1948 to 1954. Xizballah membership and support very often overlapped with SNL.

The idealogical and electoral opposition to the SNL was provided by the NUF party headed by Michael Mariano who always believed himself to be the Prime Minister-designate when British Somaliland was granted independence. He held to this opinion despite the dismal electoral results of the NUF whose tribal base was too narrow as they identified as a Habar Jeclo party. Another drag on party support was the belief that Mariano( a Christian) and the NUF were too pro-Western. He never overcame the twin, fatal handicaps.

The Northern Harti did not participate in any of these Isaaq political parties but rather belonged to the Northern branches of the pre-dominant political party in the South, The Somali Youth League(SYL). The party was popularly known as Leego and it was to this party that they turned to in droves. The Northern Harti after some honest self-evaluation realized that they were marginal and politically lightweight in the absence of an indigenous Protectorate party with a wide base and funds to mount a credible political campaign. So marginal were the Northern Harti that their only political figure with any stature and visibility on the political scene was the lawyer and activist Cabdalle Xaaji Faarax who was the member for Leego, Laascaanood West. In late 1958, It was resolved, in a meeting chaired by Garaad Jaamac Garaad Cali (Hereditary Chief of the Dhulbahante) and attended by Garaad Maxamuud Cali (Hereditary Chief of the Maxamuud Garaad) and Cabdalle Xaaji Faarax(Odala, Samakaab Axmed),among many other dignitaries, that a new, non-Isaaq political party should be founded in the protectorate. The main aims of the party were to safeguard Daarood political interests in the protectorate as well as to establish a proper foundation for Northern Harti to maneuver politically when the inevitable union came with the South. In order to bolster the political viability and the influence of the party, specially given their late entry into the field, it was felt that the equally politically marginalized Samaroon should be welcomed into this new political initiative.

To that end, Garaad Jaamac sent emissaries to Garaad Maxamuud Cali Shire, the acute Hereditary Chief of the Warsangeli, and to the traditional leaders of the Samaroon nation.

The outcome of this bold political initiative was the founding and the inauguration of the United Somali Party (USP) at Golkhaatumo near Laascaanood in June, 1959(Please correct me if I am wrong about the date). The success of this political power-play can be gauged from the fact that in the February, 1960 election, the first one contested by the new party, the USP won an incredible 12 seats out of 33. The SNL won 20 and and the NUF under Mariano a solitary seat. The star candidate of the USP was the son of the Dhulbahante Garaad, the charismatic Cali Garaad Jaamac, recently returned from a course of study in the UK, and he was subsequently named the Daarood representative on the delegation to negotiate British Somaliland's independence from Britain.

As soon as the independence was gained and Somalia reunited, The parliaments, the Northern and Southern one, were merged and a government of National Unity was agreed to be formed. The SNL under the leadership of Cigaal made an idealogical and tribal alliance with a faction headed by Cali Jimcaale, a Xawaadle man filled with noxious anti-Daaroodism, as they inaugurated a Pan-Irir political initiative that ultimately came to nought.

In the meantime the USP threw in their lot with the SYL and Cabdirashiid Cali Sharmaarke, bolstered by the infusion of USP support and taking advantage of Digil &Mirifle dissatisfaction with Cabdilaahi Ciise stewardship of the Trusteeship governments, easily won the post of Prime Minister defeating Mr Ciise. It was the first of many decisive interventions by the Northern Harti that changed the course of Somali politics. And another demonstration of the great political and ideological divide between the Isaaq and the Northern Harti.

The next example I will use to illustrate the fundamental opposition of the political objectives of the Isaaq(Somalilanders) and the Northern Harti came at the time of the founding of the SNM. The Somali National Movement, the umbrella organization that united Isaaq political and military opposition to Siyaad Barre, was founded in England in the early eighties. During the formative days of the SNM, two respected Dhulbahante figures who were visiting London approached the senior leadership of the SNM. The two men were Maxamed Axmed Cabdulle( Sakhraan) and Cali Garaad Jaamac(the Hereditary Chief of the Dhulbahante). From the very beginning, both men were targetted as enemies of the revolution by the Somali Government of Siyaad Barre and they too were vociferous opponents of the Kacaan. They proposed to the SNM that the movement's base should be broadened to become a Northern opposition to the Siyaad government. Their proposal was met with a resounding rejection by the Isaaq SNM leadership and the two Dhulbahante elders were advised to launch their own anti-government movement if they were dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Muqdisho. They were bluntly told that the SNM was an Isaaq movement and had no place for the Dhulbahante. The views of Cali Garaad and Sakhraan were in the majority among their tribe because the Dhulbahante viewed all the Ethiopian-based opposition movements as unpatriotic people giving support and succour to our ancient enemy.

Subsequent Isaaq propaganda(poems, radio broadcasts) to mobilize their population was filled with a most vile, abusive and racist language against the Daarood people. Demonstrations held by students in Isaaq cities like Hargeysa and Burco were notable for the vile anti-Daarood slogans chanted by the participants. It became soon became fairly obvious to anti-government Daarood students that the Isaaqs were not so much anti-government as they were anti-Daarood.

History gives us a clear and irrefutable evidence that the aims, interests, politics and ideology of the Northern Harti and the Isaaqs have never coincided. And never have the two been farther apart than today when the Isaaqs are committing the most egregious acts of poltical prostitution in a bid to get their deformed Somaliland enterprise accepted by the international community. The leadership of Somaliland went to the houses of the British parliament to meet some obscure backbenchers and proudly disclosed to the stunned parliamentarians that Somalilanders were Orphans of Queen Elizabeth. As if that was not shameful enough, when the same parliamentarians visited Somaliland they were were met by hundreds of Somalilanders cheering and waving placards that bore the message: The Queen is Our Mother. Those innocent Isaaq civilians probably could neither read nor write the English language but were victimized by morally bankrupt leaders who handed them those self-abasing placards. They are leader who are, to a man, self-seekers and opportunists who do not care about the dignity and good name of their people.

The Northern Harti appeal to their Somaliland (Isaaq) brothers to discard the separatist political ideology that has led them to this shameful position and to embrace the concept of Somali unity, reconciliation and brotherhood. It is the only way they can go forward and rid themselves of the cynical leadership that has shamed them. In the meantime, we shall stay aloof from our Somaliland brothers and the stench emanating from their rotting body-politic.

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