On July 1, as Somalia was celebrating 60 years of independence, Somaliland announced finding a new friend in Taiwan, and said Hargeisa and Taipei signed a diplomatic agreement allowing them to establish representative offices.
Taiwan is an unrecognized internationally and so is Somaliland – which broke away from Somalia after the start of a civil war in 1991.
The two sides have signed agreements in February 2020, but only just made the details public. According to the agreements, the new relationship will focus on agriculture, education, energy, fisheries, health, information and communications, and mining.
Both ‘states’ have representative offices in key countries across the globe, with Taiwan having a much larger informal diplomatic presence around the global than Somaliland, which only has offices in 22 countries. Somaliland may learn how to gain informal diplomatic ties with global powers from Taiwan and Somaliland’s rich mineral resources could be of interest to Taiwan.
Only 15 countries recognise Taiwan, Eswatini being the only one in Africa.
The announcement has enraged China, which said the People’s Republic of China represents ‘whole of China’ on the global stage.
Somaliland and Taiwan are thousands of miles apart, but share a deep-seated love of freedom and democracy, says Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry. There is some truth in this. Somaliland, unlike Somalia, which it is trying to secede from, holds democratic elections where the public elect their own representatives (though delayed sometimes). And unlike China, which is claiming to be part of it, Taiwan is a democratic state.
Somaliland is located in one of the most strategically contested parts of the world – The Horn of Africa. The region serves as a political and cultural bridge between Africa and the Middle East and borders the Red Sea — a gateway to the Suez Canal and a vital corridor for maritime trade.
Over the last few decades, the Taiwanese society has witnessed the processes of ‘Taiwanisation.’ The Taiwanese have a strong sense of their own identity. Somaliland may want to learn how to self-identify.
Taiwanisation is a conceptual term used in Taiwan to emphasize the importance of a separate Taiwanese culture, society, economy, and nationality, rather than to regard Taiwan as solely an appendage of China. This involves the teaching of the history of Taiwan, geography, and culture from a Taiwan-centric perspective, as well as promoting languages locally established in Taiwan, including Taiwanese Hokkien (Taiwanese), Hakka, and aboriginal languages.
The people of Somaliland does not have a different identity than that of Somalia. Both share the same identity, religion, culture, and language. Can Taiwan teach Somaliland how to self-identify differently from Somalia?
Taiwanisation of Somaliland could come in the forms such as the use of a different dialect in the broadcast media – northern dialect?
The Taiwanese school textbooks prominently focus on the history of Taiwan. In this agreement between Hargeisa and Taipei, Taiwan could advise Somaliland to emphasis Somaliland history and abandon the history of Somalia.
Some Taiwanese-owned companies or organizations established in earlier times have names containing the words “China” or “Chinese”. They have been encouraged in recent years to change the word “China” in their names to “Taiwan” as an act of Taiwanisation.
According to the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University, over 57 percent of the Taiwanese public, a clear majority, identify themselves as Taiwanese. Eighty percent of the public view Taiwan and China as different countries. And, given the choice without fearing retribution from the mainland, 80 percent would choose independence.
Somaliland does not have this kind of data. It does not know how many of its people want to identify themselves as ‘Somalilanders’ or ‘Somali.’
Can Somaliland afford to avoid the use of the word ‘Somali?’ This seems hard, but it has to figure it out.
How the ambitions of Hassan Ali Khaire contributed to his fall
In mid-2018, Hassan Ali Khaire assembled his communications team and asked them to build a strong social media presence for his office and create a public image for himself. He wanted his government’s work to be publicised and to show Somalis and the world a new prime ministerial office never seen before in the post-civil war Somalia. He wanted to portray a powerful, superior prime minister.
The immediate-former prime minister was the only government official running three different Twitter accounts. The official account for the office of the prime minister, two personal accounts; one in English (and Somali) and the other in Arabic – to communicate with the Arab world – Somalia is a member of the Arab League, and the Gulf countries play their geopolitics in Somalia. Other politicians did not think of this, but Khaire did. He is a former corporate executive and an NGO manager. Khaire understands the importance of media more than other Somali politicians do. He is the most eloquent politician Somalia has seen in recent decades.
President Mohamed Farmajo and PM Khaire set to finish their first term in office together, run for office again and return to Villa Somalia together, but Khaire had an ambition, a presidential ambition. He wanted to succeed Farmajo, and Farmajo knew it. No one saw their break up coming.
Since 2000, every president had some sort of disagreement with his prime minister. Farmajo and Khaire had disagreements but it was hidden from the public. Because of this, Khaire became the longest serving premier in the post-civil war era.
The debate around Somalia’s election of which no one knows when and how it will happen is what killed the broamance between Farmajo and Khaire. The trust between the two has been broken. Farmajo wants a direct election in which the Somali public can pick their political representatives. The president’s opponents say a direct election will not be possible, and that Farmajo is using the universal suffrage as an excuse to extend his term in office. Khaire was seen as supporting the ideas of his boss’ opponents; he always called for timely polls, although the government never said it would delay elections.
There is no love lost between the leaders of the federal member states (FMS) and Farmajo. Khaire thought this was an opportunity to exploit: get closer to these leaders and alienate the president. When FMS leaders gathered in the central town of Dhuusamareeb in July to discuss the electoral process, Khaire left Mogadishu and joined them to negotiate for clan-based election which would take place as schedule. Days later, Farmajo flew to Dhuusamareeb and joined other leaders, beating Khaire at his own game. It was a battle of tactics won by Farmajo.
FMS leaders accidentally exposed Khaire in his double-dealing between Farmajo and FMS leaders. According to privy sources, Khayre prodded FMSs to reject one person, one vote in private while he pretended to be on Farmajo’s side in public.
In one of those farewell banquets in Dhuusamareeb, one FMS leader told Farmajo to drop the quest for one person, one vote like every other principal. It was like saying, ‘your PM is with us on this.’
One Western country was fond of Khaire to the extent that their diplomats in Halane were openly hostile to Farmajo in favour of his prime minister. To that end, that particular country was indirectly pushing for indirect elections which they thought will favour Khaire. Inside sources say that this particular country pushed the envelope too hard in not only giving Khaire false hope of easy presidency but also made him alienate his boss and the parliament.
The Lower House has passed an election law backing the one person, one vote election, but the Senate isn’t convinced about the possibility of direct polls. Sources within the Senate say Khaire was behind a statement by the Upper House leadership disagreeing with the possibility of holding a direct election, and called for talks between the president and the FMS leaders. On the electoral issue, Farmajo and Khaire have been pulling from different ends, Khaire whispering behind the president’s back silently, according to Villa Somalia insiders.
“We cannot lead a country when the prime minister is working against the president. The president is giving Somalis a chance to elect their leaders direct, and Khaire is against this,” a close ally of President Farmajo told The Frontier.
On July 25, three days after the Dhuusamareeb conference concluded, the Somali parliament voted to withdraw confidence from PM Khaire and his administration. At mid-night, he accepted the parliamentary decision and resigned.
US says Somali parliament’s removal of Khayre ‘illegal’
The United States has expressed regrets over the removal of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre from office in a vote of no-confidence by parliament.
The US embassy in Mogadishu, in a statement, said there has been ‘irregularities’ in the vote to withdraw confidence in Prime Minister Khayre and his government. It said the action of the parliament and the president ‘heightened political tensions and undermined the ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation’ between the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, and other key stakeholders.
“This irregular process is a setback for the reform agenda Somalia has pursued with the support of the United States. Somalia’s stability, security, and prosperity can only be built through cooperation, coordination, and compromise among Somalia’s leaders; if any individual or institution seeks to dominate the others, it undermines the stability of the entire nation,” read part of the statement.
The embassy said the only path forward to timely, peaceful, implementable federal elections is through broad-based consultation and constructive dialogue among stakeholders.
Developing a workable, broadly acceptable election model is key to preserving Somalia’s security and stability, it said.
The US is one of Somalia’s key donors and supports its military. The United States has provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance for Somalia since fiscal year 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees. Since 2011, the United States has provided an additional $253 million in development assistance to support economic, political, and social sectors to achieve greater stability, establish a formal economy, obtain access to basic services, and attain representation through legitimate, credible governance.
Last year, the US reopened a bureau for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, that has been closed since a civil war began here in 1991.
The US has around 500 soldiers and military advisors based in Somalia that often accompany the Somali army and special operations forces on ground raids against al Shabab group.
Somali parliament removes Prime Minister Ali Khayre
Somali lawmakers voted to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and his cabinet, a move that is likely to delay elections, deteriorating recent gains in the Horn of Africa nation.
A hundred and seventy members of parliament supported the vote while eight rejected, according to Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is required to appoint a new premier in 30 days, but may do so in days.
“The rift between the government and the legislature is undermining the progress that has been made, and to that end I have decided to consider the voice of the House of Representatives as the foundation of our nationhood,” Farmajo said in a statement carried on state media.
Khaire, a former oil executive, was appointed in February 23 and approved by parliament in March 2017.
The country is planning to go for elections, but it is still unclear what kind of elections it will have. The electoral commission said it is planning to hold a one person, one vote in a year, while the opposition is calling for a timely election which means it prefers the current clan system where clan elders pick legislators.
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