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What are Ghost Nations? By shakir essa

somaliland

Somalia – the name of a nation that immediately coendures the image of a war-torn failing state plagued by unimaginable violence, piracy and terrorism for over 30 years. And yet within this war-torn country exists a beacon of stability. Often out of the headlines, the breakaway region of Somaliland could be considered a taboo subject amongst national governments and most international organisations.

Somaliland, located in the North West of the horn of Africa has been de-facto independent from the Federal Republic of Somalia in 1991 but has yet to secure the recognition of any UN member states. Regarding itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland Protectorate which was ruled as a separate colony to Italian Somaliland until independence in 1960 when the two former colonies were merged; Somaliland serves as a beacon of stability in a turbulent region.

The traditional narrative of Somaliland’s declaration of impendence in 1991, is that it was a direct response to the South’s descent into Civil War and the spread of Islamists. This narrative, while being broadly correct tends to omit the serious misgivings Somaliland had with the Federal State prior to the collapse of the Barre Regime.

Initially enthusiastic towards Somali nationalism and towards the impending merger with its Southern neighbourhoods, this optimism was quick to evaporate. Within a year of uniting with the southern provinces popular discontent in the North grew rapidly over the newly created Constitution, which was said to favour the South at the expense of draining the wealth of the North. In response to the perceived injustice of the Constitution, northern leaders encouraged a boycott of the referendum on the adoption of the new Constitution. Nevertheless, the Central Government in Mogadishu went ahead with its implementation without any changes. This led to further accusations that the South was ignoring the interests of the North and triggered those seeking to regain independence for the North into action. In 1961 a year after reunification, a group of generals sought to carry out a Coup D’état and restore Somaliland as an independent nation. The Coup failed and the Central Government responded with the further marginalisation of the North. Tensions simmered until the late 1970s and the 1980s when various rebel groups, (including some backed and financed by the Communist Derg Regime in neighbouring Ethiopia) took up arms against the Regime. Barre’s regime in Mogadishu responded by initiating large scale & indiscriminate bombardments of Northern cities, which cumulated in the Issaq Genocide. The Issaq Clan (the largest in Somaliland) was targeted in a systematic & state sponsor massacre that ultimately killed up to 200,000 Issaq’s and completely levelling the regions two largest cities. When the Barre Regime finally collapsed in 1991, leaders of the Somali National Movement rebel group were quick to capitalise on the descent of the South into Civil War and finally declare independence.

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A pathologist examines a mass grave site from the Issaq Genocide (Source: Lifeforce Magazine)

Since the Declaration was made, Somaliland has made remarkable progress in its development. In comparison to the South, Somaliland has managed to hold consecutive democratic elections; has a functioning economy and has managed to resist the influence of Al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.

Despite the initial declaration of impendence and the early years of self-rule for the state being controlled by a select group of military generals, the nation has made rapid and substantial progress in establishing a modern democratic nation. Since 2001 there have been six democratic and peaceful elections – including the peaceful transfer of power between different party’s. Another parliamentary election is scheduled for sometime later this year. The Somaliland Parliament has been noted for its stable structure that allows for mediation between conflicting groups and interests. In particular, the House of Elders, which is modelled on the UK’s House of Lord’s allows for traditional Clan Structures to be incorporated into a modern political model. In terms of security, it is this area in which Somaliland stands out from its neighbouring states. Unlike Somalia or neighbouring Puntland, Somaliland hasn’t suffered a terrorist attack since 2008 & piracy is almost non-existent along the section of coast under its control.somaliland-3

The economy in the country has also seen significant developments, despite the difficult circumstances the nation finds itself in. The most notable recent developments include UAE funded development in the Port of Berbera, the proposed development of transport & export links for neighbouring landlocked Ethiopia; and the potential development of oil exploration.

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Voters partaking in the 2017 Somaliland Presidential Elections (Source: VOA News)

Despite the progress Somaliland has made in becoming a modern democratic state, it’s still yet to secure the recognition of a single UN member state. In legal terms, Somaliland complies with all expected international norms for becoming an independent state and de-facto functions as such. However as is well known in international relations, statehood is not determined by legality, but political acceptance from those members already inside ‘the club’. The primary obstacle in the way of Somaliland achieving this acceptance is regional. Other African states are extremely wary of excepting new borders and states in the Continent given a large majority of them possess their own separatist movements and the risk succession could create a precedent for the dismantlement of their own borders. Likewise, states from outside the Continent also tend to be cautious about the re-drawing of borders in Africa due to the fear it could create a violent domino effect whereby colonial borders collapse along ethnic lines. Even Somaliland’s biggest international backer – Ethiopia has so far refused to formally recognise the Nation’s independence given its own problems with Somali separatists and its preference for keeping Somalia weak and marred by uncertainty by ensuring internal divisions remain.

While over 20 years of continued apathy to the creation of an independent Somaliland doesn’t bode well for the administration in Hargeisa, recent developments signal a change to the status quo may occur soon, but whether this is through design or disaster remains to be determined. While having performed exceptionally well since 1991, Somaliland now faces significant challenges. Firstly, the security situation the country finds itself in is increasingly precarious. With the situation in Somalia’s Southern Provinces having deteriorated rapidly in recent months, there is now a real danger Al-Shabab could take over the whole country, providing a springboard for eventual designs on Puntland & Somaliland. Compounding this fear are reports that both ISIS and Al-Qaeda have managed to establish themselves within neighbouring Puntland, an area of which they previously had little to no presence. The risk of ‘domestic’ terrorism from within Somaliland held territory has also grown which some have put down to the nations emerging economic problems and lack of opportunity for its youth.

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Territorial Control of Various Actors in Somalia as of August 2019 (Source: ACLED)

While as mentioned above Hargeisa has made significant steps in improving its economic progress in the last 20 years, the level of growth needed for the country to continue to improve has been hampered by its inability to gain international recognition. The economy is in need of modernisation with over 70% of GDP based on agriculture and the majority of the other 30% coming from remittances from those who have emigrated to countries like the UK. This is not a viable economic model long-term, especially as remittances are likely to dry up as emigrations consider themselves ‘more British’ or whichever state they have moved to than they identify with distant relatives back in Somaliland. Both infrastructure and diversification are desperately needed, but in order for this to be carried out the nation needs access to international finance, something at which is not presently possibly via institutions such as the IMF and World Bank or even through many aid mechanisms due to its status as an unrecognised territory. The difficulty in establishing a legitimate exchange rate for the nation’s currency also makes investment difficult despite the potential for energy exploration, tourism and modern agriculture in the Nation.

Adding to the woes above are heightened tensions between Somaliland and the neighbouring province of Puntland. In 2018 significant levels of clashes between the Somaliland armed forces and various Puntland militias occurred, both sides vying for long-disputed border areas. These tensions are yet to cease and have the potential to break-out into a full-scale conflict between the two parties, thereby shattering the last remaining beacon of stability within the region and opening up to exploitation by terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab.

The above concerns should prompt some international actors to reconsider their position vis-à-vis the recognition of Somaliland. If not for moral reasons, the importance of preventing the further collapse of states within the Horn of Africa for international security should serve as an impetus for some nations. Some however, have argued that Somaliland’s problem in gaining international recognition is actually that the nation is ‘too stable’. Unlike South Sudan, Eritrea and Timor-Leste which all experienced large-scale violence and chaos leading to their recognition as independent states, Somaliland’s order, democracy and relative calmness may have enforced the idea that a peaceful reconciliation with Mogadishu will eventually be possible, and therefore negate the need for diplomatic recognition as an independent entity.

If there is one single state that has the potential to change the fortunes of Somaliland for the better, its that of its former colonial power – the United Kingdom. The UK already possesses a relatively strong relationship with the breakaway region, being involved in training its forces to combat terrorism (alongside the US); donating £31 million towards aid and development in 2019; and having a large Somaliland expatriate community within the UK. The last point has helped Somaliland achieve recognition from a number of local authorities and cities within the UK including Cardiff and Sheffield, and even the devolved Welsh Senedd (Parliament) in 2006.

However, so far, the UK government has stopped short of recognising outright the state as de-jure independent. It can be argued however, recognition would be in the UK’s best interests for the region. By becoming the leading state in recognising state’s independence London would secure itself as a key stakeholder in the region. With interests in preventing more ungoverned territory emerging in which terrorists and pirates can use to their advantage, the UK should be stepping up efforts to ensure the stability of Somaliland. The strategic position of Somaliland in relation to the Gulf of Aden and Suez Straights is also notable, most oil and LNG exports heading to Europe pass through these choke points and given the instability in other parts of Somalia, as well as in Yemen, shipping is increasingly at risk of attack. While France, Japan, India, Italy the US possess naval bases in neighbouring Djibouti; and other such as Israel and Iran in Eritrea; the UK’s nearest base is in Oman. As shown by the capture of the British registered oil tanker the Stena Impero in the summer of 2019, the UK’s current maritime force in the region is not sufficient. These concerns have already led to the UK Defence Minister visiting Somaliland in 2019 with the aim of discussing the establishment of a British naval base within the country and increased funding and training for Somaliland forces. The UK is also wary of losing the initiative to recognise the country to rival players in the region. The UAE has already established a military base in the region and according to some sources in 2018 was close to officially recognising the country, but later changed its mind. Likewise, Russia has announced plans to open its own military base in the Port of Zeila, near the Somaliland – Djibouti border.

Somaliland 4

Foreign Military Bases in the Horn of Africa Region (Source: Danish Institute of Security Studies)

With the London hosting the first UK-Africa summit in January 2020, many analysists took the opportunity to highlight how far the UK had lagged behind in the new race for influence in the Continent. While France has been mostly successful at preserving its links for former colonies, and countries such as Russia, Japan, India and China have worked extensively to build links on the Continent; Africa has largely remained at the back of British diplomatic concerns over the last few decades. For some the recognition of Somaliland by London, if combined by significant economic, security and political support could boost the UK’s influence in the Continent.

Besides the material benefit to London recognition could bring, there also exists the moral argument. Somaliland has made great strides to become everything the West expects from a modern democratic nation from holding free elections and successful transfers of power, to the establishment of a working legal system based on the rule of law and the relative freedom of the press. This is a rare feat not just for the Horn of Africa, but for Africa as a whole. Of course, there remains more that could be done, but the current situation Somaliland finds itself in can’t help make you think that it is being punished for its progress.

Somaliland 5

Former British Defence Minister Visits Somaliland in 2019 (Source: Somaliland Nation)

Of course, there are significant risks for the United Kingdom should it choose to formally recognise the independence of the Hargeisa Government. The primary risk to London is that rather than increase its standing on the African Continent, the action could lead to significant blowback with traditional African partners such as South Africa and Nigeria who (mindful of similar independent movements in their own and neighbouring states), have made it very clear they support the territorial integrity of all of Somalia by Mogadishu. A break from African actors themselves runs the risk of the UK appearing to be acting in a colonialist manner, dividing nations to support their own interests. The move would also certainly lead to the complete severing of London-Mogadishu, although this is not a significant loss given the central government controls almost no territory outside the capital and UK-Somalia trade and UK-Somalia diplomatic relations are essentially non-existent. Turkey, a significant backer of the Somalia Central Government, with numerous military bases and personnel in the country could also provide another obstacle for London granting recognition to Hargeisa.

Despite the risk of angering other African nations, should the UK choose to recognise the formal independence of Somaliland, others are likely to swiftly follow suit. Numerous nations that have been rumoured to being close to recognising the independence of the country in the past including the UAE, Ethiopia, Israel and Taiwan who are noted as likely waiting for another nation to make the first move, unsure about the international reception their decision would have. The role of Ethiopia and Kenya who have both been keen to recognise an independent Somaliland in the past would be key in mitigating any condemnation by the African Union and coordination with both states would allow the UK to make Somaliland’s case better heard and understood. The decision being made by the UK would also likely gain the backing of the US, most EU members and the Commonwealth (of which the Somaliland government applied to join in 2009).

Overall, it is clear that despite the outstanding progress Somaliland has made since 1991; and the fact that it is de-facto independent in all areas have done little to secure de-jure recognition from the accepted players of the international system. The absence of large-scale conflict and deaths, the relatively peaceful existence of Somaliland have led some to believe it’s too well behaved for independent, with powers preferring to keep the status quo until an eventual solution is found for securing peace in the Southern Provinces of Somalia. However, given the situation in Somalia has continued to worsen over the last 20 years, it might finally be time for Somaliland to achieve recognition and reward for its progress. Much of this will depend on the actions of a few key powers namely: the formal colonial power the UK, the UAE and its main African backer of Ethiopia. Until then the people of Somaliland carry on, for them, their nation is already is country and they live in hope the rest of the world comes to recognise the same in the near future.

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Somalilanders celebrate Independence Day (Source: Council on Foreign Relations)

Further Reading & Listening:

The Financial Times – Tom Wilson

Shakir Essa
Africa Times Newspaper

Isaaq CLAN

Isaaq Clan (isaxaaq) a Somali Clan

Author: Shakir Essa

Isaaq

Main article: Somali people

The Isaaq (also IsaqIshaakIsaac) (SomaliReer Sheekh IsaxaaqArabic: بني إسحاق‎) is a Somali clan.[1] It is one of the major Somali clans in the Horn of Africa, with a large and densely populated traditional territory.[2]

  
The tomb of Sheikh Ishaaq, the founding father of the Isaaq clan, in MaydhSanaag
Regions with significant populations
Languages
Somali
Religion
Islam (Sunni)
Related ethnic groups
DirDarodHawiyeRahanweyn, other Somalis

Overview

Portrait of Sultan Abdillahi Deria, the grand Sultan of Ishaaq clans.Sultan Nur with Habr Yunis horsemen 1896

According to some genealogical books and Somali tradition, the Isaaq clan was founded in the 13th or 14th century with the arrival of Sheikh Ishaaq Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Hashimi (Sheikh Ishaaq) from Arabia, a descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib in Maydh.[3][4] He settled in the coastal town of Maydh in modern-day northwestern Somaliland, where he married into the local Magaadle clan.[5]

There are also numerous existing hagiologies in Arabic which describe Sheikh Ishaaq’s travels, works and overall life in modern Somaliland, as well as his movements in Arabia before his arrival.[6] Besides historical sources, one of the more recent printed biographies of Sheikh Ishaaq is the Amjaad of Sheikh Husseen bin Ahmed Darwiish al-Isaaqi as-Soomaali, which was printed in Aden in 1955.[7]

Sheikh Ishaaq’s tomb is in Maydh, and is the scene of frequent pilgrimages.[6] Sheikh Ishaaq’s mawlid (birthday) is also celebrated every Thursday with a public reading of his manaaqib (a collection of glorious deeds).[5] His Siyaara or pilgrimage is performed annually both within Somaliland and in the diaspora particularly in the Middle East among Isaaq expatriates.

Distribution

Haggenmacher’s map depicting western Isaaq territory

The Isaaq have a very wide and densely populated traditional territory. They live in all 6 regions of Somaliland such as AwdalWoqooyi GalbeedTogdheerSahilSanaag and Sool. They have large settlements in the Somali region of Ethiopia, mainly on the eastern side of Somali region also known as the Hawd and formerly Reserve Area which is mainly inhabited by the Isaaq sub-clan members. They also have large settlements in both Kenya and Djibouti, making up a large percentage of the Somali population in these 2 countries respectively.[8]

The Isaaq clan constitute the largest Somali clan in Somaliland. The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – HargeisaBuraoBerberaErigavo and Gabiley – are all predominantly Isaaq.[9] They exclusively dominate the Woqooyi Galbeed region, and the Togdheer region, and form a majority of the population inhabiting the western and central areas of Sanaag region, including the regional capital Erigavo.[10] The Isaaq also have a large presence in the western and northern parts of Sool region as well,[11] with Habr Je’lo sub-clan of Isaaq living in the Aynabo district whilst the Habr Yunis subclan of Garhajis lives in the eastern part of Xudun district and the very western part of Las Anod district.[12] They also live in the northeast of the Awdal region, with Saad Muse sub-clan being centered around Lughaya and its environs.

The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – HargeisaBurao,[13] BerberaErigavo and Gabiley – are predominantly Isaaq.[14][15]An illustration depicting a Somali woman of the Isaaq clan published in Bilder-Atlas in 1870

History

The Isaaq clan played a prominent role in the Abyssinian-Adal war (1529–1543, referred to as the “Conquest of Abyssinia”) in the army of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi,[16] I. M. Lewis noted that only the Habr Magadle division (Ayoub, Garhajis, Habr Awal and Arap) of the Isaaq were mentioned in chronicles of that war written by Shihab Al-Din Ahmad Al-Gizany known as Futuh Al Habash.[17]

I. M. Lewis states:[18]

The Marrehan and the Habr Magadle [Magādi] also play a very prominent role (…) The text refers to two Ahmads’s with the nickname ‘Left-handed’. One is regularly presented as ‘Ahmad Guray, the Somali’ (…) identified as Ahmad Guray Xuseyn, chief of the Habr Magadle. Another reference, however, appears to link the Habr Magadle with the Marrehan. The other Ahmad is simply referred to as ‘Imam Ahmad’ or simply the ‘Imam’.This Ahmad is not qualified by the adjective Somali (…) The two Ahmad’s have been conflated into one figure, the heroic Ahmed Guray (…)

Sultans of the Isaaq clan in Hargeisa, Somaliland

The first of the tribes to reach Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi were Habr Magādle of the Isaaq clan with their chieftain Ahmad Gurey Bin Hussain Al-Somali,[19] the Somali commander was noted to be one of Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi’s “strongest and most able generals”.[20] The Habr Magādle clan were highly appreciated and praised by the leader Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi for their bravery and loyalty.[21]Dervish Commander Haji Sudi on the left with his brother in-law Duale Idris (1892).

Long after the collapse of Adal Sultanate, sub-clans of the Isaaq established successor states known as Garhajis Sultanates. These two Sultanates exerted a somewhat centralized authority (relative to other clans) during its existence, and possessed some of the organs and trappings of a traditional integrated state: a functioning bureaucracy, regular taxation in the form of livestock, as well as an army (chiefly consisting of mounted light cavalry).[22][23][24][25] These sultanates also maintained written records of their activities, which still exist.[26]

The Isaaq clan also played a major role in the Dervish movement, with Sultan Nur Aman of the Habr Yunis being fundamental in the inception of the movement. Sultan Nur was the principle agitator that rallied the dervish behind his anti-French Catholic Mission campaign that would become the cause of the dervish uprise.[27] Haji Sudi of the Habr Je’lo was the highest ranking Dervish after Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, he died valiantly defending the Taleh fort during the RAF bombing campaign.[28][29][30] The Isaaq sub-clans that were highly known for joining the Dervish movement were from the eastern Habr Yunis and Habr Je’lo sub-clans. These two sub-clans were able to purchase advanced weapons and successfully resist both British Empire and Ethiopian Empire for many years.[31]

The Isaaq clan along with other northern Somali tribes were under British Somaliland protectorate administration from 1884 to 1960. On gaining independence, the Somaliland protectorate decided to form a union with Italian Somalia. The Isaaq clan spearheaded the greater Somalia quest from 1960 to 1991.

During the Somali Civil War, the Isaaq were subjected to a genocidal campaign by Siad Barre‘s troops (which also included armed Somali refugees from Ethiopia); the death toll has been estimated to be between 50,000 and 200,000.

After the collapse of the Somali Democratic Republic in 1991 the Isaaq-dominated Somaliland declared independence from Somalia as a separate nation.[32]

Mercantilism

Historically (and presently to a degree), the wider Isaaq clan were relatively more disposed to trade than their tribal counterparts due in part to their centuries old trade links with the Arabian Peninsula. In view of this imbalance in mercantile experience, other major Somali clans tended to resort to tribal slang terms such as “iidoor”, an enviable pejorative roughly meaning trader/exchanger:

Somalis bandied about numerous stereotypes of clan behavior that mirrored these emerging social inequalities. The pejorative slang terms iidoor or kabadhe iidoora (loosely meaning “exchange”) reflect Somali disdain for the go-between, the person who amasses wealth through persistence and mercantile skills without firm commitments to anyone else. As the Isaaq became more international and cosmopolitan, their commercial success and achievement ideology aroused suspicion and jealousy, notably among rural Darod who disliked Isaaq self-confidence and made them the target of stereotypes.[33]

This was not lost on the sole president and dictator of the Somali Democratic Republic (1969–1991), Siad Barre, Who disliked the Isaaq clan due to their financial independence, thus making it harder to control them:

Siyaad had a deep and personal dislike for the clan. The real reasons can only be guessed at, but in part it was due to his inability to control them. As accomplished business operatives, they had built a society that was not dependant on government largesse. The Isaaq had traditional trade relationships with the nations of the Arabian Peninsula that continued despite the attempts of the government to center all economic activity in Mogadishu. Siyaad did what he could, however, and Isaaq traders were forced to make the long trip to Mogadishu for permits and licenses.[34]

Nevertheless, in the 1970s and 1980s, nearly all of the livestock exports went out through the port of Berbera via Isaaq livestock traders. The entire livestock exports accounted to upwards of 90% of the Somali Republic’s entire export figures in a given year, and Berbera’s exports alone provided over 75% of the nation’s recorded foreign currency income at the time.[35][36]

Clan tree

Sultan Abdurahman Deria of the Habr Awal Isaaq receiving honours from Queen Elizabeth II in Aden

In the Isaaq clan-family, component clans are divided into two uterine divisions, as shown in the genealogy. The first division is between those lineages descended from sons of Sheikh Ishaaq by a Harari woman – the Habr Habuusheed – and those descended from sons of Sheikh Ishaaq by a Somali woman of the Magaadle sub-clan of the Dir – the Habr Magaadle. Indeed, most of the largest clans of the clan-family are in fact uterine alliances hence the matronymic “Habr” which in archaic Somali means “mother”.[37] This is illustrated in the following clan structure.[38]Warriors of the Habr Awal clan

A. Habr Magaadle

  • Ismail (Garhajis)
  • Ayub
  • Muhammad (Arap)
  • Abdirahman (Habr Awal)

B. Habr Habuusheed

  • Ahmed (Tol Je’lo)
  • Muuse (Habr Je’lo)
  • Ibrahiim (Sanbuur)
  • Muhammad (‘Ibraan)

Dualeh Abdi of the Musa Abokor Habr Je’lo tribe photographed in 1890

There is clear agreement on the clan and sub-clan structures that has not changed for a long time. The oldest recorded genealogy of a Somali in Western literature was by Sir Richard Burton in the mid–19th century regarding his Isaaq (Habr Yunis) host and the governor of ZeilaSharmarke Ali Saleh[39]

The following listing is taken from the World Bank‘s Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics from 2005 and the United Kingdom’s Home Office publication, Somalia Assessment 2001.[40][41]

One tradition maintains that Isaaq had twin sons: Ahmed or Arap, and Ismail or Gerhajis.[42]

Notable figures

References

Last edited 3 hours ago bY Shakir Essa

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