Somaliland’s talks are welcome, but Villa Somalia’s eye must remain in federal state negotiations

Somalia’s week in politics can be very long, especially as elections approach.

EDITORIAL | This week, three things happened: The federal government of Somalia participated in advisory talks with Somaliland, the first such tangible discussion in almost five years. Mogadishu also recognized, albeit as interim, the president of Jubaland Ahmed Madobe.

President Mohamed Farmaajo also invited all federal Member States to dialogue on security and political issues before the election. We welcome these steps, even though there are areas of shortcomings.

This platform has often encouraged dialogue and the need for compromise. That a new round of negotiations opened with Somaliland is encouraging. The devil, however, could lie in the details. Relations between Somalia and Somaliland have often had ups and downs. A ray of hope had emerged in 2012 after then-transitional president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed met with Ahmed Silanyo, where they joined future talks to continue looking for solutions.

It is worrying to note that these solutions are still not met eight years later. In fact, there are still areas of little anger that have often delayed the movement on important aspects of the negotiations. Following Sunday’s ‘advisory summit’, Somalia was bitter after Djibouti inadvertently referred to Somaliland as a ‘country’. President Farmaajo and Somaliland’s leader Muse Bihi Abdi had reportedly reached an “understanding” that a technical committee should proceed with the negotiations immediately.

What were they negotiating about? Somaliland wants independence. It stuck to it. Somalia wants Somaliland as part of its territory. It stuck to it. This week as in 2012, the areas of deviations were the same. Some officials even described the talks as difficult.

While the committees agreed on the agenda, such as discussions on revenue sharing, airspace management, depoliticization of development; there were no timelines for how each of these will be resolved.

Which brings us to the pressing issue facing Somalia: Uncertainty over elections, mainly due to broken communication between stakeholders. Djibouti claimed to have organized the talks between Somalia and Somaliland, but the timing was curious. Were the talks a trick by Mogadishu to divert attention from the existential problem of federal member states? Some critics have noted that the desire for Somaliland could provide the federal government with the necessary political capital before the election. Like this:

For a long time, Mogadishu did not take the issue of federal member states seriously.

AXADLETM