- A "new" Somali ethnic group has been introduced at the ongoing Somali peace conference in Kenya; the "Northern Dir clan". As Somaliland authorities refuse to partake in the Kenya talks, this new clan is to represent the people of the unrecognised state. Somalilanders however hold there exists no such thing as a "Northern Dir clan".
At Mbagathi, outside Nairobi, Somali clan leaders continue their peace negotiations aimed at re-establishing a federal but unified state of Somalia. Peace talks are hosted by Kenya, regional states grouped in the IGAD block and the international society. This 14th Somalia Peace Conference groups leaders from all of Somalia's clans - also referred to as war lords - thus claiming to be representative for all of Somalia. An equal strategy was followed at the failed 13th Somalia Peace Conference in Arta, Djibouti.
For many Somalis, it is a controversial fact that the war lords responsible of the country's disintegration are to represent them in these peace talks. Even more controversial, however, is the participation in Arta and in Mbagathi of the so-called "Northern Dir clan", a term said to have been invented by Djibouti's President Ismael Omar Guelleh.
The "Northern Dir clan" officially represents the people of north-western Somalia; the same territory that has been administered as the Republic of Somaliland since 1991. The Somaliland population, however, understands itself as belonging to the Isaak, Issa and Gadabursi clans. These clans - or sub-clans, depending on definitions - are part of or related to - again a question of definition - Somalia's large Dir clan.
The invention of the "Northern Dir clan" has been made to "weaken Somaliland," claims an editorial in the independent daily 'Somaliland Times'. This "fabricated" new Dir confederacy, the daily's editor says, is "a conduit through which fake delegates could be introduced in the Mbagathi conference as representatives of Somaliland."
Farah Ali Jama, a representative of the Somalilander Diaspora, told afrol News that the introduction of the "non-existent Northern Dir clan" at the Mbagathi talks also will become "a serious obstacle to peace in the region." According to Mr Jama and other Somalilander observers, this development will jeopardise future talks between Somalia and Somaliland as the upcoming Somali government will claim to represent Somaliland as well.
- There is nothing like the 'Northern Dir' and 'Southern Dir' clans, emphasises Mr Jama. "There is only one real Dir Clan who inhabit large chunks of territories in both Somalia and Ethiopia," he adds, explaining that Somaliland's Isaak and Issa are clans on their own.
Also (southern) Somalis agree on the existence of an Isaak clan - not sub-clan - although many hold that the Isaak "the predominant clan" of the "Northern Dir clan" (as quoted from the Somali advocacy group Shasna). afrol News was however unable to find evidence of any widespread use of the term "Northern Dir clan", and no signs of its use being older than a few years.
There is however documentation of IGAD country representatives admitting the term was created to embrace Somaliland representatives to the Somali peace talks despite the unwillingness of Somaliland's government to participate.
Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, Kenya's special envoy to Somalia who heads the peace talks, has made it clear that IGAD will pressure for a united Somalia. IGAD does not recognise Somaliland. "Hence, you could say they are for territorial integrity and the unity of Somalia. It is implied that Somaliland is included in Somalia," Mr Kiplagat last year told the 'East African Standard'.
Somaliland authorities had been invited to the Mbagathi peace talks, Mr Kiplagat further emphasised. They were however invited on the same basis as Somalia's war lords. The Somaliland government rejected the invitation, saying it had "no mandate to compromise Somaliland's sovereign status" following a pro-independence referendum. Consequently, the Djiboutian scheme to invite the "Northern Dir clan" on behalf of Somaliland was endorsed by IGAD.
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