Somalia's president apologizes for atrocities in Hargeisa after Bihi meeting
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The Villa Somalia has formally tendered apologies and regrets to secessionists Somaliland, setting the pace for treacherous journey for reconciliation, despite dragged peace talks between Hargeisa and Mogadishu.
For three decades now, Somaliland and Somalia have been at crossroads, with the former declaring independence from Mogadishu in 1991, although it's yet to get international recognition.
On Thursday, February 13, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the president of Somalia, for the first time, apologized to the northwestern state of Somaliland over the Hargeisa bombing in May 1988, which left thousands dead.
Incidentally, Farmajo's apology comes three days after his unprecedented meeting with Somaliland President Muse Bihi in Addis Ababa on February 11, the first-face-to-face talks brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
While acknowledging the atrocities committed in the separatists north, Farmajo added that they were orchestrated by a previous administration.
"We are here now, what's needed is where to go from here and we are going towards justice. What's needed is asking for forgiveness on our dark history," Farmajo said during a speech at the conclusion of the annual judiciary conference in Mogadishu on Thursday.
To express regret and to apologize to our brothers, he added, "those who died and those who were maimed and tell them what happened is in the past was bad history".
“I convey our regrets to the dead, the wounded, the traumatized,” he added.
“It doesn't mean that the south did invade the north. What happened was not clan-driven. A system carried it out,” he said.
The apology could instill confidence in the ongoing reconciliation talks, which have stalled for years due to suspicions from both parties.
Somaliland civil war was largely engineered by government forces under the military regime led by Mohamed Siad Barre, who was toppled in 1991.
Noting that the South never attacked the North, and ruling our inter-clan conflict, Farmajo said "the murders were engineered by a government that existed that time. As head of state, I express regret for what happened at that time."
Further, Farmajo has asked, "Those who were carrying the guns and those who fought should equally apologize."
At Addis Ababa, details of the meeting between Bihi and Farmajo were scanty, even though sources revealed that "there was no specific agenda discussed" and that one party was given a "short notice".
It was the first meeting between the two leaders since their ascendancy to power in 2017 amid a push by Somaliland to be recognized as a sovereign state.
Mr. Ahmed, who won Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, has been credited for his fragile mission to broker peace agreements in the Horn of Africa, and the latest could be one of his many successful missions.
The talks between the two sides were first convened by UK, Turkey, and UAE since 2012 but have been sabotaged due to unwillingness to reach truce by both parties.
A committee for national reconciliation was established last year by President Farmajo although Somaliland questioned its membership, where two of the alleged perpetrators were brought on board.
Abdirahman Abdi Hussein [Gulwade], the son-in-law to Siad Barre has since quit from the committee due to pressure from Hargeisa. Both men served in the army during the genocide.
Somalia has often maintained that Somaliland is part of its territory, despite the breakaway region having her own government, army, and even currency.