By Shire Salaad
According to the Times, J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, a conservative Think-tank based in Washington DC, is mentioned for the position of Assistant Secretary of Bureau of African Affairs. In other words, Mr. J. Peter Pham will be the head of America’s diplomats in Africa if confirmed. He will have direct influence on policies in which the Trump administration may pursue in Africa.
Mr. Pham is staunch supporter and advocate of Somaliland’s secession from Somalia (see the next paragraph). He has written extensively about the topic of Somaliland, and even hosted the current president of the semiautonomous region of northern Somalia known as Somaliland at the Atlantic Council Headquarter in Washington DC. He is not someone who is interested the topic on intellectual level, but appears to be someone who is interested the topic of Somaliland for political reasons although often he uses the US foreign policy and its national security as the reasons for his secessionist views.
According to Mr. Pham, “Recognition of Somaliland would be a most cost-effective means to ensure security in an otherwise troubled and problematic region.” From that quote it may seem like Mr. Pham is grounding his opinion on security and regional stability. However, that is not the case. According to him, it was wrong the union of Italian Somaliland and the British Somaliland because “the two …entered into a hasty union that a number of legal scholars have argued fell short of the minimal standards for legal validity.”
His support of Somaliland does not remain there. He in absolute times believes Somalia as a nation is gone for good, and the world should not support the Federal Government of Somalia or give it recognition. When the United States government formally recognized the government of Somalia in 2013, he opposed the recognition, saying, “…it [is] not clear that having a recognized, but otherwise ineffective, government sitting in Mogadishu is at all in the interests of the United States, not least in the counterterrorism effort.” Moreover, in 2015 when Somalia dispatched Ambassador Ahmed Awad to Washington to represent the interests of Somalia, Mr. Pham said, “Awad should not have been sent here as ambassador until the government he represents can prove it has effective sovereignty over its claimed territory.”
Mr. Pham believes Somalia is claiming a territory that it has no legitimacy to claim: Somaliland. And the international community should look its own interest and support the secession of Somaliland. When in 2012 the former British Prime Minister, David Cameroon, held an International Conference on Somalia, Mr. Pham wrote this:
“As I noted last year, despite the lack of international recognition, Somaliland’s people have built a stable, peaceful, and democratic polity for themselves. Likewise [,] the Puntland region in the northeast has achieved a certain degree of functionality. There is no rational reason for Somalilanders and Puntlanders to want to tie their future to someone else’s dream (or nightmare) of Somali unity. An international conference that aspires to be more than a photo op needs to actually engage the ‘little Somalias’ that work and not just pay them lip service or waste its resources pining after a unitary Somalia that has not only ceased to function, but has simply disappeared altogether.”
He believes that “There is no realistic way of persuading them [Somaliland] to rejoin Somalia short of launching a war.” And he has even co-written a report which advocates for Somaliland’s secession bluntly which also provides recommendations on how Somaliland should pursue its agenda on the world stage.
If Mr. Pham becomes the Assistant Secretary of Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department, expect the United States’ long standing policy of one Somalia to be questioned if not changed. Also the humanitarian and the military aid the US gives the Federal Government of Somalia, large portions of it, to move to the North (Somaliland), and the United States’ secretary of Bureau of African Affairs to personally advocate for the secession of Somaliland. It could be a game changer for the Somalia government—that is, if Somalia government is a government that thinks.
Shire Salaad is a writer interested in Somalia affairs with BS in Economics & Global Affairs, and MS Ed.