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Unrecognized Somaliland’s Long Quest For Elusive Independence
Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 19, 2006 – Somaliland was a British protectorate during the colonial period. In 1960, it became independent for five days before joining with former Italian Somalia to create the now collapsed Somalia Republic.
Immediately the two entities merged, the southerners took up almost all top government positions ranging from the presidency, ministerial positions, army and police and the Somalilanders had to play second fiddle to their southern brothers.
When Siyad Barre, an army general, seized power in 1969 through a coup d’etat, the situation of Somalilanders worsened and discontent led to the formation of a rebel movement that helped topple his regime.
Somaliland was later to act as a springboard for a rebellion mounted by Somaliland National Movement (SNM) in 1981. It was headed by Ahmed Mohamed Sillanyo, now the head of the official opposition party, Kulmiye. A civil war erupted and the Barre regime resorted to indiscriminate punitive measures against the clans in Somaliland that seemed to support the insurgency.
1988 was a memorable year for Somalilanders. It marked the height of the SNM war against Mogadishu. Government jet fighters, taking off from the Hargeysa airport, systematically bombed Hargeysa. In an event that went unnoticed by the international community, 50,000 people were killed and approximately 500,000 of the population of 2 million became refugees in neighboring Ethiopia.
The SNM revolt seriously weakened Barre’s government and by the time General Mohamed Farah Aideed formed his United Somalia Congress (USC) in 1990, it could not stop him. When Aideed started fighting Barre’s forces, he got massive logistical and arms support from SNM. By 1991, government forces could not fight any more and Barre fled to Kenya and then to Nigeria where he was granted a safe haven until his sudden death.
SNM declared the independence of Somaliland in 1991 but war in Mogadishu erupted among various factions. In 1993, SNM was given the mandate to form a government and the late Ibrahim Egal was elected President and reigned until 2002 when he suddenly died while on a trip to South Africa.
Egal’s regime drafted a constitution and the Somalilanders approved it through a referendum. The Egal regime also used the referendum to ask Somalilanders if they preferred being independent or party to the anarchic Southern Somalia.
To observers, the march towards self-determination was and still is unstoppable, if statements being made by the country’s leadership are anything to go by. The current President Dahir Rayale Kahin was elected in 2003. According to the Speaker of Somaliland, Abdirahman Abdillahi "Cirro", plans will be made to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time to save on time and money.
In 2001, 98 per cent of registered voters opted in a free and fair election for a new constitution that boldly proclaimed the case for independence. Somaliland held successful, internationally monitored, local council elections in 2002 and a free and fair presidential election in April 2003. The UDUB party, led by President Kahin, won by only 217 votes out of almost 500,000 cast.
The opposition party Kulmiye challenged the tally but, in a moment of extraordinary responsibility, accepted the results.
For several years, strife and conflict continued, but Somaliland persevered. Order was gradually restored and a government formed; the refugees returned and embarked on a long process of rebuilding.
Sillanyo who was the presidential candidate of Kulmiye party says he accepted the results for the sake of Somaliland’s unity and stability. "I am a democrat. I put the interests of our country ahead of mine," he said.
Source: The Standard, February 19, 2006