|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives | Search|
Issue 421 -- Feb. 20- 26, 2010
A Convincing Case For Somaliland Recognition
By Ibrahim Hassan Gagale
The opponents of Somaliland Republic sometimes raise insincere arguments about the legitimacy of its national borders and its quest for international diplomatic recognition calling its borders “Colonial Borders” to deny Somaliland sovereignty and diplomatic recognition. This hostile group is either ignorant of the historical origin of current borders of African States or purposefully engaged in misleading. The United Nations, African Union, and African States did not draw or make the current borders of African States. Similar to the borders of Somaliland, all the borders of African independent states had been drawn by the colonial powers of Europe in the 19th century, before or after The Partition of Africa in 1884, and the independence and diplomatic recognition of each African State depend upon its own colonial demarcations or borders. Likewise, all the borders of Asian and South American independent States also emerged from colonial borders drawn by Britain, France, and Spain.
It is hypocritical that these opponents recognize the legitimacy of the border between Somaliland and Djibouti but challenge the legitimacy of the border running between Somaliland and Somalia (running along Garowe and Bosaso) knowing that both borders were drawn by colonial powers. The borders of Somalia, Somaliland, and Djibouti have the same status and legitimacy because they were all drawn by European Colonizers. Most of such opposing elements are easily overwhelmed by unattainable ambitions for tribal state with tribal borders that does not exist in Africa or elsewhere in the world. Their denial of the legitimacy of Somaliland borders and independence is completely in contrary to the historical realities of African borders. Anyone who opposes the legitimacy of Somaliland borders, its independence, and its diplomatic recognition is challenging the borders and sovereignty of all African independent states (54 states) whose borders rose from their colonial borders or demarcations. Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia have the same legitimacy for independence and diplomatic recognition.
Somaliland was the first of the five-Somali territories to achieve independence from the British Empire on June 26, 1960 based on its existing borders and, before the merger with Somalia on July 1st, 1960, the first Somali country to be recognized by the United Nations and 35 member nations immediately after independence like the rest of African States. Independent Somaliland was also the first to pioneer the unification between Somaliland and Somalia in quest for Greater Somalia in the Horn of Africa. Somalia hijacked the governments of the union for the thirty years of its existence (1960-1990) and treated Somaliland as one of its own provinces like Mudug and Bay committing all kinds of injustices against it. When Somaliland people rebelled against injustices perpetrated by Somalia in the twenty years between 1960-1980, atrocities were committed against them in the decade of 1980s instead of addressing their justified grievances.
After all talks and negotiations between Somaliland leaders and Siyad Barre’s regime to reverse the anti-Somaliland policies failed, the people of Somaliland had no choice but to challenge the unabated injustices of Somalia with armed resistance. Somali National Movement (SNM) was founded in April 1981. The military wing of SNM waged relentless attacks against Southern troops of atrocities, oppression, suppression, and repression for nearly a decade (1982-1990), and finally liberated Somaliland in January 1991. After the shaky union was hijacked again by self-styled Southern president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, in February in 1991, the Somaliland people held National Congress in Burao on May 18, 1991 and unanimously proclaimed the withdrawal of Somaliland from the union with Somalia and reclaimed its independence of June 26, 1960 renaming itself Somaliland Republic. If Somalia had any respect for the unity of the doomed union, it would restrain itself from the atrocities that threatened the existence of the central clans of Somaliland. Somalia should not rally and cry now for unity it destroyed with its own hands. Injustices, atrocities, and arrogance were the major causes that forced Somaliland people to withdraw from the union with Somalia.
Some people confuse Somaliland with Puntland for either ignorance or for futile political reasons. Puntland is an integral part of Somalia because it is located within the colonial borders of Somalia (Italian-drawn borders) with which Somalia achieved independence on July 1st, 1960 and shares people and history with Somalia while Somaliland has the rightful claim of independence and recognition for having its own, unique colonial borders with which it achieved independence and diplomatic recognition on June 26, 1960. Tribal boundaries or tribal states are not recognized in Africa and that is why the Organization of African Unity solemnly declared in 1964 that all member states pledge themselves to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence. Here the borders existing on their achievement of national independence are the colonial borders on which Somaliland achieved independence on June 26, 1960. If tribal states or borders were recognized in Africa, the whole continent would collapse and be plunged into endless, devastating clan wars.
Unlike Puntland, Somaliland is not a secessionist or a breakaway region from Somalia as its opponents would like to portray it. Somaliland Republic just withdrew from the union with Somalia that it joined as an independent state on July 1st, 1960 after it failed in the hands of Somalia. Somaliland and Somalia are not the first two countries in this world whose union ceased to exist. The Soviet Union of 15 Socialist Republics and created by the Bolshevik Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin in 1917 broke up after social upheavals with deep political discontent and came to an end peacefully in 1989 with new countries emerging from it such as Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia etc. They are all recognized by the UN and international community on the basis of their original borders existing before the union. The federation of former Yugoslavia that had 8 countries broke up after bloody civil wars (1991-1995) and new countries such as Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, Kosovo etc emerged from its ashes. All are recognized diplomatically too for their original borders existing before the federation. This shows that the unity among countries in a union is not sacred if they disagree but the unity within a country like Somaliland, Djibouti, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda etc is sacred because each country is bound together by its own national borders inherited from colonial powers.
Some Somalis believe that Somaliland can not withdraw from the union with Somalia claiming that all Somalis share language, religion, color, and culture. If this claim were true, the Arab World which has nearly 17 independent countries such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Sudan with the same language, religion, color, and culture would have a union or a federal system today. They do not have any union or federal for disagreeing to share one. Over 14 South American countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador etc also share religion (Catholic Church), language (Spanish), culture, and color but they do not share any union or federal system. Sharing language, religion, color, and culture is not convincing factors to share or remain in a union. Justice and fair power-sharing are the most important factors for a union to survive and that is what Somalia failed to understand in the years of the union. Islamic religion commends unity for enhancing strength and power but does not support that one side of the union brings death and destruction upon the other side like Somalia did to Somaliland, particularly in the years 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989m and 1990. “Greater Somalia” is like “Greater Arab World” or “Greater South America” which no one knows when such dreams will come true. Some other Somalis believe that only Somaliland and Somalia constitute “Greater Somalia” excluding Djibouti and the occupied territories for opportunistic reasons. Somaliland will not be red meat for all Somalis again.
The place is Africa where tribalism and localism are more important than nationalism and patriotism and where democracy, fair elections, and rule of law are not respected. Chronic tribalism, brutal dictatorships, and crippling corruptions are common and normal practice of the day in Africa. Any federal government can be easily overthrown at any time by military coups, just like General Siad Barre did in 1969, with the immediate dissolution of elected parliament and constitution. No one can guarantee that this will not happen again in restive Africa. Neither Somaliland people nor the people of Somalia can afford to have another risky union that leads them to another military brutal dictatorship or despotic president that plunges both peoples into other violent, atrocious civil wars again. Because of the past painful experiences, peoples of Somaliland and Somalia need to have separate, safe, prosperous sisterly states with mutual relations like the Arab World or South American countries. Both nations must reject blind patriotism for “Greater Somalia” which is not practically feasible today.
Somaliland Republic will only discuss future relations with a government of Somalia which is democratically elected and which represents and controls the entire people and territory of Somalia. Somaliland will not meet with a government or parliament that includes individuals claiming to represent Somaliland. Any meeting or discussions with Somalia without fulfilling these two conditions would violate the basics of Somaliland’s sovereignty.
Somaliland, as any African state, has the right to be diplomatically recognized by the United Nations, African states, and other countries for its current borders that rose from colonial borders. If the African countries do not recognize Somaliland Republic for its own colonial borders as soon as possible, they should know that they put their statehood and sovereignty based on their colonial borders in question. Achieving independence on June 26, 1960 and basing that independence on its own colonial borders, as any other African independent country, Somaliland has CONVINCING CASE for international diplomatic recognition. For faster diplomatic recognition, Somaliland needs good governance and fair elections held on time. Somaliland independence is undeniable and its diplomatic recognition is unstoppable.
Date: February 19, 2010