|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives | Search|
Issue 437 -- June 12- 18, 2010
Somaliland: All The Circumstances Of The Case
By M. H. Abby (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Part 1 of 3
Somaliland is the former British Protectorate in the Horn of Africa with boundaries drawn up during the scramble for Africa in agreement with France, Italy and Ethiopia. In the north Somaliland forms the larger part of the African coast of the Gulf of Aden. Inland it has borders in the west with the Republic of Djibouti, in the east with Somalia and the south with Ethiopia.
Somaliland received its independence from Britain on 26 June 1960 as the sovereign state of the Republic of Somaliland and was immediately recognized by 32 countries. Four days later, on 1 July 1960 Somaliland united with former Italian Somalia on the latter’s Independence Day. The Somali Republic was born with Somaliland now called the Northern Regions and Somalia called the Southern Regions.
At the break up of the Somali Republic after the fall of the dictator, Siyad Barre, Somalia disintegrated into tribal factions but Somaliland reinstated its independence from Britain and declared the Sovereign state of the Republic of Somaliland on 18 May 1991 withdrawing from the union with Somalia. Now Somaliland is yet to be recognized by the international community and has remained in a limbo for the last 19 years.
This article will consider Somaliland’s case in the current convolution of the Somali Republic with respect to its past, present and future. The official name of the union between Somalia and Somaliland was the “Somali Republic”, but for short Somalia was commonly used. “Somalia”, in this article will mean “The Somali Republic”, while Somalia will mean the former Italian part which is now in turmoil.
The North only slowly realized their naivety in allowing the leadership of the new Republic to be dominated by the South that took the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commanders of the Army and the Police as well as the capital city. But the inconveniences of traveling to Mogadishu for little chores like passports and business permits etc. soon dawned on the northerners. Instead of Hargeisa, trekking to a distant, strange Italian speaking place, without proper means of communication or travel facilities, was not easy. A poet lamenting the problems of union with Somalia said:
Like a nomad living in a place Adoo guri barwaaqo ah
Full of pasture and water geel dhalay ku haysta
Suddenly packing up geeddi lama lalaba oo
And blindly moving to a barren abaar looma guuree,
I have put myself in difficulty Anigaysu geystoo
Oh, thinking people galabsaday xumaantee
Don’t throw away waxii ila garaadow
Freedom and dignity. gobonimo ha tuurinaay.
The initial spirit of unification was soon fading away, but the Government ignored a number of early signs of northern disillusionment and discontent. In April 1961 a big demonstration against rising taxes was held in Hargeisa. In June the constitutional referendum was rejected. Finally on 10 December it was the truth. The young Sand Hurst trained officers of the Somaliland Scouts (national army), unhappy on their part to work under old gendarmerie turned military (Somalia did not have an army under Italy), finally made the northern sentiments heard more loudly and clearly when they staged a Military Coup to restore Somaliland’s independence. The coup attempt failed, but it killed any love left between the North and the South.
In 1967, after seven bitter years, the northern political leader, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Egal managed to become Prime Minister of the Somali Republic. But Egal’s Western leaning agenda brought Super Power rivalry into Somali politics. The Soviet Union, which helped the Somali Army since 1963 and wanted a foot-hold in Africa at the beginning of the Cold War, saw the new Western leaning Government as a threat to its long-term interests. With the help of southern local opposition the Soviets were bent to destroy Egal sooner or later. Their chance came on 10 October 1969. While the Prime Minister was away in USA, the President of the Republic, Mr. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated in a carefully planned plot in Lasanod, a remote town in the north. Mr. Egal hurried back home, but on 21 October Colonel Mohamed Siyad Barre the Military Commander took over the Government in a Military Coup and sent Mr. Egal and his senior cabinet members to jail. Egal remained there for 12 years.
Siyad Barre soon introduced a socialist dictatorship into the country he renamed the “Somali Democratic Republic”. The North, in particular the Isaq, the main tribe to which Egal belonged was branded the bourgeois with sympathies for the West and singled out for oppression. The region was put under virtual military occupation with ruthless genocide units like the “Ciidanka Dabargoynta Isaaq - Isaq Elimination Army”. After his failure in the disastrous 77/78 war with Ethiopia and the resulting influx of Ethiopian refugees into “Somalia”, Siyad Barre empowered this army to change the population demography of the North with an ambitious secret plan to resettle the Ogaden in strategic spots around Hargeysa and other main cities.
In 1981 the North formed its liberation movement, the Somali National Movement (SNM) based in Ethiopia. The SNM stormed the north in 1988 and in the ensuing civil war the Siad Barre army bombarded the main cities of Hargeysa and Burao with artillery and air force. Over 50,000 people died with more wounded. Nearly a million of the civilian population fled to refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia and Djibouti. Soon, all the urban centers were ghost towns with all the economic and social infrastructures including hospitals and other health centers as well as private properties destroyed and looted by the occupying southern forces.
Finally the SNM defeated Siyad Barre in 1991 after it helped organize in the south the previous year two more liberation fronts (USC and SPM) against a much weakened regime. The three fronts agreed to discuss the future of the country when each liberated its zone of influence and the dictator was defeated. However, a faction of the USC, which controlled Mogadishu, unilaterally declared a President of the Republic immediately after Siyad Barre fled the capital. The south immediately descended into the chaos, disintegration and the continuing clan factions and warlords.
The SNM consolidated the peace and security of the North along the boundaries of the former Republic of Somaliland. After a series of national conferences of all the clans started in Berbera, and the north feeling cheated again by the south, the SNM eventually reinstated the independence Somaliland received from Britain on 26 June 1960. The new Sovereign State of the Republic of Somaliland was declared in Burao on 18 May 1991 and the way was paved for the stability and democracy which the north has been enjoying ever since.
The territorial integrity of the union between Somalia and Somaliland officially called the Somali Republic is now a matter overtaken by events. The union was shattered on 26 January 1991 when the dictator Siyad Barre fell. Immediately after, on 27 January, the Manifesto Group of the USC unilaterally declared Alimahadi Mohamed as President of “Somalia”. This hasty action deliberately violated the 1990 tripartite agreement between the liberation movements SNM, USC and SPM, which were supposed to discuss the future of the nation when the dictator was defeated, and each movement secured its part of the country.
The SNM took control of Berbera, its strategic target to liberate the North on 25 January 1991, and by 28 January the whole of the Northern Regions. In March, the SNM quickly organized in Berbera the first National Congress of all the Somaliland clans. The main resolutions of this Congress were to: 1) Review the Act of Union between Somaliland and Somalia. 2) Hold a more organized congress of all clans in May in Burao.
By the time the Burao Congress was reached, the northern anger was overwhelming over two things: 1) the deception in the USC’s unilateral declaration of a president of “Somalia” without consulting SNM, which was taken in the north as a rejection of Somaliland, 2) the ensuing internecine and fratricidal chaos in Mogadishu as well as the starving of the inland population in Baidowa, which revealed the hollowness of Somali nationalism and brotherhood. The inevitable reaction at the Burao Congress was the call for the reinstatement of the independence Somaliland got from Britain on 26 June 1960. Eventually, this came on 18 May 1991 when the Congress ended the union with Somalia and declared the “Republic of Somaliland” a Sovereign State along the boundary of the former British Somaliland Protectorate.
The Somali Republic has broken up at the seams and reverted to its constituent parts of Somalia and Somaliland. What followed was literally reaching the parting of the ways. While Somalia slipped further into statelessness, chaos and warring tribal factions, Somaliland had resurrected its instruments of government as the Republic of Somaliland. In the last 19 years, with the help of traditional elders and cultural methods of peace making, stability and a viable administration with its civil service, judiciary, police and armed forces has been established. Somaliland also has made its own flag, currency and passport. Add to this, that Somaliland has completed its democratization process with a referendum on the constitution in 2000 as well as the holding of local government elections in 2002, presidential and parliamentary elections in 2003 and 2005 respectively. The second presidential election is due on 26 June 2010.
As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Today the legal existence and legitimacy to claim the territorial integrity of the Somali Republic formed of the union between Somalia and Somaliland is false. The Somali Republic broke up into its constituent parts. Somaliland reclaimed its independence and established a functioning government. But the entity of Somalia has disintegrated into its basic warring tribes and after the international community organized 15 international conferences outside the country it is unable to put together a legitimate and viable administration, other than nominal governments in Mogadishu that usually only control a fraction of the capital city.
This said for the weak physical condition of the union between Somalia and Somaliland, Somaliland is still not recognized by the international community. Now, let us consider the spirit of the union and the state of the elements that would nourish and probably would resuscitate it back to life if they were healthier than at present:
To be continued on next week’s edition