By Dr. Hussein Mohamed Nur
Professor Woodward puts forth a cautionary statement about the
recognition of Somaliland. The professor’s cheap pessimistic
propaganda is based on ignorance about the peculiar history and
politics of Somaliland – a great gap of knowledge!!.
The professor deliberately and wrongly described Somaliland as a
secessionist. With due respect I remind him that Somaliland is not
(and has never been) a region or a territory seceding from a country
called “Somalia”. Unerringly this is where the professor’s argument
buckles. The professor is either exhausted to do desk work and out of
date or he is out rightly dishonest about Somaliland. It was 1991,
after the collapse of the Somali government and the defeat of its
national troops by the SNM, that Somaliland withdrew from a union
between two independent states (Somaliland and Somalia Italiana/South
Somalia), reclaimed its lost independence and clawed back its
territorial integrity. Somaliland has the right to abrogate from the
union according to the international law.
The history of Somaliland is uniquely and distinctly different from
that of Somalia. Somaliland has been a Protectorate (British
Somaliland Protectorate) for about 76 years before it achieved its
independence from Britain on 26 June 1960. Its borders have been
clearly demarcated through treaties and international agreements.
Britain made agreements with other European colonial regimes and the
Ethiopian Emperor (The Anglo-French Treaty of 1888; The Anglo-Italian
Treaty of 1894 and The Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1897 respectively.
Therefore, the borders of Somaliland are constituted and delineated by
the international law.
Soon after gaining its independence on 26 June 1960, the independent
state of Somaliland voluntarily joined with ‘La Somalia Italiana’ in
the South on its independence (from Italy) on 1 July 1960. On its
independence 35 member countries (including of course Britain and the
US) recognised Somaliland. Even the then US Secretary of State,
Christian Herter, congratulated it. Somaliland was also invited to the
British Commonwealth of nations. A point always be born in mind is
that both Somaliland and Italian Somaliland were independent separate
states when they united. However, after nearly 31 years (of a loose
unratified illegal union), Somaliland voluntarily withdrew from the
union. Somaliland’s withdrawal is, therefore, a case of dissolution of
a botched union. There are successful precedents including African
states which are today independent states with no border problems
dismissing the view the professor blindly envisages. The professor
deliberately selected failed or problem cases (the Biafra region, the
Katanga region, South Sudan and Eritrean) but utterly ignored a whole
lot of other independent states that do exist in the African continent
that have successfully separated from unions [(the united Arab
Republic union between Egypt and Syria which was dissolved in 1961;
the union between French Sudan and Senegal (the Malian Federation)
that was dissolved in 1960; Senegambia (Gambia and Senegal) which was
dissolved in 1989)] and in other parts of the world (the chain of
breakdown of federations of the former USSR and Yugoslavia), East
Timor among others.
The professor subscribed to the most deceptive hypothetical delusive
political argument that recklessly opposes to the recognition of
Somaliland and which attracts rather few loony individuals. Each case
has its own merit and the examples the professor picked up have no
relevance to the case of Somaliland.
Somaliland has been out of the failed state of Somalia for 25 years.
Since then Somaliland made considerable achievements that Somalia did
not dream of. Somaliland came out of the ashes of ruins. It proved
itself as a shining beacon of hope, peace and a model of democracy in
the African continent. The lasting peace, security and stability
Somaliland enjoys today were brought at a price and through a
comprehensive process of reconciliations and peace negotiations that
no other country coming out conflict, including Somalia, has used.
Among the international community Somaliland is well ‘recognised’ as
an oasis of peace in an otherwise turbulent region (including the
neighbouring violence in Somalia). It has taken full advantage of
democratic principles and formation of pluralistic society. Since its
withdrawal, Somaliland made four free and fair democratic elections
(two presidential elections, a parliamentary and a municipality
election) witnessed by international observers and covered by the
world media. Four presidents, elected through the ballot have thus far
The fact that a presidential candidate lost vote by a mere 80 votes
and, at the same time, conceded defeat is extraordinarily a miracle in
the world. It happened in Somaliland in 2005. That shook the world in
surprise so much so that such kind of transfer of power is not popular
in Africa. But nevertheless, that shows how serious Somaliland is
about the principles of democracy while Somalia is stuck in the 4.5
clan code system (marginalising minority clans) and has not yet even
stepped on the democracy ladder. A third presidential election and a
parliamentary election are planned to occur in Somaliland in 2017. The
professor should, in a moral imperative fashion, be siding with the
humanity, the social stability and democratic politics rather than
dragging the progressive back to the weak unstable chaotic Somalia.
The professor also argues that the AU should be opposed to the
recognition of Somaliland. What a travesty! The professor has out
rightly discounted the reality that the AU Charter itself explicitly
supports Somaliland in principle but the AU chose to be silent of the
truth. Was it not in 2005 that the AU admitted that the legality of
Somaliland’s case is out of question but rather that Somaliland
remains in current political limbo for political reasons? Clauses of
the AU Charter clearly stress the inviolability of colonial borders
and enforcing African leaders to respect. To put the professor in the
perspective in the late 1960s the late president of Tanzania, Julius
Nyrere, strongly warned African countries not to violate the colonial
borders. It was that same clause of the AU Charter (the then OAU)
which was used for stopping Somali Republic to claim the other
Somali-inhabited territories (NFD, Somalis in Ethiopia and Djibouti).
In addition, the colonial borders of Somaliland have been confirmed by
the AU Fact-Finding mission (led by the Deputy Chairperson, Patrick
Mazimbaka) in 2005 to Somaliland. The Mission’s official report
clearly expressed and concluded that Somaliland’s case is unique and
self-justified in the African political history and, therefore, should
not be linked to the notion of ‘opening a Pandora box as the professor
argues. Once more, Somaliland is not causing the disintegration the
colonial borders of Somalia which it inherited from its European
coloniser (Italy). The professor is perplexed and feels sulky by the
AU’s delusional policy.
Somaliland is set for recognition. Somaliland ticks all the boxes of
statehood and it has undoubtedly established the most democratic
political system in the entire Horn of Africa according to the
Economist Magazine (Nov. 2015). It has achieved all accoutrements of a
government and has a democratically elected government and parliament.
Somaliland is engaged with other independent states and deals with the
Historically it was the Greater Somalia notion or Somali unity that
necessitated the bringing of all Somali-speaking people in the Horn of
Africa region under one banner. The concept began with the Somali
nationalism to bring about all five Somali-inhabited lands
(Somaliland, Somalis in Ethiopia, Somalis in NFD in Kenya, Somalis in
South Somalia, and Somalis in Djibouti) under one flag. That was the
birth of Somali irredentism. The union of the two (Somaliland and
Italian Somalia) was one step forward to that dream and the fate of
the greater Somalia at the time has been a sacrosanct issue for all
Somalis. But nevertheless, that proved to be a grand ambition, surreal
and practically unrealisable dream. Siad Barre’s war with Ethiopia in
1977/78 was part and parcel of that package or dream. In the end that
doomed to failure and the concept faltered apart long ago since each
Somali-inhabited territory went on its own way one after the other
like a cascading domino. The NFD is now of Kenya since its
independence in 1963; Djibouti Somalis together with Afar became
independent in 1977 and the area known as Ogaden together with the
Haud and Reserve Area is now the 5th region as part of the Ethiopian
Federation. In 1991 Somaliland withdrew from the union of the two.
Therefore, Somali unity is only a delusive and unthinkable idea.
Somaliland’s withdrawal from the union finally put the nail on the
coffin of the Pan Somalia notion. The union of two does not mean the
unity of Somalis under Somalia as some argue.
Somaliland complies with the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and
Duties of States, a convention that holds the conditions of statehood:
a permanent population, a defined territory, a functioning government,
and the capacity to enter relations with other states.
The Somaliland people who chose to unite with Somalia after achieving
independence in 1960 from Britain. It was a peoples’ choice then and
it is the peoples’ wish and right again to reclaim their independence
again. The fact that one-million people signed a petition clearly
pinpoints the peoples’ wish and right to express their choice and
future prospects. In addition, the professor is reminded that a
constitutional referendum has already been held in Somaliland in 2001
and that 97% of the people voted for the withdrawal from the failed
union of Somali Republic or Somali Democratic Republic (whichever you
call). The people of Somaliland are at a point of NO return to uniting
again with Somalia. Rest assured for the professor he needs not to be
concerned about any border disputes in the future.
Finally, the recognition of Somaliland is an anchor for the security
and stability of the region in general and for Somalia in particular.
Somaliland plays a key role in the stability and security of the
region The recognition of Somaliland is a credit to the human rights,
democracy in the region. The Horn of Africa region has always been a
major cockpit for the world politics and a playground for the world
Somaliland is ready for helping Somalia out of the quagmire. The
Somali identity, socio-cultural and societal ties and cooperation is
what Somaliland strives for but not a political unity with Somalia,
the most failed state (The Economist, Sept. 10, 2016) where the
security is under a force of 22,000 foreign soldiers of AMISOM from
African countries under the joint a mandate of the UN and AU and
government officials cannot visit the country let alone govern them.