Somaliland does not consider itself as being part of Somalia; it views itself as a sovereign state, even though the International community has stubbornly failed to recognize it as such since it broke away from Somalia in 1991.
Most Somali landers are still haunted by the memoires of May 1988, when Dictator Siad Barre’s generals bombed “Northwestern Somalia” Today Somaliland, a stronghold of the opposition Somali National Movement the SNM, and killed over 50 thousands of Somaliland people, memories of this massacre are the glue that holds Somali landers together, like Jews whose memories of the Holocaust are never allowed to fade.
Somali landers will never let it get that bad again. That is why a Mig-17 fighter jet that was shot down during Dictator Siad Barre’s carpet-bombing attacks has been permanently mounted as a public monument in a prominent square call “ Khariyada”, in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, a physical reminder of the atrocities committed, and a symbol of Somali landers’ defiance.
When Somaliland gained independence from Britain in 1960, it opted to unite with the newly independent Somali Republic,” Which after the Second World War had become a UN trusteeship under Italian administration”. In 1991, it decided to forge its own path and disassociate from the dysfunction that marked both the latter part of Barre’s regime and the warlords that replaced it. “Somaliland claims that since no legislation was passed to officially unite this former British protectorate with Somalia, it has every right to reclaim its territory.” Somaliland adopted unique hybrid system of governance that incorporates elements of traditional customary law (known as xeer ), Sharia law and modern secular institutions, including a parliament, a Judiciary, an Army and Police force. The Guurti, the upper house of Somaliland’s legislature selected by their respective clans.
The Guurti wilds enormous decision-making powers and is considered one of the stabilizing factors in Somaliland’s inclusive governance model. Michael Walls described Somaliland’s governance model as “the first indigenous modern African form of government” that fuses traditional forms of organization with those of representative democracy.
President Muse Bihi Abdi came to power in 2017 following elections that were free and fair by international observers. In 2001, 97% of Somali landers voted for a Constitution that declared Somaliland and independent nation. Somaliland governance model is based on a system that is prevalent in many parts of Somalia. Somaliland may just provide a sustainable governance model that could be replicated throughout Somalia.
Those who argue that Somaliland is a spoiler in Somalia’s dream of a united country fail to recognize that the government in Mogadishu doesn’t offer much of an alternative and lacks credibility in the eyes of many Somalis, particularly Somali landers. Current President of Somalia “ Farmaajo”, and his predecessors were not elected through a nation-wide-referendum or general election but through a highly corrupt system that allowed selected clan elders to form “ electoral colleges” that cast the vote. Besides, President Farmaajo’s authority, like his predecessors’, does not extend much beyond Mogadsihu since most of the country is still controlled by clan-based fiefdom or Al-Shabaab. His and his predecessors’ governments have been viewed by many Somalis as Western-backed processes established to please the international community and to create the illusion of a Western-style democracy in Somalia.
Whereas the union of Somaliland and Somalia on July 1, 1960 was a voluntary agreement; and whereas the dissolution of the same union is perfectly in accordance with Constitutive Act of the African Union; and whereas the issue of the inviolability of the colonial boundaries is a matter of technicality; and whereas the Right to Self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United nations Organization; and whereas the government and the people of Somaliland have established a functioning defector state without encumbering the international community for assistance; then it is time to evaluate the merits and the legal soundness of Somaliland’s case for international recognition in compared to the following historic precedents:
- On August 6, 1815 Norway and Sweden formalized an Act of Union of their kingdoms. At the time Europe was recovering from the Napoleonic wars and there was no objection to the union. However, because of extreme dissatisfaction in Norway, the parliament of Norway unanimously and unilaterally declared the dissolution of the union effective June 7, 1905. A national referendum held on August 13, 1905 confirmed the decision of the Norwegian parliament; and on October 16, 1905 the parliaments of Sweden and Norway revoked the Act of Union. As indicated earlier there had been no official Act of Union between Somaliland and Somalia; therefore, no legal agreement to dissolve.
- In 1950, Ethiopia and Eritrea formed a federal state. This union resulted in an atrocious thirty-year war that wreaked havoc on the civilian population of Eritrea. To avert further bloodshed, the international community intervened. Ethiopia and Eritrea parted ways in 1993. The case of Somalia and Somaliland is not any different by any stretch of the imagination;
- In February, 1958 the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Syrian Arab Republic consummated the United Arab Republic as a result of a plebiscite held in both countries. This union lasted until October 13, 1961, when Syria reverted back to its original status as an independent nation.
- In 1960, the short-lived union of Mali and Senegal was dissolved without any border crisis;
- On August 9, 1965, the Union of Malaya and Singapore ceased to exist. It was a mutual decision of the two contracting parties;
- In February, 1982 Senegal and Gambia formed a confederation named Senegambia. Dissatisfactions and disillusionment with the slow pace of integration and harmonization of the institutions of the confederation forced President Abdo Diof of Senegal to unilaterally dissolve the confederation on September 30, 1989.
- The Perestroika and the Glasnost policies of President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have left a permanent transformation on the political map of Europe and Russia. The old Soviet constitution has no mechanism for dismantling the mighty Soviet Union. More than a dozen nations emerged from the implosion of the Soviet Union without any appreciable threat to the peace and security of the world.
- On December 31, 1992 the Republic of Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic came into being.
- The disintegration of the Yugoslavia posed a serious problem in central Europe. However, the European Union averted the impending catastrophe by granting immediate recognition to Slovenia and Croatia. The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina necessitated the direct intervention of NATO forces.
- On November 14, 1975, Spain departed its last colonial possession in Africa without transferring the affairs of the territory to the local population. In 1976, Morocco and Mauritania intervened and claimed sovereignty over the territory. The indigenous people formed the POLISARIO liberation movement. Through the intervention of the African Union, the Saharawi Arab republic is recognized by more than forty countries.
- Also in 1975, the Portuguese government abruptly terminated its colonial rule in East Timor. On July 7, 1976 East Timor declared its independence. Nine days later, on July 16, 1976 Indonesian troops invaded East Timor. Over the next twenty-two years, more than 200,000 East Timorese lost their lives due to Indonesian army repression, famine, disease, and starvation. The downfall of President Suharto and the international outcry against the atrocities of the Indonesian army facilitated an internationally supervised referendum. In the plebiscite of August 30 1999, more than 78.5% of the population voted for independence finally, on May 20, 2002 East Timor reclaimed its sovereignty.
The preceding examples illustrate some of the historic precedents in the dissolution of unions or the application of the principle of self-determination in other instances, such as Bangladesh , Eritrea , and East Timor . The same criteria should apply to Somaliland as well.
ANIIS ABDILLAHI ESSA “ FOUNDER “
SOMALILAND ADVOCACY GROUP
WASHINGTON DC. USA