Machinations and undeclared war on Somaliland

IM. Abdi Halim M. Musa

Despite the great odds facing Somaliland from the devastation and the virtual destruction of their homes as well as all the infrastructures of their county by the Barre regime of Somalia, the people of Somaliland collectively decided to tally the results of their union with Somalia, which had lasted 30 years from the day when their newly independent state of Somaliland amalgamated with Somalia.

Accordingly, whatever the future offered, they decided to reclaim their sovereignty and, took their destiny in their hands. Exactly, 16 years ago, on May 18, 1991, they reinstated the Republic of Somaliland within its colonial frontiers.

During those 16 years, the people of Somaliland, without any significant help from the outside world, have quietly rebuilt their homeland, formed real democratic institutions and fulfilled all criteria for statehood. While the world has poured billions of US Dollars to sort out the endless problems of Somalia proper.

Somaliland has forged unique democratic institutions that African countries should well heed to copy; its bicameral parliament is a combination of both tradition and modernism; the senate consists of traditional elders, whereas the house of representatives consists of modern day representatives. There is a multiparty system which the current president H.E. Dahir Rayaale won only 280 votes by fair election witnessed by international observers. The local councils were elected. The judiciary is independent and the press is free.

Somaliland’s demand for independence is consistent with the right to self-determination entrenched in the Charters of the African Union and the United Nations. This right was freely and democratically expressed on 31 May, 2001 by the people of Somaliland, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new Constitution that affirms Somaliland’s sovereignty and independence. Of 1.18 million ballots cast, 1.15 million (97.9%) approved the new Constitution in a process described by international observers as having been conducted “openly, fairly, honestly and largely in accordance with internationally recognized election procedures.”  The report of the observation team estimates that two-thirds (66%) of those eligible actually turned out to vote, meaning that the total “yes” votes cast were equivalent to approximately 65% of eligible voters.

Though this may sound strange, some of the most concerted efforts to derail Somaliland's independence have come from the very world body that is supposed to safeguard the rights of the people of the world.         

The United Nations, The Secretariat of the United Nations and some of its agencies have worked hard to push Somaliland under the carpet in a quest to revive Somalia. For 16 years to this date, the Secretariat's memos avoid to mention Somaliland by name, and try to project false and negative images about Somaliland by deliberately confusing it with Somalia.

The UN Secretary General's recent report to the Security Council on the situation in Somalia illustrates this unjustifiable practice of lumping together the two distinct states of Somaliland and Somalia. This is all the more outrageous given the fact that the Secretariat's files report under the names 'Kosovo', ‘East Timor’ and other entities which have less historical existence, and less population than Somaliland.

UN officials often try to justify their trampling on the rights of Somaliland's people for self-determination by invoking the AU's principle of the inviolability of colonial borders. However, Somaliland, just like Eritrea which separated from Ethiopia with the blessing of the UN, cannot serve as an example for the application of this principle, since Somaliland had its own colonial frontiers inherited from Britain on June 1960, and was juridically a state on its own, before its merger with Somalia on July 1st, 1960.

The government of Italy has also tried to thwart Somaliland's quest for international recognition by siding with efforts to resurrect Somalia, its former colony, which the Somalilanders say is "still nostalgic dreaming of a formal colony whose capital is Mogadishu."

Sudan, supported by Egypt and Libya, thinks an independent Somaliland sets a precedent for dividing warring Sudan into two independent countries, North and South. They would also see a reunited Muslim Somalia to outflank Ethiopia from south and east, to be used to secure Egypt's unlimited use of the Nile waters and to forestall any form of future Israeli presence in the area.

More recently, Djibouti, the smallest state in the Horn of Africa, and the one that has actually benefited the most from Somaliland's heroic reconstruction efforts, has been busy trying to destabilize Somaliland.

However, the most potent argument against recognition centers on a very fine, albeit dubious, technical point. We know those who flatly against our recognition because it meant redrawing colonial borders. One of the pillars of the OAU/AU is that African colonial borders should not be redrawn. There are many powerful players trying to nix Somaliland's quest for independence:

However, we extend friendly hands to all the nations of the world. We reiterate that we, as a people, have stood united in reconstructing our country and, in spreading the benefits of peace and economic growth in the Horn of Africa.

Somaliland deserves a better response and cooperation from the UN instead of the unfair and unjustified treatment that it has gotten so far. The machinations of some governments, and the undeclared war that some UN bureaucrats, particularly African ones, have exercised against Somaliland, must stop.

On a continent where success stories are rare, Somaliland's modest progress deserves a better response than the international cold shoulder it has received so far. This is especially true because its brand of peacemaking is real, grounded in the cultural traditions of its people and not in the benevolent but ill-informed efforts of foreigners.

 But the lack of international recognition casts a long shadow over Somaliland's future, seriously hindering economic development, strangulating the burgeoning private sector and eroding public trust in the country's future. It cannot sign agreements with multilateral donors such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

It cannot receive more than token aid - for emergency and humanitarian reasons - but no meaningful bilateral development assistance from other governments let alone substantive loans to rehabilitate its dilapidated infrastructure. It cannot drill for oil, build new industry, improve its universities or rebuild its roads. It can not create jobs for the tens of thousands of refugees returning to Somaliland's relative stability, nor build a substantial police force or army to protect it from the threats of International terrorists. 

Somaliland has earned its place in the community of nations at no cost to anyone. The world should not hold Somaliland hostage to the chaos in Somalia or the agenda of a particular country or the biases of some UN bureaucrats. The world should deal with Somaliland on its own merit.

The ill-fatted union with Somalia (ex-Italian colony) to create what used to be known as the Great Somalia, resulted tens of thousands of Somalilanders were murdered by southern Somali Army officers. Bodies are still found today, bound together, and buried in mass graves, with bullets through the backs of their heads. The human rights organization African watch estimated in 1988 that more than 50, 000 innocent civilians dead. This was one of the most brutal genocide's in African history.

How on earth would some one force a relatively prosperous and peaceful nation (Somaliland) to merge once more with the warring clans of Somalia at the hands of which it suffered such oppression and hardship before and during the Civil War.?

After such a dreadful union, who would want rejoin Somalia again? As it turns out, it is almost no one in Somaliland. We say "never again" to a reunion.

IM. Abdi Halim M. Musa    

June 20, 2006

 

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