of Foreign Affairs
and Federalism in Africa
Lagos 20-23 February 2006
Case for Unitary Government’
Mrs. Edna Adan Ismail
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Republic of Somaliland
I bring you
greetings from the people and government of Somaliland and
am honored to represent my country during this conference
that is hosted by the Nigerian Institute of International
Affairs and the British council.
appreciation goes to the Government and people of the
federal Republic of Nigeria for their hospitality and for
having me in their great country again since I was in Ibadan
in 1984 as a WHO Temporary Adviser on Human Resources
The case for
federalism or for unitary government cannot be made as a
generic principle that can be applied in all instances. The
case of each country is different and so are the
circumstances that need to be taken into consideration. I
will use Somaliland to explain why the principles of the
unitary government are uniquely favorable and applicable to
our country and my task here today is to present to you
‘The case of Unitary Government in Africa’.
In order to do this,
however, I need to first give you a brief history of my
country, Somaliland. From the outset, I also need to explain
that Somaliland’s existence as an Independent State is a
historical fact that dates back to 1884 when our people
signed Treaties of Protection with Great Britain and become ‘British
At a time when most
other countries in Africa were Colonies.
After 76 years of
harmonious association with Great Britain, during which
period our people fought alongside Great Britain in the two
World Wars, we achieved a negotiated Independence from Great
Britain on the 26th June 1960, thus earning my
country an early place among the very few independent
countries in Africa that were fully sovereign and free from
The day after
independence, Somaliland becomes recognized by 34 UN Member
States, including the five permanent Members of the Security
Council, and I am proud to report that Somaliland became the
first independent Somali State to gain membership of the
I hope that this
information will allay the misconception that some might
have that Somaliland is not a viable state because of the
size of the country and population, and that it is a
secessionist fragment of a bigger unit.
Well, Ladies and
Gentlemen, these are indeed misconceptions because my
country is bigger than 80 countries including England and
Wales combined, and Somaliland has a larger population than
83 countries are full members of the United Nations.
On the other hand,
our neighboring country Somalia, which I am sure you have
all heard about, became independent from Italy one week
after Somaliland following which the two independent Somali
‘States’ unite to become the Republic of Somalia , from
1960 to 1991, to be an illegal partnership only.
The case for
Unitary Government is based on the real-life experience of
the people of Somaliland who have suffered injustice,
oppression, and genocide as a result of the hasty union they
entered into with another country, Somalia, whose people had
a different culture, different colonial past, different
system of administration, different life-styles, different
trading partners, and had even indifferent local foods. In
Somaliland, we spoke one language, while in Somalia they
spoke several different languages and dialects. In short,
Somaliland and Somalia were two countries whose many
differences far outnumbered the similarities that had made
them want to unite in the first place.
these differences, conflict between Somaliland and Somalia
was inevitable and became apparent very soon after union. It
was aggravated further when the capital was moved to
Mogadishu, taking with it the economy and everything else
that mattered to the people of Somaliland.
hospitals, and other public services gradually lost
importance or became totally shut down. This led to the
discontentment and eventually to open hostility. The
disappointment of the people was such that it prompted the
Sand Hurst-trained Army Officers of Somaliland to attempt a
Military Coup d’Etat as early as December 19961, to
separate the two countries. Regretfully, the Coup failed and
over the years that followed, generated even more hostility
and punitive measures against the people of
between the people of Somaliland and the government of
Somalia worsened and culminated into an all out war. By
1988, the government of Somalia resorted to the aerial
bombardment of the major cities of Somaliland, and
indiscriminately killed the inhabitants, destroyed civilian
dwellings, schools, hospitals, and mosques. The report of
the American Human Rights Watch described the brutality they
witnessed as ‘A Government at war with its own
To escape the
carnage, over half a million of our people became internally
displaced, and an additional million sought refuge in
neighboring countries. Others fled to wherever else they
could find asylum, some crossing the entire African
continent to reach the shores of West Africa.
Finally by 1991,
Somaliland was free again and its people began to rebuild
the country . They have been extraordinarily successful in
doing so as I will shortly recount, but it is important to
appreciate that this reconstruction, and Somaliland’s
political maturity, have been achieved without the external
recognition on which nearly all other nations under the sun
expect and receive. Somaliland’s lack of recognition means
that we cannot receive more than a few crumbs from the table
to international community. We receive no assistance from
the World Bank, No aid from international agencies; only a
few international NGOs are present in Somaliland. Yet, we
look after all our. We are indeed in all respect the envy of
many African countries.
that is Somaliland today.
accepted criteria for statehood, as laid down by the
Montevideo Convention of 1933, are as follows:
Government that controls most
of the country
Capacity to enter into
relations with other states.
gentlemen, there is broad consensus within the international
community that Somaliland fulfils all these
A) - Permanent
There is no minimum
requirement for population. Somaliland’s population is
estimated at approximately 3.5 million which ranks
Somaliland above 80 countries in the World.
B) - Defined
The territory of
Somaliland is defined by the borders of the former British
Somaliland Protectorate, which are defined by the following
The Anglo-French Treaty of
The Anglo-Italian Protocol
The Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty
The borders of
Somaliland were confirmed and demarcated again by the
British in 1935 and 1957.
of Somaliland encompass an area of 137,600 square kilometers
with 850 kilometers of coastline, ranking Somaliland ahead
of many African States.
We have our own passport, our own currency, our own
judiciary, and our system of tax collection from which we
generate the resources we need to run our country.
We all know that 'defined territory' does not mean that
boundaries are undisputed. Many Sates in Africa or elsewhere
have un-demarcated or disputed frontiers with their
neighbors. Somaliland's boundary dispute with northern
Somalia neither invalidates the treaties that defined our
colonial borders, nor detracts from Somaliland's claim to a
defined territory. In the case of Somalia, their claim over
areas inside Somaliland is purely clan-based while the
borders of Somaliland are entirely colonial borders that
were demarcated according to international treaties.
Your Excellencies, we all know that every country in
Africa, including Somaliland, has ethnic settlements across
one side of the border or the other. If the border between
Somaliland and Somalia is allowed to become chanced for this
reason, then very border in Africa would be invalid and
would have to move according to ethnic settlements, this
defeating the Charters of the Organizations of African Unity
and that of the African Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you may rest assured that
Somaliland stands neither for secession nor for the revision
of Africa's border. The prime task of the Government of the
Republic of Somaliland is to protect the territorial
integrity of the nation and the inherent interest and
dignity of its citizens as we have done successfully,
peacefully, as a democracy, for the last 15 years
C) – Government
A State requires a government that functions as a
political body within the law of the land. In the case of
Somaliland, it has possessed such a government since
1991that has maintained the stability of the country to this
day. Somaliland's Constitution was approved in May 2001
through a popular referendum that won support from over 97%
of the 850,000 people who voted.
Somaliland's system of government is a multiparty
electoral democracy featuring a bicameral parliament. The
president, Members of the House of Representatives and Local
Councils have all been chosen through peaceful and
transparent elections that have been witnessed and confirmed
by international observers.
D) - Capacity to
enter into Relations with other States.
The capacity of a State to enter into relations with
others States is a function of independence. A government
must not be subject to authority of another state in its
handling of its foreign affairs in order to pass this test.
Somaliland has demonstrated this capacity during the past 15
years that it had effective control of its territory and had
become independent of any other authority.
Somaliland enjoys cooperative relations with a variety of
foreign government and intergovernmental organizations on a
broad range of security, immigration, economic and
developmental issues. These partners include, but are not
limited to Denmark, Holland, Djibouti, the European
Commission, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, the United
Kingdom, the United States, and the United Nations.
Regarding our failed union with Somalia, we are by no
means the first African State to have entered into a
voluntary union with another the subsequently withdrawn from
that union intact.
The following countries have all done likewise and have
never been punished for it as Somaliland is being punished:
Senegal and Mali in 1960,
Egypt and Syria in 1961,
Rwanda and Burundi in 1962,
Senegal and Gambia in 1968,
Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau in 1975,
Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1993.
In Europe, we have the example of
Sweden and Norway who were at one time united and have since
separated. So have countless other States in Europe and Asia
in recent years.
Development in Somaliland
Somaliland has a
system of free market economy which seems to fully agree
with the entrepreneurial character of the people of
Somaliland. We are among the few countries in the world that
have no foreign debts since we neither seek nor receive
loans and do with the resources we generate ourselves.
We have Oil,
gas, and the world’s largest gypsum deposits. In addition
to this , we have our main Port of berbera which serves as a
major outlet/inlet for land-locked Ethiopia with a
population of over 70 million.
In conclusion, I hope that I have been able to show what
lessons the rest of Africa can learn from the story of
Somaliland on the topic of the Federation, ethnicity and
In the late 1800s, the Somali- inhabited lands of the
Horn of Africa were parceled out in the crudest and most
insensitive way. As a result, the excitement of independence
of Somaliland in 1960 ,combined with the desire to fulfill
the 'Greater Somalia' ambitions that our people had at that
time and which was intended to precede the Pan-African dream
of that period, produced a major catastrophe for our people.
It led to the death of that dream and the only period of
peace and development we have enjoyed since is since our
separation from Somalia in 1991.
The Union with Somalia never worked in the same way that
federalism failed elsewhere. In the United States, its Act
of union led a century later to a civil war with enormous
loss of life and scars that are still visible to this day.
In Europe, Germany's unification under Bismark in 1870
attempted to contain and control dynamic forces which
exploded not once but twice in global conflict in 1914 and
In Africa, there are many examples of the consequences of
federalism, which have caused wars to erupt that often
reverse the economic progress our people are entitled to
have. These situations are too current and painful for all
of us and I will not take up more of your time to enunciate
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is sufficient for me to
re-assert that Somaliland's Unitary Government can be
considered a miracle and a rare African success story that
need to be given full credit. Undermining the achievements
of Somaliland sadly would also undermine the goals of NEPAD
that are the promote peace, stability and good governance in
Independence and sovereignty for Somaliland is a reality
with no turning back the clock. Union with another country
only resulted in death for our people and destruction for
our country Somaliland. Going our separate ways is what has
worked for us. Going back into chaos is Unthinkable.
What remains now are for the international community to
com to terms with that reality and to arrive at the only
possible and just conclusion:
Somaliland as rightful member of the world community of
Thank you very
much for your kind attention .
Mrs. Edna ADAN Ismail
Republic of Somaliland