Somaliland Appeals Justice to the Regional and International Organizations
IM. Abdi Halim M. Musa
Somaliland (Ex-British Somaliland Protectorate) is situated on the eastern horn of Africa and lies between the 08°00′ – 11°30′ parallel north of the equator and between 42°30′ – 49°00′ meridian east of the Greenwich.
It shares borders with Republic of Djibouti to the west, Federal Republic of Ethiopia to the south and Somalia to the east. Somaliland has a coastal line to the north of the country which extends 460 miles along the Red Sea. Somaliland lies on an area of 137,600km² (68,000 sq. miles).
The bulk of Somaliland’s exports are of livestock. In 1996, 3 million heads of livestock were exported to the Middle East alone but Saudi Arabia which was the main market has banned imports of livestock from Somaliland and this has badly affected the economy as a whole. Other exports include hides, skins, myrrh and frankincense.
Somaliland has confirmed deposits of petroleum, natural gas, worlds largest gypsum, lime, mica, quartz, lignite coal, lead, gold, sulphur, high-value minerals and hydrocarbon.
The Population of Somaliland is 3.5 million. There is a low inflation, growing economy and a balanced budget.
Somaliland achieved independence from Great Britain on 26th June 1960 and became first independent Somali UN recognized state as a full member of the United Nations but very hastily entered an ill-starred union with Somalia (Ex-Italian colony), in response to the dreams of Somali patriots who wished to unite the lands in which Somalis lived, Which Somaliland suffered 30 years of anarchy, long humiliation, dereliction, injustice, repression, atrocities and destruction through indiscriminate heavy bombardment on civilians, cities (Hargeisa and Burao) towns, and rural areas by warplanes, tanks and artillery.
It was motivated by both tribal hatred and desire for land expansion and devised to ethnic cleanse an entire people, either by massacring or expelling in order to resettle refugees from Ethiopian-ruled Western Somali Province and others in their motherland.
The valiant armed struggle of SNM (1981-1991), supported by its courageous people, rescued Somaliland and its people from the well plotted statelessness in January 1991. This liberation facilitated the victorious national reconciliation, the immediate withdrawal from the disastrous union with Somalia, and the reclamation of Somaliland sovereignty in the Pan-Somaliland Conference held in Burao, capital of Togdheer region, in May 1991. Subsequently, law and order were restored, clan militias were disarmed, and democratic institutions were established.
Somaliland has fulfilled the fundamental condition for diplomatic recognition: An existing independent nation with its own colonial-drawn borders- a legal basis for diplomatic recognition. Somaliland fulfils the criteria of statehood according to Article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of State: Somaliland has a permanent population; a defined territory (the former British Somaliland) with clear international boundaries of which it has an effective control; a democratic government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.
Somaliland fulfils the criteria for recognizing new states, according to the guidelines set out by the European Union (EU) in 1992, even though they only apply to European nations. Article 4 of African Union charter asserts that the organization respects and recognizes independence of African countries based on colonial borders. The diplomatic recognition of all the 53 current African states is based on these colonial borders.
Somaliland is not a breakaway or a separatist country. The UN, the African Union, and the Arab League know undisputedly that Somaliland achieved independence before Somalia on June 26, 1960 within its colonial borders, and was one of the 17 African countries that obtained independence in 1960 from Europe. However, it had un-ratified merger with Somalia for 30 years (July 1960- January 1991) but withdrew from that union due to the above mentioned atrocities and destruction. The day after independence and before the merger, 35 countries recognized Somaliland diplomatically including Egypt, Israel and the five Permanent Members of the Security Council.
Why not now?
What is the difference between then and now?
Somaliland is not the first country that withdrew from a union. Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia withdrew from the Soviet Union collapse in 1989, Bosnia and Macedonia withdrew from the Federation of disintegrated Yugoslavia in 1990s and East Timor from Indonesia 20 Feb 2002. All these new countries were automatically recognized by the United Nations. Somaliland is not exception as it fulfilled the same criteria. We are by no means the first African State to have entered into a voluntary union with another state and subsequently withdrawn from that union intact. Egypt and Syria, Senegal and Gambia, and Senegal and Mali, Rwanda and Burundi have all done likewise. Nor is Somaliland the first African colonial entity to have asserted its separation and independence from another; Eritrea and the Sahrawi Republic are today both full members of the African Union.
The Somalilanders, almost unanimously, ask what more they can do when the AU and the international community continues to recognize some anarchic, violent places in the west and central Africa as sovereign units. It is time to give them an answer.
Besides the withdrawal decision of May 1991, the landmark referendum held in Somaliland on May 31, 2001, overwhelmingly approved Somaliland constitution and reaffirmed, in the presence of international election monitors, the will of the Somaliland people to have independent, sovereign state of their own. Neither the UN nor the regional organizations (African Union and Arab League) have the right to nullify the decision of Somaliland people in that referendum.
Since more than 97% of the total voters of Somaliland have voted ‘yes’ in that referendum and since Somaliland was historically an independent and separate country from Somalia Proper with the overwhelming majority of the Somalilanders rejecting the 1961 constitution which was supposed to be the bedrock for the so-called reunion of Somalia and Somaliland and since Somalilanders have witnessed what amounts to genocide in the hands of their fellow southerners, it is time that the international community stopped its hypocrisy and began respecting the basic human rights of the people of Somaliland and therefore recognized Somaliland as an independent country which it deserves. Anything less than that, will plunge the whole region into further civil strife and more bloodshed, as any attempt towards re-unification with Somalia proper will sow the seeds of hatred and will ignite a long protracted civil war
Is it fair to hold back a nation who made their choice yes for Somaliland?
If we don’t respect basic human rights for freedom of choice as in the case of the Somaliland referendum outcome, then the alternative will be long civil war without end. It’s very hard to ignore that Somaliland saved itself from the anarchy of Somalia, and without help from the international community made peace, government, and a better system of conflict resolution based on their own culture.
In December 2002, we held our First Local Government elections. Five months later in April 2003 we followed it by our very first Presidential elections where three political parties, peacefully contested the seat of the President of Somaliland and the simple majority won by our President H.E Dahir Rayale kahin.
Somalilands system of government is multiparty electoral democracy featuring a bicameral parliament. The president, MPs of the house of representatives and local councils have all been chosen through peaceful, fair and transparent elections witnessed and confirmed by international observers.
Somaliland is a nation that believes in democracy, peace and human rights. Because of these they want to separate from their own brothers who do not recognize these moral values. People who love peace and democracy should have given Somaliland a chance to show the world that they are a nation in their own right. The world has neglected and has turned a blind eye on the people of Somaliland. It’s about time the world gives these people who want to be recognized for many reasons a recognition so that they can shut off their past and move on with life.
The lack of recognition has been depriving the people of Somaliland during the last 16 years of the opportunity to exercise their universally recognized human rights in terms of trade, traveling, learning and socio-economic development. The United Nations however are mistaken to believe that Somaliland will eventually be a part of “Somalia”. The freedom being currently enjoyed in Somaliland cost its people the loss of tens of thousands of their sons and daughters and the total destruction of their towns and villages
Why on earth would anyone in the international community deny Somaliland this, and plunge it into the bloody chaos of Somalia proper?
Somaliland people have paid a huge price to reinstate their independence and sovereignty. Rivers of blood have flowed and heaps of dead bodies have been witnessed in the streets of Somaliland. Therefore, it is about time that the international community recognized Somaliland and made operational the expression of the people to control their destiny and not to be arrested for the warlords who lost their sense of humanity and direction. Moreover, Africans, in general, have being criticized that they do not manage their affairs; however, Somaliland has refuted that biased notion by creating an oasis of peace, prosperity, and good governance. Somaliland’s deed is shining in Horn of Africa and the peace-loving people of world should open their eyes and support.
Those who oppose the recognition of an independent Somaliland state should be very careful of the alternative that they are advocating which is the denial of the right to exist as a nation. Suppression is not the solution in here, the peaceful separation of the two states (Somaliland and Somalia) is, and its time the world should face the reality and recognize Somaliland as an independent state.
The neglect of Somaliland by the international community exposes its shocking double standard that on one hand advocates for peace, stability, and democratic institutions, and, on the other hand, ignores peaceful, stable, democratic Somaliland by denying it of diplomatic recognition. This denial has no legal basis in the court of international law. The delay is just a mere hope by the UN and regional organizations that Somaliland may return to the union with Somalia one day. This political gambling at the expense of Somaliland people for 16 years is irresponsible. It is also perpetuation of lawlessness, despair, famine, violent, terrorism spread and factional fighting in Somalia.
There is no doubt that Somalia would be peaceful and stable country today led by its own government if Somaliland were recognized long time ago. Now, neither Somaliland is recognized nor Somalia has peace, both peoples are punished equally in the hands of UN and AU. The policy of keeping both countries at bay is not working any more. The sooner Somaliland is recognized the better chance to restore peace, law, and order in Somalia.
In conclusion, After more than 30yrs of abuse, torture, mass killing and humiliation, it is unfair to the Somaliland people that the international community goes against the will of the Somaliland people after they have done everything a state could do, and therefore recognition is the answer.